17th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator theHon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
-by leave - I am somewhat loath to raise the subject I propose to ventilate. Owing to a knee injury, it is most inconvenient for me to travel all night by train. Consequently, after considerable difficulty in obtaining a seat on an aeroplane, I travelled by air this morning from Melbourne to Canberra. Out of ten passengers on that aeroplane, I was the only person who was travelling at his own expense. Each of the other passengers was a public servant, who was travelling on requisition. Only two of them were service personnel; and, by the way, I have no objection to priorities beingafforded to service personnel. Three of the other passengers were public servants employed in the one department in Melbourne. Whilst all the seats on the aeroplane except the one I occupied were occupied by public servants, I know several men engaged on important work in Melbourne who were desirous of travelling on the aeroplane, but were refused a seat. I am able to supply the names of the passengers, should the Government desire me to do so. I raise this matter principally because Ministers are consistently reminding the people that they own the railways, and, therefore, should use them in preference to any other form of travel. These public servants did not gain any advantage by a saving of time as the result of monopolizing the seatson this trip, because they did not arrive in Canberra until after midday, or some hours after the arrival of the train from Melbourne. If travel priorities by air are to be unfairly availed of by members of the Public Service in this way, what kind of treatment can the public expect when the Government takes over complete control of interstate airlines?
SenatorFraser. - The Government in which the honorable senator was a Minister is responsible for the state of affair.? about which he now complains..
– That is not so.I should like to know whether the Govern- . ment proposes to preventa continuance of this abuse of air travel priorities. Some honorable senators, including the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Leckie), have been unable to obtain priorities to travel from Melbourne to Canberra, despite the fact that they are willing to pay for their passage. I am raising this matter not in the interests of members of the Opposition, but in the interests of the members of the Parliament generally. I urge the Government to ensure that in future seats on aeroplanes shall not be monopolized by members of the Public Service, but equal facilities will bo provided to the general public. Only yesterday I met several men in Melbourne engaged on important business who were anxious to return to their home State by the aeroplane in which I travelled, but they were unable to do so for the reason I have given.
-by leave - I regret, as I am sure all honorable senators do, that Senator Foll is suffering from a disability which makes train travel irksome. As Minister for the Interior I have full responsibility for the transport of members of this Parliament.
– My complaint is not against the Minister’s administration. It is about the manner in which priorities are issued for air travel.
– I do not have anything to do with that matter. That is the responsibility of the civil aviation authorities, but as representative in this chamber for the Minister for Transport (Mr. Ward), the issuing of priorities for travel by rail comes within my observation. However, it is wrong to claim that certain individuals who were not entitled to priorities were travelling because that is a matter on which honorable senators cannot be fully informed. In all probability the public servants to whom Senator Foll has referred were travelling on very important public business, and it may have been impossible for them to travel in any other way. I shall not debate the merits of the case, but I ask the honorable senator to remember that travel to-day is an exceedingly difficult problem.
– The individuals in question could have reached their destination earlier had they travelled by train.
– That does not enter into the matter at all. It may be that they had important work to do prior to leaving which they would have been unable to do had they travelled by train. The. suggestion that public servants should not be entitled to priorities merely because members of Parliament wish to travel, does not influence me. If honorable senators are experiencing any difficulties in regard to their transport, I ask them to bring the matter to my notice, and I shall do my very best to ensure that the’ difficulties shall be overcome, but to suggest that every honorable senator who dislikes travelling by train should have a priority for air travel is ridiculous, because it can’ not be done.
Rulings - Newspaper Report of Senate Proceedings
– Having regard to the importance of a ruling given by you, Mr. President, in respect of a matter which is not covered by the Standing Orders, and in view of a rulinggiven by Mr. Speaker to-day in theHouse of Representatives on a subject similar to that which you, Mr. President, ruled out of order yesterday, will you reconsider or confirm the ruling which you gave on that subject? In asking this question, I do not reflect upon your decision in any way, Mr. President. I ask the question in view of the importance of your ruling, which establishes a precedent.
– So far as I am concerned, and, I think, so far as the Senate should be concerned, rulings given by Mr. Speaker in the House of Representatives do not affect the procedure in this chamber in any way whatever. I gave my ruling yesterday after hearing honorable senators on tooth sides of the chamber, and I have since become more convinced that I was absolutely correct in ruling that it would be wrong to allow a discussion to take place in the Senate which might involve the liberty of an individual against whom a criminal charge might be laid. As a matter of fact, I am prevented by the Standing Orders from discussing what occurred in the House of Representatives. However, I am satisfied that any honorable senator who reads the Hansard report of the debate in the House of Representatives to-day on this subject will be thoroughly convinced that the ruling I gave was correct.
– And the ruling given by Mr. Speaker was wrong?
– I am not discussing the ruling given by Mr. Speaker.
. -by leave - I bring to the notice of the Senate an inaccurate report published in the Canberra Times dealing with proceedings in this chamber yesterday when you, Mr. President, ruled out of order a formal motion of adjournment submitted by Senator Leckie. When the honorable senator made his motion, I said that it was not proper for the Senate to discuss the matter in view of the fact that it related to possible legal action by the Crown Law authorities against the Minister for the Interior (Senator Ceilings). Honorable senators will recall that during that debate I said -
I give the assurance that an opportunity will be given to debate the motion before the Parliament adjourns this week.
I gave that assurance principally because the Minister for the Interior was pressing me to “ clear the decks “ in order to enable the Senate to proceed with the matter. I interviewed the Attorney-General (Dr. Evatt) just before the Senate met yesterday, and when I told him that I wanted to be in a position to assure honorable senators that an opportunity would be given to them to discuss the subject he said that he would expedite a decision on the matter.
– The Attorney-General expedited the matter all right; he has exonerated the Minister for the Interior.
– At the moment I am concerned only with what happened in the Senate yesterday, and the report thereon published in the Canberra Times. Fortified by the assurance given to me by the Attorney-General I suggested that Senator Leckie postpone bis motion, and that I would afford an opportunity to the Senate to discuss it later in the week. The report of the Canberra Times on the subject reads -
Senator McLeay and Senator McLachlan tried to draw from a responsible Minister an assurance that action would be taken beforethe House went into recess, but the only result was repeated Government attempts to rule the discussion out of order.
I take it that the Minister referred to in that report is myself. That paragraph is rather ambiguous, but proof that I gave the assurance I have mentioned is contained in the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) from which I take the following: -
I appreciate the assurance of the Acting Leader of the Senate that a decision by Cabinet or the Crown Law Office will be given before the Parliament goes into recess which I understand will take place on Thursday or Friday of this week.
On the same point, Senator James McLachlan said -
I am confident that the Acting Leader of the Senate will give an assurance that this case will be dealt with by the Crown Law Office before Parliament rises. Should such an assurance be given I am confident that Senator Leckie would ask for leave to withdraw his motion.
Fortunately, other newspapers were represented in the Senate yesterday. I quote the following extract from the report published by the Sydney Morning Herald : -
Senator Ashley said opportunity would be given to deal with the matter before the Senate rose at the end of this week.
I understand that negotiations are proceeding, and, indeed, may have actually been completed, to syndicate press reports of proceedings of Parliament. I draw the attention of honorable senators to the inaccurate report published by the Canberra Times on this subject as an example of the danger that might arise should reports of proceedings of Parliament be syndicated, and made available to the public through only one channel. The report published in the Sydney Morning Herald is substantially correct, but the Canberra Times report is inaccurate. Every member of the Parliament, regardless of party, will see in this instance the danger of press reports of proceedings in Parliament being syndicated and the possibility of comparisons and a correction of errors being made. It may be said that the Canberra Times is not a very important journal. I do not say that that paper published its inaccurate report deliberately. I do not accuse the newspaper of having deliberately published an inaccurate report. The responsibility may rest solely with the Canberra Times, but I emphasize the danger of reports of proceedings in this Parliament being made through a single channel. Such a system provides no facilities for the correction of inaccurate reports which may be damaging to members of Parliament or misleading to the people of Australia. I trust that the matter to which I have drawn attention will he rectified. I have brought it to the notice of honorable senators merely to illustrate the danger of syndication of parliamentary reports.
– Will the Minister representing the Attorney-General inform the Senate whether the Crown Law authorities can take action against a Minister of the Crown without the approval of the Attorney-General?
-I shall obtain that information for the honorable senator.
– On the 22nd
November, Senator Leckie asked me a question, without notice, regarding the cost of building 9,000-ton vessels in Australia. The Minister for Munitions has supplied the following answer: -
The final figures are not yet available, but the estimated average cost over the complete programme of thirteen vessels is £550,000.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral say whether that estimate of cost was made before work on the ships has started, or after some of the vessels had been completed ?
– I shall endeavour to secure that information for the honorable senator.
– On the 23rd
November, Senator Cooper asked the Acting Prime Minister the following questions, upon notice: -
The Acting Prime Minister has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied, the following answers : -
I do not know at present whether conditions are as stated by the honorable senator, nor whether work has been suspended on the new hospital. I shall have investigations made immediately and supply her with the relevant information. If conditions are found to be unsatisfactory, the Deputy DirectorGeneral of Man Power in Western Australia will he instructed to give every possible consideration to the labour requirements for the new hospital consistent with the other high priority demands on building labour.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice -
Will the Minister make arrangements to see that medical students from Western Australia, who are forced to continue their courses in Adelaide and Melbourne Universities, are given sufficiently high travel priorities to enable them to reach their homes before Christmas?
– The Minister for Transport has supplied the following answer : -
Inquiries made disclose that special action is being taken by my department to ensure that the limited accommodation for ‘passengers travelling by train to Western Australia is allocated to those persons who have thi* greatest claim to travel. In this respect,, every consideration will be given to students and other persons who are returning to their homes, and I am assured that travel facilities will be provided for all university students whoso homes are in Western Australia and who are attending universities in Adelaide and Melbourne, because the course they wish to follow is not available at the Perth University. I understand that statements have been made in the Western Australian press and elsewhere to the effect that the Director of Rail Transport or his officers have refused travel to university students. This statement is quite incorrect; in fact, the director is at present taking special steps to obtain an additional train from Port Pirie to Kalgoorlie which will ensure that all students are able to travel to their homes before Christmas.
asked the Acting Minister for the Army, upon notice -
In view of the action of the members of the Volunteer Defence Corps in rallying to the defence of Australia at a time of grave peril, and of the commendatory references thereon by members of the Government as well as a publicly expressed appreciation by the Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Land Forces, is it the intention of the Government to issue a commemorative medal to approved persons ?
– There is no immediate intention of issuing a commemorative medal such as that suggested by the honorable senator. Other than awards for operational service, awards of a general nature, such as that suggested, would be a matter for decision on the conclusion of the war. No doubt, the position will then be closely examined in conjunction with the British and other Empire Governments with a view to a uniform policy in regard to any award for home service personnel, such nr. the British Home Guard and our own Volunteer Defence Corps.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Shipping, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Shipping has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Munitions, upon notice -
If, as stated by the Attorney-General during a recent visit to Western Australia, the cost of each of these vessels is £30,000, what proportion of that sum represents -
How many ships -
– The Minister for Munitions has supplied the following answers: -
The estimate of £30,000 has been amended in the light of the average cost of the first two vessels completed. This figure is approximately £45,000, but may be reduced on the average of the complete programme of vessels. The proportions of this amount are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Munitions, upon notice -
– The Minister for Munitions has supplied the following answers : -
Assessment Appeal Tribunals
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following answers : -
Water-bearing Sandbeds- Lake Eyre.
asked the Acting Leader of the Senate, upon notice -
In order that the water resources of Australia may be put to the best use, will he cause a survey of the water-bearing sandbeds throughout Australia to be made and a report thereon to be submitted to Parliament?
– The Commonwealth Government appreciates the need for a comprehensive survey in order to ensure that the best use is made of the limited water resources of Australia. Although there are some instances where the use of certain resources is a matter of national concern and affects sometimes more than one State, generally speaking the question of conservation and utilization of water resources is a matter for the State governments to determine. With a view to ensuring that a national survey of water resources is undertaken the Commonwealth proposes, as soon as the exigencies of the war permit, that there should be a joint, Commonwealth and State examination of the whole question; the matter will therefore be taken up with the State Premiers at the appropriate time.
– On the 23rd November, Senator Lamp asked the Acting Prime Minister the following questions, upon notice: -
The Acting Prime Minister has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answers : - 1 and 2. The article in question has now been brought under my notice and, if the honorable senator furnishes me with particulars of the names of the parties referred to, I will have immediate inquiries made as to the facts of the case with a view to considering what redress, if any, the injured party has under the existing law.
The matter of the introduction ot a uniform divorce law throughout the Commonwealth was discussed at a Premiers conference early this year, but in view of the inability of the States to agree, the Commonwealth consented to consider the subject generally, with special attention to the position nf Australian wives deserted by allied servicemen. Owing to the contentious nature of the subject, it docs not appear appropriate for the Commonwealth Government to introduce a comprehensive uniform divorce law in wartime, but consideration has been given to the introduction of a special bill dealing with domicile only. The difficulties with regard to war-time marriages to allied servicemen are not confined to Australia only. The position is the same in England where a matrimonial causes (war marriages) bill dealing with this matter was introduced into the House of Lords last month. The terms of this bill are now being carefully examined. The subject is full of international and legal difficulties as, under any such law, Australian divorces might not be recognized in the foreign country in which the husband is domiciled. It is, however, hoped that a bill on somewhat similar lines to the recent British bill will be ready for introduction into the Parliament of the Commonwealth early in the coming year.
– I move -
That regulations 1 and 2 of the amendments of the National Security (Allied Works) Regulations, as made by Statutory Rules 1944, No. 101, be disallowed.
We have been advised from time to tune that it is not possible to disallow portions of regulations, and, if the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) is prepared to consider the objections which I propose to raise to portion of these regulations, I shall be agreeable to an adjournment of the debate. Most honorable senators have been approached by citizens who have been seriously inconvenienced and handicapped through having their tractors, trucks and other .property requisitioned for war purposes. We all realize that, when the outlook was very serious for Australia, it was necessary for the Government to do certain things which it would not dream of doing in time of peace. The National Security (Allied Works) Regulations were first promulgated on the 26th February, under Statutory Rules 1942 No. 88 which provided machinery for the establishment of the office of Director-General of Allied Works, and outlined his general functions and special powers. Regulation 6 provided that the Director-General may, among other things -
Subsequent to this initial statutory rule and set of regulations, and up to the present regulations under discussion, eight other statutory rules amending the original regulations have been issued by the Government. The only other regulation made subsequent to regulation 6 in relation to the acquisition or requisitioning of property, &c, is that contained in paragraph 2 of regulation 6a of Statutory Rules 1944 No. 17 and regulation 6b to which the Opposition is now objecting. Regulation 6a states, inter alia : - 6A. - (2.) In relation to any property which has been requisitioned or compulsorily acquired before the commencement of these Regulations in pursuance of paragraph (d) of regulation6 of the National Security (Allied Works) Regulations, claims may be made in pursuance of regulation60d of the National Security (General) Regulations within two months after the commencement of these Regulations or within such further time as the Minister of State for the Interior allows, but no such claim shall, except with the consent of that Minister, be made by any person -
It will be seen, therefore, that the DirectorGeneral has the right to requisition or compulsorily acquire any property to enable the work of the Allied Works Council to be effectively prosecuted. With this principle, and under the then existing scarcity of equipment in the hands of the Government, I agree. Obviously the power of acquiring and requisitioning road repairing and excavating machinery, and other essential equipment and goods was essential to the part which Australia had to play in meeting the threat from Japan. Statutory Rules 1944 No. 161 is dated the 8th December, 1944. It provides that after regulation 6a of the National Security (Allied Works) Regulations the following regulation is inserted: - 6B. - (1.) Where any property has been requisitioned in pursuance of regulation6 of these Regulations, the Director-General may, if he considers that the requisitioning is no longer necessary, revoke the requisitioning.
