17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills re ported -
War Pensions Appropriation Bill 1946. Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Bill 1946.
Broadcasting of Proceedings : Appoint ment of Committee.
Motion (by Senator Cameron) - byleave - agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting. Act 1946, the following senators be appointed members of the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings, namely, the President of the Senate (Senator Brown) and Senators Arnold and Gibson.
– As chairman, I present the fourteenth report of the Broadcasting Committee relating to the broadcasting of news.
Ordered to be printed.
– On the 26th
June, Senator James McLachlan asked me a question, without notice, in connexion with hydraulic stowage in the coalmining industry. I am now able to advise the honorable senator that the Government is at present experimenting with hydraulic stowage at Aberdare Extended mine. The figure of 700,000,000 tons cited as’ likely to be saved is considered tobe a gross exaggeration, but undoubtedly some form of solid stowage would effect an appreciable conservation of the nation’s assets and result in a higher standard of safety. Theone important question to be determined . is the cost involved for each ton of coal won. It is important to note that hydraulic stowage has been superseded by pneumatic stowage in Britain, the Ruhr Valley, Germany, France and in other countries. At this stage it is not known how long experiments will take or whether hydraulic stowage is the best method of application. In the matter of supplies I may state that, although the Commonwealth Government has made no approach to other countries with a view to importing coal, it is known that private enterprise has endeavoured to purchase supplies from overseas but without success, and, furthermore, overseas vessels arc arriving in Australia with only sufficient bunker coal on board to reach our shores. This in itself is sufficient proof .that coal is in short supply overseas. As a matter of fact, during the past twelve months inquiries have been made from overseas as to the possibilities of importing from this country.
Liberal PARTY Candidates - Mk. E. j. Habbison, M.P.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Supply and Shipping been drawn to the “ glamour page “ of the Daily ‘Telegraph of the 2nd July containing pictures of Liberal party candi- ‘ dates in New South Wales at the forthcoming general elections? Has he seen there a photograph of the honorable member -for Wentworth in the House of Representatives (Mr. Harrison), who is described as having served in World War I. and World War II.? Will the Minister supply to the Senate information as to the service rendered by the honorable member in World War II. ?
– I have seen the advertisement and the photographs referred to, but I did not notice the reference to the service rendered by .the honorable member for Wentworth in World War I. and World War II. I understand that during the latter conflict Mr. Harrison was .often seen in uniform. I shall leave inquiries made as to the ;nature of his war service, and will e’ndeavour to supply the information to the honorable senator.
– I .rise to a matter of privilege. Is it in order for an honorable senator to aust reflections on a member of the other branch of the legislature’? Senator Amour has reflected on the war service of. a member of the House of Representatives who had the misfortune to lose a brother in action. It has -always been the practice of the Senate not to reflect nan the .speeches mad.e by members of the other House, or on the members themselves, and I should greatly deplore any departure from that practice. Although I do not propose to do so, members on this side could say something regarding a debate which took place in the House of Representatives yesterday-.
– Standing Order 98 reads -
After Notices have been given Questions may be put to Ministers of the Crown relating to public affairs; and to .other Senators, relating to any bill, motion or other public matter connected with the business on the Notice Pa;per., of which swell senators may have .charge.
Although there may be some doubt as to whether Senator Amour’s question relates to public affairs, I am of the opinion that it is in order, and does not cast any reflection whatsoever on any person. The honorable senator merely asked for information concerning a member of this Parliament whose photograph appeared in a newspaper, and concerning whom certain statements were printed. I do not know what was in the mind of Senator Amour when he asked the question, but the question’ itself is -clear. I rule that it is in order.
– THE PRESIDENT.
– In view of the decision of the Senate yesterday in respect of a matter affecting the privileges of “honorable senators, and with which you, Mr. President, concurred- by .your vote, are we Bow to .understand that yo.u have yielded your right and the right of precedence of future Presidents to Mr. Speaker?
– The honorable -.senator is not in order in directing a question ion such a matter to the Chair. If he wishes to raise the subject he can do so on the. motion for the adjournment of the Senate. .Should he follow that course I .shall be pleased to answer his question.
Preference .to ex-Service Personnel
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister., upon notice -
Do the provisions of .the Re-establishment :and Employment Act 1945, with regard to preference an ‘employment to returned soldiers apply in appointments to the staff of Parliament House?
– The Prime Ministerhas supplied the following answer - it is not the practice to express opinions on matters oflaw in reply to questions, but I would invite the honorable senator’s attention to section 26 of theRe-establishment and Employment Act 1945, which provides that the application of Division 2 of Part II. of the act relating to preference in employment shall extend in relation to employment by the Crown in the right of the Commonwealth.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
In view of the conflicting reports in the Press relative to the reserve price on the current wool clip, will the Minister make the position clear by replies to the following questions : -
What will be the average reserve appraisement price for this season’s clip?
What deductions other than commission for selling and the 2s. per bale for. research are tobe made?
What is the purpose of the proposed 5 per cent, deduction?
Is it proposed to deduct this 5 per cent, from wool sold by auction as well as from the wool that does not reach the reserve price and is taken into the unsold pool?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What were the numbers of permanent and temporary employees of the Commonwealth as at 1st July, 1939, and 1st July, 1940, exclusive of the Australian Military Forces?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer : -
Information is being compiled to enable the replies to be given to questions on this subject already asked in the House of Representatives by the Honorable E. J. Harrison in April last and the Honorable J. Francis on 20th June last. A good deal of work is involved in com piling the necessary details but when available it is thought that the information will meet the requirements of the honorable senator, and it will be made available to him.
Interest Payments - Stabilization
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculturehas supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, upon notice -
If, under the new five-year plan for the marketing of wheat, a farmer at the completion of the year 1946 has received £100 over and above the guaranteed price, and the Fund retains £100, which represents 50 per cent., at what time can his equity be secured
Can a farmer transfer or sell his equity, if any, to any other person?
– The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture has supplied the following answers : -
Australian ex-Prisoners of War.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
Senator McLEAY (South Australia-
Leader of the Opposition) [11.17]. - I move -
That this Senate is of opinion that, to ensure the supply of foodstuffs to the under-fed people of Britain, any sacrifice on the food front by the Australian people is justified, and that the Government should take immediate action to increase the production of food of all kinds, and that to this end the primary producers be encouraged and assisted to the fullest extent.
Members of the Opposition make an urgent appeal to the Government to speed up production of foodstuffs in this country in order that increased supplies may be shipped to the people of Great Britain who are in urgent need of additional supplies. I appreciate all the difficulties that confront the Government in the transition period after six years of war. As a member of the Menzies Government I had an opportunity, in the early stages of the war, to learn something of the problems associated with the supply of essential foodstuffs to Great
Britain, and I recall very well how hard the then Secretary of the Department of Commerce, Mr. Murphy, and other officials of that department, had to work. Quick decisions had to be made, and contracts entered into with the United Kingdom for the supply of meat, butter, cheese, eggs, wool and other essential commodities. It is interesting to recall that in the first month of the war the Department of Commerce, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, contracted with the United Kingdom Government to supply goods to the value of more than £100,000,000 a year.These contracts have operated ever since with certain modifications, including increased prices to meet rising production costs and other changed conditions. It was most unfortunate for this Government, the Australian primary producers, and the people of Great Britain, that during this period we should experience one of the worst droughts in our history. In comparing our exports in the early period of the war with those in 1945 and later, we are apt to be led astray by failing to appreciate the full effects of the drought. I am well aware of those effects, and therefore any figures that I may cite will not be used for purposes of comparison but merely for the purpose of emphasizing the urgent need to increase our production and the supply of food to Great Britain. The important subject of food rationing was discussed in the British House of Commons on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. About twelve months ago, I had the privilege of visiting England for three weeks, during which period I saw industrial areas such as Birmingham and Liverpool, and met men and women who had carried on during the six weary years of war. It was strange to find that they were feeling the strain of rationing more then than when they were hanging on to life by a slender thread. It was sad to realize that the 45,000,000 people who had worked so hard’ and suffered so greatly in order to save civilization were suffering greater hardships, apart from loss of life and injury, than at any time during the war. Although the war ended nearly twelve months ago, the food position in Great Britain is worse to-day than it has ever been. Reliable reports which we receive from time to time indicate that the situation will become worse and will continue to be difficult for another four years. We have only to read of conditions in countries like Holland, Belgium, France, Germany, and Great Britain to appreciate how much more devastating was World War II. than previous wars. Governments entrustedwith the responsibility of planning for the future have a very difficult task to perform. They must decide how long foodstuffs will remain in short supply and how long prices will remain high. I believe that the present shortage will con tin ue for much longer than did the shortage which followed World War I. In all the European countries it is impossible to build up seed stocks and breeding stocks when millions of people are starving. This means that years must pass before production can be brought back to the normal level. The Commonwealth Government has not done as much as it could have done to help the devastated countries. There has been too much talk and not enough action. That seems to be one of the besetting sins of the Government. I shall not elaborate the reasons for this weakness;. Ministers know my views, and I assume that they know as well as I do the reasons for their lack of action. A report from London dated the 1st July and headed “ Food Position in Britain Worsens stated -
Britain’s food position goes from bad to worse. There can be no underestimating her plight. For Australia in particular it means this: Britain wants her to spare every bread crumb from every frying pan and save every soap flake and piece of fat. The situation is positively catastrophic, with little or no prospect of alleviation inside four years.
