17th Parliament · 3rd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the precarious state of industry in South Australia because of the shortage of coal supplies, can the Minister for Supply and Shipping give to the Senate any information relative to the possibility of coal being shipped to that .State to relieve the situation i
– A deputation of Labour members of the House of Representatives waited upon mc in this matter. I have had inquiries made, and have ascertained that Ocean Pride should arrive at Port Adelaide to-day with 7,000 tons of coal on board. Empire Cowdray is expected to leave Port Kembla to-day and is due at Port Adelaide on the 5th
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD___
I ask ‘ the following questions of the Minister representing the Minister for the Army: -
– I have no knowledge of the position that exists at Blackboy Hill depot, in Western Australia, but it is the policy of the Government to dispose of surplus army material, including the vehicles mentioned by the honorable senator. Surplus material is handed over to the Commonwealth DisposalsCommission, but I am not aware whether the vehicles mentioned by the honorable senator have been taken over by that body. I shall draw the attention of the Minister for the Army to the honorable senator’s question, and ask him to give effect to the request contained in it.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral say whether a decision has been reached to relieve the public of the war-time surcharge of a half-penny placed upon postal articles?
– The matter is still under consideration. I hope to be able to make an announcement on the subject shortly.
Parliamentary Proceedings - Commercial Stations
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral the following questions:-
– 1 shall have inquiries made, and will supply the honorable senator with an answer as soon as possible.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
– Oan the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture say whether it is a fact that that Minister has issued a statement setting out the policy of the Government in regard to the acquisition of apples and pears in Western Australia and Tasmania?
– by leaveAfter careful consideration of the representations’ made to the Commonwealth by the Premiers of Western Australia and Tasmania in relation to the position of the apple and pear industry in those States next season, the Government has decided to continue assistance to the industry next. year. Because of the approaching withdrawal of the National Security Regulations, certain constitutional and legal problems will have to be determined before - any - final decision ‘can be made as to. the statutory form in which the existing marketing arrangements can- he continued. These aspects are under examination by the Government: It is hoped that it will be possible to continue the assistance to the industry by means of an extension of the acquisition scheme which has been in operation since 1940. In the meantime, the Australian Apple and Pear Marketing Board will proceed with all the necessary arrangements in regard to cases, packing materials and other essential supplies required for the ‘handling and marketing of the Western Australian and Tasmanian crops. The. board has also been authorized to undertake the arrangements necessary with processors to ensure- the absorption of maximum quantities of fruit, in the production of dried and canned apples and other products. -Growers of apples and_ pears in the States mentioned who are still experiencing shipping and other disabilitiescaused by the war, may be assured that the support which the Government has provided for this industry during past seasons will- be continued to cover the crop for next year.
Senator ALLANMacDONALD.Has the Minister for Supply and Shipping any information as to the fate of She grain distillery erected at Collie, in Western Australia, at considerable cost? Does the Government propose to proceed with the production of substitute fuel at that distillery, or has it an alternative proposal in mind? What is the total cost, to date, of this distillery?
– During the war, a number of dis’tilleries were erected throughout the Commonwealth to produce substitute fuel from grain. I am not aware of what is. proposed in connexion with the distillery at Collie, but I shall have inquiries made and obtain the information sought by the honorable senator.
Report of Public Works Committee.
– I present the report of the Public Works Committee on the following subject: -
Proposed Batman Automatic Telephone Exchange, Flinders-lane, Melbourne.
– In view of the fact that the Parliament will be prorogued before the Paris Peace Conference concludes itsdeliberations, will the Leader of the Senate consider the practicability of supplying honorable senators with progress reports of the important discussions and the decisions reached at that conference?
– I shall consult the Prime Minister on thematter.
Standardization of Gauges
Will the Minister representing the Minister for Transport advise the Senate briefly, of the conditions governing the agreement that has been signed by the Commonwealth Government with the Governments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia in regard to the standardization of railway gauges? Will he also advise us whether, in the event of Western Australia and Queensland, which are now excluded from the agreement, being parties to a later agreement, they will be prejudiced as regards the costs involved in any such agreement as compared with those provided for in the present agreement?
– Yesterday, the honorable senator asked almost the same question in slightly different words. I assured him then that an agreement had been reached between the Commonwealth and the three States that he mentioned, and that the work in those States was now in hand. I conferred Avith the Minister for Transport this morning, and he informed me that it is his intention, immediately after the elections, to visit Western Australia and Queensland with a view to ironing out the difficulties that’ have arisen in connexion with those two States, and that until he took that action, he was unable to say what was likely to happen.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice -
Has any representation been made by the Government of Tasmania to the Commonwealth Government to share in the Commonwealth Government’s railway reconstruction scheme; if so, with what result?
– The Minister for Transport has supplied the following answer : -
The Premier of Tasmania at the Premiers’ Conference indicated hia willingness that Tasmania should be included in the railways standardization scheme, but did not’ consider that any benefit would accrue to Tasmania by the conversion of the railways of that State from the present gauge of3 feet . 6 inches to 4 feet 8½ inches. Subsequently it was agreed between the Commonwealth and the representative of Tasmania that Tasmania could be left put of the present scheme without detriment to the Tasmanian railways and that the’ question of modernizing the Tasmanian railway system will be considered apart from the standardization plan.
– As regular fortnightly sailings of passenger vessels between Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne are now being advertised, has the Minister for Supply and Shipping any information as to when regular passenger sailings are likely to be reintroduced between the eastern States and Western Australia ?
– Provision will be made for sailings of passenger ships to Western Australian and South Australian ports as additional shipping tonnage and passenger accommodation becomes available.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral seen a newspaper report of a statement made in the British Parliament alleging that Sir Ernest Fisk had asked for a large sum of money for having negotiated, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, an agreement most favorable to a certain cable company? If so, does the Postmaster-General propose to make a statement on the matter?
– A similar question has been asked in the House of Representatives and I have submitted it to officers of my department for comment and advice. I have read the report to which the honorable senator has referred ; but I have no knowledge of any such letter being written or any such offer being made. So far as I, am. aware, the. report has no foundation in fact. However, when inquiries have been made, I shall make a report to the Parliament should I regard such action to be desirable.
– Following the question asked by Senator Leckie of the Postmaster-General, in which he implied that Sir Ernest Fisk, had represented the Government in certain negotiations deal- ing with the acquisition of telecommunications, I ask the Leader of the Senate whether at any time Sir Ernest Fisk has acted with Mr. Bruce on behalf of this Government?
– I have no knowledge of Sir. Ernest Fisk having represented the Commonwealth Government in any negotiations with respect to the acquisition by the Government of overseas telecommunications. I shall have inquiries made in the matter.
– In view of the fact that the Treasurer has indicated that the new scales of income tax contributions cannot be made operative until September, can the Minister representing the Treasurer indicate whether any steps’ have been taken to meet the position that will arise because taxpayers will overpay their instalments considerably between the beginning of the financial year and the end of August?
– I am not aware of what is proposed by the Treasury in connexion ‘ with income tax instalments paid prior to the inauguration of the new scales, but I shall have inquiries made and supply the honorable senator with an answer to his question.
– Will the Postmaster General give consideration ti) increasing the weight limit on food parcels sent from this country to Great Britain for the coming Christmas period?
– Conditions under which food parcels are despatched from this country to Great Britain aredecided mainly- by the British authorities. I undertake to submit the honorable senator’s request to those authorities, and to advise him, as soon as possible, of the result.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
-The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
SenatorHERBERT HAYS asked the Minister representing the Minister for Works and Housing, upon notice -
Is it a fact that the Governmenthas rejected a proposal made recently by Senator Herbert Hays that in the treatment of applicants for war service homes the difference between the present-day costs and pre-war costs of home building, which the Government admitted approached £300, should be given to the soldier as a subsidy?