Obviously the Director-General must have that power, but the Minister will agree that it is impossible to disallow paragraph 2 of the regulation, because it is part of the complete regulation. Paragraph 2 states -
Where any requisitioning is revoked, the Director-General may serve upon the owner or other person from whose possession the property was taken or received, notice that it wag intended to return the property to him and requiring him to take possession of the property at such time and place as are specifiedin the notice.
I particularly ask the Minister to direct his attention to that provision. It would be quite possible for a despotic bureaucrat - unfortunately we have some of them in all departments - to exercise that power unreasonably. It is impossible for Ministers personally to supervise all of the actions of these officials. Trucks, motor trucks and other equipment have been despatched in great numbers to the northern parts of Australia, and it would be posible for an officer to send word to a person by registered letter giving him fourteen days’ notice that a truck which had been requisitioned by the Government from him could now be returned to him, and that it would be necessary for him to proceed to the Northern Territory or some other part of Australia to take possession of it. I contend that that provision is too wide. As the persons from whom motor vehicles and other property have been requisitioned have already suffered inconvenience, the least they could expect from the Government would be an intimation in writing that the Government recognized that the Government recognized that the owners were entitled to have their property returned to them. This may seem to be a simple matter, but thousands of people are concerned. The period of fourteen days’ notice in which to take delivery of such property is too short. If the owner happened to be away from his home, or did not get the message, the department would have the right to dispose of the goods and remit to the owner the proceeds of the sale. The Minister, who always takes a common-sense view of matters of this kind, would not wish to inflict hardship on anybody, but I draw his attention to the danger of abuse of the power contained in the regulation, and point out that many persons will be involved in matters of this kind in the next year or two. Paragraph 3 of regulation 2 states -
When under these Regulations the exercise of any power or function by the DirectorGeneral is dependent upon the opinion, belief or state of mind of the Director-General in relation to any matter, that power or function may bo exercised by the delegate upon the opinion, belief or state of mind of that delegate.
It is bad enough to clothe the DirectorGeneral with the wide powers contained in these regulations, but he should not be permitted to delegate those powers to somebody else. If the Minister is prepared to look into this matter, I am agreeable to the adjournment of the debate until a future date.
– It is pleasing to find that, having placed this motion on the notice-paper, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) is now in a sufficiently good mood to say that if I am inclined to do what, in his opinion, should be done he will not proceed with this motion until a future date. He should have approached the matter in that spirit before placing the motion on the notice-paper. He should have seen me in my office and given me instances of specific hardship in the1 administration, of these regulations, and then he could have invited1 me to ascertain whether steps could be taken to ease the situation. He comes to the Senate and says, “ To-morrow.- I’ shall move that certain regulations ;be disallowed”. In presenting his case Be freely admits that the powers set out in sub-regulations (1.)’ and’ (2.) of regulation- 6b are necessary, so, obviously, he does not want them to be disallowed. The honorable gentleman recognizes that in war-time power must be vested in certain persons to do certain things, yet he goes on to say that a despotic, bureaucrat may do; certain tilings. I cannot deny that that is possible; a despotic bureaucrat may da all kinds of ridiculous things. I am. sure that the Leader of the Opposition does not “believe in. the argument that he submitted. He says that it would be possible f or the Allied. Works Council to tell the owner of a truck,, or a. tr actor j. requisitioned at, say,. Queanbeyan*, that delivery of. it could, be taken at some place in the Northern Territory. Of course,, that would be possibleSenator McLeay: - And some1 officialswould be silly enough to say ft
– I agree that it would be possible for a despotic bureaucrat to say, “ The- Allied Works Council requisitioned your tractor at Queanbeyan,and now you. have fourteen days to collect it from- the bed of Lake’ Taupo, in New Zealand “, but I submit that it: would be highly improbable. If that argument is all that the honorable senator can put forward in support of his motion for the disallowance of these regulations., his case falls to the ground.
– Why is the power needed?
– There is a general assumption; that in all these things men will be actuated by a spirit of’ sweet reasonableness and the country’s need. I do not want the honorable senator to tell me what could be done by a despotic bureaucrat, but that some such person has done something along the lines mentioned by him. If he can point to one- case of unreasonableness, I shall see that the official or officials guilty of such conduct are promptly dealt with. But for the honorable senator’ to speak of something which in his imagination he conjures up as being- possible, even though not likely, is to- reduce the whole matter1 to a farce. Ministers and responsible1 officials do not do that kind’ of thing- as a rule. The honorable senator, having admitted1 that the powers conferred by the’ statutory rules are necessary,, then claims’ that the persons mentioned in> the- regulations: should not have the power’ to do other things which no> one- kas, suggested should, be’ done. He went on to say that the- least we might expect is that the Allied Works Council would return the- requisitioned property to its. owner, at the place where it was collected. Can he point to any instance in which that has not been done?
– There are cases.
Senator- COLLINGS. - Does, he not think that an opportunity would, be provided for the owner of the property to communicate with the officer sending out the notice, and tq tell him that it wouldbe difficult to collect the property at the suggested spot, and that another place would’ Be more convenient for him to take delivery? It may be that since his property was requisitioned the. owner has enlisted in the fighting services. In that event does he nor think that any responsible officer, to whom power had been delegated by the Director-general, would see that no unjust action would be taken? Or the owner of the property may be ill in hospital when the notice arrives. Does the honorable senator think that that- man would not have the right to say that the procedure suggested would be most inconvenient to him? It is not correct to say that only fourteen days will be allowed for the owner to collect his property, because sub-regulation 3 of regulation 6b provides -
Ti the owner or other person or hia personal representative does not take possession of the property in accordance with the notice the Director-General, may, upon the expiration of fourteen days after the date specified in the notice as the date on which possession waa required to bo taken, or such extended period as the Director-General allows . . .
– If he wants an extension beyond fourteen days he must notify the Director-General within fourteen days of the receipt of the notice.
– That is so. It does not mean that he has only fourteen days in which to take possession of his property; he has fourteen days in which to advise the Director-General that it would be impossible or inconvenient for. him to rake delivery in a fortnight.
– What if the owner is in the Army or in hospital?
– Surely there will be some one to answer the letter for him? Does not the honorable senator think that the words “ or such extended period as the Director-General . . . allows” meet the case? But should the owner of the property ignore the notice sent to him, does the honorable senator suggest that nothing should be done? All that ihe regulation provides is that a period of fourteen days is allowed for the owner to repossess himself of his property, and should that time be insufficient he is required to notify the Director-General. I say, with respect, that the brief of tie honorable senator has been badly prepared. It is not based on something which he knows has occurred, but, I believe, on- a statement made in another branch of the legislature as to what could occur. The Leader of the Opposition admitted that the Minister, or the Director-General of the Allied Works Council, should be entrusted with “ this power, but he thought it unwise that such power should be delegated to some other individual. He then went on to destroy his own argument when he said that he realized that neither the Minister nor the Director-General could be expected to deal with all the cases that would arise. He based that statement on his experience as a Minister. That being so, what is wrong wilh delegating the power to some other individual ? I admit that that individual could exercise despotic powers, just as could the Minister or the DirectorGeneral, hut the regulations provide that any person who is aggrieved may appeal to the Director-General in the first instance, and has a further right of appeal to tie Minister. What more does the honorable senator want? The Allied Works. Council was given certain powers, the basis of such powers being -the National Security Act which was placed on the statute-book before the Allied Works Council came into being. It has already realized that hardship may occur in connexion with these transactions, and therefore a tribunal has been set up to deal with the price to be paid for property acquired by the Allied Works Council. That being so, there is a way to remedy any injustice which may arise. Unless a better case can be made out in support of the motion than has been presented so far, there is no justification for the disallowance of these regulations. If, however, cases of hardship or injustice have arisen, 1 give an assurance that, if brought to my notice, they will be immediately inquired into. At this stage, I know of no such cases, although I have dealt with hundreds of instances of property acquired from various owners. I am not aware that any individual affected by these regulations has submitted a complaint that has not been rectified. If the honorable senator is satisfied with my assurance, I suggest i hat he ask leave to withdraw the motion.
– Honorable senators generally will admit that much dissatisfaction exists among persons whose property has been acquired by the Government for war purposes. T propose to deal principally with the Government’s method of acquiring motor trucks.
Every one admits that, in view of the emergency existing during the early stages of the war, the Government had no alternative but to acquire compulsorily trucks and motor vehicles of special makes suitable for war purposes; and the people whose vehicles were acquired for such purposes were sufficiently patriotic to realize that fact. At the same time, however, no one can deny that grave injustice was done to many of these people. “With respect to speed trucks, the Government acquired principally two or three makes, notably the Chevrolet and the Ford V8. It entrusted the acquisition of these vehicles to certain agents who were given power to take over the vehicles arbitrarily; and dissatisfaction has been caused, not by the necessity for acquisition but by the method adopted by such agents of acquiring the vehicles. I know of many cases in Tasmania in which vehicles were commandeered by government agents on the arrival of the trucks, fully loaded, at markets. Ordinarily, the owners of these trucks, after delivering their load in town, had back-loading available. In many cases, however, the government agents simply came along, and, after marking the truck to indicate that it had been acquired, ordered the owner or the driver of the truck to deliver the vehicle forthwith at a government depot. In such cases, the owners were not allowed to return with backloading to their head-quarters. Permission to do so was given only after the very strongest representations were made on behalf of the owner. Such treatment, was unnecessary and most unfair. At the same time, whilst owners of the trucks of makes sought by the Government were thus deprived of their means of livelihood, their competitors, who happened to own other makes such as International, Dodge, or Morris trucks, were not interfered with in any way. In addition, after the vehicles were commandeered in this arbitrary fashion at prices very often below the reasonable value fixed by the owner, the payment of compensation was not made for many months. I cite the case of a young man who earned his living as a carrier in a very hilly district in Tasmania. Because of the difficult country in which he operated he expended approximately £150 in strengthening his vehicle. When the Government acquired his truck, no allowance whatever was made to him in respect of that expenditure. The vehicle was taken over at the pleasure of the government agents, and he had the greatest difficulty in securing -permission to return with backloading. No doubt, instances of this kind are of little importance in the administration in a big department; and one cannot expect the Minister, or the head of the department, to acquaint himself with the facts of each case. When that young man asked for compensation in respect of the special expenditure he had incurred to strengthen his truck, the government agent referred him to a second-hand dealer where, he was told, he could purchase a truck of another make that was suitable for his work. The point I make is that no private dealer would treat a client in that manner. The only redress open to that man was to take legal action against the Government to recover fair compensation. I do not say that that case is typical; but many carriers in southern Tasmania who earn their livelihood by carting fruit to Hobart had their trucks requisitioned in the circumstances I have described, and they had the greatest difficulty in obtaining permission to return with back loading. The Government should ensure that its agents should set an example in fairness to the community at large in transactions of this kind. When a private dealer purchases a vehicle, or arranges an exchange of vehicles, no difficulty is experienced in determining a fair price. I am not contending that these regulations should be disallowed; but that action taken under them for the acquisition of property, whether it be in the form of land, machinery or motor vehicles, should be taken fairly and withdue regard to ordinary business procedure, and the common rights of the individuals concerned. I know of the acquisition of launches and other small vessels, which were the means of livelihood of the owners. None of the owners complained when their vessels were taken over, because they knew that the Government had no alternative in view of defence considerations, hut they were deprived of their ordinary means of livelihood and no action was taken to pay compensation to them promptly. The result was that they were unable to acquire other vessels in order to carry on their ordinary avocations. The Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) says that in every case where cause for grievance arises the persons whose property is acquired can obtain redress. Obviously, any person so dissatisfied can take the matter to court, or submit it to arbitration ; but, in order to do so, he must incur considerable expenditure. Every honorable senator will agree that it is quite unfair to place that burden upon owners whose property is acquired. Much of the difficulty to which I refer could be avoided if the Government appointed as its agents practical men capable of fixing a fair value in respect of the property acquired. Provision could be made that in the event of disagreement over the price a decision could be given by a third party. In addition, such agents should be vested with power to make immediate payment in cases where the price is agreed upon by the parties. .L commend the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) for raising this matter. It is all very well for the Minister to say that no specific case of injustice has been brought to his notice; but that fact does not prove that many persons whose property has been acquired have not been, treated unfairly. Many people have approached me in an endeavour to find out when compensation would be paid to them. Compensation should be paid as expeditiously as possible, or even immediately, particularly in cases where such payment would enable the people concerned to rehabilitate themselves in their ordinary avocations as quickly as possible. The Government should ensure that in such transactions its agents observe ordinary fair business procedure. No doubt, as the Minister says, every citizen has a right of appeal. The point I make is that no person should be obliged to resort to that means of obtaining fair treatment in transactions with the Government. I have no desire to level charges against the Government in regard to this matter, but I consider that when a Government is dealing with citizens, ite actions should be above suspicion.
Unfortunately, some government appointees apparently regard it as their duty to indulge in what may be regarded as sharp practices, in the belief that they are serving the Government, whereas in fact the Government has no desire that these things should be done. I cannot see any reason why matters such as this should not be settled amicably just as ordinary lousiness matters are settled.
.–! think that it would be well to advert to the fact that we are dealing specifically with Allied “Works Regulations, and that the motion under discussion is confined to the disallowance of two regulations, namely regulations 1 and 2 of Statutory Rules 1944, No. 161.
– It is also an opportune time to refer to certain other matters.
– The honorable senator may find it an opportune time to refer to those matters; I am merely pointing out that he has not been speaking to the motion before the Chair. That, of course, is his right. He neither supports nor opposes the motion. The honorable senator instanced only one case in which there had been some delay in making payment after a truck had been requisitioned and probably that case concerned not the Allied Works Council, but a war service department. It is probable, too, that the case in point occurred a considerable time ago.