Here is an official statement from London, dated the 3rd July -
Bread alone will in future count as one of the three main courses allowed for any restaurant meal.
This was announced by the Minister for Food (Mr. Strachey) during the bread-ration ing debate in the Commons to-day.
Two shillings and six pence, he said, would be the maximum charge allowed per head for meals in hotel and restaurant private rooms. Hotelkeopers told the press association that this would have the effect of completely cutting out private dining parties and banquets.
A London dietician, Dr. Frank Bicknell, has said that “ If we don’t increase our food we won’t be able to increase anything else - our export trade, home production or our popula tion.” Now that husbands in the British forces are returning to civil life, the position is worse.
That is a staggering report, The Minister for Food said yesterday that at the end of August this year there would be only eight weeks’ supply of wheat and flour in Great Britain. Honorable senators, I presume, have had an opportunity to read the new bread ration for Great Britain announced on the 28th June by the Minister for Food. I shall repeat it, because I hope to impress members of the Commonwealth Government with what the conditions are in Great Britain as compared with those in Australia.
– I believe they are waiting for somebody to galvanize them into life and action.. The food ration announced by Mr. Strachey on the 28th June was as follows : - 9 oz. a day for adults; 15 oz. a day for male manual workers; 11 oz. a day for expectant mothers or female manual workers; for those between the ages of 11 and 18, 12 oz. daily; for those between 8 and 11, 8 oz. daily; for those between I and 8, 4 oz. daily; and for those under one year, 2 oz.
I hope that honorable senators will not become heated over this matter, because we should be able to discuss it on its merits.
– The honorable senator’s suggestion that the Government is doing nothing about it is only impertinence.
– The VicePresident of the Executive Council does not like the truth and never did.
– I do not like inferential lies.
– Does the honorable senator say that the statement made in the House of Commons by the Minister for Food consisted of lies?
– No, but I say that Ministers know all about the matter and have taken action regarding it.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley), on his return from Great Britain, said that he was impressed by the seriousness of the food situation there. I challenge the Government to show what it has really done in the matter and what it plans to do in the next “three or four years. As a member of His Majesty’s Opposition I claim that honorable senators on this side have a perfect right to express their, views, and, as an -ex-Minister for Trade and Customs during the recent war, I hope to have an opportunity to make a few suggestions to the Government. I shall make a comparison between one or two food items to show the difference between rationing in Great Britain and in Australia. The following figures were published on the 2nd March, 1945, and I think that rationing has been tightened up since that date: -
It is well for Australians to study that comparison which I have just presented.
Misleading statements have been made from time to time on the subject of shipping. When Mr. Amery was in Australia he said, time after time, that as far as foodstuffs for export from Australia to Britain were concerned the Government of Great Britain was prepared to send ships for every pound and every ounce of food we could export Further than that, it has been stated publicly that the Commonwealth^ Government has contracted with the Government of the United Kingdom, and the latter government has agreed to take allAustralia can. export in butter, cheese and meat up to 1948. So there is no limit to the amount of shipping available for the purpose.
– The British authorities turned down the late Mr. Curtin’s offer during the war because they had not sufficient ships.
–I am talking about the present. If the Minister says that Mr. Amery’s statement is not correct, I ask him to say so in this chamber to-day, and not side-step the issue by referring to what happened during the war. The Minister has seen fit to interject. He knows and so does the Minister for
Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley) that ships have called into Sydney and Brisbane with refrigeration space, and because of strikes have been unable to load meat and have had to go to New Zealand to obtain it. During the last month or six weeks we have experienced one of .the most deplorable meat strikes in Brisbane that has ever occurred in this country.
– That is the reason for -the present motion.
– I remind the Senate of what the responsible Minister said about, not the present strike in Brisbane, but one which occurred earlier. Early this year the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) forecast that beef exports to Great Britain would decline this year 25,000 Ions because of the strike of meat-workers in Queensland. That was before the recent strike, so I suppose an up-to-date forecast would be more gloomy and miserable. For weeks ships have not put into the port of Brisbane because of this unfortunate strike. Let us compare the quantity of meat exported to Great Britain during the financial year 1939-40 with that exported in 1944-45. . The steady decline in meat exports to Britain tells a tragic story. Commonwealth statistics reveal that exports to Britain in 1939-40 amounted to 247,000,000 lb., compared with 34,000,000 lb. in the first half of -the present year. On that basis, the quantity for the whole .year will be only one-fourth of the exports of beef during the first year of the war. A similar state of affairs exists in respect of lamb. In 1939-40 our exports of lamb totalled , 198,437,000 lb., whereas during the first half of the present year only 17,615,000 lb. of lamb was sent abroad. The figures for mutton are, respectively, 43,329,000 lb. and 4,445,000 lb. I am aware that one cause of the falling off of exports is the drought; and for that I do not blame the Government. I emphasize, however, that there never was a time when all parties should be so active in seeking to right the existing deplorable state of affairs. Since I left the Department of Commerce and Agriculture I’ have been staggered at its ramificationsand the actions of my successors. I do not blame the officers of the department, because I know that they can do only what they have ministerial sanction to do. Ministers in the present Government seem to think that when a problem has to be faced the best thing to do is’ to have a meeting and appoint an advisory committee, as well as a co-ordinating committee, and before long to set up a new department which will impose numerous restrictions. I do- not know whether that policy is the result of* lack of experience, or of stupidity. When this urgent problem first arose it was suggested that it would be a good thing to set up a Food Control Board, with its controller, its deputy controller, its political and legal advisers, its union organizers, and so on. One of the reasons for delay is that” there are too many new departments and too many advisers. As Mr. Winston Churchill has said, there is too much harness and not enough horse, lt is time that some of the unnecessary departments were” dispensed with, so that the people now employed “in them could, find work of a more useful character. ‘ On other occasions I have referred to the Scully wheat plan, under which the biggest and most efficient producers of wheat ‘were prevented from growing wheat. That policy was put into operation because the Government pandered to a section of the people from which it expected a large number of votes. I am pleased to note that, at last, sanity has prevailed, and that the death-knell of the Scully plan has been sounded.
– Is the honorable senator referring to Western Australia?
– There is no need to do that. I am referring to the payments of 4s. and 2s. a bushel. When I study the financial summary for the year ended June, 1946, and reflect that for years there has been a shortage of wheat, I cannot but be amazed that for years farmers in Western Australia have beenpaid not to grow wheat. If the Minister had had -any intelligence he would have removed all restrictions on the growing of wheat as soon as it became evident that there would be a drought. This is a problem which the Government cannot sidestep; fine phrases an.d airy promises will not get us anywhere. We must ever keep in mind that both in peace -and in war Great Britain has been Australia’s best customer. This country has enjoyed many preferences in the United Kingdom ‘ market; 95 per cent, of Australia’s export trade, apart from wool, is conducted in the British market. It can be said with truth that Australia’s economic stability has depended on the British market. As the war has been over foi nearly twelve months it is time that the Government realized the seriousness of the position. My first suggestion is that all restrictions on wheat growing he removed until the 1949-50 harvest. I have been advised by departmental officer.-) that restrictions on wheat growing have already been removed, but, unfortunately, people who wish to grow wheat must still fill in forms and send them to the State department concerned. It may happen that six months after they have sown their seed they will receive notification that permission to do so has been granted. . All the unnecessary work associated with those forms and permits should be discontinued for the next three , years, and the persons who now keep the records should be employed to better advantage. The Minister knows that no section of the community experienced greater difficulties during the war than did the rural producers. It is for that reason that I have been annoyed repeatedly at the inability of men experienced in rural production to obtain temporary release from the Army, in order that Australia’s output of wheat, butter, wool - and other primary products could be maintained. It has been stated officially that men have been kept in the northern parts of Australia for a period of twelve months, and in some instances, two years, without doing any fighting. Yet, owing to the stupidity of .some official, they were not released. It is staggering to know that in March, 1945, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Forde) “ admitted that only one-third of .men discharged from the forces between November, 1943, and September, 1944, had been released for -occupation in rural industries. It is now imperative to release from the fighting services all men who have had experience in rural industry.
But, because of criticism of the points system, the Government has for months allowed men to remain in military camps although they had nothing to do. The Government refused to discharge them because such action might offend somebody who had a greater number of points to his credit. Time and again I have made applications for the release of sailors and soldiers who are prepared to swear that for days their only work in camp has been to sweep out the billiards room, or the office of some officer, whilst for days on end they had no work at all to do.
– Our demobilization figures are a miracle.