Is it a fact that the sister dominion of New Zealand has now arranged for the increased costs in that dominion to be granted free of interest to the soldier?
If the answers to Nos. 1 and 2 are in the affirmative, Will the Minister state whether the Government will now give further and favorable consideration to the proposal, or, alternatively, introduce a concession similar to that in operation in New Zealand?
– The Minister for Works and Housing has supplied the following answers: -
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made bythe Senate in this bill.
Bill received from the House ofRepresentatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read afirst time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
I am pleased to submit this measure which provides for a reduction of the rates of income tax imposed on individuals . The reduction proposed will involve a loss of income tax revenue of £14,000,000 per annum. Taken in conjunction with the proposed reduction of social services contribution, the relief granted to taxpayers and contributors will amount to approximately £17,500,000. The proposed reductions will be additional to the per cent. reduction made last year at a cost to revenue of approximately £20,000,000. Compared with existing rates, the combined new rates of income tax and social services contribution represent an overall reduction of approximately 11 per cent. In individual cases, the reduction varies from 39 per cent. on the lowest incomes to 7 per cent. on an income of £5,000. The new rates will, on the average, be 22 per cent. lower than the peak war-time rates, the reduction being 47 per cent. on the lowest incomes and . under 20 per cent. on incomes of £1,500 and over. The minimum taxable income for income tax purposes will remain at £201 . but taxpayers in all grades of income will benefit from the proposed reduction. Under the new scale, the average personal exertion rate of tax commences at a fraction of one penny on a taxable income of £201 and rises progressively until an average rate of 123. 32d. is reached on an income of £5,000. Where the taxable income exceeds £5,000, the first £5,000 bears tax at the rate of 123.32d. in£1 and the excess over £5,000 at the rate of 14s. 6d. in £1. Social services contribution at1s. 6d. in £1 is payable in addition to the maximum rate of 14s. 6d. in£1.Rates of tax for property income are slightly in excess of those for personal ‘ exertion in the lower brackets of income. The difference increases progressivelyuntil the maximum differentiation of the combined income tax and social services contribution rate is approximately 25 per cent. on an income of £1,000. Thereafter, the differentiation between personal exertion and property rates gradually diminishes, until the maximum rate of 14s. 6d. in £1 is payable on the excess over £5,000, whether the income is from personal exertion or property. The new rates will have the effect of raising the amounts of income which may be derived by persons with dependants before incurring any liability for income tax. These persons, however, will remain liable for social services contribution. The amounts which may be derived before becoming liable to income tax are as follows: -
It is proposed that the new rates shall apply for the full year commencing on the 1st July, 1946. However, because of the necessity to print and circulate the new tax deduction scales, it may not be possible to make adjustments to the amount of tax deductions from salaries and wages until the beginning of September. Although this may result in slight over-deduction in some particular cases, any over-payment will be refunded upon presentation of the group certificate or tax stamps with the notice of assessment. Table showing the amounts of income tax and social services contribution payable by persons on certain incomes, and comparing these amounts with amounts payable under the existing scale and under the peak war-time scale, have already been circulated to honorable senators. These tables show that all classes of taxpayers will benefit from the proposed reduction. I suggest to honorable senators that, in considering the Government’s proposals, due regard should be had to the fact that the Government last year increased the rate of child endowment by 50 per cent., thereby increasing the amount of child endowment payments from £12,000,000 to £18,000,000 per annum. A point on which I wish to re-assure honorable senators is that farmers and business and’ professional men will enjoy the benefit of the proposed reductions during the current financial year. These reductions will be effected by means of the pro-; visional income tax assessments which are issued under thepay-as-you-earn system of taxation. The other provisions of the bill correspond with those included, in the annual income tax rating measure. The usual printed memorandum explaining the provisions of the Government’s taxation measures has also been circulated for the assistance of honorable senators. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Ashley) read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill he now read a second time.
The purpose of this measure is to prescribe a simplified graduated rate of social services contribution, with a maximum rate of 18d. in the fi. The existing social services contribution law provide that where the maximum rate of 18d. in the £1 does not apply, the amount of contribution shall be equal to the amount of income tax the contributor would pay, after deducting all rebates, if income tax were imposed on his taxable income at S7£ per cent, of war-time rates. The object of the new scale of rates is to remove the necessity for making alternative calculations under the income tax law for the purpose of ascertaining the amount of social services contribution payable. This will greatly facilitate the work of the Taxation Department.- The new scale, however, will also reduce the amount of contribution payable by contributors in the lowest ranges of incomes. No considerable amount of revenue is involved. In ROm e individual cases, how-, ever, the reduction will amount to 39 per cent.
It is proposed that the new rates shall operate as from the 1st January, 1946, which is the date from which the social services contribution was first imposed. The bill proposes that a basic rate of contribution shall be imposed on the contributable income of a contributor who would not be entitled to any rebates for dependants, life assurance, &c, in bis income tax assessment. Paragraph 1 of the first schedule to the bill prescribes -the method of ascertainment of this basic rate. The basic rate commences at 3d. in the £1, and increases by one-eighth of Id. for every £1 or income in excess of £100 a year, until the maximum rate of 18d. in the £1 is reached at an income of £220. At present, these persons are subject to the maximum rate of 18d. in the £1 if their incomes amount to £170 or more.
The bill also provides for the variation of the basic rate in cases where the contributor is entitled, for income tax purposes, to rebates’ for dependants, life assurance, medical expenses, &c. The rate so ascertained is termed the concessional rate. This rate cannot exceed 18d. in the £1, and the method of its calculation is set out in paragraph 2 of the first schedule to the bill. The bill also preserves the principle of averaging, as applied to primary producers for income tax purposes. Paragraph 3 of the. first schedule describes the method of calculation of an “ average rate “ of social services contribution which is to be applied to such classes of primary producers.
The estimated annual reduction of revenue resulting from the adoption of the new rates of social services contribution will be £2,400,000, and the additional cost of making the new rates retrospective to the 1st January, 1946, will be £1,200,000. The amounts of income which may be earned without incurring liability for either social services contribution or for income tax will be -
I commend the bill to honorable senators. .
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator ASHLEY read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure proposes to amend the Social Services Contribution Assessment Act 1945. The amendment is complementary to the introduction of. a separate graduated rate. of social services contribution. Under the existing law, the amount of social services contribution payable by a contributor is calculated by reference to the amount of income tax that he would pay, after deducting all rebates, if income tax were levied on his taxable income at 871 per cent, of wartime rates of income tax. The maximum rate of contribution payable, however, is 18d. in the £1. The rebates taken into account in ascertaining the amount of contribution payable include the special rebate of 2s. in the £1 allowed in respect of interest derived from certain governmental and semi-governmental loans included in the taxable income of the taxpayer. As the amount of contribution payable will now be calculated by reference to a’ separate graduated scale, it is necessary to make special provision to preserve, the benefit of this rebate to persons in the lower income groups.
The effect of the amendment will be that where the full benefit of the special rebate is not allowed in the income tax assessment of the contributor, the portion of the rebate not so allowed will .be deducted from the social services contribution otherwise payable by him. The other rebates will be allowed either in the person’s income tax assessment or, if he is not liable to income tax, will be taken into consideration in ascertaining the rate of social services contribution payable by him.
Debate (on motion by Senator MoLeay) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McKenna) read a first time..