Dealing directly with the National Security (Allied Works) Regulations, I say that in regulation 6 power is given to requisition or acquire compulsorily by order in writing any property other than land. The regulations now at issue are concerned solely with the requisitioning of property and not with its compulsory acquisition. When property is acquired compulsorily the ownership vests entirely in the Commonwealth, and payment is due to the original owner, but when it is requisitioned, it is acquired for temporary purposes only. These amending regulations are concerned primarily with the requisitioning of goods that have been acquired for temporary use only. I find myself in agreement with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) when he says that in accordance with the strict terms of sub-regulation 2 of regulation 6b inserted by Statutory Rules 1944, No. 161, goods might be requisitioned at Canberra, and subsequently the owner might be obliged to call for them at Darwin. That is a possibility, but I have three points to make in regard to that matter: First, any departmental official, who was responsible for such stupidity would not remain an officer of that department for very long. Secondly, if that situation did arise, the person who suffered by reason of having to travel such a long distance, and so incur considerable loss of time, would he entitled to compensation under the regulations, particularly regulation 6a of the Allied Works regulations. However, there is a more important point which I should like to advance for the consideration of the Leader of the Opposition: This is not a new matter. “Regulation 1. of the statutory rules now under consideration relates solely to allied works, but has been in operation since the 27th January of this year in relation to every other Commonwealth department. A perusal of Statutory Rules 1944, No. 19, regulation 2, reveals that what is now regulation 6b of the Allied Works Regulations has applied to every Commonwealth department since the 27th January of this year. It is most significant that in approximately ten or eleven months not a single complaint has been made against the administration by Commonwealth departments of a provision exactly similar tn that contained in regulation 6b of the Allied Works Regulations. That, I think, should be sufficient assurance to the Leader of the Opposition that he need have no misgivings about the comparatively wide terms of regulation 1 of Statutory Rules 1944, No. 161. I say also that the honorable senator apparently has some misconceptions regarding the time that may be allowed for an owner to take up property which is being returned to him. Sub-regulation 2 of regulation 6b proceeds that notice may be served upon the owner requiring him to take possession of property at such time and place as are specified in the notice, hut it is only common sense to presume that the time allowed will be sufficient to enable a man not only to receive the notice’ but also to make the necessary arrangement to take delivery. It is reasonable to expect that at least one month’s notice would be given. That would mean that the provisions of sub-regulation 3 would not come into play until the expiry of fourteen days after that month had elapsed. Therefore, at the outset, 42 days in all would have to elapse before the provisions authorizing the sale of the property in question could come into operation. In any event, during that second period, namely, the period of fourteen days, an application could be made to the Director-General of Allied Works for still further time. It is unthinkable that if there were good cause for granting further time, an application would be refused by a reasonable administrator. The third point raised concerning the disallowance of these regulations relates to regulation 2 of Statutory Rules 1944, No. 161, which provides that the Director-General may delegate power to other persons in relation to certain functions, and that if the exercise of that power or function depends upon the state of mind of the Director-General, it may, pursuant to this regulation, depend upon the state qf mind of the delegate. Again I say that is not n new provision.
– Just how far does it go?
– It goes up to the point where the Director-General may delegate his power and functions. The delegate upon whom such authority is conferred may then exercise that power as fully and effectively as it could be exercised by the Director-General himself; but this is not a new provision in National Security Regulations. I refer honorable, senators, particularly the Leader of the Opposition, to the National Security (General) Regulations which were first promulgated in September, 1939, when war broke out. Amongst those regulations - incidentally they were issued by the Government of which the Leader of the Opposition was a member - was one conferring upon any Minister power to delegate his functions and powers. That regulations, which is still in force, contains the very provisions to which the Leader of the Opposition is now objecting. It might he as well if I read in full regulation 88 W fee National Security ‘(General) Regulations. It states-
Where in any regulation under’ the act thi exercise of any -power or function by a Minister or the operation of any provision of that regulation is dependent up”on the opinion, belief, or state qf mind ( of a Minister . in relation to any matter, that power or function may he exorcised by the person to whom that power or function has been ‘delegated by the Minister in pursuance, of , section seventeen of the act or. that provision ‘may operate (as the case may he) upon the opinion, belief, or state W mind of that person iti religion to tha’t matter.
In brief, the arguments that I am advancing are, first; that the provision contained in regulation 1 to which objection is how being taken, has been in force since January of this year iri relation to all. Commonwealth department’s excepting the Allie’d “Works Council’; arid secondly; that the provisions contained in regulation 2 have been in force generally in the Commonwealth since September, 1939-, and were introduced by the Government df which, the Leader of the Opposition was a member.
L confess that j was .considerably, disappointed with the reply which the Minister for the Interior ‘(Senator Collings) made on this subject. I ani. gratified, of course, that the Minister ,did not use his battle axe as he did last night, but throughout his reply there was a tone of arrogance and t arn “ that I did riot quite appreciate. I cbn tend that the 4.. Minister virtually destroyed h’is own argument when lie said that ho sensible man iri his department would take action of fee kind suggested. If no responsible person in the Minister’s department would do anything like feat, for fear pf suffering the terrors’ of (he ministerial battle axe, T. cannot see the reason for fee regulation. Iri effect, fee Minis’ter says, “ This cannot happen “, but h’e rnakes’ provision in 6ase it does happen. Surely it is the responsibility of any authority which wishes to’ enforce a provision- such as this to explain why it is necessary. ^ The Minister ha’s noi shown in any way fee necessity for this regulation. It is insufficient to’ s’ay, as did Senator McKenna, feat a similar provision Has been iff operation in’ respect of other
Commonwealth ‘departments. ‘That does riot make it right. I “had only lo read this regulation casually t’o. ‘appreciate its dangers. I confess that ! ap not read every regulation ‘that is promulgated. In fact, it would be ‘an impossible task Vo acquaint Oneself fully with. the contents of all regulations, unless, qf Course, one -.vere a lawyer and had to take no’tice. of these ‘things; but ay Erst glance at this regulation led me to the conclusion that it conferred, too much power upon fee Minister and therefore thai action should be tak’en to secure its “disallowance. In ‘ari ordinary case of a requisition of
Vu.” nl-: LV.’n m - 1 ?. …as - . t - place state, and we. shall pls torn .it at the place where we took possession of it. paying any compensation necessary for depreciation, lost part4 dr anything else/of that kn’d “.. That ii all that would be necessary. When fee Minister got feil regulation promulgated, he was pro’bably ask’e’d to. do so by his department. No doubt His officers said to him, “ We have the power under the regulations to requisition these things; we now want power to return them “. That was the natural thing to do; so he went to his legal advisor, and said, “Draw me up ti regulation’ So that Ave can return these things’’: His s legal advisor drew it. up for Him; and took his usual great care to ee that there were no loopholes le’ft iri it so far as he and his department were concerried. Having got it; I rib hot imagine probably skid to his departmental” pincers, “Does this cover what .you want?” “ They nb”( doubt read it And said; “ This covers its iri , any Eventuality ; we can dp exactly what we’ like, and We are sure that 10: as’ Minister will’ support us “. They, were right in their judgment, because he’ did support them, but any; Minister who wants a regulation of law passed ought to prove its necessity,. The Minis’ter Has hot attempted .to show why this regulation is necessary, Any fairminded man who had been in. business” would say at once, t( This’ is a dangerous provision ; if it is carried ,6’ut, in these term’s^ it will cause unfold” hardship.. and los? to fee people’ who come under it “. It is not fair to provide that machinery and accoutrements taken possession of in one part of the country must he taken over by the owner elsewhere, and that if he does not proceed to get his property within fourteen days of receiving notice, the Minister can immediately sell it for whatever it will bring. What would such equipment bring at some outlying spot? There would not be a bid for it, so that the poor “ coots “ whose machinery was collared in the first place would get practically nothing for it. If the Minister does not want to do these things, he will at once agree to some amendment of the regulation. As to his complaint that he was not approached in regard to’ the disallowance motion, and that he knew nothing of it until it was moved, I made the same proposition last night, during the Minister’s absence from the chamber at a public function, to the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Ashley). Had that request been responded to, as it should have been, this motion would not have been moved to-day.
– I endeavoured to meet the honorable senator’s wishes in that regard; I consulted the Crown Law officers this morning.
– I do not know whether the Minister for the Interior or the Crown Law officers are responsible for those provisions. I do know that I made that offer last night, so that in the circumstances it was quite unfair for the Minister for the Interior to upbraid the Leader of the Opposition as he did to-day. In his answer to-day he failed to display his usual judgment. He should have shown the Senate why the regulations were necessary. If he does not want to do what they empower him to do, it was not necessary to enact them. All he needed to say was that the articles could be returned to the owner at the owner’s discretion, at the place where delivery was taken of them, plus depreciation. I was rather astonished that, in view of the debate that has just taken place in this chamber, the Minister did not consent. Had I been in his place, I should have said, “ You have a case, and I shall endeavour to tone down the regulations so that the people may not be afraid of autocratic powers being taken by me or my officers “.
– The trouble is that I do not agree with the attitude which the honorable senator adopts.
– No doubt the Mia.ister does not think that the powers ure autocratic. He is adopting his usual attitude, and thinks that he is always right. He apparently regards those powers as necessary.
– They are proper provisions for this particular process.
– If they concerned any other department, the Minister would agree to their abolition.
– But they do concern other departments.
– This regulation applies only to the Department of the Interior. The Minister must not try to deceive the Senate. This applies to the Allied Works Council.
– Of course, but it is similar in character to others.
– I know, but that does not make it any the better; it may make it worse. We shall provide the Minister later on with the cases that he has asked for, but it is not necessary to do the things which the regulations authorize, because they are unfair. The power is liable to be abused by men having a little temporary authority. Reference was made by Senator McKenna to the wording, “opinion, belief, or state of mind “, appearing in National Security Regulations. I know that that has been operative so far as the Director-General is concerned, but he has power under this regulation to delegate his authority to any office boy in his branch of the department. (Senator CAMERON - Does the honorable senator know of any case where that has happened? (Senator LECKIE.- What has that to do with it? He can give this power to the office boy. If the office boy has not had a good .breakfast, he has a certain state of mind, which is quite different from what it would be after he had a good meal.
– If he had had to listen to the honorable senator, I would excuse him for anything that he did.
– I hope that he would not .be as guilty of indiscretions, and sometimes something worse, as the Minister for the Interior is known to be.
As a matter of fact, you, Mr. President, stated last night that the Minister was in peril of being charged with a criminal offence, so that he is undoubtedly under suspicion. I know that it is hopeless, in face of the solidarity on the other side of the chamber, to ask honorable senators opposite to be reasonable. This is a public matter about which the people ought to know. The Government has taken power that it can create anomalies and do injustices to anybody in the community. If it does not want to do those injustices, it does not need these regulations and it should agree to their disallowance.
– in reply - I regret that the hard-hearted Minister is not prepared to conaider the iniquities that might happen under these regulations. It is a scurvy sort of thing to take a truck from a man in time of war, and then send him notice to take delivery, because the danger has passed and the Government has no further use for it. If the Government were reasonable, it would provide that the truck should be returned to the owner where he desired it to be returned. I submitted the motion in order to direct the attention of the Senate to that fact, and at the game time to try to pierce the hard heart of the Minister. I have failed to do so, but we have placed on record our objection to such wide powers being given to an officer of the Minister’s department to inflict great hardship on citizens of the community. We are here to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth. “ Good government “ means service to the community, but under these regulations there are opportunities for abuse. When we have had occasion to get in touch with Mr. Theodore, we have found that he has acted most generously. Why place this power in the hands of a bureaucrat, if it is not necessary, and there is no intention to allow him to use it?
Question put -
That regulations 1 and 2 of the amendments of the National Security (Allied Works) Regulations, as made by Statutory Rules 1944, No. 101, be disallowed.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from the 24th November (vide page 2114), on motion by Senator Eraser -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition intends to support the bill, and it commends the Government upon its proposal to make £1,500,000 available to persons engaged in the production of wheat, oats and barley and oaten or wheaten hay. Whilst we all deplore the suffering occasioned by the disastrous drought which has overtaken this country, I regret that the Government did not see fit to make provision to grant assistance to people engaged in the fruitgrowing and pastoral industries, and any other industry in which the ravages of drought have seriously affected the financial position of the producers. The grant of £1,500,000, to which will be added a similar contribution by certain States, does not provide a very large sum, having
Vega fa to the enormous loss that the drought has ‘occasioned. The Opposition considers i Iia t the Government should have a survey made of rural industries at the earliest opportunity with a view to discovering the loss suffered, particularly by those engaged in the fruitgrowing and pastoral industries. I trust that during the next sittings of Parliament the Government will submit proposals to grant relief to those, industries. Iri order to indicate the kind of case being presented to honorable senators, I draw attention to a letter received from the Coonawarra branch of the Agricultural Bureau of South Australia. It was addressed to the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron); who did not receive it in time to quote it and is dated the’ 28hd November. It states -
It was resolved at a meeting of the above dureau Oft the 2.1st instant that you fad asked to put a cas§ for the Coonawarra fruit-growers for some of the relief being distributed to drought sufferers.
E realize that; if anything is to be done’ tb relieve distress’ R m 011 g persons engaged iri the fruit-growing arid pastoral industries, if, cannot be” accomplished under this measure, but that separate action will have to be taken. The’ letter continues -
To support T’our hand the’ following particulars will be of assistance: -
) The 1942 harvest for the dried and fresh fruit from this’ settlement amounted to’ approximately £5,000’.
The 1943 harvest only amounted’ to £5D’6, the losses being practically ali through frost, as the sotting of fruit was a’verage’.
The ii)44 harvest is estimated at a1 loss of 100 per cent, on 11)42’, berm* a* total loss..
Losses for the two years are iri the vicinity of £9’,500, and’ growers cannot stand up to such severe losses. This’ aureau considers that fruit-grower? in this district arc entitled to’ assistance, as much as any other line of essential, foodstuffs, and- we hope yon’ will be good’ enough to see the matter in the same light and put our case to the House.
Yours faithfully, C. F. Provis,
Honorary Secretary. “ Kookaburra “, Glenroy, South Australia.
– Has not the dam-age to fruit’ occurred since this bill was introduced?
– The Mil failure of the” fruit harvest fMs” $ear at Coona- warra is due f,<5’ drought, but’ it is”’ true that recently growers in ‘oth’er ‘districts have suffered severely. /The ‘distribution ‘of th’e relief to the afforded to growers of cereal drops is a- matter foi- -consultation between the Commonwealth and the States. I understand that; although the details have hot been fully determined, it is proposed to pay lsts. 6d. ah afire where the crop” was U total loss. I believe ‘that that recom- mendation wai. made by the technical officers’ df the Commonwealth and the Slates; who proposed that; where th’e farmers knew that the crops would be a failure owing to continued dry weather, they should allow the stock to Bat them off. What distribution b”f relief will be made in those feasts? Will each State pay on a uniform basis, or will the method ( of distribution be determined entirely by the States, subject to Commonwealth approval? It is reported that where wheat crops have be’en eaten o’ff by stock, the proposal is to pay only half of the’ full amount of relief. Practical men have pointed out that this proposal, if implemented, would cause anomalies, arid that grave injustice Would b’e done. I have been approached on behalf of graingrowers in South Australia; with the request that the’ Commonwealth authorities should consider whether it is possible tb’ pay 12s. 6d. an acre by way of relief regardless of whether the crop’s have or have riot been eaten off by stock. I a’sk- the Minister (Senator Fraser) to furnish information on that point:
The Minister has1 been good enough fo give ina some information regarding the’ policy of (he Government in supplying
STOCK feed, particularly wheat; ki prices considerably below the m’arke’t value; lt h’as- been reported’ that where’ th’e export pride’ is,- say, 7s. a1 bushel’; wheat has b£en sold for about half that price.- Having regard to the precarious season; arid thi difficulties of the farmers; if arty wheat is So’ be made’ available for” stock feed, the Credit given to’ the wheat* pool should be’ me m’arke’t value. If th’e Government’ is Anxious to’ assist’ producers’ in feeding poultry, pig’s, or o’the’r stock, the loss suffered from the sale of wheat- at a price below the market value should be made’ up by means of a , subsidy from general revenue, because the wheat-growers should-‘ not have to bear the loss. As I have already said, I commend the’ Government upon its proposal to grant the relief contemplated under this bill, which will provide much-needed assistance for a section of the community for whom I have the highest possible regard. I again urge that further consideration be given to the disastrous effects of the drought on other people engaged in rural industries.