– The Government’s financial position as at the 30th June is staggering. It is .amazing that the Government’s expenditure during the first year of peace equalled its expenditure in the last year of war. That is a staggering indictment against the Government. It reveals waste of manpower and failure to appreciate the need to release, servicemen for whom no work can be found in the forces. First, the Government should encourage overtime work and the establishment of three shifts where practicable in all key industries producing machinery amd implements urgently required by rural producers. Wherever one goes in the country one meets producers who are unable to obtain trucks, tractors, equipment and machinery essential to enable them to produce to full capacity. A gang of fanatics and extremists in this country refuse to allow men to work overtime, or to do a fair day’s work. In order to obtain maximum production, the Government should where possible encourage the provision of incentive pay. Further, the highest priority in manpower and material should be given to the farmers for essential food production. A guaranteed .minimum price should be provided for at least three years for food items included in the contracts with the United Kingdom Government. This would enable the producer to provide against bad seasons. On the basis of the.prices fixed under the contracts with the United Kingdom Government, and knowing the costs of production, the Government should have no difficulty in determining guaranteed prices which would enable the farmers to plan ahead and produce to their full capacity. This scheme should be adopted even at the risk of over-production. I also urge the Government to examine the practicability of acquiring compulsorily live stock and food in such quantities as can be processed or transported to the United Kingdom having regard to the shipping available.
Lastly, I again urge the Government to make a determined effort to prevent strikes. It should strictly enforce the law against leaders who incite men to strike, go slow or retard production. However, as I have pointed out previously, the Government for party political reasons is afraid to do anything that might injure its prospects at the forthcoming general elections. When the Prime Minister attends a meeting of the Trades and Labour Council or the Australian Labour party I can imagine him saying to those present, “ If you are going to have a strike, for the Lord’s sake do not have it until after the. next elections “. The Government has been following that practice for several years past. I urge it now to take its courage in ite hands and deal effectively with this problem. A government which is unable to govern is not fit to remain in office. History will repeat itself; if the extremists in the community are allowed to continue their activities, they will destroy the Government. Yesterday in the House of Representatives, when this subject was under discussion the Prime Minister retorted, “What would you do about it?”. I say definitely that these fanatics and union’ bosses, who’ are causing all of the trouble in industry, should be dealt with appropriately under the law. In , order to establish peace in industry, I would fine, imprison or deport the fanatics. I agree with the Queensland judge who is reported to have said a few days ago that if we got rid of a few union bosses, and extremists, 99 per cent, of unionists would co-operate with the employers, establish peace in industry and double production. We should thus .render service to the people who did so much for this country and- civilization during the war.
I repeat that Great Britain has been our best customer in peace and war. For many years we have been sheltered, by Great Britain. Now we have an opportunity to prove by our deeds our appreciation of that help. And, at the same time, possibly for the next ten years, to increase our production and place our industries on an efficient level. We have an opportunity now to make the greatest economic progress in our history. We have an opportunity to stabilize our economy whilst, at the same time, rendering a humanitarian service to the Mother Country and to hundreds of millions of people in other parts of the world who are starving. I hope that the Government which has failed to take action in the past will now bestir itself, and will not simply maintain the attitude indicated by the Minister for Supply and Shipping when dealing with unrest in the coal industry when he said, in effect, “ We are going to have a meeting of the co-ordinating committee, and coordinators from all over Australia will come, to Sydney in order to coordinate deliveries “. If food and coal are not produced, we shall have nothing to co-ordinate. The root of the problem is increased production.
– It will be refreshing indeed if” the day ever arrives when a motion such as this, moved by an honorable senator opposite, does not have as its main ingredient industrial trouble in Australia.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) referred to the availability of shipping for the transport of foodstuffs and other essential requirements to Great Britain. It is strange that on occasions such as- this, when motions are moved with the object of enabling honorable senators opposite to put out their election placards, their memories are usually very dull. I remind the Leader of the Opposition that the greatest dislocation of food supplies to Great Britain was caused by a water-side workers strike in Great Britain itself, and that in the course of that disturbance many ships loaded with foodstuffs were held up in British ports. Hearing the Leader of the Opposition talk, one would think that only in Aus tralia was there any industrial trouble. It is true that on some occasions ships have been diverted from Australian ports because of water-front disputes, but such delays have been only temporary. I admit that on rare occasions vessels have been diverted to New Zealand to pick up meat when it has” not been available in Queensland or New South Wales; but that is insignificant compared with the dislocation that has taken place in Great Britain and in other countries.
The motion 6f the Leader of the Opposition presumes that Australia is not making a substantial contribution of foodstuffs to Great Britain, that the Government is not taking active steps to. increase production of foodstuffs, and that primary producers are not being encouraged to the fullest degree possible. To answer the Leader of the Opposition’s charges it will be necessary’ for me to deal somewhat in retrospect with our rural industries. First, I should like to make clear the fact that the Combined Food Board and the British Ministry of Food dictate the destination and the distribution of available foodstuffs. That is not Australia’s responsibility. Therefore, it is ludicrous for the Leader of the Opposition to quote figures of the actual quantities of food that reached Great Britain during the war years, and since the war ended, compared with the quantities exported from this country in prewar years. The only accurate test that can be applied is to compare pre-war shipments with the quantities now being exported. If that test be applied, it will be found that Australian producers are doing a fine job. Their name should not be sullied purely for political purposes. Australian exports of food for 1946 are estimated at 2,500,000 tons, of which wheat, flour, meat, dairy products, and sugar will constitute about 90 per cent. The cessation of the heavy obligations imposed upon Australia during the war to feed the armed forces of allied nations in this theatre of war has enabled us to increase the volume of our exports to Great Britain. This applies particularly to meat, dairy products and eggs. During the war years, Australian primary industries, as well as secondary industries, suffered severely from the shortage of manpower, and I should like at this stage to pay a tribute to the women of Australia for the magnificent part they played in rural production and in other essential undertakings during the war. They did excellent work on the farms and in the factories and they Iia ve not received the recognition to which they are entitled. The- Labour Government assumed office in 1941, and a few weeks later, war broke Out in the Pacific, confronting the .administration with an enormous task. I do not wish to- criticizeprevious governments. Honorable senators opposite have always claimed that non-labour administrations in the early days of the war laid’ the foundations of our munitions industry. I have no wish to- deprive anybody of credit that is .due’ to 1 rim but it cannot be denied that when La-bow came to power om rural industries were languishing. Their plight was not due entirely to lack of manpower; the greatest contributing factor was thelow price’s that primary producers were receiving for their products. For instance, a-t that tune, wheat was only 2s. 6d. a bushel. The Leader of the Opposition referred- to the allegedly notorious Scully wheat plan. I say that that plan was- of great benefit to the wheat-growers of Australia. -It provided for a payment of 4s. a bushel for the first 3,000 bushels produced, which meant between 70 and 80 per cent, of the total production. Certainly there was a lower price for the surplus. That shows that the conditions of the primary producers, particularly the wheat-growers, have been considerably improved. Any fair-minded man must admit that, both during the war and since, Australia has faithfully discharged its obligations to supply food to Great Britain to the extent of its capacity to do so. This has been admitted by General MacArthur, and Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser has also paid tribute to the achievements of the nation in this regard. These men are in a position to know the facts. They were in close touch with Australia during the war. Lord Woolton, formerly British Minister for Food, and his successor,. Colonel Llewellyn, have also praised the magnificient job done by Australia in supplying food to Great Britain. Similar tributes- have been reported in the press from time to time. There has been no. adverse comment, except by the Government’s political opponents who seek to gain advantage by raising this matter. It was estimated that, during 1943, 1944- and 1945, Australia was feeding approximately 12,000,000 people, almost twice its own population. This’ effort should be the subject of national pride, not of criticism’. Full credit should be given tothe Australian people for the wonderful job that t’h ey have done. What happened when anti-Labour governments were- in office?’ Surely they were in power long; enough to have enabled them to improve the position of the primary producers and everybody else. An anti-Labour government appointed a royal commission toinvestigate the wheat-growing industry, and as a result, legislation -was passed asa palliative for’ low prices, but without success.
When the Labour party came intopower, farm machinery was worn OUt fodder reserves were depleted, homes weredilapidated, and fences were fallingdown. . Those are cold facts. If proof of my statements is required’, it can beobtained from the hundreds of resolutionspassed at conferences of primary producers during the regimes of anti-Labour governments. Prices for dairy productshad not increased for a decade, wheat wasworth 2s. 6d. a bushel at sidings, prime quality pig-meats were worth 3d. per lb., potatoes were worth £1 10s. to £4 a ton, and the price of eggs was. as low as 9d. a dozen.’ That was the position^ when a Labour government took office. I do not believe that the Opposition will dare to claim that there has not been a vast improvement of the position of primary producers since then. I havereferred to the increase of wheat prices. Potato-growers were given a guarantee of from £12 to £12 10s. a ton for their crops,, compared with a maximum priceof £4 a ton previously. The price for prime quality pig-meats was fixed at a minimum of 9d. per lb. Over five years,, dairy production was subsidized to an. amount of over ‘£14,000,000. Egg prices, although they vary seasonally, have neverbeen lower than ls. 7d. a dozen, less administrative charges, under Labour’scontrol, Other assistance has been in the form of guaranteed prices for harley, oats and other grains. The farmers and workers who made possible Australia’s magnificent war-time effort deserve the highest commendation for their achievements. Instead of that they have been criticized this morning by the Leader of the Opposition, who has given them no credit at all. The honorable senator said that World War II. was entirely different from all previous wars. That is correct; nobody denies that fact. In World War I. Australia’s industries were not affected nearly so much as they were in World War II. The man-power position during World War I. was much less acute, because the nation did not have to face the dangers that loomed during World War II.