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
It gives me pleasure to introduce this, the first measure affecting the administration of one of the two depart ments under my control, since I became Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services. The bill provides for a substantial relaxation of the means test applicable to invalid and old-age pensions. The chief features of the bill are, first, the raising from 12s. 6d. to £1 a week of the amount of income which an old-age or invalid pensioner may have without his pension being affected : in respect of a blind pensioner, the permissible income will be increased from £5 to £5 7s. 6d. a week; secondly, the raising of the property bar from £400 to £650; thirdly, the elimination of certain items of property from consideration in the assessment of a. pension; and, lastly, though by no means the least important, the removal of an objectionable , feature of the present law, namely the disqualification for pension benefit of an adult invalid whose parents are deemed to adequately maintain him.
When old-age pensions were introduced in June, 1909, the permissible income was 10s. a week, and the maximum rate of pension was also 10s. a week. Although there have since been many increases of the maximum pension, there has been only one increase of the permissible income That was made in 1923, the increase being from 10s. to 12s. 6d. a week.’ The maximum pension at that time ‘ was 17s. 6d. a week. It is now 32s. 6d. a week.- It is anomalous that, whilst the maximum pension has advanced during the past 37 years from 10s. to 32s. 6d. a week, the permissible income has risenonly fr.om 10s. to 12s. 6d. a week. The effect of the increase of permissible income provided for in the bill will be that, in future, income in excess of £1 a week, instead of 12s. 6d., will be deducted from the pension of 32s. 6d. a week. The amount of income which will preclude a payment of any portion of a pension to an unmarried or widowed person will thus become £2 12s. 6d., instead of £2 5s., a week. In respect of married persons, it will become £5 5s. a week, instead of £4 10s. A married couple, both pensioners, will be able to receive income of £2 a. week between them, in addition to maximum pensions of 32s. 6d. a- week each, a total of £5 5s. a week. They may also own their own home, without any’ limit in value, and other property under £120 without their pensions being affected. The benefit of the increase of 7s. 6d. a week in the limit of permissible income will also be extended to blind persons. The blind are already in a favoured position in this regard, the amount of income which a blind person may have without reduction of pension being £5 a week. This will be raised to £5 7s. 6d. a week. The effect will be that income in excess of £5 7s. 6d. a week, instead of £5, will be deducted from the pension of 32s. 6d. a week. The amount of income which will disqualify a blind person from receiving a pension will thus become £7 a week, instead of £6 12s. 6d. Where both husband and wife are blind, they will be able to have between them an income of £5 7s. ‘6d. a week, and each may receive the full pension of £1 12s. 6d. a week, a total of £8 12s. 6d. a week, in lieu of the present amount of £8 5s. Where they have income in excess of £5 7s. 6d. a week, half the amount of excess income will be deducted from each pension.
In 1909 the limit which disqualified a claimant for pension was property to the value of £310. The progressive scale of deductions was then the same as at present, i.e.,’ £1 per annum for every complete £10 in excess of £50. These deductions then eliminated the pension of £26 per annum at £310. There has been only one increase of the property limit. It was made in 1923, the increase being from £310 to the- present figure of £400. At that time the maximum pension was 17s. 6d. a week. The retention of the £400 limit . while the pension has advanced from £45 10s. to £84 10s. per annum has .resulted in the arbitrary provision that, whereas a person with property, other than a home, valued at £400 may receive a pension of £49 10s. per annum, a person with property other than .a home to the value Of £401 or more cannot receive any pension at all. This will be amended by the bill. The effect of the higher property limit provided for will be that unmarried or widowed persons with property, apart from a home, valued at between £401 and £650, who now receive no pension, will be eligible for a pension ranging from a nominal sum up to £49 10s. per annum. Pension up to the same amount will be payable to married claimants who between them possess property, apart from a home, between £801 and £1,300 in value. It is proposed to retain the present scale of progressive deductions from pension - £1 per annum for every complete’ £10 above £50 - for property valued at up to £400, but £2 per annum will be deducted for every complete £10 of property, the value of which is between £401 and £650, thus eliminating the pension of £84 10s. per annum at £650. As honorable senators are aware, under the present law, the value of a home in which a pensioner resides does not affect the rate of pension, no matter what its value may be. This exemption has operated since 1912. The bill provides for additional classes of property to be disregarded. These concessions relate to surrender values of life assurance policies, up to a limit of £200 : the capital value of .any life interest or annuity, the value of any contingent interest and the present value, up to £500, of any reversionary interest. Legacies or shares in estates of deceased persons will also be disregarded until they are actually received by the pensioner.
The Government has always regarded it as anomalous and somewhat unfair to hold against a pensioner as property the amount which he could obtain by surrendering a small life policy. These policies are usually kept alive by the exercise of the utmost, thrift on the part of those pensioner? who hold them. A pensioner cannot obtain the surrender value without substantial loss of premiums paid, and it i? scarcely just to reduce the pension on account of the policy, and thus, perhaps, force him to suffer that, loss. Where the policy is a fairly substantial one. carrying a surrender value of more than £200, only the excess oyer £200 will be taken into account, and against this excess may be offset the property exemption of £50.
The present treatment of the capital value of a life interest, or’ an annuity, as property is also a definite anomaly, as the life tenant or annuitant cannot at the. same time enjoy his interest or annuity, which is taken into account in the income means test, and derive any benefit from the capital which, nevertheless, is taken into account in the property means test. The treatment of a contingent interest as property is also anomalous. An example of this is the case in which the pensioner will receive a benefit if he survives another person. If he does not survive, neither he nor his estate can benefit from the interest. .The bill will remove these anomalies. A reversionary interest is a more tangible asset. In such a case, the pensioner is usually to come into possession of an estate or property upon the death of a life tenant. If the pensioner predeceases the life tenant, the estate or property in due course goes to the pensioner’s estate. Nevertheless, a good deal of hardship is caused by treating such interests as property of the pensioner. The type bf reversionary interest held by a .pensioner is usually not sufficiently attractive to enable him to dispose of it to advantage and, consequently, the treatment of such an interest as property in his hands only deprives him of pension benefit whilst leaving him without present advantage from his reversionary interest. It is, therefore, proposed to disregard £500 of the present value of any reversionary interest. For such an interest to have a present value in excess of £500, the estate or property would need to be fairly substantial, and the period before it is likely to be received by the pensioner relatively short. In such a case, only the excess of the present value over £500 will be treated as property of the pensioner, and against this excess may also be offset the previously mentioned exemption of £50.
A legacy, or a share in a deceased estate is, of course, property for the purposes of the act, but it frequently happens that there is considerable delay in realization and distribution of the estate. The legacy or share in the estate vests in the pensioner and forms part of his assets from the date of the testator’s death but, in practice, the department takes the bequest into account from the date of grant of probate or letters of administration. However, where the realization and distribution are delayed, hardship is caused by treating the bequest as property of the pensioner before he actually receives anything in respect of it from- the estate. It is proposed to remove this cause of hardship by providing that the amount of the pensioner’s share or interest shall not be treated as property until it has actually been received by him. There is adequate power in the act to deal suitably with any case which may possibly arise in which a pensioner may seek to take undue advantage of this provision by being party to delay in the distribution of thi estate.
All the concessions contained in the bill in regard to income and property will apply not only to invalid and old-age pensions but also tq allowances paid, to the wives of invalid pensioners. The maximum rate of allowance to the wife of an invalid pensioner is 15s-. a week, and the assessment is affected by income and property in exactly the same way as an invalid or old-age pension payable to a married person. Consequently, recipients of such allowances at reduced rates on account of income, or on account of any of the items of property which are to’ be disregarded, will receive increases as a result of the liberalizations provided for in the bill. The additional allowance of 5s. a week paid to the wife of an invalid pensioner in respect of one child under sixteen years of age is not subject to reduction on account of the income or property of the parents.