– I support this proposal. I was pleased to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) compliment the Government upon its introduction. I shall discuss the measure from a different point of view from that of other honorable senators. The time has come when there must be a stocktaking in the agricultural industries. About ten years ago I spoke on this matter in the Legislative Council of New South Wales, when a United Australia party government was making a considerable grant to those industries. That government was dealing with the settlement of returned soldiers, and with all the grants made in connexion with agricultural settlement since the last war. In thiaggregate the assistance amounted to several hundred millions of pounds. Obviously such a policy must not continue. Action of a fundamental nature is needed. The problem of soil erosion is the most important with which Australia is confronted to-day, so far as the agricultural industries are concerned. I regret that the increased powers sought by the Government at the recent referendum were not granted by the people. I hope that another constitutional convention will be held, and that among the matters agreed upon between the Commonwealth and the States as falling within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, will be that of erosion. I was pleased .to hear .Senator Lamp ask a question relating to a geophysical survey of Australia because in any discussion of the effects of drought we must have regard to -the causes. Senator James McLachlan said that instead of appointing technicians to various hoards it would be better if practical farmers were appointed. I do not agree with him. A farmer is taken up with his own job, and often his outlook is somewhat narrow. He cannot be a scientist in the true sense of that term.
– There is room for both.
– A farmer cannot be an authority on the causes of drought and other scientific problems unless he has been farming for only a short time. It is no more necessary that members of boards appointed to deal with agricultural matters shall be farmers than that the maker of a musical instrument shall be a musical critic. Indeed, it is less necessary because, whereas music is comparatively static, agriculture is dynamic. A scientific knowledge of farming includes a knowledge, not only of farming operations, but also of markets, land tenure, land values, droughts, the carrying capacity of land, and many other matters which the ordinary farmer usually does not possess. The greatest authority on agriculture in the British Empire was a man named Sir Robert Greig. He was a graduate of the Edinburgh University. Afterwards he became a stock inspector, later a commissioner, until eventually he became permanent Under-Secretary for Agriculture. He was so highly regarded by Sir Auckland Geddes that, although he had _ enlisted in the Royal Scots Regiment in 1916, he was seconded in 1917 for special work in connexion with agriculture. Yet he had never worked on a farm. The problems of agriculture must be tackled by scientific men. Those problems include a sound policy of afforestation. I do not claim to be an authority; my object is to start the ball rolling. This country cannot go on as in the past. Senator Leckie referred to the importance of Australia as a producing country, but I say that unless erosion is dealt with, and overcome, it will not be long before Australia will be unimportant in world affairs. Those who saw the picture recently showing 40 feet of sand in mallee districts must have been impressed. What will happen in that part of Australia I do not know. There is not much chance of reclaiming that land, but unless something is done other areas adjoining it will be ruined. I do not know whether a farmer who obtains a piece of land is entitled to cut down the trees growing on it if he -wishes to do so, but I do know that in Germany for every tree that was cut 4own two trees were planted. Australia cannot any longer continue the policy that has been followed in the past. The soil erosion problem is properly one for the Commonwealth, but because so many people in the community are “Staterighters “ and seem to fear the power of what they term the bureaucracy, and because certain people twist on agreements they have entered into, Australia has reached the position that unless something is done about this matter there will be no post-war Australia, but rather a post-mortem. As I travel to and from Canberra I observe the things around me. I have noticed on the hillsides numerous sheep tracks. These tracks may be made by sheep in search of feed, but whatever the cause, the fact remains that as the sheep follow one another along the hillside, they form a track. Bain converts the track into a gutter, and then the sheep form another track. In time, the whole hillside is converted from track to gutter, and all herbage is destroyed. It would appear that our land policy is based on the principle of “ every man for himself “. We cannot take more from the land than we put into it. There is no excuse for much of the soil erosion that is taking place. Despite their great intelligence, the Chinese people had not learned the value of trees. In North China landholders destroyed the natural tree growth. Without the protection of trees the land was converted into desert by the wind that came from the Gobi Desert. I believe that before the Romans went to North Africa in the time of Julius Caesar, trees grew there in great numbers. But those trees were cut down, and to-day the great Sahara Desert has conquered that territory. Australia does not seem to have a sound land policy. Much land is held on short tenure. It is useless to blame the farmer for what has taken place, because he is largely the victim of circumstances. In order to make a living, he has to work from early morn to dewy eve. He is often forced to overstock his land. If he has not a sufficient area to enable him to move sheep from paddock to paddock, the sheep will destroy the roots of the grasses; then, should the rabbits overrun the land, there is little hope of its recovery. That kind of thing is going on throughout the Commonwealth, and the time has arrived when action should be taken. I am not opposed to the making of grants to drought-stricken farmers; on the contrary, I support this bill; but that does not remedy the situation. I do not approach this subject from any party viewpoint. When this bill was before the House of Representatives the claims of dairy-farmers were advanced by some honorable members. It is true that what is taking place on wheatlands is taking place also in dairying districts. I emphasize that we cannot keep on dipping our hands into the pool of finance indefinitely in order to help the man on the land. Australia has not yet adopted a proper system in connexion with dairy-farming. For instance, there are still too many scrub bulls in this country. And it is not uncommon to have ten or twelve different breeds of milch cows in the one paddock. Moreover, the accommodation provided for the children of dairy-farmers is in many cases not what it ought to be. Australian dairy-farms compare unfavorably with those of Denmark. We have much to learn from other countries. Only the best breeds of bulls should -be allowed on dairyfarms ; and that means that there should be greater co-operation on the part of dairy-farmers. In this matter also we have much to learn from Denmark. We may also learn something from the Russian experiments in connexion with insemination. It is useless to keep on financing people who are not efficient and fall back on the Government whenever they are in difficulties. The members of the Australian Country party who continually are advocating the granting of assistance to primary producers, should tackle these problems at their root. What is wanted is not more grants, but a scientifically organized economy. Unless we proceed along sounder lines the people on the land will break not only themselves, but also the rest of the community. I am in favour of the bill because I realize that in agricultural matters we have not yet proceeded beyond the stage of living a day at a time. We have proceeded on in the belief that, “ Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof “. Does any honorable senator suggest that by granting relief to drought-stricken farmers we shall be in any better position to face the next drought? Where is the money to come from ? It will come out of the pockets of the workers and the manufacturers. But the manufacturer, not being able to pay his taxes, will apply pressure on the -workers with the result that the standard of living of the people will fall. It may be necessary to close certain tracts of country for some decades. It might have been better had our Mallee country never been cultivated; but there does not seem to be any restriction on attempts to grow wheat in unsuitable areas. Recently, a resident in the western district of New South Wales, near Lake Cargellico, complained that a broadcast statement that no wheat had been grown in that district this year was incorrect. He said that some farms had produced as much as 10 or 12 bushels of wheat to the acre. That may be; but does any honorable senator claim that a crop of even 12 bushels to the acre compares favorably with the crops regularly reaped in other countries, such as Canada? I agree with Senator Hays that the granting of bounties is not sufficient. A system which provides a bounty as a solution of the problems of the farmer is economically unsound. We are faced with problems of life and death, and we must tackle them or cease to exist as a nation. If Australia is to be a great power in the Pacific in the future, we must put into operation a sound agricultural economy. Up to the present, wc have been sitting back all the time. The McKell Labour Government in New South Wales has done much to assist primary producers. For instance, it has provided tractors to enable mass production to be undertaken. The idea of every farmer working independently is wrong. Many farmers, rather than engage in mixed farming, look for bounty after bounty; but that system cannot continue indefinitely. I repeat that the time has arrived to deal with the problem of soil erosion. I am glad to know that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) is to investigate this problem while in the United States of America. I understand that he is to visit the “ dust bowl “ there, and will bring back with him data on the subject of erosion.
– He also mentioned the behaviour of the New South Wales coal-miners.
-When Senator Allan McDonald is thought to be dead the test that the doctors will apply in order to ascertain whether he is still alive will be whether he can say “ coalminers “. The honorable senator’s interjection reveals an attitude which is the cause of Australia being in its present unsatisfactory position. Instead of facing life-and-death questions on a national basis the honorable senator and others like him view these matters in the light of their class prejudices. If the honorable senator chooses to deal with serious problems facetiously, I assure him that I do not. The New South Wales Government has taken a practical interest in agricultural matters, and it must be complimented on what it has done. Honorable senators may have seen the picture entitled Grapes of Wrath. If so, I hope that they learned the lesson that it teaches. I do not suggest that the Minister for Trade and Customs will return to Australia with a cut-and-dried plan to deal with the problem of erosion. What, hoa been found effective in the United States of America may not suit conditions in Australia. Water erosion is the result of the destruction of trees, because every root and twig which retards the flow of water tends to check erosion.
– What made the Nile Valley and the Murray Valley?
– -Scottish engineers have been responsible for much of the development that has taken place in the Nile Valley. If the honorable senator knows anything about Egypt, he will know that in the days of the Pharoahs Egypt was a productive country. I am discussing a matter of national importance, but honorable senators opposite think only in terms of money. Unlike them, I am more concerned with unemployment, poverty, degradation, prostitution and other evils. I am reminded of the words of Robert Burns -
The Tank is but the guinea’s stamp, The man’s the gowd for a’ that.
Honorable senators opposite talk of Australia’s natural resources, but I remind them that we shall soon have no natural resources unless we protect them. Unless something is done we, too, shall have our great “ grapes of wrath “. The question of erosion includes afforestation and many other matters, with all of which no one person is fully acquainted, although, no doubt, every honorable senator knows something of one or more of them. If I have been successful in showing .that drought is a serious menace to our future, and- that we must do something about it, I shall have accomplished my purpose. I do not say that we can prevent. droughts, but we can see that when droughts come they will do the minimum of damage. That is our duty. Recently, I reread Adam Smith’s essay on -bounties, and I regard it as economically sound. Australia cannot go on for another twenty years with the same inefficiency on the part of its farming community as has been exhibited during the past 50 years. I do not speak of farmers as individuals, because 1 know something of the circumstances in which they live. I know that the problems which I have mentioned cannot be solved in a short period, but I hope that before long the Commonwealth Parliament will, have sufficient powers to deal with them, and that when the war is over there will be a geophysical survey of the Commonwealth so that soil erosion, which is Australia’s enemy No. 1, may be dealt with. Otherwise, there can be no real future for this country of which we all hope to be worthy.
– I support the bill. The measure provides substantial assistance to those producers who have suffered severe loss from drought conditions. Drought is a recurrent problem in this country. I listened attentively to the speech made by Senator Grant. He showed that he has a grasp of the essentials of this problem, and he made several valuable suggestions. Unfortunately, the bill provides relief for only one section of primary producers who have suffered losses owing to drought conditions. Under the measure the Commonwealth Government will provide £1,500,000 to be distributed among four States, “Western Australia being included because it might qualify for relief of this kind at a later date. The States concerned have agreed to provide another £1,500,000, making the total amount £3,000,000- a £1 for £1 basis as between the Commonwealth and the States. Only growers of cereals who have been affected by drought conditions will qualify for assistance under the measure. That means that approximately 9S per cent, of the sum made available will be paid to cereal growers, because they appear to have suffered most in the drought. As assistance is to be provided in respect of certain industries only in drought affected areas, relief will not be given under this measure to all producers who have suffered from drought. That discrimination will cause considerable dissatisfaction, and possibly ill-feeling between different sections of primary producers. For instance, one man may have been in the habit of growing wheat in the past, whilst his neighbour may have been raising fat lambs, or engaging exclusively in wool-growing. The former, if lie has been affected by drought conditions will qualify for relief, but the latter will not receive any of this assistance. The total sum proposed to be made available is not very large. Indeed, it is not sufficient to meet the needs of cereal-growers apart from any other section of primary producers. The Government should, provide assistance to all primary producers who have suffered losses in the drought whether they be producing cereals, wool, meat, vegetables or any other product. The loss of these products resulting from the drought is a national calamity, when we bear in mind that we are now in one of the most vital stages of the war.
We are required not only to produce all the foodstuffs that we can possibly produce in order to feed our own service personnel and civilian population, but also food, clothing and other war materials to members of the allied services in the South- West Pacific Area as well as meeting our commitments to the United Kingdom. Of these commitments, meat, including mutton, lamb and beef, is probably the most important item. As producers of those commodities have suffered severely in the drought, they should be entitled to assistance. Portion of the central Queensland and the whole of the south-western areas of that State have been experiencing 4 prolonged drought. In the latter areas, graziers have been cutting scrub and hand-feeding stock, and where possible moving stock to agistment country. They have been confronted for a long time with very adverse seasonal conditions as the result of which they have incurred considerable expenditure. For that reason, I cannot understand why no provision is made in the measure to assist them. However, I hope that the Government will introduce another bill to provide relief to those sections of primary producers. Losses caused by drought are the worst losses suffered by stock-growers. In the long run they are more serious than losses caused by fire. Drought losses extend over a prolonged period, and are continually taking place. Producers ate involved in considerable expenditure iri order to keep stock alive, and they have’ no assurance that when the drought breaks such stock will remain alive. I recall the breaking of a ten-years drought in north-western Queensland in July, 1.935. During that period graziers had expended large sums of money on feeding sheep. “When the drought broke in the winter of 1935, 7 inches of rain fell within a period bf eight day.s. Many of the weak sheep died from the severe cold, or became bogged in silt beds caused by the heavy rain. More sheep were lost following the rain than were lost during the period of the drought, and all of the expenditure incurred in keeping the sheep alive was lost. Statistics show that in the nine-year period from 1926 to 1935s in Queensland approximately 2,000,000 sheep were lost annually as the result of fi rough t, and the largest proportion of those losses occurred in the north-west portion of the State. Many graziers have not yet recovered from the losses they suffered in that period ; and in view” of the present high rates of income tax, which we are informed by some members of the Government are likely to prevail for some years to come, those graziers have not much hope of substantially reducing the debts which they incurred in endeavouring to reduce drought losses. Many owners df properties’ in that part of Queensland had been building up flocks during the preceding 20 or 30 years, and had. acquired- flocks of. well-bred sheep.Expenditure .involved in keeping, the” sheep alive during the drought involved owners in heavy commitments with financial institutions. Many of them incurred debts ranging from £15,000 to £50,00’0 in feeding stock during the drought, period-. A liability of £15,000 in this respect was not uncommon, but so long as the present high rates of tax remain the producers concerned will find it practically impossible to reduce their overdrafts to any substantial degrees The figures in this respect are illuminating. On the respective incomes given, the amounts of income tax, and the net income left to the taxpayers after payment of tax are as follows: -
I do not suggest that in time of wat the tax on incomes of the amounts I have given should be reduced. How ever, droughts are unavoidable, arid farmers and graziers must make up fdr bad Seasons in the few good seasons they experience. As these producers have incurred debts in maintaining a national asset, they fire entitled to softie assistance in that respect, because it is obvious that, sb long as they are obliged to pay the present high rates of income fax they will not be able to reduce their debts substantially before another drought descends upon them. I suggest that the taxation authorities should examine Cases of thi? kind, and where it can be Shown that fin overdraft has been, incurred as the result of drought conditions^ portion of the taxpayer’s’ income in succeeding” years should be” permitted- as a- reduction of that overdraft before income tax is imposed. The* number” of such” cases would not Be great compared with the’ aggregate of income taxpayers’ iii this’ country. Probably the taxation authorities will argue that” already they” have given a concession” to’ farmers by permitting” them to’ average’ their income- over five years for income”’ tffs’ purposes. That is quite true; biff iri practice the stock-raiser is in a much worse position than the cereal-grower when a drought occurs. The reason is this : When a drought breaks, the cerealgrower can plough his land immediately and sow his next year’s crop. He may if he so desires plant threefold or fourfold and so obtain a quick return. However, the grazier who has suffered a substantial loss of stock first must wait for the grass to grow. Then he has to purchase breeding stock from which to build up his flocks or herds. It may be five years or even longer before he is in a sufficiently sound financial position to reduce his overdraft.