– We sent our manpower abroad during World War I.
– But not to the degree that we did during World War II. Furthermore, during the war which ended last year we had to divert man-power from both primary and secondary industries to essential war-time service. Consequently, industries were drained of the man-power needed to enable them to continue in normal production. Constant references in this chamber to industrial trouble are not helping the position in any way. The Leader of the Opposition says that the Government, instead of taking positive action, always asks the Opposition what it would do to eliminate industrial unrest. I remind the honorable senator that, when the governments which he supported were in power, there was considerable industrial dislocation in Australia. A subject which is. very dear to the honorable senator is the unrest in the coal-mining industry.
– Very painful, not dear.
– It is very dear to the honorable gentleman, because he raises it at every possible opportunity, as does every other member of the Opposition. I must remind the Leader of the Opposition, again of the ineptitude of the Government of which he was a member when 10,000 miners were on strike for over ten weeks on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales. That strike was allowed to run merrily on. Nothing at all was done by the government of the day to effect a resumption of work, and 1,000,000 tons of coal was lost. The honorable gentleman is constantly castigating this Government for not eliminating industrial disturbances, but I refer him to what was done by a former Prime Minister whom he supported, Mr. R. G. Menzies. That right honorable gentleman left Canberra when Parliament was meeting and visited the northern coalfields to plead with the miners to return to work. This morning, the Leader of the Opposition said that he would imprison workers who went on strike.
– He said he would deport them.
– Yes, but why was not that action taken when the Opposition was inpower and numerous industrial upheavals occurred? It is idle to talk of imprisonment and deportation. Surely the position was serious enough for action of some kind to be taken when 10,000 men were involved in a strike on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales. I do not know of any industrial dispute which called for speedier action than that. Had it not been for the inefficiency of the Menzies Government during the strike in 1940 Australia would not have been in serious straits now with regard to coal supplies. If we had at grass the 1,000,000 tons of coal lost during that strike, we would have been in a much happier position than to-day.
– I hope that the present Government does not make a similar mistake.
– Strikes are not confined to Australia. We have not experienced industrial troubles to the same degree as in the United States of America, Great Britain and elsewhere. I do not condone strikes, but it is difficult to prevent them, and almost impossible for any government to force men back to work.
Criticism has been directed against the Government because of the meat strike in Queensland, but that matter is under the control of the Government of that State. If the Commonwealth Government had interfered in it, the Opposition would have been the first to blame it for having done so.
– We should prefer the Government to interfere with Queensland than with Spain.
– I am more concerned about Australia than Spain. It is all very well to talk of imprisonment and deportation, but practical application should have been given to the sentiments expressed by the Leader of the Opposition when he had an opportunity to do it. Nobody appreciates the difficulties of the problems arising from strikes more than the honorable senator himself. When he was in office, the Government with which he was associated sent its leader to Newcastle to plead with the miners to return to work.
– It had a “slush” fund.
– I do not intend to . delve into the murky past, because that would not be helpful. Nobody is more disturbed than the present Government when industrial upheavals take place, and it is just as desirous as anybody else that the strike in Queensland or any other industrial trouble shall cease as soon as possible. I am sure that the Government of Queensland is doing all it can to bring about a settlement of .the meat strike. Of course, that industrial dispute will interfere to some degree with the export of meat to Great Britain, but the interference will be slight as compared with the loss due to the strike of waterside workers in Great Britain, which held up theunloading of foodstuffs for a long period.
The efforts of the Government to supply food to Great Britain is appreciated by the people of the Old Country. The Leader of the Opposition should have a keen appreciation of their hardships and the sacrifices being made by them. The Government desires to ensure the utmost production in Australia of food for the starving millions of Europe, and also for the people of Great Britain. The Government is keenly alive/ to its obligations in that respect, and the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) has taken all possible steps to ensure that new contracts entered into with Great Britain shall be carried out to the best of our ability.
– So far this discussion has revolved around, first, the production of food for Great Britain, and, secondly, the processing, handling and shipment of it. The Minister for Supply and
Shipping (Senator Ashley) has just paid a tribute to all of those engaged in primary production. It is not my intention to discriminate between employers and employees, but the Minister has admitted that, unfortunately, after food has been produced it is not properly handled and sent to its destination as quickly as possible.. The responsibility rests on the Government to correct that blunder. If there were ever a time when we should concentrate on food production, it is now. The present Government did not realize, when it assumed office, that food is the first munition of war. When we were talking of opening up a second front in Europe, it did not appreciate the fact that, once a second front was established, and Europe was invaded, all the wheat surpluses of Europe and the Ukraine would be lost. When people were crying for a second front in 1942 and 1943, that was the time when action should have been taken to step up wheat production.
Wheat supplies cannot be greatly increased in twelve months, and beasts cannot be -reared in that’ period. In 1944, when I advocated that our wheat production should be increased, I resembled a voice crying in the wilderness. The United States of America was then putting its men into its armed forces, and it was making 1,000,000 bushels of wheat available daily for hog feed. The more men it put into its armed forces the more wheat it fed to pigs. I recall the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) saying, in 1944, that in no circumstances, if -the war continued for a further four years, would Australia be short of wheat, but in October, 1945, Australia imported 1,000,000 bushels of wheat. I do not know what.it cost, and the outlay has never been disclosed, but that indictment can be laid against the Government. Never in the history of Australia was our national economy so rigidly planned than during that period. That is the answer to the Scully wheat scheme, which brought Australia to the point of . starvation.
– Why did we import wheat, oats and barley at a time when Australia was not subjected to the ravages of war?
– We experienced the ravages of drought, and a serious shortage of man-power.
– It is rather remarkable that that should be said. The years 1943 and 1944 were not times of drought, nor does it appear that 1940 will be a year of drought. We should have been prepared two or more years ago to feed Great Britain. ‘ The three great nations that carried us successfully through the war were Great Britain, the United States of America and Russia, and we have seen a different world taking shape. I believe that the people of the United States of America are reasonably well fed, and according to information available from Russia, the people of that country also are well fed; but the nation that did the greatest job of all in World War II. is undernourished ! Is that not a clarion call to us to supply the people of Great Britain with food to our utmost capacity? They need wheat,’ dairy produce and fats. They also require stock feed; but I suggest that Australia should supply meat rather than that. Britain needs fruit, particularly dried fruits, and, last of all, wool. What is to prevent Australia, from producing those commodities in sufficient quantity to m 9el Britain’s requirements? Is anything being done to impress on the -people of this country the need to take off their coats and get to work to produce food for the starving millions in the world? Unless we do something soon in this matter retribution will overtake us. No greater contribution” to world peace could be made than a strenuous effort to feed the hungry people of the world. I realize that in this matter the Government cannot do everything. I know, too, that the war must, be paid for. I therefore suggest that the whole situation be overhauled and that, in addition to urging the people to produce more food-stuffs, they be encouraged to do so by a reduction of the tax on incomes.
– Where will the extra 60,000 tons of butter for Britain come from ?
– The honorable senator’s interjection prompts me to urge the Government to come out into the open, and tell primary producers the prices at which their produce has been sold overseas. Has the Government ever disclosed to producers the price at which their dairy produce, for instance, has been sold abroad?
– For years the. price of Australian dairy produce overseas has been less than the home-consumption price, as the honorable senator wellknows.
– The honorablesenator is completely wrong. If the Government would disclose the price paid by the United Kingdom Government for Australian butter-fat, he would know that Australian primary producers have not been treated fairly. Producers would like to know the difference between the prices received by them for their produce and the prices at which it has been sold in the United Kingdom. If the Government will take the primary producers into its confidence there will be a greatly increased production of necessary foodstuffs. Producers do not ask for exorbitant prices; they do not want to profiteer at the expense of hungry people. I was staggered when I heard, from a reliable source, the prices actually paid . by the United Kingdom Government for Australian butter. I agree that it is good business for the Government to sell wheat at about 10s. a bushel and for the producer to get only about half that amount.
– The position was very different under a previous government, when the price of wheat was about 2s. 6d. a bushel.
– I repeat thai if producers knew the facts in respect of the sale of their primary products overseas they would know where they stood, and would be able to plan accordingly.
– The position is very different to-day’ from what it was when other governments were in power.
– Evidently the Minister for Supply and Shipping does not realize that the prices of primary products are always higher in war-time, regardless of the government in office. No government could have prevented prices from rising during the war.
– The profits of investors also have increased.
– That may be, but’ the interjection of the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) does not help to solve the problem of increasing the supply of food-stuffs in the world. The Government has at its disposal all the powers necessary to control profiteering. Indeed, it boasts that it has prevented profiteering - that it has taken the profit motive out of business. The Minister’s interjection is an admission that the Government has failed.