I come’ now to what is’ known as the adequate maintenance provision of the act. . This provision has operated since, the inception of invalid pensions in 1910. It specifically disqualifies a claimant, irrespective of age, if his parents adequately maintain him. Whilst there is justification for this where the claimant is under 21 years of age, the application of this principle to claimants over that age is indefensible. Approximately 400 claims for invalid pensions are rejected annually under this provision, about two-thirds of them being those of invalids over 21 years of age. In some cases the claimant is between 40 and 50 years of age. There is even an instance of an invalid, 55 years -of age, who was refused a pension because he was fully maintained by his widowed mother, who derived an income of £370 per annum from a farm. In another case, an invalid 46 years of age was disqualified because he was kept by his father, a widower, whose income as an orchardist was £294 per annum. 1 doubt if it was ever intended by the Parliament that invalid pensions should be refused in cases such as these, but, while the provision remains as at present, it must be applied to all cases, irrespective of .the age of the claimant. The depressing effect on an adult invalid of the realization that he must remain indefinitely a financial burden on his parents can well be imagined. Added to the deprivation of most of the normal enjoyments of life, this is a heavy penalty . for the invalid to carry through life. The payment of a pension to an invalid at the age of 21 years will create a desirable sense of independence, and give the invalid an added interest in life which will not only serve somewhat to mitigate hi3 affliction but will also strengthen his position as a unit in society.
It is estimated that the concessions provided for in the bill will enable increased payments to be made to approximately 42,000 invalid and old-age pensioners, including wives of invalid pensioners, who are now receiving reduced payments. There will be no need for pensioners to make application for the increase. The Department of Social Services will make the necessary reassessments within a short time after the date on which the bill becomes law, and the increased rates will operate from the first ^pension pay-day after that date. The concessions will also bring approximately 8S,000 additional persons into the invalid and old-age pension field. The total additional cost in respect of invalid and old-age pensions is estimated not to exceed £4.250.000, raising the annual cost from £29,000,000 to about £33,250,000. The liberalized conditions in regard to income and property will also be applied to widows’ pensions and to service pensions payable to ex-servicemen in respect of age and invalidity. Separate bills amending the Widows’ Pensions Act and the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act will be introduced for this purpose, and opportunity will then be taken to explain the effect of the liberalizations in relation to such pensioners. I am confident that the bill will have general support from honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator MoLeay) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McKenna). read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The chief features of the bill are similar to. those contained in the Invalid and Old-age .Pensions Bill, namely, an increase from 12s. 6d. to £1 if the weekly amount of income which a widow pensioner may have without her . pension being affected, the raising of the property bar in the case of a widow over 50 years of age, without dependent children, from £400 to £650, and the elimination of certain items of property from consideration in the assessment of a pension.
The Widows Pensions Act provides for the payment of a maximum pension of 37s. 6d. per week to a widow of any age who is maintaining one or more children under the age of sixteen years - known as a class A widow - and for the payment of a maximum pension of 27s. per week to a widow, over 50 years of age, without dependent children - known as a class B widow. It also provides for the payment of an allowance of 32s. 6d. per week, for a period not exceeding six months after the husband’s death, -in the case of a widow under 50 years of age who has no dependent child. The last-mentioned type of widow, known as class C,” if in necessitous circumstances, is not subject to any specific income and property limitations. The present permissible income for both class A and class B widows is 12s. 6d. a week. The effect of the increase provided for in the bill will be that, in future, any income received by a class A or class B widow in excess of £1 a week - instead of 12s. 6d. - will be deducted from the pension. The amount of income which will preclude payment of any pension will become £2 17s. 6d. per week in the case of a class A widow - instead of the present amount of £2 10s. - and £2 7s. per week in the case of” a class B widow, instead of the present amount of £1 19s. 6d.
The bill removes an anomaly in the case of a class A widow. At present there is included as income in the assessment of her pension 5 per cent, of the net value of her assets, apart from a. home, or the actual income, whichever is the greater. Thus, even in the case of money in a bank on which only two per cent, interest is received, 5 per cent, is included in the computation of income. In future, only the actual net income received by the widow from her money or property will be taken into account. Under the present law the limit of property for a class A widow is £1,000, apart, from her home, and there is no scale of progressive deductions from pension on account of property. The present limit of property for class B widows is the same as for invalid and old-age pensioners, namely;- £400 apart from a home, and the scale of progressive deductions from pension is also the same - £1 per annum for every complete £10 of property above £50. The bill provides for the present limit of £400 to be- raised to £650, as proposed for invalid and old-age . pensioners. The present scale of deductions will remain the same for property up to £400, but the deductions for property between £401 and £650 will be £1 for every complete £7, thus eliminating the pension of £70 4s. per annum or 27s. a week, at £650. As honorable senators are aware, under the present law the value of the widow’s home, furniture and personal effects is disregarded in the assessment of pension. The bill provides for additional classes of property to be dis- regarded. These are the same as provided for in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill, namely, the- surrender value of life assurance policies, up to a limit of £200, the capital value of any life interest or. annuity, the value of any contingent interest and the present value, up to £500, of any reversionary interest.’ Legacies or shares in -the estates of deceased persons will also be disregarded until they are actually received by the widow.
It is estimated that the concessions provided for in the bill will enable increased pensions to be paid to some 8,000 widow pensioners who are now receiving lower pensions. The Department of, Social Services will make the necessary re-assessments promptly, without application by the pensioners concerned, and the increased rates will operate from the first pension pay-day after the date on which the bill becomes law. The concessions will, also bring approximately 7,000 additional widows into the pension field. The total additional cost is estimated at £250,000 per annum, raising the annual cost from £3,500,000 to £3,750,000. I commend the bill -to the Senate.
Debate (on motion, by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
Bill received from the House, of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McKenna) read a first time.
– I move -
That tile hill be now read a second time.