Drought conditions must be regarded as a definite factor in our national economy. From the year 1S68 onwards a drought has occurred in some part of the Commonwealth every few years. The longest drought-free period of which I could find any record, was six years. It is true that some droughts occur only in restricted areas, whilst other portions of the Commonwealth are enjoying good seasons; but it has happened that a drought has prevailed over practically the whole of the Commonwealth as is the case to-day. I believe that the effects of droughts could be minimized, at least so far as stock-raisers are concerned, by the adoption of a national fodder conservation scheme. Great strides have been made in methods of storing and keeping hay and cereals. I understand that grain can now be kept in the open free from the ravages of weevils, rats, mice and other vermin for a number of years. Ten years ago that was a most difficult problem.
– It was a problem three years ago.
– Experiments carried out by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research have shown that mixed with roughage in some form or other, maize and wheat are very suitable fodders for sheep in time of drought. These cereals can be produced relatively cheaply. Under a national fodder conservation scheme maize, wheat and lucerne could be purchased at reasonable prices in flush seasons, and stored until the occurrence of a drought. Not only would such a scheme assist farmers living in drought-affected areas, but also it would assist the stabilization of the cerealgrowing industry. Finance for this scheme could be obtained by an annual contribution from farmers, on the basis of land area occupied or the number of stock carried. It would be a form of insurance, and I am sure that stock-raisers generally would be only too glad to participate in such a scheme. It would give to them a feeling of security which they do not have at present.
I agree with Senator Grant that soil erosion and sand drift are two of the greatest problems confronting this country. Both these conditions are a menace to our fertile lands, and, unfortunately, each of them is a growing menace. Measures to cope with these problems should be an integral part of our post-war rural reconstruction. I understand from what I have read on the subject that a great deal has been accomplished in the United States of America towards the prevention of soil erosion and drift. Huge areas which were rapidly becoming dust bowls have been reclaimed. The main factor in the success of this work has been the development of water conservation schemes. Once an adequate supply of water is laid on to an area in which sand drift or soil erosion has occurred, covering grass, shrubs or trees can be grown and the areas reclaimed. Similar action should be taken in this country. To that end the Government should obtain all the information available overseas on this subject, even if it has to send a representative to the United States of America. Apparently that country is prepared to spend thousands of millions of dollars in the post-war period to prevent soil erosion and convert waste areas into profitable country.
This measure does not deal with the fundamental causes of drought. It is merely a palliative. It is welcomed because it gives some much needed assistance to drought-stricken farmers, but it does not go quite far enough, because it makes no provision to grant assistance to certain primary producers who have been severely affected by drought.
I trust that the Government will make a full examination of all available information on soil erosion and sand drift and of the possibilities of introducing a national fodder conservation scheme, because only in that way can the permanent betterment of our primary industries be assured.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
– I support the bill -wholeheartedly, because if there is one section of the community to which we owe a great debt it is the farmers. We must keep them on their holdings, and if possible in a favorable financial position. Although the bill makes grants to certain States, it matters not to me which States benefit. Now that so many States are becoming claimant, no one can point the finger of scorn at any particular State. States such as Tasmania and Western Australia, may ha-ve some disabilities, and therefore have to seek assistance, but in this bill we find some of the more populous States coming into the category of claimants. In view of this drought, which is an act of God and which no man’s hand could have prevented, we must recognize that the only thing the Commonwealth Government could do has already been done. This Government has adhered to the Labour party’s platform, one plank of which provides -
The granting of relief to necessitous primary producers against the ravages of drought, fire, flood and pests, and the establishment of a grain and fodder reserve against periods of drought.
Had the Government not granted this relief to the drought-stricken farmers, Australia would probably have suffered to a far greater degree next year, because thousands of its farmers would not have been in a position to plant their crops. It is our duty to retain these men in the industry. Some say that we cannot keep on paying grants or subsidies. We can just as easily assist necessitous primary producers as we can protect secondary industries, and the manufacturers engaged in them, with tariff walls, excise duties and subsidies.
– Up to a point.
– Let us go back 50 years in Australia’s history, and picture where we would have been had our secondary industries not been built up by the means which I have just described.
The farmers have not been protected to the same degree. Not until the war came did we recognize the real need to give them the assistance given so long to the secondary industries. If it is argued that we cannot continue this form of assistance to primary producers, then we cannot continue to assist our manufacturing industries, because they are interwoven, and both are essential to our development. It has been Labour’s policy to protect the rural producers and lift them on to the same plane as the manufacturers, but until they were called upon to produce extra foodstuffs with the advent of the war they received very little protection indeed. If we are not going to assist them by a continuation of this system <rf granting relief, the only alternative is to remove our tariff walls, abolish our excise duties, withdraw subsidies, flood the country with immigrants, and ask them to try to compete in the world’s markets without any protection. We have no hope of competing against other nations in those markets without tariff walls for our manufacturers and subsidies for our farmers. There is no reason why we should not inaugurate a scheme to give to our rural producers the same assistance as our manufacturers have had, wherever it is needed, so that they may be put on a, stable footing.
– Our exportable surplus is the trouble.
– I shall deal with that point in a moment. If we try to compete with other countries without helping our primary producers, our standard of living will fall to that of the poorest country in the world. We have no alternative but to inaugurate a scheme which will protect us and retain our present standard of living, and, if possible, improve on it. The system under which we have been working, so far as the rural producers are concerned, has been entirely wrong. It has been based on the old ideas of supply and demand, and catch as catch, can, and it has definitely outlived its usefulness. We must now change over to an entirely different economic system for our rural producers. The change-over during the war has already proved most successful, and there is no reason why we cannot develop the system further in the post-war era, giving our farmer? the same protection and the same guarantee of security as our manufacturing industries have enjoyed for the past 50 years. That is Labour’s policy and Labour’s ideal.
– Does the honorable senator favour a duty on wheat?
– Australia is already a wheat-exporting country, as nobody knows better than the honorable senator. We must also guard our future. We know that we cannot prevent droughts, but we can try to make the effects less disastrous. Senator Grant has advocated re-afforestation, which is necessary, and if developed on the right lines would prevent thousands of tons of good Austraiian soil being blown over .tha ocean. I do not care whether reafforestation is undertaken by State or Federal authorities, or by combined effort so long as it is carried out, but we must have some nursery from which the right trees can be supplied as seedlings to farmers in unlimited quantities free of charge. Any farmer who is not able to plant them where they are essential for breakwinds should be helped by the Government to do so. Only by doing something along those lines can we hope to protect our soil from the ravages of wind. It is not always the heat from which we suffer most in times of drought. Any one who understands rural conditions knows that it is the wind which docs the most damage. In the -open spaces the wind dries the soil four times as quickly as the sun, then picks it up and carries it away, sometimes, as has happened recently, thousands of miles over the ocean. We are asked to appropriate £3.500,000 for drought relief to farmers whose cereal crops have failed. If tha right scheme is put into operation it will not be necessary to make grants on so large a scale year after year. It may still be necessary to help the farmers, but if the soil is protected from the wind we ought not to experience such severe droughts. We must go further and when we have abundance of fodder provide against the lean years that come from time to time. In years of plenty fodder is allowed to go to waste. The farmers must be helped to conserve stocks by means of ensilage or in stacks, so that in the years of drought we shall not lose the millions of sheep and cattle to which Senator Cooper referred. I venture to say that hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of tons of fodder have gone to waste in years of plenty in this country, much of which could have been reserved as a protection against years of drought.
– It cannot be conserved indefinitely.
– It may be kept for a number of years, and, if I have followed correctly the trend of the debate Australia does not go many years without a drought. It is very seldom that more than two or three years pass without one in some part of the country. If we hare plenty of fodder in one part of the continent in, normal times, surely we have enough common sense to arrange for its transport to droughtstricken areas? If, for instance, the Government had guaranteed the price of hay last season for Victoria and Tasmania probably thousands more acres of oats could have been cut for hay to be used in the parts of New South Wales which are suffering so severely now from the drought. It would, therefore, not be necessary to store fodder indefinitely. Probably it would have to be kept for two or three years at the most, and then it could be transported to where it was most needed. One interesting feature of the bill is that the assistance to be given is to be a grant and not a loan. If it were a loan it would only mean piling an extra debt on the shoulders of the farmers. In a case like this we have not alternative but to make a gift. I agree with the proviso that the money shall go only to those farmers who guarantee to remain on their farms and raise crops next year. If we did not do something to keep them on the land until next year to help us meet the increased demand on Australia for foodstuffs, we shall probably find ourselves in a worse position than we are now. Some honorable senators have said that relief is required by primary producers other than the growers of cereal crops, but the Government has dealt first with the most necessitous cases. If other farmers would be ruined without financial assistance, and could present just claims for relief, I have no doubt that the Government would come to their rescue, as it has come to the assistance of cerealgrowers. I hope that in future we shall not hear of some States describing the less populous States, which suffer disabilities in other directions, as mendicants. If any other producers find themselves in a similar position to that of the cereal-growers I feel confident that the Government will come to their assistance as readily as it has helped the wheat and barley growers.
– Although this measure is described as a drought relief bill it could have been termed an appropriation bill, because £1,500,000 will be provided for the States affected by drought this season, and certain States will contribute a similar sum, thus making £3,000,000 available for the relief of the cereal farmers. The plight of these farmers has been discussed from many angles. The problem of soil erosion has been brought to the notice of the Senate, and I quite realize the necessity for action to be taken to prevent the conversion of our farming lands into a dust bowl. I am aware, from practical experience over many years, of the effects of erosion in South Australia. During the last quarter of a century some parts of Australia have always been more or less affected, by drought, but not since 1914 has there been such a widespread drought as at present. The harvests at that time were not so great as they normally are now. In fact, in 1914, Australia had only just passed the transition stage at which the use of superphosphate had become general and had considerably increased the yield of wheat. At that period we had abundant shipping facilities, and every crop was practically cleared before the next crop was harvested. Australia imported wheat from other countries in 1914.
– We shall have to do so- this year.
– It may be necessary. During 1914, Manitoba wheat was gristed for flour in this, country for the first time. At present wc are better off in the matter of supplies than we were in 1914; but, unless the sale of wheat for stock feed and for home consumption- be restricted, we shall be In worse position this year than in 1914, when wheat was procurable in other parts of the world. This season we shall have to depend upon our own resources, and it will be difficult to meet our requirements. Even accepting the most optimistic estimate of the wheat yield this season, I do not think that anybody will venture to say that we shall have enough wheat in Australia to provide the grain necessary for home consumption, as well as seed wheat for next season. For those two purposes we need about 50,000,000 bushels. Therefore, the Government will be well advised to realize the seriousness of the situation. At present Australia uses about 1,750,000 bushels of wheat every week. Since the beginning of the war the wheat crops have been dealt with by means of pools, and the farmers are entering into ,the eighth pool at present. No. 1 pool gave us 18,000,000 bushels of wheat; Nos. 2 and 3 pools, 195,780,000 bushels; No. 4 pool 63,697,000; No. 5 pool, 154,000,000 bushels; No. 6 pool, 143,000,000 bushels; and No. 7 pool, 98,889,000 bushels. Those figures give a good idea of the quantity of wheat Australia has produced during the way. The wheat stocks on hand at the beginning of November were only 88,000,000 bushels, and at present they have been reduced by sales and home consumption to about 67,000,000 bushels. The most favorable reports of the present harvest indicate that it will not amount to more than 40,000,000 bushels, so we shall have a total of 107,000,000 bushels to see us through the next thirteen months before another crop can be harvested. We cannot continue to use 1,750,000 bushels a week out of a total of 107,000,000 bushels for thirteen months, so the Government would be well advised to take heed of the wheat stocks to-day. We shall have to refrain from handing out this grain for stock feed because we shall probably need it to feed our people. We are not yet at the worst period of the drought. That will probably occur next March and April, unless a remarkably good season be experienced. Therefore every precaution should hi taken.
The wheat-farmers of Australia are in a serious position, and need assistance.
They will not be able to meet their liabilities, and it is advisable to consider tho extent of their assets. They are not so hard up to-day as one might imagine. If only they could collect the money justly due to them they would not need any drought relief. The Government is holding to-day 88,000,000 bushels of wheat belonging to the farmers. At 5s. a bushel that wheat, is worth £22,000,000, and that money belongs to the farmers. Even, deducting expenses on a liberal scale, there would still be a considerable sum due to the farmers. “Why should the Government be handing out a bounty to the farmers of a few shillings an acr-j, when it owes them, ‘at a conservative estimate, from £12,000,000 to £14,000,000? The Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Fraser) is smiling, but he should, ponder over the figures that I have presented.
– I hope that they are more accurate than some others that have been cited by the honorable senator.
– 1 do not know whether they are accurate or not, but they were obtained from the Department of Commerce and Agriculture.
– The figures quoted previously by the honorable senator were not accurate.
– They also were supplied by the department. So far, we have had seven wheat pools, of which the first four have practically been wound up. Foi- the wheat in No. 5 pool an average price of 3s. lOd. a bushel was received; there are still some small adjustments to be made. The No. 6 pool was the first in respect of which 4s. a bushel was paid for quota wheat and an advance of 2s. a bushel was made on nonquota wheat. Payments are not yet complete, although 3s. 6d. a bushel has been paid in respect of the non-quota wheat. For the wheat in No. 7 pool there has been an additional payment of ltd on account of the rural workers. The net price for quota wheat is 4s. ltd. a bushel, but only 3s. a bushel has so far been paid. The balance is owing to the farmers.
Recently, I asked the following questions : -
To those questions I received the following answers : -
If the Minister is right in saying that that does not include wheat that has been sold for fodder and power alcohol, the return will be about 5s. a .bushel. I maintain that the Government owes the wheatfarmers of Australia about £12,000,000 or £14,000,000 after deducting expenses. Instead of paying a gratuity to farmers, it would be better to pay them the money that is owing to them.
– Has the wheat been sold?
– It could easily be sold at more than 5s. a bushel.
– The honorable senator just said that it should be retained in Australia.
– The home-consumption price of wheat is 5s. 2d. a bushel. For home consumption, 40,000,000 bushels of wheat are required.
– The honorable senator should be fair.
– I am fair. The honorable senator knows the home-consumption price of wheat, and he should also know the quantity on hand.
– Does the honorable senator want to put an additional £40,000,000 into circulation straight away? He has warned us against inflation.
– There cannot be much inflation if we have the goods. If we have 88,000,000 bushels of wheat and we advance £22,000,000 on it, there is no inflation.
– It would mean putting £40,000,000 into circulation.
– If the Government were to put wheat on the market to-morrow at 5s. a bushel, it would be sold within 24 hours.
– Has there not been an interim payment for some of that wheat?
– Interim payments have been made, but I am referring to the quantity of wheat still in hand. The wheat that has been sold has realized 5s. a bushel. I repeat that it would be better to pay the farmers for their wheat than to give them a bounty. Nevertheless, I am grateful to the Government for making this bounty available.
– Why . should the honorable senator be grateful to the Government for doing the proper thing?
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Unlike the honorable senator, I do not wish to be cynical always. I am grateful for the bounty, which I believe will help considerably. However, I regard the payment as one for political purposes.
– It was agreed to by the Premier of South Australia.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.That honorable gentleman does not always do what I would like to see done. I repeat that this “ handout “ is largely political.
– The honorable senator is now becoming cynical.