– The . position would have been worse if a non-Labour government had been in power.
– Another factor which has tended to reduce the quantity of wheat produced is the system of granting permits to grow wheat. The Government should broadcast far and wide that no permit is now required to grow wheat.
– That has been done.
– I know of men who have applied for permission to grow wheat and have had their applications refused because the farms were not licensed to grow wheat. That has happened to some ex-servicemen. I am not arguing against the policy of registering wheat-growers, but I contend that for at least several, years there should be no limit to the area which may be sown with wheat. Whatever wheat may be harvested . can be stored without any danger of deterioration from weevil infestation. I predict a bright future for the Australian wheat-growing industry. Argentina cannot greatly increase its production of wheat because of a shortage of machinery and supplies. ^Canada is in a more fortunate position, but Australia is in a still better, position to increase its wheat production. With the exception of tractors, there is no great lack of agricultural machinery in this country. A rather unfortunate aspect of wheatgrowing is the difficulty of obtaining horses for farm work. Our position would be much better had we continued to use horses more than we have done. One pleasing feature of the problem is that supplies of superphosphate are not likely to’be endangered in the future, because the restoration of supplies from Nauru and Ocean Island lias been earlier than was expected.
– The improved position in regard to superphosphate will . not greatly affect this year’s crop.
– That may be, but it will have a big influence on future production. Before the war, vessels were loaded with superphosphate at Nauru by means of conveyor belts, but that means of loading was destroyed. .However, Australian engineers- have used their ingenuity; by the use of barges fitted with special baskets ships may now be loaded ,quick]y, so that the problem of obtaining greater supplies of superphosphate has largely been overcome. The improved position in this connexion has had an important effect on the exchange position, as it is no longer necessary to import such large quantities of phosphatic rock from Egypt.
A ‘man who increases his wheat acreage depletes his assets to some degree, and is therefore entitled to some tax concession. He should be entitled to build up reserves, so that later he may rebuild his farm and provide for his employees the amenities to which they are entitled. By leaving more money in the hands of producers a. real contribution would be made to the solution of the’ problem of unemployment.
Statistics show that there is a world shortage of about 8,000,000 cattle. Herds in Argentina, North America and Great Britain have decreased in numbers, but in Russia the position is different; the cattle there exceed by about 3,750,000 the number before the war. I do not know whether those figures apply ‘ only to Russia proper, or whether they embrace all the territory now under Russian control. It is possible that cattle will have to be sent to Europe from other countries to replenish herds which have been destroyed, provided quarantine restrictions do not prohibit it.
The necessity to produce various kinds of foodstuffs in Great Britain has affected dairy production in that country. It has resulted also in a reduced production of beef. The number of pigs in Great Britain is now only about one-eighth of the pre-war population, whilst poultry has been decreased by about 84 per cent. The shortage of cattle has also resulted in fewer hides being available, and that, in turn, has led to a shortage of leather.
– That is not the fault of. the Commonwealth Government.
– Australia has contributed to these results. The position in Great Britain in regard to fats has reached a dangerous level. Every pound of fat that is sent overseas will contribute to the saving of lives.
Sitting suspended from 12.J/S to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was dealing with the urgent need to send m.ore food, particularly, dried fruits, to Britain. I realize that it will take several years to step up production of dried fruits appreciably. However, dried, fruits, because of their great nutritional value, have been given No. 1 priority in the list of foodstuffs supplied to Great Britain in the past. Bearing these facts in mind, the Government should limit the consumption of dried fruits in Australia to our bare needs, and in that way increase shipments to Great Britain as rapidly as possible. To some degree food has been rationed in Australia, but I have sufficient faith in the Australian people to believe that all classes would be prepared to tighten their belts for ‘the purpose of making more available to the people of Britain. Of course, we shall growl and grumble; that is our privilege. I believe that all sections of the community would support the Government if it took its courage in its hands and rationed food in Australia with this purpose in view. I look forward to the development of the dried fruits industry, particularly along the Murray Valley. I viewed with grave concern the earlier opposition of the Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) towards the development of the Loxton area in South Australia a3 a dried fruits settlement. I am delighted to learn that, after pressure was brought to bear upon him, he changed his mind and allowed that project to be undertaken. That area, which is ideal for the purpose, will be used for the settlement of exservicemen. The problem of food production is wrapped up with our standard of living. The world will never be able to produce sufficient food to meet the requirements of all peoples. I have never feared the bogy of overproduction. I do not believe that there -has ever been over-production. I am certain that there always was a time when some people were undernourished. If we are to establish the new order based on a better standard of living, we must raise our nutritional standards. For this purpose we cannot do better -than increase our production of dried fruits and fresh fruits.
The Minister for Supply and Shipping quoted’ certain figures when dealing with wheat production. Perhaps I have mis- understood him, but I was always Tinder the impression that, in a normal year 70 per cent, of our wheat-growers, namely, those who did not produce more than 3,000 bushels a year, produced only 30 per cent, of the crop, and that 70 per cent, of the crop was produced by growers of more than 3,000 bushels a year.
– The guaranteed price for wheat was raised from 2s. 6d. a bushel to 4s. 6d. a bushel at local sidings’ for the first 3,000 bushels. That meant that from 75 per cent, to 85 per cent, of wheat was marketed at that price. Later, the guaranteed price was raised to 4s. 4d. a bushel for the whole crop.
– I beg to differ from the Minister ; 70 per cent, of the crop in a normal year is produced by growers of over 3,000 bushels a year. It is also noteworthy that in dry years growers of fewer than 3,000 bushels a year produce only 20 per cent, of the crop, whilst 80 per cent, of the crop is produced by growers of more than 3,000 bushels of wheat a year. I should like the Minister to re-examine the figures.
I urge the Government to make a thorough survey of dairy production. I should like the Minister to tell me how many dairy cows were in production in 1939 and how many dairy heifers were on hand at that time. Perhaps, he will also be able to tell me how many dairy cows are’ now being milked and the number of dairy heifers expected to come into lactation within the next six months. I do not want to know the total number of cattle. I believe that that number has increased. However, I do not -want to confuse that figure with the figures which I have requested which will indicate the present position of the dairying industry and its prospects for the future. The problem of supplying adequate food to Great Britain is one of the most urgent confronting us to-day. It should be the concern of every Australian. Casualness is a characteristic of the Australian. Nevertheless, he is prepared, I believe, to tighten his belt if by doing so he can make more food available to the people of Great Britain. However, our people are waiting for a lead on this matter, and it is the duty of the Government to give that lead. Although the Australian is a great lover of freedom, he is, in fact, more amenable to genuine discipline than the citizen of any other country. It is useless to ask primary producers to increase production if the foods they produce cannot be transported to Great Britain owing to industrial disputes. The’ Minister for Supply arid Shipping said he deplored industrial stoppages. I believe that the Government genuinely deplores them, but it is time that somebody was game enough to tell the extremists who are disrupting industry where they “ get off “. Honorable senators opposite have repeatedly said that previous governments were not game enough to scotch these extremists. The present Government has been in office for the past five years, and if honorable senators opposite believe, as they say, that previous governments did not have sufficient courage to prevent industrial disturbances, they should not follow that example. “ I am certain that, if the Government declared the Communist party to be an illegal organization, honorable senators on this side of the chamber would support its action.
– “What about the Employers’ Federation, j
– If the Employers Federation is responsible for industrial disputes, then the Government stands indicted for its failure to deal effectively with that body.
– They do it “ under the lap “.
– If the Government has evidence to support the honorable senator’s statement it should have the courage to deal with employers who cause industrial unrest. This is a distasteful problem, but we cannot continue to swim with the tide. I shall certainly support any action by the Government to dis cipline the Communists who, according to spokesmen for the Labour party, are causing most of the trouble in industry. I have wandered sufficiently far afield on the byways of life to know that the average Australian workman wants to get on with the job. Perhaps, he is “ pulling my leg “ ; but he says that the Communist is at his throat and will not allow him to work. Our workers look to the Government for protection against the extremist. If the Government with the support of all decent citizens and trade unionists were prepared to give the worker full protection, it would put an end to all our industrial troubles. I may be wrong; but let us have the courage to deal boldly with this problem. I shall support any action which the Government takes in that direction. It is time that we had sufficient courage to tell extremists that they are more autocratic than any boss, and are doing more harm to the workers than any employer ever did. If ever there was a time in our history when we should enjoy peace and prosperity it is the present. We must get on with the job of producing food and other essential commodities. I believe that if the Government has the courage to put the Communists in their place we shall enjoy the greatest era of prosperity and industrial peace in our history.