Throughout the world to-day there is a general realization that the problem of control of atomic developments and raw materials is one of immediate and inescapable urgency. It is indicative of the gravity of the problem, and of its world-wide character, that the attempt at. control has occurred simultaneously at the national and international levels. Usually^ in the past, men have sought first the local and national solutions to their problems, while neglecting the international aspects. For that reason the establishment of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission simultaneously with the presentation of atomic energy control legislation to the Parliaments of Britain, America, Australia and other countries emphasizes the vital urgency and importance the issue has assumed in all minds. The Government is proud that Australia has one of the places on the Atomic Energy Commission, and that it should have fallen to the Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) to lead’ the commission at the very outset of its work. His is the task of guiding the commission and its committees in their first steps in attempting to evolve the practical scheme of international control which the Commonwealth Government favours, and for which the peoples of the world devoutly hope. I have stressed that there is general realization that the problem, of control must be tackled immediately and internationally. It appears to be equally agreed in all responsible quarters that, within each country, there should be public control of the basic raw materials and their treatment. That is, there must be governmental control of the holdings, development, manufacture, export or import of these substances. Any system of control of atomic energy must be based on knowledge of where these metals are, what is being done with them, and upon the certainty that their use is in public hands responsive to public direction and policy. It may be that, in time, there will be more or less full international control in this field, but in the meantime considerations of defence dictate at least active governmental control. The South Australian Parliament and Government, appreciating that the principal known Australian sources of radio-active substances are within that State, have already taken legislative steps to ensure their control by the State. Foi chat prompt action they are to be commended. This Commonwealth Parliament, however, has responsibility to the whole Australian people, for its defence and security. That the national development of atomic energy is inextricably interwoven with defence no longer requires to be laboriously demonstrated to any one. The Commonwealth is also charged with the conduct of Australia’s external relations and control of atomic energy has now become the very stuff of international relations generally. Therefore, the Commonwealth Parliament must assume a general control or supervision over all Australian sources and development of this new power. How complete that supervision or control will require to be must be determined from time to time, and according to circumstances. This bill is an enabling measure which- sets up the framework of control. The actual provisions of the bill’ are simple and general. Deposits of uranium and other similar substances throughout’ the Commonwealth territories, which are known or subsequently discovered, become the property of the Commonwealth. The Minister is empowered to prohibit holding or dealing in these substances anywhere in the Commonwealth except by licence; all holdings must be handed over on demand in return for agreed or determined compensation. All past and future discoveries of these substances, anywhere in the Com. monwealth, must be notified within one month. Persons may be interrogated on the subject and Commonwealth officials may enter on land or property to search or test.’ The Minister may have an advisory committee of five to assist him in administering the act. A regulationmaking power under the act and penalties for breaches of the terms of the act are provided. I may comment here that this bill has been drawn with due regard to the relevant clauses of the parallel British measure. In all matters related to atomic energy we are maintaining the closest contact with the British Government and its experts. During the war, Professor Oliphant, the brilliant Australian leader in this field in Britain, visited Australia and discussed certain aspects of atomic energy development with the Commonwealth’s . scientific advisers. In London recently, the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) discussed the subject with British Ministers, with Professor Oliphant, and others. Professor Oliphant consented to witness the Bikini tests as an official Australian observer. Some honorable senators, on comparing this measure with British and American legislation, may feel that the bill before them will make a less far-reaching law. In some respects that is true. It is due primarily to the relative backwardness of Australian work in this field to date - we have had other pre-occupations in the war years at least. The bill is drawn, however, in fairly general terms, and it is the Government’s belief that it affords the ‘necessary broad basis for rapid expansion of our work on atomic energy. In commending the bill to the Senate I express the hope that we and the world may use wisely, humanely and constructively, the new power for whose local control we are providing.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Collings) read a first time. .
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Under existing nationality law,’ an essential requirement for the grant of a certificate of naturalization is that an applicant shall have resided for a prescribed period within the British Dominions. The Territory of New Guinea does not form part of the British Dominions for the purposes of nationality law and residence in that territory cannot, therefore, be regarded as residence for the grant of naturalization. This means that the “only way open at present to a person living in that territory to acquire British nationality, which will be recognized in Australia, or other parts of the Empire, is to abandon his domicile there and take up residence in Australia, or some other part of the British Commonwealth. The purpose of the bill is to enable a resident of the territory to qualify for naturalization as a British subject while maintaining his residence in the territory.
The right of the Commonwealth to legislate for the grant of naturalization to residents of New Guinea is not in doubt as in 1922 the Permanent Man- dates Commission of the League of Nations, in reporting on the nation a! status of inhabitants of territories under B and C mandates, under which the ter ritory of New Guinea was classed, stated -
It is open to mandatory powers to whom B and C mandates have been entrusted to make arrangements in conformity with their own laws for the individual and purely voluntary acquisition of their own nationality by inhabitants of these territories.
The Commonwealth has. long realized the desirability of making provision which would enable certificates of naturalization to be granted to persons resident in New Guinea who have for a considerable period been much more closely associated with this country than with any other. The question of amending the United Kingdom Nationality and Status of Aliens Act to permit of residence in B and C mandated territories to be regarded as residence in His Majesty’s Dominions for the grant of naturalization was brought before the Imperial Conference of 1923 at the instance of the Commonwealth Government. The conference recommended that the power of granting imperial certificates” of naturalization be extended so as to cover persons residing in B and C mandated territories and also in protectorates and a draft bill was accordingly prepared in 1924 for introduction in the United Kingdom Parliament. Although representations were made by the Commonwealth from time to time nothing was done by the United Kingdom authorities to give effect to the bill until 1926 when a revised draft was submitted to the Imperial Conference held in that year. The revised draft was approved by the conference and also by the Commonwealth Government. The introduction of the revised bill was, however, deferred as the United Kingdom Government took the view that with the passing of the Statute of “Westminster in relation to the position of dominion mandated territories certain drafting amendments of the bill were necessary on technical grounds to ensure that- (a) where the respective Dominion Parliaments has made appropriate provision for the granting of certificates of naturalization to residents in their mandated territories such certificates should be duly recognized; and (b) residence in such mandated territories . should . be treated as residence within His Majesty’s dominions for the purposes of the United Kingdom Act.
The Commonwealth endeavoured to secure the passage of the bill by the United Kingdom Government, but in 1937 it was advised that the question of introducing legislation on the lines indicated was still under consideration and that a’ decision in regard to the matter had not been reached. As it seemed unlikely that the United Kingdom Government would introduce this legislation at a comparatively early date consideration was given to the question of amending the Commonwealth Nationality Act to extend the act to the Territory of New Guinea as if it were part of the Commonwealth for the purposes of the act. Cabinet approved of this in 193S but the Commonwealth Crown Law authorities have expressed the opinion that it is not possible to grant to residents of New Guinea naturalization which would be effective throughout the British Dominions. The Government has now decided that the next best should be given to residents of that territory, that is that they be accorded the privilege of qualifying for the grant of British nationality which will have effect in the Commonwealth and its territories. The bill provides for this.’
I have no doubt that honorable senators will share the Government’s belief that residents of a territory, which for so long has been closely linked with Australia, should no longer be denied the opportunity, of becoming eligible to acquire British nationality. It is not the Government’s intention that this shall be the final word on the subject. It is proposed to hold a conference of United Kingdom and Dominions representatives in the near future to discuss certain nationality questions and at that conference it is. intended to raise the question of making provision’ that residence in New Guinea shall be regarded as a qualification for the granting of. a certificate of naturalization which will be effective not only in Australia and its territories but throughout the whole of the British Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Collings) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
As at the 30th September, 1945, there remained in Australian internment camps 557 aliens, excluding Japanese, who, prior to their detention, were residents of the Commonwealth. This number consisted of 509 Germans and 48 Italians. On the 25th October, 1945, Mr. Justice Simpson, of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory, was appointed a Commissioner under the National Security (Inquiries) Regulations to inquire and report upon the’ cases of all local civilian internees, in accordance with the following terms of reference : -
Whether, in the interests of the public safety and defence, of the Commonwealth, it is necessary or advisable to deport from Australia any persons and, if so. what persons -
Whether in the interests of the public safety and defence of the Commonwealth it is necessary or advisable -
in the event of the Commissioner reporting that the revocation of <any such certificate of naturalization is necessary or desirable to make, upon the revocation of that certificate, an order declaring or directing that any persons and, if so, what persons, who are British subjects by virtue of the grant of that certificate shall cease to be British subjects; and
to deport from Australia any such person whose certificate of naturalization has been revoked or in respect of whom an order has. been made declaring or directing that he shall cease to be a British subject.
The recommendations of Mr. Justice Simpsonhave been accepted by. the Government and, as the result, 289 Germans and twelve Italians h.ave been listed for deportation. These fall into two categories: - (a) Those to remain interned pending deportation; and (b) those released pending deportation. In group (a) there are . 245 Germans, comprised of 114 males, 46 females and 85 children, and one male Italian. It will be appreciated that all the children referred to and a number of wives are included on compassionate grounds and in accordance with their natural desire not to be. separated from husbands and fathers. In group (b) there are 44 Germans - 38 males, four females and two children - and eleven male Italians. . All of the aliens released pending deportation are under restrictions, with the exception of twelve aged men who have no Australian affiliations and are being included, not for security reasons, but on compassionate grounds, in view of their strong desire to return to their homeland.