– No. In his second-reading speech, the Minister did not show how the money would be disbursed, but statements on the subject have appeared in the press. It would appear that the allocation will be on the basis of 12s. 6d. an acre to cerealgrowers. A farmer who reaps 6 bushels to the acre will not get any bounty, but one who obtains only 5 bushels to the acre will receive 2s. Id. a bushel Where the crop is only 4 bushels to the acre, 4s. 2d. a bushel will be paid. For a crop of 3 bushels the payment will be 6s. 3d. a bushel; for a crop of 2 bushels to the acre the payment will be 8s. 4d. a bushel; and where only 1 bushel an acre is reaped the owner will receive 10s. 5d. a bushel. Such an allocation would be unfair to South Australia; farmers in Western Australia are being paid 12s. 6d. an acre not to sow wheat.
– That applies only to marginal areas.
– I am not concerned with the area. In the other States, where a man has fallowed his land, thereby losing the use of it for feed- for twelve months and necessitating frequent tilling in order to keep the land clear of weeds, and has subsequently sown wheat, the payment will be only 12s. 6d. an acre. If it is worth 12s. 6d. an acre not to sow wheat, a greater payment should be made where wheat has been sown.
– Senator Tangney gave the reason last night when she said that the payment was made in order to keep farmers on the land.
– I am glad that the honorable senator has repeated Senator Tangney’s statement, because I would not like to contradict a woman. Senator Tangney said that the payment was made in order to keep farmers on the land, but that is not so. It is paid to them not to grow wheat. A payment of 12s. 6d. an acre was fixed as a basis, because every farmer had to be licensed. The Government’s basis of allocation shows that it is pandering to the smallfarmers, who represent the greatest number of votes. Let us consider the case of a farmer who sows 500 acres to wheat, and reaps 3 bushels to the acre. For those 3 bushels an acre he would be paid 6s. 3d. a bushel, and the Government will pay him another 6s. 3d. a bushel. He W111 collect £150 in respect of his crop of 500 acres.
– Does the honorable senator believe in the Scully wheat plan?
– I have said that the basis of that plan is right, but that it was manipulated and mutilated.
– The honorable senator is qualifying his statement.
– I am not. Let us take an average crop of 8 bags to the acre. A man who sowed 500 acres would reap 4,000 bags of wheat for which he would receive 4s. a bushel for the first 1,000 bags, and an advance of 2s. a bushel on the rest. A man who sowed only 100 acres would be paid £62 10s. Obviously the Government is out to catch the vote of the small farmer. Other primary producers besides cereal farmers are suffering from the drought. Indeed, many of them are in a worse position than are the majority of farmers. It is only right that they should be considered. Have not the grazier, the dairyman and the fruitgrower suffered severe losses in the drought? Does not a drought cause more serious loss to the sheep-grower than to the wheat-grower? Drought may destroy a crop of wheat, but in a drought the grazier may lose the whole of his flock and his capital. Therefore, he has a greater claim than other primary producers to assistance in respect of losses resulting from drought. I urge the Government to grant similar assistance ‘ to all sections of primary producers who have suffered lasses in the drought. If it does so it will earn the gratitude of the people of Australia.
– I was glad to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) indicate that the Opposition supports the measure, and commends the Government for introducing it. With Senator James McLachlan, however, he regretted that the Government was not making this assistance available to fruit-growers and other sections of primary producers. All of us share that regret. We cannot control the vagaries of nature, and, realizing the tremendous difficulties that now confront cereal-growers as the result of the drought, the Government is making this very generous effort in co-operation with the States concerned to help them to surmount difficulties caused by the drought. However, other sections of primary producers have an equal claim to assistance, and- I believe that this Government and the State Governments concerned will not hesitate to give proper consideration to their claims. I regret that Senator James McLachlan implied to some degree that this assistance was being made available by the Government as a political sop with the object of winning the votes of certain primary producers. I hope that so long as a Labour government is in, office in this Parliament it will not be influenced by party political considerations in dealing with the just claims for assistance of primary producers when they are confronted with difficulties beyond their resources to surmount. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that at the earliest possible moment the Government should make a general survey of our rural industries, particularly the pastoral industry. No relief is to be provided under this measure in respect of losses suffered by that industry, although in Western Australia particularly such losses have been very substantial. A general survey of our agricultural economy would be in the best interests of the nation.
– Has not the Rural Reconstruction Committee already made’ such a survey?
– The report of that committee deals specifically with the postwar rehabilitation of rural industries. It is a very valuable document, and the very comprehensive investigation carried out by that body will have farreaching results. However, as I have said, that committee was specifically concerned, with post-war rehabilitation. It may cover the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition; but if that be not the case, I agree with him that a general survey of rural industries should be made. So far as I am aware, this is the first occasion on which any government in this country has made a free gift to primary producers stricken by drought. It says, in effect, to cereal-growers, “ We wish to help not only you but also the nation by making available to you financial assistance to enable you to continue in production”. Invariably, in the past, assistance given to primary producers has been made available on certain terms of repayment of principal and interest. That system had the unfortunate effect of over-capitalizing the property of the primary producer, with the result that, having first been hit severely by drought, he found that when his holding again became productive he could not obtain a price for his products sufficient to enable him ( to meet costs of production plus interest on the additional financial accommodation made available to him when he had practically no assets. When making financial assistance available to primary producers in the past, governments said to them, in effect, “ You can have the money you require, but you must repay the principal plus interest This measure is unique in that it departs from that principle. Under it, financial assistance will be made available to the cereal-growers as a free gift, not only by the Commonwealth but also by the State Governments concerned, which have agreed to contribute fi for £1, bringing the total amount of assistance to £3,000,000. The only condition which will be applied to this gift is that the recipients must remain in production so that at the earliest possible moment they will produce crops and thus enable us to meet the food requirements of not only this country but also the United Kingdom. Some honorable senators have asserted that one of the greatest problems confronting Australia is that of re-afforestation. During the previous sessional period I took the opportunity to visit the Forestry School, at Westridge, Canberra, and I was very much impressed by what I saw there. That institution is endeavouring to do a most important job; but what surprised mo most was to find so few students attending the institution. I believe that there is only one student from each State. I gathered that the reason for that was because the remuneration paid to students for their work was too low.
– If they were attending a university they would have to pay for their tuition.
– That may be so in some States, but attendance at the university at Western Australia is free to all students. However, the point I make is that the Forestry School has been established for a specific and very important purpose, and an agreement exists between the Commonwealth and the States with respect to the financing of the institution with a view to maintaining a substantial intake of students. I believe that many young people in Australia would be prepared to study afforestation provided sufficient inducement were held out to them to do so. It is not reasonable to expect any young man to study and be at a disadvantage economically compared with his fellows who are earning good wages elsewhere. I hope that the Commonwealth and State Governments will give consideration to this aspect of the matter. It is a subject which could well be discussed at the next meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers.
Another matter which appeals to me very strongly is the prevention of soil erosion and drift to which Senator Grant referred. In recent weeks we have heard stories of the inroads made by drifting sand in certain areas of the Commonwealth, and of good Australian soil being blown as far as New Zealand. Every grain of soil we lose from this country is lost for ever. We can talk until we are black in the face about means to increase primary production by means of guaranteed prices, but unless we have the assistance of nature to grow the crops we might as well close down on the job. All available information indicates that soil erosion has reduced thousands of acres of fertile land to a perilous condition. A few days ago honorable senators received a circular letter from the Victorian Department of Agriculture setting out the practical efforts that were being made in the Mallee district of that State to prevent erosion. The letter stated that a competition had been held, and as the result, certain decisions had been arrived at. The letter also gave publicity to measures that were being taken to preserve the fertility of the soil in the Mallee district. I suggest that such information is valuable not only to Victoria but also to all States. This is a real problem awaiting solution. Unfortunately, action cannot be taken by this Parliament on an Australia-wide basis because of. constitutional limitations. Therefore, we must rely upon cooperation between the States and the Commonwealth, and unless action be taken in the near future the opportunity may be lost. Bound up with this matter is the question of water conservation. Western Australia is the most unfortunate State in the Commonwealth in regard to natural waterways. We have few rivers and in some of them the water is salty and others very short. We must be very careful to conserve every possible drop of water in “Western Australia. In that respect I commend the Labour Government of that State for the splendid job it has done at the Canning Reservoir where a once small stream has been utilized to conserve a vast quantity of water. I do not know exactly how many hundreds of millions of gallons can be stored in the reservoir, but I understand that its capacity is sufficient to meet the normal requirements of the city of Perth for the next 50 years. Irrigation is an important feature of water conservation schemes. Recently I visited Deniliquin in connexion with parliamentary business and had the privilege of inspecting the huge irrigation channel which has been constructed from Mulwala to Deniliquin, a distance of nearly 100 miles. The channel, which is 99 feet wide, was full of water and resembled a huge river in a desert. I saw also the practical results of the construction of that channel : With the water provided by the irrigation system an adjacent farm was growing lucerne and several cereals. They were splendid crops. It was a veritable oasis in the desert. AH around it was parched land on which the trees appeared to be half dead through lack of water. Water conservation schemes can be a tremendous asset to this country and every effort must be made to develop them. In the northern portion of Western Australia there are several waterways which could be harnessed. I understand that the State Government is already considering the utilization of these rivers for the benefit of the hinterland. However, I am afraid that the expense involved would place far too heavy a burden upon Western Australian taxpayers if the State Government alone had to do the job. Here again there is a need for co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States.
I bring these points to the notice of honorable senators because I feel that while there are some people who are very interested in these tremendous problems associated with the rural areas of this country, there is not yet sufficient unanimity of opinion to enable these problems to be tackled on a large scale as they must be tackled in the very near future.
Senator James McLachlan referred to the wheat acquisition scheme, and argued that the Government actually was holding many millions of pounds which rightly belonged to the farmers of this country. I ask the honorable senator if he believes that there should not be a stabilization scheme ? Where would the wheat farmers of this country be to-day if they had to rely upon ordinary trade channels for the disposal of their product?
– Senator James McLachlan is one of the Opposition members who believe in the Scully wheat plan.
– What the honorable senator suggested to-night was something quite different. If I understood him correctly he said that if the Government made available some of the money belonging to the farmers which it now holds, there would be no need for this bill. I believe that the honorable senator is unjust in associating this measure with the operation of the wheat acquisition scheme, and I regret that he has done so. To my mind his action savours of an attempt to make political capital out of this bill.
– What Senator James McLachlan meant was that the wheat was being sold at 2s. 10-id. a bushel out of silos whereas it could have been sent overseas and sold for 7s. a bushel.
– - It is easy to say that, but whether it is a practical proposition is a different matter. Until the wheat now held in the various pools is actually sold, the Government is not receiving any money for it, so that actually the Government is advancing money to the wheatgrowers against prospective sales. Then, if there is a balance in favour of the farmers when the sales are made, it will be paid to them.
– The important point is the return that is obtained for the wheat.
– Let us be honest and fair about this matter. In normal circumstances the farmer would not receive any money for his wheat until a sale was effected, whereas under this scheme the farmer supplies his wheat to a central authority and that authority advances fr» him a guaranteed price for so much of that wheat. If the price eventually realized is greater than the advance which has been made, the additional amount, less of course certain administrative charges, is paid to the farmer.
– Good speech!
– If the honorable senator believes that he can prove my argument to be wrong he is at liberty to do so. I am dealing with the facts as I understand them. If I am wrong, I have no doubt that the Minister in charge of this measure will say so.
– The honorable senator is substantially correct.
– As I understand it, under the ‘Scully acquisition plan the Government guarantees to the farmer approximately 4s. lid. a bushel for tha first 3,000 bushels. The cost of transporting the wheat from railway sidings to ports is borne by the wheat pool, so that taking the average cost of transport at ls. a bushel, it means that under the acquisition scheme a farmer is actually receiving 5s. 1 1/3 d. a bushel for his wheat. If I am mistaken I hope that the Minister will correct me because what I am telling the Senate now I have told the electors of “Western Australia, whom I should not wish to mislead. Another aspect of the wheat position must be examined. We have heard a great deal about restrictions on wheat-growing, particularly in Western Australia. We are told to-night that in that State the Government paid wheat-farmers in certain areas 12s. 6d. an acre not to sow wheat. We know that that is true, but it has not gone on indefinitely. I have had complaints from Western Australia which I have submitted to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) in respect of the areas known as the marginal lands where the 12s. 6d. an acre was paid for one season but was not paid subsequently.
– The sum of £750,000 appears on the Estimates this year for that purpose.
– There are in Western Australia other lands to which that policy applies but in the particular areas to which I am referring the 12s. 6d. was paid under the original grant but was not continued. To that extent the wheatfarmers in those areas feel that they have a just grievance against the Commonwealth Government and the
Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. Perhaps the Minister representing him in this chamber (Senator Fraser) will be able to tell us something on that subject. As regards the restrictions, I think that honorable senators from Western Australia will in the main agree with me that one of the principal reasons for the necessity to curtail the production of wheat in that State was the inability to obtain superphosphate. I think that they will all admit that there is practically no wheat-growing land in that State which will produce wheat without superphosphate.
– There is in the south.
– They do not grow wheat at all in the south of Western Australia.
– In the south-west they do.
– They grow more fruit and other produce in the southwest. Lack of superphosphate was one of the big factors in the wheat restriction policy in Western Australia. In addition it was only comparatively recently that the local railways system was able to clear residues of wheat from sidings where they had been for a long time. I believe that at this moment many millions of tons of wheat are still lying at railway sidings throughout the State. The railways simply could not transport the wheat because they did not have the necessary rolling stock or engines to haul it. In addition, all the wheat bins at the central port were filled to capacity, and there was no shipping available to transport wheat overseas. Had there not been a system of control of wheat production in these circumstances, what would have been the ultimate result? We should have had all our granaries overflowing, and nowhere to stack the wheat. If would have been left lying about the country, going to waste. It has been said that the compensation for the restriction of wheat areas applies in Western Australia to land worth £1 10s. an acre. I shall not argue about the upset price of the land from which wheat is produced in the State, but in one particular part where the land is supposed to be of such low value the yields are as high as 23 bushels of wheat to the acre.
– If they get 12s. 6d. an acre not to grow wheat there, more shame to the Government.
– As a representative of Western Australia, I heartily agree with and endorse the decision of the Government to make this relief available, particularly as it will give an opportunity to Western Australia at ‘ a later date, if it so desires and if necessary, to make application for relief, 1 feel, with honorable senators on both sides of the chamber, that if there is a genuine case for relief, then all forms of production should receive the sympathetic consideration of Parliament.
.- I support the bill. As Senator Nash pointed out at the beginning of his speech, which was quite a good one, although spoilt a little at the end, this is the first time in history that any government has made a direct grant to the growers instead of lending money to them to pay off their obligations. That is quite a good point, and the Government is to be commended for making it a grant rather than a loan. Senators Grant and Aylett spoke at some length about the conservation of fodder, but it is unfortunate that they do not know much about it. Otherwise, they would not have made the remarks they did.
– I did not refer to the subject.