– I have waited in vain for honorable senators opposite as sponsors of the motion to suggest definite ways and means by which we can increase the production of food for Great Britain. The motion may be classified as an attack, first, upon the Department of Commerce and Agriculture and the Minister and his departmental officers, and, secondly, upon the Government because of industrial unrest. Little has been said in the course of this debate, except by the Minister for Supply and Shipping (Senator Ashley), about the subject of the motion, namely, the supply of foodstuffs to Great Britain. Whilst I was in London recently, I had an opportunity to enter some workmen’s homes and I know from first-hand experience what the position is. I disagree entirely with Senator Mattner, who went back to 1939 in an endeavour to prove the failure of this Government to fulfil its obligations to the Mother Country. Over and over again, we have heard Opposition speakers use the word “ courage”. It is alleged that this Government has not had the courage to do the things required of it.I point out, however, that in1 939, when the Empire entered the war, and we in this country were raising forces for overseas service, the Government then in office did little to conserve Australia’s food resources. It was not until a Labour government assumed office that any real action in this direction was taken. It was left to Labour to do the most distasteful job of imposing rationing upon the Australian Community. Previous governments, during two years of war-time administration, lacked the courage to take that bold action. I remind the Senate that during the depression years of the early 1930’s, there was an ample supply of foodstuffs and clothing in this country; yet many young men were rejected for service in the last war because of physical disabilities resulting from malnutrition in those days. The arguments advanced by Senator Mattner were utter nonsense. I repeat that nothing of importance was done to conserve the food resources of this country until the Labour Government assumed office. Then what happened? A few weeks later Japan entered the war, and the Government found it necessary to direct the material and physical resources of the nation in the interests of our own defence. Primary production, like every other form of production, could not be permitted to continue on a pre-war footing. At one period of the war, we had nearly 1,000,000 men and women in the services. All available civilian labour that remained was directed to essential production. On top of that, Australia was called upon to supply huge quantities of foodstuffs for allied forces in the SouthWest Pacific Area. Obviously all the man-power for our fighting services has not been drawn from the cities. Some inroads had to be made upon rural labour. In addition to the men and women in our armed forces, there were 50,000 workers in the Allied Works Council engaged on construction work in the far north of this country and in the islands. On the home front women had to undertake jobs which until then had been regarded as male occupations. Those are some of the difficulties that confronted this Government in the early months of its term of office. We had the courage tointroduce rationing of foodstuffs and clothing. As I have said, the story of the depression years is indeed sad. At that time we had a problem not of production but of consumption, and I hope this country will never again return to such dark days.
What is happening in’ Great Britain to-day? It is all very well for the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) to quote figures suiting his own case. I, too, have some figures that may be of interest to the Senate.
– No doubt to suit the Minister’s own ease.
– The figures that I shall give are official. I am just as much concerned with the welfare of the people of the United Kingdom as any one in this chamber, and the same may be said of every other honorable senator on this side. The point I wish to emphasize is that production has been increased in this country, as I shall endeavour to show later. First, however, I shall deal with the figures given by the Leader of the Opposition. My first obligation as a member of this chamber is to protect the Australian people from malnutrition. That, too, is the responsibility of the Government. Australia does not have any real say in the allocation of the foodstuffs that it exports. For instance, we are committed to send 200,000 tons of sugar to Great Britain, but up to date I do not think that that country has received more than 15,000 tons. It is not just a matter of Australia saying to the British Minister of Food, “Here is such and such a quantity of foodstuffs “. The Combined Food Board decides how available supplies shall be allocated.
– Where has the balance of the sugar gone?
– I shall show that later. I have before me a report on the nutritional status of the diet in the United Kingdom at present, as compared with the pre-war diet. The report has been prepared by men who have investigated the nutritional standards of various countries, and whose opinions must be given credence. The report states -
The outstanding differences between the diet in the United Kingdom to-day compared with pre-war are -
) the present consumption of meat is approximately 78 per cent, of the prewar level.
That does not mean that all families in Great Britain consume 78 per cent, of their pre-war purchases of meat. Many families unfortunately are unable, because of their economic circumstances, to buy even that quantity. The report continues -
This is the most important dietary reduction, and consideration of it must also lake into account the fact that during* the war years some 2 to 6 per cent, of the total amount of meat was obtained from unrationed canned meats purchased under the “points” system, Since the cessation of lease-lend supplies to Britain, such of those meats as were supplied by the United States of America have been withdrawn, and. others are consequently more difficult for theconsumer to obtain.
The increase in the consumption of milk and milk products amounts to 30 per cent, more than the pre-war level.
The reduction in the consumption of butter and margarine is some 9.7. lb. per head per year, the appropriate figures being -
The noticeable feature here is the reduction in butter, which is partly compensated for by the increased consumption of margarine. This ratio has been maintained throughout the war years.The development in 1940 is the reduction in other edible oils resulting in a reduction in the ration of cooking fats from 2 oz. to 1 oz. per week.From the housewife’s point of view this is a serious matter, in that it does reduce the material whereby she can cook the food available. There has been during the last two or three years a considerable increase in the production . of vegetable oils, particularly in Northern and Southern America. In the latter case the increase amounts to some several hundred per cent. These increases have augmented the world’s stocks of edible oils, but, however, they are in the dollar zone and this fact must have influenced the British authorities’ decision not to seek supplies of vegetable oils in order to maintain the ration of cooking fat of 2 oz. The housewife can, however, take not more than 3 oz. of the weekly 7 oz. of fat as butter - an increase of 1 oz. on the amount allowed during the later years of the war - and I have been given to understand by the officers of the Department of Commerce that the butter supply position in the United Kingdom is not unfavorable.
– By whom was that report made?
– By the Nutritional Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council. It is signed by the chairman, Dr. F. W. Clements. As I have said, we have a responsibility to the people of this country as well as to the people ofother countries, and much as we may desire to do a little more than, we are doing at present, there is a limit. The Leader of the Opposition and Senator Finlay will bear me out when I say that the greatest irritation in Great Britain to-day is not the lack of food, but the monotony of the diet. The people of Great Britain are eatingthe same things day after day. In this regard, the Nutritional Committee states -
The principal complaints of the British housewives are -
Monotony of the diet, and;
The inability to make appetizing and savoury dishes owing to the limited supply of (i) moats, (ii) eggs in the shell, (iii) sugar, (iv) fruit, probably in the order stated.
It is easy for Senator Mattner to say that we should tighten our belts and give a little more; but we have a responsibility to ensure that, should we again be involved in war, large numbers of prospective servicemen will not be rejected because of the after-effects of malnutrition. I shall run through briefly what the Government is doing. Earlier this year, a statement was made on behalf of the “Government that Australia’s exports of primary products during 1946 were expected to total 2,500,000 tons. Senator Mattner spoke of the shortage of superphosphate. I remind him that that was one of the great causes of reduced primary production during the war. In Western Australia, the wheat-growers accepted the position and reduced their acreages, for which they were compensated at the rate of 12s. 6d. an acre. The Government has many transport difficulties. Recently I had to request the Army authorities to supply trucks for the transport of wheat because rolling-stock was not available in Western Australia. Australia has provided thousands of tons of wheat for the starving, people of India. All of these factors have had an effect on exports to the United Kingdom. It is for the Joint Food Commission to decide where our primary products shall be shipped. I hope that honorable senators will not say that the Government should give Great Britain all that it wants and allow people in other parts of the world to starve. Great Britain has a duty to other suffering races, which it is carrying out to the best of its ability. Australia’s contribution of 2,500,000 tons of primary produce to the world’s hungry peoples this year will be substantial.
– Will that include consignments to Unrra?
– I do not think so. The total quantity of dairy produce estimated to be exported during 1946 is 115,000 tons, compared with an average of 112,000 tons for the three prewar years 1936-37, 1937-38 and 1938-39. This estimate will be exceeded if good seasonal, conditions continue in the spring. Of course, the vagaries of seasonal conditions are a constant problem. At present we are contending with a drought in Queensland. Our exports of cheese for the three pre-war years which I have mentioned averaged 12,000 tons a year. The total quantity to be made available this year, other than for civilian use in Australia, will be 16,000 tons. The average output of processed milk for the three pre-war years was the equivalent of 9,000,000 gallons of wholemilk. This year’s output, will be equivalent to 38,000,000 gallons. Egg production for export this year is estimated at 30,000,000 dozen eggs in shells and 15,000,000 dozen eggs in pulp and powder form. The average production during the three pre-war years under review was 12,000,000 -dozen eggs. Meat exports this year are expected to total 270,000 tons, compared with an average of 239,000 tons for the three pre-war years. Exports of dried fruits and” canned fruits will be maintained at the promised rate of 32,000 tons of dried fruits and 1,000,000 cases of canned fruits. The total output of these industries has been reduced by seasonal and other conditions over which the Government has had no control, but nevertheless the Government will make sure that Great Britain receives the promised quantities. I refer now to the wheat industry. I recall the time when the wheat-growers were receiving only ls. lOd. a bushel for their wheat under the regime of an anti-Labour government. That government made many promises to the growers, but it did nothing to protect the industry.
– Australia did not have to import wheat until 1945.