His Honor’s report reveals that the majority of the persons recommended for deportation do not wish to remain in Australia and expressed a definite desire to return to their country of origin. The balance of the local alien internees were recommended for release to reside in Australia with or without restrictions and these recommendations have been carried out. The numbers soreleased are 217 German men, women and children, and 36 Italian men. Three cases oflocalinternees were not dealt with by Mr. Justice Simpson. One man was an escapee at the time of the inquiry, one was serving a gaol sentence and the other was in hospital.
On the 31st May, 1946, Mr. Justice Hutchins of the Supreme Court of Tasmania was appointed a commissioner under the National Security (Inquiries) Regulations, with terms of reference similar to those given to Mr. Justice Simpson, to investigate the cases of certain overseas internees. These are persons who are detained by another Government outside the Commonwealth and sent to this country for safe custody. In addition to examining certain overseas internees, Mr. Justice Hutchins. will inquire into the cases of merchant seamen who were formerly interned as civilians and later classified as prisoners of war. The number’ of cases referred to Mr. Justice Hutchins is approximately 1,500. As this inquiry is still proceeding it is not possible at the moment to indicate how many additional deportations will result. It can be stated however that the Government proposes to give effect to the commissioner’s recommendations when received whatever they may be. In other words we shall act in respect of- these overseas internees in exactly the same way as in the case of local internees.
The purpose of this bill is to empower the Minister for Immigration to give effect to the recommendations made by Mr. Justice Simpson and Mr. Justice Hutchins, and the provisions of the bill will be confined to cases of aliens examined and reported upon by the two commissioners named. In addition to empowering the Minister to make an order for the deportation of any aliens specified in the bill, provision is made for the Minister to impose safeguards in the form of restrictions upon any alien who has been released from internment until deportation can be arranged. If reliance be placed entirely upon the regulations made under the National Security Act, it will not be possible to give effect to the recommendations of the two commissioners unless shipping facilities are available before the expiry of the National Security Act on the 31st December, 1946.
Owing to the acute shortage of shipping, and in order to meet the desire of the allied occupation authorities to restrict the entry of persons to former enemy territory to the greatest degree possible for the present, it may not be practicable to deport all or any of the aliens in question before that date. The bill leaves no doubt as to the Government’s intentions and powers to deport those aliens who have been found by judicial inquiry to be a menace to the security of the Commonwealth. The deportations or repatriations will take place as soon as the necessary shipping accommodation is available and satisfactory arrangements have been made for the reception of these people by the allied authorities. As far as local Japanese internees are concerned, the Government decided some time ago that all Japanese aliens should be returned to Japan with the least possible delay. On the 21st February, last,. 304 Japanese aliens were repatriated on the Koei Maru in accordance with an order signed by the Minister for Immigration. The small group of Japanese ‘ aliens remaining in internment consists of Japanese with either Australian-born wives or Australianborn children, or both, and some sick and aged Japanese unable to travel. It is the intention of the Government to close internment camps with the least possible delay. Any outstanding cases will be referred to Mr. Justice Simpson or Mr. Justice Hutchins for investigation and report in accordance with their original terms of reference.
Debate (on motion by Senator MoLeay) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McKenna) read a first time.
Senator McKENNA (TasmaniaMinister for Health and Minister for Social Services) f4.39]. - J move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill proposes to give absolute protection against civil or criminal proceedings, for example proceedings for libel, in respect of the publication, under the authority of a Parliamentary Committee, of any document laid before the committee or of any evidence given before the committee. The Parliamentary Papers Act 1908-1935, which the bill proposes to amend, provides amongst other things, that no action or proceedings, civil or criminal, shall lie against any “person for publishing any docu,ment under the authority of the Senate or the House of ‘Representatives. The act does not apply to publication under the authority of a parliamentary committee, but where the evidence given before a parliamentary committee is tabled in either House of the Parliament, and ordered by that House to be printed, the protection given by the act applies. However, when evidence is tabled and ordered to be printed, a large number of copies must be printed in order to meet the requirements of the circulation list for parliamentary papers. For example, upon the tabling of the report of the Broadcasting Committee regarding proposed staff regulations for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the number of copies printed was 660. It is considered that the expense of printing the evidence given before a parliamentary committee as a parliamentary paper is not always justified. As an instance, the Broadcasting Committee considers that the number of copies of the evidence given before it which, generally speaking, need be printed is about 40. I am sure that honorable senators will agree that, where a committee itself arranges the publication of evidence given before it with the object of saving public money, it should not be deprived of the protection of the Parliamentary Papers Act. It may be that the publication is already privileged either at common law or by virtue of section 49 of the Commonwealth Constitution, but it is considered desirable to put the matter beyond doubt. This bill is designed to achieve that object. The bill applies to documents and evidence published after the 23rd September, 1943, which was the first sitting day of the present Parliament, so as to cover certain evidence given before the Broadcasting Committee which has been published by the committee since that date.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay)adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator
McKenna) read a first time.
Senator McKENNA (Tasmania -
Minister for Health and Minister for Social Services [4.43]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. The object of this bill is to provide that, where a judge of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court has, prior to his appointment, served in any judicial office under a State, his service under the State, up to a period of ten years, shall be deemed to be part of his service as a judge of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court for the purpose of calculating his pension rights. Under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act in its present form, account may be taken of prior service in a judicial office under the Commonwealth for the purpose of pension rights, but no such provision is made in respect of prior service in a judicial office under a State. In other legisla- tion, for example, the Bankruptcy Act, a limited period of prior service in a judicial office under a State may be taken into account for the purposes of pension. The idea is to establish a permanent basis for settling matters of this kind. Recently, several new judges have been appointed, and most of them have served in a judicial capacity in a State.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 31st July (vide page 3359), on motion by Senator J. M. Fraser -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– When I obtained leave last night to continue my speech to-day, I was referring to the Scully wheat plan. An examination of this plan reveals some interesting points. If we examine the figures for the year 1941-42, we see that a total of 40,385 farmers each grew less than 3,000 bushels of wheat, and that 17,474 farmers each grew more than that quantity. The total production of the farmers in the first category that year was 49,694,000 bushels and that of farmers in the second category was 103,454,000 bushels. In other words, 30 per cent. of the growers in Australia produced nearly 70 per cent. of the total crop. In 1942-43, the last year for which figures are available, 30,395 growers produced less than 3,000 bushels each, and 1S,260 growers produced more than that quantity. Those in the first category produced a total of 43,014,000 bushels, and those in the second category produced 99,644,000 bushels. I direct attention now to the production figures relating to Western Australia for those two years. In 1941-42, in thatState, 4,221 growers in the first category produced 5,843,000 bushels. There were 4,117 growers in the second category, and they produced 28,126,000 bushels. The number of growers in each category was approximately equal, but the total production of the second category was about five times as great as that of the first category. In 1942-43, 4,714 growers in the first category produced 6,388,000 bushels. The number of farmers in the second category had decreased by about 50 per cent. to 2,229, and these men produced a total of 11,556,000 bushels. In other words, that year there was a decrease of production by nearly 16,500,000 bushels. It is pertinent at this stage to ask what effect the payment to certain growers of 12s. 6d. an acre for not growing wheat had upon the industry. The reduction of wheat production illustrated by the figures which I have cited will have considerable effect on the stabilization scheme should prices fall to the disastrously’ low levels that we have known in the past. I sincerely hope that we shall never see such unfortunate conditions again. There has been a general increase of the standard of living, and the resultant increased demand for wheat should ensure that there will not be overproduction in the industry for some years to come. Consumption of wheat in Australia amounts to approximately 60,000,000 bushels a year. Should there be a disastrous reduction of wheat prices, the Government may restrict production to an annual total of 60,000,000 bushels. If so, I want to know how the Government will enforce the restriction. It has been said in this chamber that the wheat industry has received by way of a subsidy for superphosphate the sum of £5,800,000. Will the Minister say whether that payment was for one year, or was spread over a. number of years? I was under the impression that it had been given for one year. -If the subsidy amounted to £3 a ton, it would mean that nearly 2,000,000 tons of superphosphate was used in the year. If used at the rate of 1 cwt. an acre, it would suggest that 40,000,000 acres of wheat was grown in Australia. But, according to official figures, the greatest area we have ever had under wheat was 11,834,400 acres.