– At any rate Senator Aylett did. I do quite a lot of conserving of fodder for my own use. It is almost impossible to keep most forms of fodder for more than two years. The cheapest fodder that can be conserved is the very stuff the production of which the Government is restricting, that is, wheat. Wheat to-day at 4s. a bushel, which is the fixed price, is £7 8s. a ton. ‘Chaff costs £9 12s. <5d. a ton, but it has not onethird of the value of wheat. If the wheat which Senator Nash said was lying about on Western Australian railway sidings were available in Victoria to-day, it would be mopped up at once. As a matter of fact 1,000,000 bushels of wheat a week is going out for sheep fodder, and the drought has not yet started. We never feel a drought at this time of the year. The drought period is February and March. People will be hand-feeding their stock then, hut they are not feeding it now. We are indebted to ‘Senator James McLachlan for the information he gave the Senate to-night. He said that we have 67,000,000 bushels of wheat on hand to-day, which with the estimated crop of 40,000,000 bushels will make 107,000,000 bushels. Our outgoings are 35,000,000 bushels for feed for twelve months, 21,000,000 bushels for seed, and 52,000,000 bushels for pig, fowl and sheep feed at the present rate of outgoing, making a total of 108,000,000 bushels, or a net loss of 1,000,000 bushels of wheat before the next harvest. It must be remembered also that the Government is now refusing to provide wheat to the power alcohol distilleries, which means a saving, and refusing to sell wheat for overseas, although at the beginning of November it sold 30,000,000 bushels for export at about 6s. a bushel. No sales of that kind are now taking place. The reason why the farmer will not get as much for his wheat is. that the Government has” no wheat to sell for export. The Government will say that the shortage is not due to its restriction of the acreage of land under wheat from 34,000,000 acres to 7,500,000 acres, bur. to the lack of superphosphate, yet it will not permit some farmers to grow wheat. It has restricted the production of wheat so greatly that at the beginning of next season we shall have to import a million bushels, or stop our farmers from feeding wheat to their stock. Millions of acreas of land throughout Australia, particularly in Victoria, does not require superphosphate, but farmers cannot get licences to grow wheat on it. The Government simply will not grant ‘them.
– There are not millions of acres in Western Australia which do not require superphosphate.
– My remark applies to parts of the south-west of that State. I recently asked the Government a series of questions, and was told that growers would now be permitted to plant to the fullest extent, subject only to the need to maintain production.
When I pressed the matter, the Minister frankly stated that a grower still had to get a licence, so that he is still tied., like a dog to his kennel, to the block of land on which he has been growing wheat for so long. He is not allowed to obtain a piece of ground alongside, which does not require superphosphate. I hope that the Government will listen to reason, and allow the farmers to increase production, if not on land which needs superphosphate, then on other land which does not. In that way they will get at least 14,000,000 acres of wheat under crop next year. I regret that the bill Ls confined to wheat, oats and ‘barleygrowers, because the sheep man who is losing all his sheep is just as much entitled to relief as the cereal-grower. A year or two ago when I visited a big station property in New South Wales at a period of bad drought, I asked the manager if he was going to hand feed. He replied, “Not ou your life; last time I hand fed I lost both the sheep and the feed; this time I am going to lose only the sheep “. The unfortunate man who loses his sheep loses the whole of his capital, but the man who loses his wheat, crop loses only his labour for the year. I impress on the Government the necessity of lifting these restrictions, which I and many others have opposed in this Parliament from time to time. Let us waste wheat rather than have a shortage. As Senator Cooper pointed out, wheat can now be kept , almost indefinitely by spreading sulphate of carbon on the top of it. At one time it was thought injurious, but it is now found not to injure the wheat at all, although it kills all the vermin, such as mice, weevils and rats. Chaff, oats and hay, however, cannot be kept indefinitely. The most suitable fodder for conservation is lucerne, meadow hay, or wheat, and wheat as feed for sheep stands absolutely unequalled. Another point referred to by the Minister from time to time is the procuring of seed wheat for the farmers next year. Whence is it to come? It cannot be taken out of silos, which contain every variety under the sun. Most of the wheat in Victoria and New South Wales is stored in silos.
The only hope is to conserve some of the paddocks where crops of different varieties can be kept clean, because great difficulty will arise in inducing the farmers to provide clean wheat for seed purposes.
I agree largely with some of the arguments advanced by Senator Grant and Senator Nash. One of the matters dealt with by them was soil erosion. I asked Senator Grant who created the Nile Valley and he replied, “ Scotch engineers “. I have great respect for the Scotch, having a good deal of Scotch blood in my own veins, but the Nile Valley originated before there was a Scotsman in existence. If there were no soil erosion there would be no valleys like those of the River Nile and the River Murray. Water erosion is one thing and wind erosion is another. I agree with what Senator Grant has said about the need for reafforestation. If I were Postmaster-General I should prevent the use of potential milling trees for the provision of telephone poles 24 feet or 25 feet in length. On some electricity transmission lines, poles 60 feet in length are used, and arc provided by the destruction of trees which a few years later would have provided valuable milling timber. There is a standard telegraph pole which would obviate the necessity for the use of wooden poles, and its general adoption would assist in increasing forest production. Many additional timber plantations should be established. In the district where I live there is an area 60 miles long by 20 miles wide which had not a single tree on it many years ago, but to-day it has possibly millions of trees. I have 52 acres of trees on my own property. If re-afforestation were practised extensively throughout the mallee districts and other areas where wind erosion is experienced, useful work would be done to prevent good farming land from being blown into other districts. It is difficult to accept the statement of Senator Nash regarding afforestation in the Australian Capital Territory. The pines that have been planted in the Canberra district are of little value except for the making of fruit cases. The rainfall is not sufficiently high for afforestation.
– We have the Australian Forestry School here.
– Unfortunately it is attended by only a few students and the working costs are heavy. Every year or two a big flood odours in the Snowy River, and at Orbost about 8,000 acres of river flats are submerged by silt. The erosion that occurs in the poorer country upstream produces the rich flats of Orbost which are valued at about £100 an acre. The Hume reservoir has up to the present submerged more land than it has irrigated. Proposals have been accepted by the Government to raise the height of the Hume Dam to enable 2,000,000 acre feet of water to be impounded. In order to do that it will be necessary to increase the height of the earthen bank on the Victorian side, which is a mile in length, and it is feared in some quarters that this will constitute a danger to Albury, which, in the event of a ‘collapse of the dam, would be destroyed., When I was Minister for Works and Railways, expert engineers advised that two weirs higher up the Murray River could be provided for less than the present proposal will cost, and would help to prevent erosion. I regret that the Government intends to proceed with the 2,000,000 acre feet scheme.
I give this bill my blessing, and hope that the farmers will be assisted by it. I trust that some of the farmers in the later districts will be helped by good rainfalls to harvest their own seed wheat. I fear that some of the wealthy farmers who may not need the assistance to be provided under this bill will get it. I contend that if a farmer can afford to carry on without relief he should not accept it, but should allow the benefit to be given to those who cannot afford to continue to grow wheat without assistance.
– The outstanding feature of the bill is the fact that an outright gift is to be made to farmers who are in distressed circumstances owing to the disastrous drought that has overtaken this country. Unfortunately the farmers have failed in the past to conserve sufficient water for their stock and for domestic supplies. This failing is particularly noticeable in Western Australia.
Small dams are frequently seen, and when a particularly dry season occurs the water evaporates. I suggest that provision should be made for the covering of small dams in Western Australia, in order to reduce evaporation. I hope the Government will continue its policy of encouraging water conservation. Had the referendum proposals been adopted, it is probable that water conservation would have been more generally practised throughout Australia. Large numbers of sheep have been lost, because no water is available for them. The proposal in the bill is to be commended, because the object of the Government is to keep farmers on their holdings, ‘ so that adequate cereal crops may be obtained in future. Having worked on the land, my sympathies are entirely with the farmers, and I always desire to do what I can to help them. The primary producers of Western Australia have to rely largely on the production of wheat and the raising of sheep and cattle, and I hope that the Government will take steps to encourage in every possible way the conservation of water. The Scully scheme for the. payment of 12s. 6d. an acre to farmers in Western Australia to enable them to remain on their holdings involved the provision of £750,000, and the majority of the farmers regarded that scheme as a move -in the right direction. It was particularly acceptable to farmers on small holdings. Farmers in South Australia were offered similar assistance, but the Government of that State, which is supported by the Australian Country party and the United Australia party, rejected it.
Soil erosion is to be deplored, and we should encourage in every possible way a policy of re-afforestation. In Western Australia people on the land are supposed to set two new trees to replace every tree that is cut down, but I am afraid that that rule is not strictly observed. The farmers should be compelled to provide adequate water supplies for their stock and to plant trees, so that their animals may have shade in hot weather. I heartily support this bill, and commend the Government upon its introduction.
– I am afraid that the gaunt spectre of drought, and its grim brother, soil erosion, still await a national policy to cope with this recurrent danger to Australia. This is not the first measure with which the Senate has had to deal for the purpose of providing drought relief for the farmers, and it will not be the last, unless a national policy be promulgated to grapple with the problem. In 1940 the Menzies Government introduced a drought relief measure under which authority was given to borrow £2,800,000 to be distributed among the States as follows: - New South Wales £750,000, Victoria £600,000, Queeusland £250,000, South Australia £600,000 and Western Australia £570,000. I cannot say whether the whole of that money was availed of to cope with the drought conditions in the respective States. This measure deals with the present drought, but it is time that a national policy was evolved to meet these recurring disasters. We have heard a good deal to-day of the danger of soil erosion. That is a matter which should be considered in conjunction with drought, and in regard to it also a national outlook is required. Wind has no regard for State boundaries. For a number of years State governments have attempted to deal with this problem, but it is beyond their power to solve it. Commonwealth assistance is required. In his second-reading speech, the Minister mentioned a tentative allocation of money, but unfortunately Western Australia may be excluded. Although it is too soon to say with any degree of certainty what the final harvest figures will be, and notwithstanding that Western Australia is not suffering so severely from drought conditions as are some of the other States, I should be happier if the tentative allocation mentioned by the Minister had not been made. However, I am sure that the Government will pay due regard to the needs of Western Australia should that State, unfortunately, not realize its harvest expectations. Drought conditions in Western Australia are being experienced chiefly in the northern pastoral areas of the State, and therefore this bill, which deals only with cereals and cereal hays, does not cover them. I regret that the measure is confined to cereals. Even though it would mean an increased grant, the measure would have been more satisfactory had it included pastoral and other agricultural industries. I do not know what the position of the growers of maize in Queensland and New South Wales will he, but I do know that there are areas in those States in which the maize crops have failed. These are only minor matters associated with a major tragedy, but they are worthy of consideration. Unfortunately, we are dealing with these recurring disasters in piecemeal fashion, instead of planning on a national scale.
Since 1934, South Africa, which is situated in similar latitudes to Australia, has had a national policy in connexion with soil erosion. Large sums of money have been expended in preventive measures, and although it cannot be said that the danger of erosion has passed, it has certainly been checked. That, unfortunately, is not the position in the northern districts of South Australia, beyond Redhill and in the Flinders Range, because little headway has been made in the checking of soil erosion there. The Year-Booh of the Union of South Africa for 1941 - the latest publication available - shows that the chief means of dealing with soil erosion is by the payment of bounties to ‘ private land-holders. A large body of men with horses and mechanical appliances is employed on this work, and a study of the measures taken there is enlightening to us in this country where the conditions are similar. I hope that, if they require it, other States besides Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia will share in this relief. I commend the Government on the introduction of this bill, and I urge the formulation of a national policy to cope with the evils of drought and soil erosion.
– I support the bill. Honorable senators can vote for such a measure with confidence, because it embodies an agreement arrived at between Commonwealth and State officers in regard to measures for the relief of sufferers from drought. It is unfortunate that droughts should occur in cycles, but that only strengthens the case for making provision against them. Severe droughts were experienced in 1902 and in 1914, and now Australia is suffering from another similar calamity. It may he only a coincidence that in 1902 the Boer War was being fought; that the first great world war began in 1914; and that in 1944 the nation is again at war. I do not think that any action Ave may take can prevent droughts, hut we can do more to minimize their tragic effects, particularly by the conservation of water. Net long ago I travelled for some hundreds of miles along the Murray Valley. On one side of the road the land was 1 practically bare, whereas on the other side there were wonderful crops of lucerne and subterranean clover. Much more could be done to utilize the waters of the river Murray to greater advantage. There could be a much greater development of irrigation projects, and it should be possible to ensure an abundance of foodstuffs by irrigation, so that the effects of drought would not be so severe. Farmers, fruitgrowers, organizers of sports’ gatherings, and others, pay premiums in respect of insurance against rain, fire, hail, &c, and it has occurred to me that in th, abundant years between recurring droughts primary producers might pay premiums in order to establish a fund to be drawn upon in years of drought. Action could be taken along those lines in order to meet an emergency of this kind. Normally, Victoria and New South Wales have a high production of primary products, whereas we hear much talk about Tasmania and Western Australia being claimant States. This assistance has been described as a “hand-out”. I do not agree with that view. The cerealgrowers in the States concerned have been stricken by drought, and, quite properly, the Government is rendering them this assistance. However, we should be well advised to provide against an emergency of this kind by setting up a national fund in consultation with the wheat-growers so that when they are visited by drought, which, of course, we cannot control, they will be enabled to surmount their difficulties. No greater difficulty is involved in insuring against drought than in insuring against other visitations such as storms, floods or fire. Several honorable senators have said that very probably we shall be obliged to import wheat in the near future. When the Government’s proposals to restrict the production of wheat were being considered in this chamber, I expressed the view that that method was wrong. I said that nature would adjust its own balance. We should not be in the position in which we find ourselves to-day had we produced normal crops in favorable seasons. The wheatgrowers’ are now advised to double their production. Who can say that next year all wheat producing countries will not have a bountiful crop? Is it suggested that our growers should now invest in new plant and equipment in order to double their production for one year? What will be done in the succeeding year ‘( In response to this appeal our growers may produce a crop of from 300,000,000 to 400,000,000 bushels, and in the next year there may be a surplus in all wheat producing countries. Should that be the case, shall we again restrict production ? The proper way to deal with this problem is to leave production entirely to the growers. We should allow them to develop the industry in their own way. Instead of interfering in the industry by curtailing production, we should give more thought to easing the burden placed on growers by providing adequate markets. I support the bill, and urge the Government to give urgent consideration to the suggestions I have made.
.- I am sorry that I cannot join in the universal paean of praise of the Government for introducing this measure. That fact grieves me very much, because I should like to be able to praise this Government. It is difficult to do so honestly, although I have done so on a couple of occasions. No self-respecting government that realized the necessity to keep the primary producers on the land, and solvent, could avoid taking action along these lines in time of national disaster. The Government, therefore, has done the only obvious possible thing open to it, and any other government would have taken similar action. I agree with Senator Hays that much of the present problem is due to this Government’s pass policy of restricting production. Once a government interferes with natural production, it must inevitably strike trouble, I wish to deal particularly with clauses of the bill which read -
Any amount granted and paid to a State under tit is act shall be paid to that State upon condition -
That provision is quite reasonable. As the Government is providing £1,500,000 for this purpose, it should have a voice in the expenditure of that money; but paragraph b of the clause reads - ((<) that an equal amount will bc made available by the State and that the amount so made available will be applied by the States for the same purpose, and in the same manner, as the amount payable to that State under this act.