– The Government had to do many things during the war, but it has not done what the Leader of the Opposition now suggests it should do. Hie says that every wheatgrower must -fill in a form showing how -much wheat he has planted, and suggests that this control system should be eliminated. However, he also suggests that the Government should force the growers to deliver their crops for export. The honorable gentleman cannot have it both ways, as even Senator Mattner will agree. This Government established a guaranteed price for wheat, which anti-Labour governments did not do. The increase of wool prices has also affected the food position. While producers can obtain high prices for wool, they will not deliver their sheep for slaughtering. All of these factors must be ‘ considered. The Government has handled the economy of Australia in a way that has been the envy of governments of other countries, in respect of both human and material resources. It has not only increased export quotas, as the Opposition desires, but also has given to the primary producers a measure of security which they have, never previously enjoyed. During the war, the Government took men out of the Army to engage in seasonal work. By doing so, it prevented the sugar industry and the wheat industry, amongst others, from being thrown into a state of chaos, and yet the Opposition complains about that action. The soldiers who were used for seasonal work in primary industries were under training at the time. No harm - was done By releasing them for a few weeks, or even for a few months. The Opposition was in full agreement with the action taken at the time. Is the Opposition complaining now simply because it realizes that the Government has handled these problems efficiently and afforded primary producers .some measure of security? . How many mortgages on farm properties were foreclosed during the war? If honorable senators opposite would examine shire council ratings, they would find that the primary producers have never been in a better financial position. If they examined country hospital accounts also they would not find many bad debts. Is the grievance of the Opposition due to the fact that the banks have not been allowed to take control of the primary industries? The policy of this Government has always been to step up production, and it has carried that policy into effect, lt has provided the primary producers with some security of livelihood, and it proposes to continue to do so. I ask Senator Mattner to recall the difficulties which confronted the wheat industry during (the war, not only, with regard to man-power but also with regard to fertilizer supplies. Something had to be done to save the industry from ruin, and something was done by this Government. As the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Collings) has said, the general elections are looming and it is only natural that the Government should be subjected to a great deal of unfair criticism by its opponents in this chamber and by the newspapers. Taxation is a favorite subject for attacks. However, I am not fearful about the consequences of the elections. This Government has done such a good job that the people will return it to office. During the period from 1939 to 1941, when the Opposition parties ‘ were in power, they could not agree amongst themselves. The Labour party then had to serve the people with a minority in each House. The people recognized the work of the party, and in 1943 made no mistake about returning it to office. I am sure that the weak case presented by the Opposition in this chamber will not influence the electors to vote against the Government at the elections.
– The motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) was very timely, be-, cause scarcely a day passes without us reading in the newspapers or in letters from relatives in Great Britain of the increasing anxiety there regarding the future of the food rationing scheme. Some of the figures in the nutritional report quoted by the Minister for Trade and Customs (.Senator J. M. Fraser) astounded me, because I still have a very vivid recollection of my experiences in Great Britain two or three years ago. I was there, not for just a day or a week, but for several months’. According to advice which I have received from my relatives in Great Britain, the food situation in that country is worse now than it was in 1943; in fact, one could even believe that Britain had lost the war. Therefore, I was aghast at the statement by the Minister that the British people are now receiving the equivalent of 75 per cent, of their pre-war meat ration. If the remainder of the figures given in that nutritional report are on a par with that statement, I have grave doubts of its accuracy. In 1943, I had great difficulty in obtaining, by my own efforts, ls. 2d. worth of steak, a little more than J of a lb., which was my meat ration for seven days. In my search for breakfast bacon, I could obtain only one rasher in approximately twelve days. Any honorable senator who claims that that ration is equivalent to 75 per cent, of the British pre-war ration should have his brains brushed. Since 1943 the ration has been further reduced. The figures cited by the Minister must be the figment of somebody’s fevered imagination. They do not square with statements made in letters which I receive from Great Britain every week.
During the war years the people of Great Britain made very few complaints with regard to the rationing of food. We have not the faintest conception of the hardships they had to endure because of the shortage, of food and other commodities required for the maintenance of bodily health. The tone of the letters now being received from the Motherland is changing, and there is a definite fear of the future, especially amongst elderly people who have been bombed out of their homes more than once, but ‘still have to stand in queues for a paltry ls. 2d. worth of meat to last them a week, which is supposed to be 75 per cent, of the prewar ration. These figures are definitely misleading, and it is urgently necessary for Australia to do more than at present for the people of the Old Country. I regret that the Minister for Trade and Customs did not make the speech, which he delivered to-day, when he was in London recently. The London press and all of those who heard him would have had something uncomplimentary to say to him. In his recent farewell broadcast to the people of the United States of America, Lord Halifax, in referring to the world food crisis, said -
There has not been a catastrophe on such a scale within human memory, probably never in all recorded history. Millions of people are threatened with starvation and death.
We should not like anything of that kind te happen to people in the Mother Country, and the way to prevent it is for Australia to play its part, as I am sure it can and will, in alleviating the position on the food front, and also on the financial front, in Great Britain. Only last night I read that next month Britain will he down to its last eight weeks’ stock of wheat and flour. That is a position which must create a great deal of alarm both at home and abroad.
I have also noted that in recent advices from the Old Country there is a greater tendency than previously, and much more so than during the war, to criticize the food distribution. I am afraid that the recent decision of the Lord President of the Council, Mr. Herbert Morrison.’M.P., in diverting 200,000 tons of wheat to the British zone in Germany and to India, will have a further detrimental effect on the wheat position in the Old Country. I do not wish to criticize the Government of Great Britain in its handling of the food situation, but the diversion of wheat from a people who are in the near future to face bread rationing will have a bad effect. v Much as we need to have the greatest sympathy for the people in the British zone in Germany, judging by the latest report from that quarter, Britain will get its thanks iri a few words very soon. As relative.? of the people of the
Old Country, we consider that charity - should begin at home, but the sooner the food control in Great Britain is. placed on the basis on which Lord Woolton erected the whole structure of. food rationing the better it will be for the people of the Motherland.
Much has been said regarding the export of Australia’s wheat surpluses. Unfortunately, little if any of that wheat, goes to the people of Great Britain, and we would much rather like to know that they are enjoying the benefits of our first - grade milling wheat, especially that grown in Western Australia. According to Sir Louis Bussau, chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, practically all of our recent exports went to New Zealand, India, Rhodesia, China, Malava. and Ceylon, but none to Great Britain.
– The honorable senator knows the reason for that.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Obviously the distribution is a matter for the British authorities, who must have regard for such important factors as distances, the quick turn-round of vessels and other matters of importance in the transport of foodstuffs throughout’ the world. But the transport of wheat to China involves a considerable journey, and one never knows what may happen to a vessel at a Chinese port. The position that arises through sending Australian wheat to China has been aggravated by the action of the Government of Russia in commandeering or purloining - call it what we will - great stocks of foodstuffs held in Manchuria. I do not know how the Soviet Government* has distributed those stocks. Nobody .seems to know what goes on inside Russia, and there appears to be no way to find out; but, judging by Russia’s usual methods of high-handed isolation, it would appear that it has little regard for the ‘starving millions of people in China, or it would not have ransacked the cupboard in Manchuria for its own people. That is one way, of course, of having regard to the needs of the starving peoples of other countries, but thank God it is not the British way !
We can learn a lesson regarding the export of food from our Canadian cousins. By courtesy of the former High
Commissioner for Canada in Australia, L have obtained an interesting statement showing how the Government of that Dominion has treated the export of food surpluses to the starving peoples of other countries. Canadian farmers are being urged to plan their production so as to maintain a maximum yield for the next four years. A campaign is being undertaken to encourage savings by con-, sinners in the use of wheat and wheat products. Consumers are being encouraged also to make the maximum use of home gardens. A reduction of inventories of wheat and wheat products is to be encouraged. Regulations affect-‘ ing bulk shipments of flour and stock feed will be modified.. ‘ Priorities are being established for the movement of export wheat by rail. Efforts -will be made to increase supplies of oats and lower grade wheat for export. Wheat available for domestic milling is being reduced by 10 per cent, on the basis of 1945 purchases. Wheat for distilling i3 being reduced by 50 per cent, on the basis of quantities used in 1945. Special arrangements are being made to encourage the immediate marketing of wheat stored at farms. I also understand from, another source that the Government of Canada has even given exemptions to farmers from income tax for the present, so that they may use the savings thus made in the production of more food for export to Great Britain.
The supply of food is not the only means by which Britain could be assisted. In the final adjustments of the purchases, finance is an important factor. I am afraid that lack of action on the part of the ‘Commonwealth Government puts us rather to shame, having regard to what the Government of Canada has done to assist the Old Country in its hour of great need. I. shall not refer to the sacrifices which Britain made during the recent war in protecting Australia and other countries from a great enemy. The Canadians have shown their gratitude ina. practical way. Early in 1942 the Government of Canada- made an outright gift of fA.280,000,000 to the United Kingdom Government to facilitate purchases of Canadian goods and services. Early in the war the Government of Canada converted before maturity, direct and guaranteed securities held in the United Kingdom. This action made available to Great Britain £A.421,666,000 in Canadian dollars. Later, the Canadian Government repatriated remaining British held Canadian securities valued at £A.222,250,000, thus providing additional Canadian dollars. It consolidated accumulated Canadian sterling balances in London amounting to £A.194,444,000 into a loan to the United Kingdom interest-free for the duration of the war. During the war the Government of Canada purchased British war plant investments in Canada to the value of £A. 55, 555,000. The Canadian Government, .undertook payment of the entire cost of pay, allowances, maintenance and equipment of Royal Canadian Air Force squadrons operating overseas, and pay, allowances and maintenance of Royal Canadian Air. Force personnel in the Royal Air Force. The additional cost of this undertaking reached more than £A.100,SOO,000 by August, 1943. Under the new post-war loan agreement the Canadian Government also cancelled the debt of more than £A.100,000,000 owed by the United Kingdom to Canada in respect of its operation of the Empire Air Training Scheme. Up to the end of the war, the -cost of Canadian goods and services supplied to the United Kingdom free of interest, under the Canadian mutual aid plan, totalled more than £A.400,000,000. Under the new post-war loan agreement, charges for mutual aid goods and services supplied after the end of the war, when mutual aid had ceased, were cancelled. No figures for this charge were given.