– It was made clear that figures referred to the total subsidy.
– I should be glad to have information on the matter from the Minister. Some honorable senators opposite are extremely pleased at being able to grow wheat on properties close to capital cities. Some of them are possessed of farms of 500 acres or more within 17 miles of Adelaide. I congratulate them on their success! I take it that the crops to which reference has been made during this debate were grown on those areas. No doubt that land is very valuable.
– The honorable senator has not got it, and is not likely to possess it.
– I wonder if the honorable senator is fortunate enough to be in absolute possession of such a property.
– Find out !
– One honorable senator quoted part of a speech delivered in the House of Representatives by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron), but the quotation was incomplete. The honorable member who first made the statement, was gracious enough to admit that it had been taken from its context, and that had he known that he would not have used it. The full statement by the honorable member for Barker was as follows: -
The financial responsibilities under this bill will be borne, not by the wheat-growers, but by the Australian taxpayers. While they, continue to find the money, it is a pretty piece of impudence on the part of the representatives of the growers to contend that the farmers should direct the operation of the scheme.
The twist given to those words by Senator Aylett does not do justice to their author or anybody else. The case presented by the Government can be stated accurately, and there is no need for any of its supporters to resort to such tactics.
I should like to ask one or two questions. What will be. the prospects of the wheat industry under this scheme? Australia is a big exporter of wheat. Compared with the other dominions, ittakes second place as an exporter. It has been said that even South Africa is a wheat exporter, but its total production in 1939 was only 14,000,000 bushels. I doubt whether that dominion has greatly increased its exports since that time.
– It exported 17,000,000 bushels last year.
– At present we have the unhappy spectacle of bread rationing in Great Britain. There is a shortage of wheat in Asia, particularly as rice and other grain crops there have failed. There is an increased demand for wheat. The dietitians have told us that the average consumption of wheat by each person should be one pound a day, or six bushels a year. In Greece the bread ration has been reduced to 9 oz. a day for each person, and in “Vienna an adult; receives only 24 oz. a week. As the quantity of wheat exported from Australia constitutes a large percentage of our total production, the export price we receive would have an important bearing upon any stabilization scheme which a government or an organization of growers might choose to propound. If the world parity price of wheat remains high, it will be quite an easy matter to stabilize the industry and to pay reasonable prices to the growers, but what are the proposals of the Government to meet a fall of prices ? “Will it restrict acreage, so that the growers may produce only the wheat which Australia requires to supply its own needs? If so, who will determine the restrictions ? If the growers are allowed to produce their usual acreage in .times of low prices, who will have to pay the difference between the prices paid to the growers and the sum received from the sales of wheat? If the taxpayer is to foot that bill how long will he be able to bear the added burden? I have never yet heard a taxpayer in Australia say that he is not prepared to pay a premium on wheat required for his own use, but every consumer of wheat and wheat products ‘in this country is concerned to see that the farmer shall get a fair price for wheat used in Australia. I have never yet known a consumer to begrudge a favorable price to the- producer, but for what period can the general taxpayer be expected to pay a premium on wheat that is exported ? What might the handling charges be? Would they’ be as reasonable and equitable as possible? There have been some rather peculiar happenings in the wheat industry. ,On the west coast of South Australia, certain producers have been in the habit of carting their wheat to Poochera, a distance of 24 miles. They utilize their own motor trucks, but, in recent years, owing to the shortage of petrol, they have -had to cart their wheat 14 miles to Port Kenny. The rail .charge when they took their wheat to Poochera was 3.76d. a bushel, but when they were ordered to cart it to Port Kenny, the freight charges amounted to 8.009d. a bushel. Practically every bushel of their wheat was sold locally as stock feed to farmers in the area, so it was not placed on board a ship.. The increased charge of 5d. ‘a bushel on several thousands of bushels was a considerable load for those primary producers to carry.
We know that this bill will become law, and I hope that some of the difficulties to which I have referred will be overcome. Another point out of which supporters of the Government sought to make a- great deal of political capital was that an enhanced. value will be given to farm lands under the scheme, and that this will be brought about by the licensing of wheat-growers. This scheme may be quite acceptable to persons who have had. a licence since it became necessary to register wheat lands, but how will this affect an ex-serviceman who wishes to grow wheat and has not yet settled on the land? Perhaps two or three years -will elapse before he is placed on a farm. If, as has been foreshadowed by some honorable senators, the price of wheat falls, will he be licensed to grow wheat? The civilian who stayed at home during the war is to be guaranteed a certain price for his wheat. If the man who helped to save the country was not allowed to grow wheat, would the Government under those conditions make a revaluation of his property? When it was valued no doubt the prospects of growing wheat successfully upon it were taken into consideration.’ The Government has expressed a desire to- place exservicemen, not on farms in marginal areas, but on good land. I favour that principle. Much of the land selected for the settlement of ex-servicemen in South Australia is suitable for growing wheat, but if. an ex-serviceman is prevented from growing it, will a revaluation of his property be made? The price of land plays an important part in the cost of wheat production, but it would be hard to assess fairly the average cost. I suggest that a Rural Industries Board, should be appointed, consisting of persons competent to determine the cost of production. Prom time to time such aboard could make recommendations to the Government as to production costs. These matters could be considered when we are dealing with sub-clause 2 of clause 18. Under clause 4 it is provided that two members of the Australian Wheat Board shall be representative of flourmillowners, and that one of such representatives shall be the chairman of the board. New South Wales, which has 23,323 wheat-growers, and 5,244,000 acres’ under wheat, is to have two members. Victoria also is to have the right to have two members on the board to represent its 17,688 growers, who have 3,554,000 acres under wheat. Queensland, which has only 4,185 growers and has 590,000 acres under wheat, is to have one member on the board. One member also is to represent South Australia, where 15,023 growers cultivate 3,086,000 acres of wheat. One member is to represent Western Australia which has 3,509 growers, and. a wheat area of 3,065,000 acres. The hill does not say how those members are to be elected, but I hope that information on that point will be forthcoming later. As Western Australia and South Australia are large exporters of wheat much of their crop will be sold overseas where the price is now about 10s. a. bushel. Growers in those two States will pay relatively larger sums’ into the pool than will be paid by wheat-growers in the other States where a greater proportion of the wheat harvested is used for home consumption. That is a point which it may be well to consider. The powers which the board will have are practically unknown at this stage, because this legislation will not become operative until complementary legislation has been passed by the States, and so far we have not seen any draft legislation proposed to be introduced into State parliaments.