This is a £1 for £1 partnership arrangement in which the Commonwealth is to provide £1,500,000, and the States concerned a similar amount; but, whilst the objects of the fund are quite proper, why in a free partnership should the Commonwealth Minister control the expenditure of the whole sum, including that to be made available by the respective ‘States? “Why should he have the last say in this matter? Are not the States entitled to an equal say? This provision should be amended to make it clear that this is a partnership arrangement, in which the expenditure shall be controlled in consultation between the Commonwealth and the State concerned. When certain States provide an amount equal to that provided by the Commonwealth, I cannot see any reason why one party to the arrangement should determine how the money is to be expended. After all, the State governments are more intimately acquainted with the personal business of individual growers who will be assisted, and the conditions operating in their respective boundaries. Therefore, the Government, in insisting upon the right to control the expenditure of the money made available by the States, is dogmatic and dictatorial. Naturally, the States cannot refuse to take advantage of this proposal, but the Commonwealth seems to be using its superior money-power to compel the
States to do exactly what it desires. In the past, honorable senators opposite have loudly denounced the power of money, but on the first occasion they have an opportunity .to exercise their dominance as supporters of this Government, they use that power to the fullest degree. This is not a fair .proposition. I do not quarrel with the proposal that the Commonwealth provide £1,500,000 for this purpose; but, surely, when certain States provide an equal amount, they should have an equal say in the expenditure. I cannot see how the Minister in charge of the bill can truthfully contradict that assertion. He can simply lay down the law, and his decision will bc- final; and the States, in order to take advantage of the assistance being made available by the Commonwealth, must accept his dictum. Should they refuse to do so, they will not receive any of this money. That is not fair play. I appeal to the Minister to reconsider clause 5 on the point I have raised. The Minister comes from Western Australia, and my recollections of Western Australians, as a whole, after having lived in that State for some time, are that they stand for fair play. I protest against paragraph b of clause 5. It is unfair, unnecessary, and an insult to the State governments. However, it is quite in keeping with the dictatorial attitude which Ministers generally adopt when dealing with important matters. I hope that in his reply to the second-reading debate, the Minister will tell the Senate whether he is prepared to be fair in this matter, or intends to stick absolutely to the terms of the bill. I repeat that the States are entitled to a voice in the expenditure of the money which they are to subscribe under this scheme, and I trust that the Minister in charge of the bill in this chamber will have sufficient influence with his colleague the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), to convince him that the States have a right to be consulted in this matter.
– in reply - The main argument advanced by members of the Opposition in this debate has been that the scope of the measure should be extended to cover farmers other than cereal-growers, who have been seriously affected by the drought. I shall outline briefly the history of the bill. A conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers was held, and approved the scheme embodied in this measure. “Whether or not the scope of drought relief should be extended to other rural industries is a matter for the Commonwealth and State governments; but in presenting this bill the Government is merely giving effect to something upon which agreement was reached.
– Under duress.
– No. The plan was agreed to by the States concerned. Indeed, under the very clause to’ which the honorable senator has objected the States will be the distributing agents of this money.
– Under conditions imposed by the Commonwealth.
– No. Under conditions agreed upon by both the Commonwealth and the States. Is that not a good example of co-operation with the States?
– But the Commonwealth has supreme authority.
– I am quite resigned to the belief that no measure introduced by a Labour government will have the blessing of Senator Leckie.
The second-reading debate upon this bill was notable for raising several good points, but unfortunately many irrelevant matters were introduced, and several inaccurate statements were made, particularly by Senator James McLachlan. I am not quite sure whether the honorable senator is a mathematician or a magician. Incidentally it was interesting to hear another honorable senator opposite advocating a form of national insurance. However, I am afraid that just as Senator James McLachlan has been under the whip in South Australia for his approval of the Scully wheat plan, Senator Herbert Hays will be under the whip for advocating national insurance.
On present estimates, this year’s wheat crop will be between 50,000,000 and 55,000,000 bushels. In addition, there is a carry over of about 75,000,000 bushels, so that there is no question of a shortage of wheat for local consumption, although export may have to be curtailed. Senator James McLachlan went on to tell us how badly this Government has treated the wheat-growers. In fact, he said that the Government had robbed them of £14,000,000.
– No. I said that the Government owed them that sum.
– At least the honorable senator implied that the wheatgrowers had been robbed by the Government. In reply to that accusation I point out that in respect of Nos. 6 and 7 wheat pools there is now an overdraft on 19,000,000 bushels. That is to say, the statement made by Senator Nash that payments are made to the wheat-growers in advance is substantially correct. These, advances are made by the Government through the Commonwealth Bank, and when the wheat is sold the bank is reimbursed.
– But the Minister has just said that there is a carry-over of 75,000,000 bushels which could be sold.
– If that were done we should run the risk of a shortage of wheat for home consumption next year. Our position would be precarious. Therefore, due to drought conditions we have curtailed the export of wheat.
Quite a lot has been said in this debate about acreage restrictions. This country is still at war, and there is still a substantial shortage of man-power, with the result that we cannot do many things which we would do if labour were available. The Government has to fix production targets for many commodities besides wheat. Senator Gibson claimed that without additional superphosphate, wheat sowing could be increased by 14,000,000 acres next year; but I remind the honorable senator that it would not be possible to harvest that additional wheat without extra manpower and equipment which at present is not available. In fact, the shortage of man-power and equipment is one reason why the Government restricted the wheat acreage in Western Australia. At that time, the entire transport system of this country was fully engaged on the carriage of essential war materials. In addition our main sources of superphosphate were not available to us, and demands for the production of greatly increased quantities of other foodstuffs had placed a further heavy drain upon our man-power already seriously depleted by service needs. Acreage restriction was accepted by wheat-farmers because they realized that in view of the man-power shortage and the use of transport facilities, il was utterly impossible to continue normal production. Another consideration was the fact that normal production would have entailed the provision of further storage space. Unfortunately, although Senator James McLachlan is aware of the facts which I have outlined, he is not prepared to admit them. Like Senator Leckie he is a carping critic always ready to find fault with the administrative acts of a Labour government. The circumstances to which I have referred are well known to most honorable senators, but for propaganda purposes honorable senators opposite do not tell the full story. I trust that the people of this country are not foolish enough to believe them. Targets for the production of foodstuffs other than wheat have been set to meet not only our own needs, and those of Great Britain, but also to meet the requirements of servicemen of other nations now in this country. The result has been a heavy demand upon our transport system, particularly in “Western Australia.. This year the Government has found it necessary to ease restrictions on wheat-sowing, and in Western Australia production next year will be 80 per cent, of the normal quantity. It is true that when the acreage restrictions were imposed the Commonwealth Government agreed to compensate farmers by paying 12.6d. an acre in respect of all land thus thrown out of production. The object of course was to keep the farmers on their properties.
Senator Nash referred to the position of marginal lands in Western Australia. As in previous years, payments in respect of these lands will be made.
I remind Senator Gibson that the retention of the licensing system is necessary. However, temporary licences will be issued where wheat can he grown without superphosphate. The only qualification imposed on the issue of such licences is that additional wheat production must not interfere with the production of other essential foodstuffs.
– That is all that Senator Gibson wants.
– I do not say that those temporary licences will cover the additional 14,000,000 acres mentioned by Senator Gibson. The basis of drought relief will be uniform in the States concerned. It will be on an acreage basis and a graduated scale according to the degree of loss. Reference was made to Western Australia by Senator Allan MacDonald. It is impossible to assess the loss on crops in that State. When that is done, I assure the honorable senator that that will be taken into consideration, and the payments will be made according to the degree of loss as in other States. With reference to frost damage, which was one of the keynotes of the Leader of the Opposition’s secondreading speech, I remember very well being a member of a parliamentary committee which investigated the fruit industry at a time when this party was in opposition. It was found that insurance, which Senator Hays advocates, was a very difficult proposition. The committee recommended that certain insurances should be effected by the Apple and Pear Acquisition Board, hut it was found that, whereas one section of the people who suffered! from frosts favoured insurance, another section in the same or another State, who had not had frosts for years, refused to contribute. In some parts fruit was affected by codlin moth, but there was no moth pest in other parts and the people there would not subscribe to any scheme of insurance against damage. Tons of apples were lost at Batlow in New South Wales through frosts, hut the then Government, which participated in the acquisition scheme, was not very keen on assisting the fruitgrowers there, many of whom were returned soldiers who had had their holdings for a number of years. In five consecutive years practically the whole of their crops were destroyed by frosts. It is useless members of the Opposition telling us that we ought now to extend these grants to the graziers and fruitgrowers. The Commonwealth and State Ministers decided that the grant should be made only to growers of cereals on a XI for £1 basis. I remember a severe drought in the pastoral areas of Western Australia. A royal commission was appointed, but the Commonwealth Government of those days did not assist the graziers, who lost millions of sheep. * Neither did it assist the wheatgrowers in those days, because there were no such national schemes as this in existence. Senator James McLachlan disagreed with a bill that recently came before the Senate, and said that he approved of the Scully scheme; but now he qnalifi.es that approval, possibly because he has been taken to task by some of the larger wheat-growers of South Australia. I handed to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) a statement about the prices of feed wheat. In reply to his remarks-, I have to say that this- position has been represented to the Minister for Commerce and! Agriculture by growers’ representatives, and an assurance has been given that an adequate payment will be made, which will comply with both the constitutional requirement to pay a just price and the Government’s desire to ensure a fair return to the wheat-growers. That has been the policy of the Government. I thank honorable senators for the manner in which they have received the measure. Although this, is a Commonwealth bin and its implementation’ will be under the control of a Commonwealth Minister, 1 assure Senator Leckie that the distribution of the money to the drought-stricken cereal-growers of Australia will be left entirely to the States. At the same time, it. i.” only right that the Commonwealth Government should have some association with the distribution- of the money.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to- 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Conditions of grant).
Senator- ALLAN MacDONALD (Western Australia) [10.39). - Paragraph i provides that an amount equal to that granted by the Commonwealth will be made available by the States receiving it. Under the last Brought Relief Bill, passed in 1940, the financial scheme was managed by a series of loans, but now that uniform income taxation has become law, the States have very few remaining avenues from which to gather money. That is true especially of Western Australia. The largest States have surpluses, but I should like to know how Western Australia is to raise its quota to meet the provisions of this bill under the present iniquitous uniform income tax system.
– I cannot speak for the State Governments, whose representatives at the conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers agreed to the scheme. It is the responsibility of the State Government concerned to provide the money, which I suppose in this instance must come out of the State’s quota of loan moneys.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to to-morrow, at 11 a.m.
Release, of Internees - Tea. Cultivation - -PRISONERS. OF Wak.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I was asked by Senators Foll, -Allan MacDonald, and Cooper; to make a statement to the Senate in regard to enemy aliens. Questions regarding the release of internees have been asked in the Senate during this sessional period. In view of the questions asked, it is desirable that a comprehensive statement should be made regarding the release of internees in Australia in order to .clear up doubts and misunderstandings- that otherwise may arise. There has been criticism regarding the release of Italian internees, but much of this criticism is ill-founded .because it is based on an improper appreciation of the policy governing releases, and does not pay any regard to the economic necessities governing the policy of releases. Aliens who are employed in various forms of industry fall into the following four different classes:
aliens resident in Australia who were interned and have been released; (3) aliens who were held in Australia at the request of overseas governments and who have been or are being released; and (4) enemy prisoners of war allotted to farmers and employed on rural work. 1 shall deal with these classes of aliens more fully and give to the Senate a summary of the position regarding the employment of aliens in each of the classes. As to class (1), the principal cause of complaint is against the employment of Italians in our population. The fact is that 7,051 Italians, not being a security risk, have been permitted to live at large throughout the war. Their employment has been entirely a matter for the Man Power Directorate, except in very few instances where some form of restriction has been necessary. Some of these 7,051 Italians are members of the Civil Aliens Corps, which includes also aliens released from internment. Then, in regard to class (2), the number of Italians, both aliens and naturalized British subjects, released from internment up to the end of October this year is 3,510, of whom 2,799 are aliens and 711 are naturalized British subjects. The 2,799 mentioned represents the total number of all Italians who have been released and are available for the Civil Aliens Corps or for private industry. The nature of their employment has been governed by the following three factors : -
Many released internees became medically unfit after being in the Civil Aliens Corps for a time. A number of Italians interned in Queensland were experienced workers in the sugar industry and have been released temporarily from the Civil Aliens Corps for work in the sugar-fields of North Queensland, following the strongest representations by the Food Production Executive.
I shall now refer to the third class. Under a War Cabinet decision, internees from the Straits Settlements and the United Kingdom became eligible for release and employment in Australia. Individual releases were made by the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) after a decision had been made by the Home Office. The number released to October, 1944, in this way is 487. The majority were released for work of national importance, but a considerable number was aged and. infirm people, incapable of working at all. A number also has been employed in the Civil Aliens Corps. In addition, some hundreds of internees from the United Kingdom and the Straits Settlements were released for service in employment units of the Australian Military Forces. More recently Cabinet’s decision was extended to cover the release of all overseas internees in Australia, not being a security risk, at the discretion of the Minister for the Army. In July, 1944, the Government appointed the Overseas Internees Investigation Board, of which Mr. Justice Hutchins is the chairman. The board has recommended the release of approximately 100 internees, some of whom have wives and members of their families in internment camps. The release of these internees is being implemented. Internees released are medically examined, and those found fit are enlisted in the Civil Aliens Corps. The Government’s policy is not to release any internees for whom suitable employment and living conditions cannot be provided.
Those in the ‘fourth class number 11,842, and are employed in prisoner of war control centres or hostels throughout Australia. They have been allotted to the various States as follows: -
In July, 1944, the Prime Minister informed the federal executive of the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia that prisoners of war would not be allowed to remain in Australia after the war. I emphasize that former internees are employed on work of national importance because of the grave shortage of manpower. If no security risk is involved it is far better that these persons should be usefully employed rather than that they should remain in internment camps and be a charge upon the nation. They are not depriving any person of employment, because our man-power shortage is so great that employment exists for tens of thousands of additional persons. On the question of whether or not certain aliens from abroad will be allowed to remain here after the war, I may say that no person will be allowed to remain in Australia unless he or she is likely to make a desirable citizen, and that no prisoner of war will be permitted to remain in Australia after the conclusion of hostilities. Arrangements will be made for internees from abroad, who have been released in Australia, to be returned to their country of origin after the war. Cabinet approval has been given for the Minister for the Interior (Senator Collings) to consider, on their individual merits, applications by any white former internee released in Australia for permission for internees to remain in Australia on the following basis : -
the applicant has been certified as a refugee alien;
the Minister is satisfied that the applicant is likely to make a desirable citizen if allowed to remain in Australia.
– Senator Allan MacDonald made a statement in this chamber on Friday last concerning young tea plants, and the possibilities of tea cultivation in Australia, resulting from investigations made by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. I find on inquiry that the comments of the honorable senator are not quite in accordance with the facts, insofar as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has interested itself in tea cultivation only in the Australian Capital Territory by growing a few plants in a glasshouse. Some years ago, the council obtained from India, Ceylon and Java seeds of improved varieties of tea, and some plants from these seeds have germinated successfully in North Queensland where climatic conditions are favorable to the growth of the plant. Tea is a tropical plant which can be grown successfully only in tropical and sub-tropical areas. Suitable areas for its cultivation are in Queensland, but its possibilities as an economic crop are limited by the need for cheap labour for the handpicking of the leaves. So far, no satisfactory mechanical clippers have been devised for this purpose.
– in reply - Speaking on the motion for the adjournment of the .Senate on Friday last, Senator Allan MacDonald raised a question regarding the distribution of the labour of prisoners of war in Western Australia. Prisoners of war are, in general, under the control of the Department of the Army, but their allocation to employment is the responsibility of the Department of Labour and National Service. The matter mentioned by the honorable senator is now receiving consideration by the Director-General of Man Power, and he will be advised of the result as soon as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired - For Commonwealth purposes - Pearce, Western Australia.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act- Regulations - No. 5 of 1944 - (Education Ordinance).
Senate adjourned at 10.62 P.m
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 November 1944, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1944/19441129_senate_17_180/>.