In a statement announcing the signing of the agreement, Mr. Attlee, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, said -
An agreement has been readied between the two governments and the text will be published shortly. Under the agreement the Government of Canada will provide the Government of the United Kingdom with a credit of 1,250,000.000 dollars. This credit will can y interest- at 2 per cent: from 1st January, 1951, and will be repayable over 50 years beginning end of 1951.
– I rise to order. Is the honorable senator entitled to read his speech ?
– An honorable senator is not entitled to read his speech ; but I understand that Senator Allan MacDonald is quoting a statement made by Mr. Attlee, the Prime Minister of Great Britain.
– I should like the Minister representing the Treasurer to note what Canada has done, and to ask treasury officials to compare that effort with what Australia has done. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Broadcasting of Proceedings: Appoint ment of Committee; Report of Committee.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that the following members had been appointed to the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee - Mr. Speaker, Mr. Corser, Mr. Fraser, Mr. Haylen, Mr. Holt and Mr. Sheehan.
– I present the first report of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee, which reads -
In accordance with section 12 (1.) of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act 1946, the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings has considered and has specified the general principles upon which there should be determined the days upon which, and the periods during which, the proceedings ofthe Senate and the House of Representatives shall be broadcast.
The Joint Committee submits the following report for presentation to each House of the Parliament and recommends its adoption: -
Days upon which proceedings shall be broadcast: The proceedings of Parliament shall be broadcast on each day on which either House is sitting.
Periods during which proceedings shall bebroadcast: The broadcast shall commence on each sitting day at the time fixed for the meeting of the House whose opening proceedings are to be broadcast on that day as determined by the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings in accordance with section 12 (2.) of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Act 1946, and shall cease when the adjournment is moved in the House which is being broadcast at that time.
Allocation of broadcasting time between the Senate and the House of Representatives: The allocation of broadcasting time between the Senate and the House of Representatives shall be in accordance with the views of the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings, or its sub-committee, on the importance of the impending debate and the public interest attaching thereto. The committee recognizes that in practice more time will be allotted to the House of Representatives than to the Senate.
Re-broadcast of questions without notice and answers: Within the limits of time available, questions without notice and answers in each House shall be re-broadcast between 7.20 p.m. and 7.55 p.m. on each sitting day.
Broadcast and re-broadcast through national stations: No broadcast or rebroadcast of the proceedings of either House shall be made except through national broadcasting stations unless the Joint Committee otherwise determines. (Sgd.) J. S. Rosevear, Chairman. 5th July, 1946.
Report (on motion by Senator Cameron) - by leave - adopted.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to Wednesday, the 17th July, at 3 p.m.
Naturalization - Repatriation Com mission - Broadcasting Committee : News Service - Men’s Wear - The President: Precedence.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– Earlier to-day Senator Cooper asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration the following question, upon notice -
The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answers : -
– To-day Senator Collett asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
The Minister for Repatriation has supplied the following answers : -
To examine the existing medical set-up of the Repatriation Commission throughout Australia; to consider fully all facts and factors affecting proper medical care and treatment of all members of the forces ‘ in the future suffering physically or mentally as a result of their war service, and as a result of its investigations and deliberations to advise as to the future policy, organization and administration of the medical services of the Repatriation Commission with a view to ensuring the best and most efficient medical services and also to ensure, as far as possible, that ex-servicemen in the medical care of the Repatriation Commission have the benefit of the latest advances in medicine, surgery and medical rehabilitation.
– After the fourteenth report of the Broadcasting Committee had been presented to the House of Representatives to-day, the Leader of the Opposition in that chamber (Mr. Menzies) made a statement to the press which was given prominence later in a news broadcast over the national network. The right honorable gentleman said that it was the Parliament which passed the act which set up the committee and gave to it certain powers. He went on to say that when the committee went beyond the authority given to it by the Parliament it no longer acted as a parliamentary committee, and that therefore its report should properly be treated merely as a private report by the Labour members of the committee. He was referring to the proposed news agreement. I regard his remarks as a quibble, and remind the right honorable gentleman that the committee has held 82 meetings during the life of this Parliament, and that the utmost harmony has existed between its members at all times. The . committee has submitted fourteen reports to the Parliament, eleven of which have been unanimous. One report had an addendum by one member, and two reports dealing with the proposed news agreement contained conflicting views. Does not Mr. Menzies realize that a committee of the Parliament is not obliged to present a unanimous report? Does the right honorablegentleman believe in majority rule, or is that something foreign to his beliefs? He says that the committee suddenly became political. I point out that the committee had before it a reference from the PostmasterGeneral (Senator Cameron) in which it was asked to report whether, in its opinion, the Australian Broadcasting Commission should sign an agreement with Australian newspaper proprietors and the Australian Associated Press, under which £12,500 per annum wasto be paid for an overseas news service and £7,500 per annum for Australian news. After it had heard evidence from persons interested in the matter, a majority of the committee recommended that, in the best interests of Australia, such an agreement should not be entered into. That report was in accordance with the practice followed by parliamentary committees, and complied with the provisions of the Australian Broadcasting Act. I emphasize that the. committee merely made recommendations; it did not make any pronouncement which would have the effect of law. It would appear that Mr. Menzies had not read the act when he said that the committee had acted in contempt of the Parliament. The committee’s recommendation was made to the PostmasterGeneral, who, in turn, would make a report to Cabinet. Any decision on the matter would be made by Cabinet, not by the committee. The committee’s recommendation was that the Australian Broadcasting Commission should set up its own organization for the gathering of news, and that in respect, of overseas items it should make arrangements with news agencies to supply Australia with factual news. The quibble of Mr. Menzies i3 an insult to the intelligence of every member of the committee.
– .In “Western Australia there is a shortage of men’s wear, particularly socks, knitwear, suitings and hate. A letter which I have received from the Retail Traders Association in Perth states -
Apart from shortage of labour, this position appears to be brought about, by the quantity of these urgently required goods that are being exported outside Australia, Apparently the margins allowed manufacturers me not sufficient to encourage the release of such goods to the Australian market, but whatever the reason, while such goods are being exported the serious shortages at present being, experienced must continue.
I ask the Minister for Trade ‘ and Customs (Senator J. M. Fraser) to review the margin allowed under the prices regulations with a view to enabling traders in Western Australia to obtain sufficient stocks of these urgently required goods.
I note that at the first meeting of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee held to-day Mr. Speaker was elected chairman. Personally, I am very much disappointed, Mr. President, that you were not elected chairman of that committee. As a senator I should have felt that the rights’” and privileges of the Senate would he safeguarded to a greater degree had you been elected chairman of that body.
.- This morning I asked you, Mr. President, whether, in view of the vote taken in the Senate yesterday in respect of a matter dealing with the privileges of the Senate, and with which you, by your vote, concurred,- we were to understand that you surrendered the right of precedence of the President to Mr. Speaker. We now learn that this privilege of the Senate, which we hold dear, has been further affected by the election of Mr. Speaker as chairman of the joint committee set up under the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Bill. Is your action in this matter to be taken as a precedent to be followed -by future presidents?
– I do not think that I have, established any precedent whatsoever in the matter mentioned by Senator Leckie. Any honorable senator is at liberty to vote for, or against, a measure. His decision is a matter for himself. I, as President, do not think that it is within my province to give reasons why I. vote in a certain way, or decline to vote in respect of certain matters. Mr. Speaker was elected Chairman of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee’ by a majority of the members of that committee. I do not wish for one moment that any. ill feeling should arise as the result of that decision. The committee was set up in accordance with the legislation dealing with the subject and a majority of the members voted in a certain way. No good purpose will be served by discussing the matter further. No aspersions should be cast upon Mr. Speaker because of his election to the chairmanship of that committee. I have every confidence in him, and I believe that the Parliament has every confidence in him. I am satisfied that in the position to which he has just been appointed he will carry out his duties, as he always does, with common sense and will do justice to all.
– in reply - I shall bring the matter raised . by Senator Allan MacDonald to the notice of the Ministerfor Trade and Customs.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
National Security Act - National Security (Prices) Regulations - Orders - Nos. 2543- 2581.
Senate adjourned at 3.34 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 July 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1946/19460705_senate_17_187/>.