I believe that in some respects the scheme before us has faulty foundations. First, the Government assumes that production costs will remain stationary for the next four years, which is all that remains of the five-year plan. Secondly, it assumes that the acreage to be sown during each of those four years will remain constant, and that each year the yield will be the same. Thirdly, as I have said, we have no information of the nature of .the legislation to be passed by State Parliaments, and fourthly, the 1945-46 crop is included in the scheme. The reason for including that crop is, I suggest, that the Government wishes to give legal ‘sanction to an action which it believes is not correct. The 1945-46 crop was grown under a specific contract with the Government. ‘ National Security Regulations provided that when the Government took possession of the crop, it would pay fair and just compensation to the owners of the wheat. If that be not the. reason I am at a loss to understand why the Government has insisted on including that crop in the scheme. It is generally agreed that the price of wheat will remain high for some years, but the wheat industry has not been in a healthy state for several years. On the contrary, farmers have had to go cap in hand to various governments for assistance. The 1945-46 harvest, however, was a relatively good one, and had farmers been, free to dispose of their wheat in their own way, they could have recouped some of the losses incurred in previous years. That chance is denied to them under this bill, because the Government proposes to retain 2s. 2d. a bushel of the proceeds of the crop, and to place it in a fund. I believe that that money, if left in the hands of the f armers, would do much to improve conditions in the wheat industry, and provide amenities not only for the wives and families df farmers, but also for men employed on farms. The man on the land is often accused of being ‘conservative, but so far as I am concerned - and I - speak also for a number of other farmers - I realize that unless farms are made attractive, not only to our families but also to our employees, the drift of population from country centres to the cities will continue. The amenities which would counteract that trend can be provided only out of the profits made by farmers. I suggest that it is not yet too late to leave the whole of the proceeds of the 1945-46 crop in the hands of the wheat-growers, thereby enabling them to make many needed improvements to their buildings, plant and equipment. Supporters of the plan say that because the Commonwealth Government is- responsible for the financial aspects of the scheme, it should decide how the money shall be expended. Relying on that argument, the Government attempts to justify withholding from wheat-growers a portion of the proceeds of the 1945-46 crop which should go into the pockets of the growers. It is remarkable that when the price of any primary product is fairly high, the Government believes that it has the right to retain some of the proceeds of the crop, and place it in a. fund for the benefit of those who produced it. I know that it will bc said that the money in the fund will be utilized for the benefit of growers, but I have some misgivings about certain matters. For instance, a’ grower may pay some hundreds of pounds into the fund, and after, say, three years, cease to “be a wheat-grower. What would be his position at the end of five years, if there were a disastrous slump in wheat prices during the fourth and fifth years? Would, that grower, who had contributed a ‘considerable sum to the fund during three years of good prices, receive nothing at all? Again, a man may become a wheat-grower during the last two years of the operation of the scheme, when the price of wheat has fallen below 5s. 2d. a bushel. If 50 per cent, of the difference between the market price of his wheat and -5s. 2d. a bushel were paid ‘ to him, he would benefit from a fund towards which he had not contributed a penny. I should like the Minister to answer these questions when he replies to the second-reading debate.
This bill is ‘ another attempt to place the wheat industry on an even keel. It would appear that this scheme will operate for another four years, not because of any desire on the part of the Government to assist wheat-growers, or even because some financial genius has conceived it, but simply because overseas prices for wheat will make the scheme a success. Provided overseas wheat prices remain firm, the scheme must be successful. I hope that wheat prices will not fall, .but should that happen, this scheme will not be any more successful than previous schemes have been. In the event of prices falling, the general taxpayer must shoulder the burden, or else the acreages to be sown with wheat must be restricted to such a degree that Australian wheat production will be sufficient only for the needs of its people. Should that happen, wheat-growing will lose its proud position as one of Australia’s most important- primary industries. I regard this bill as the forerunner of legislation to nationalize wheatgrowing.
– I have listened with interest to everything that has been said during this debate. If I am any judge of the attitude of the Opposition, honorable senators opposite are of the opinion that this wheat stabilization scheme should not be inaugurated but that, instead, a system of open marketing should prevail. Under a system of open marketing, wheat-growers would be in a satisfactory position so long as prices remain fairly high, but in the event of a slump, the taxpayers would have to come to their aid. The history of wheat production in this country is not glamorous by any means. I do not know where the wheat farmers of Australia would be to-day had it not been for the wheat acquisition scheme of the Labour Government. Under that scheme, wheat-growers were given at least some security. They knew that for a certain quantity of the wheat they produced they would receive a guaranteed price, and that for wheat in excess of that quantity, they would receive at least a first advance of. a certain figure. The net result was that, during the war years when the wheat-growers of this country had no overseas markets for their product because of lack of shipping, the government came to their assistance by intro.ducing ‘a wheat acquisition scheme. Had that action not been taken hundreds of wheat-growers would have had no alternative but to walk off their holdings. What would have been the fate of the wheat industry in these circumstances? This measure, and the legislation associated with it, the Wheat Export Charge Bill, represent an honest attempt by this Government to do something worth while and constructive in the interests of the large number of primary producers who depend largely upon the production of wheat for their, living.
Some honorable senators opposite have claimed that this proposal .is bare-faced robbery. When such grave charges are made, those who make them should be . prepared to state the facts on which they are based. In my view, this scheme cannot by any stretch of imagination be regarded as an attempt to rob primary producers. The object of the wheatstabilization plan is to guarantee . economic security to wheat-growers by establishing a system of organized marketing. As I understand /.he bill, its intention is that there shall be a guaranteed price of 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. ports for bagged wheat, and that should the export price exceed 5s. 2d. a bushel, 50 per cent, of the receipts in excess of that figure will be paid to the growers, and 50 per cent, will be paid into a stabilization fund, the purpose of which- is to ensure the payment of a guaranteed price of 5s. 2d. a bushel should the export price fall below that figure. That is the “ robbery “ that is alleged. This proposal meets with the support of recognized wheat-growers’ organizations throughout
Australia. We often hear references in this chamber to the need of price control, and the necessity to maintain our economic equilibrium. We have been told that Australia is. regarded overseas as the only country in the British Commonwealth of Nations, if not in the world, that has maintained a sound economy, f. make no apology for claiming that the Labour Government is responsible ‘ for that satisfactory state of affairs; but if it be true, why should the Government contemplate robbing primary producers?
Much has been said in regard to the inclusion of the 1945-46 wheat crop in the Government’s stabilization plan. There may be legitimate grounds for claiming that that crop should be excluded; that is a matter on which I shall not comment at present as litigation in respect of it is pending. As I understand it, the Government’s proposal in connexion with the 1945-46 crop is that should the overseas price exceed 9s. 6d. a bushel, the surplus over that amount shall be paid to the grower. That means that the grower will receive in respect of that crop, the guaranteed price of 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. ports, plus 50 per cent, of any excess payment between 5s. 2d. and 9s. 6d., plus anything in excess of’ 9s. 6d.
– That will be 13. 6d.
– I am not worrying about computations at the moment. I am concerned only with the principle embodied in this legislation.
– The Minister’s figure was 6s. 7d. a bushel.
– It might be 6s. 7d. a bushel. I shall not argue ,that point; but I challenge any honorable senator opposite to state with authority that wheat production over the next five years will be maintained at any specific level. That is physically impossible because none of us can predict the vagaries of the seasons; nor can we determine what will be the price of wheat in the distant or even the immediate future. Honorable senators opposite argue that the price of wheat during the next five years will be between 7s. and 9s. a bushel ; but what guarantee can they give that that will be so. I recollect that in years gone by, the wheat-growers of this country did enjoy high prices for a period ; but whilst they were receiving those higher prices they were making substantial . investments. I do not blame them for that. They purchased the latest machinery and provided for themselves and families all possible amenities, such as motor cars. I do not blame them for that either; but the fact remains that these assets were purchased at inflated prices, and their value depreciated rapidly, so that when the crash came, many wheatfarmers found that they had no assets at all, and thousands of them had to abandon their holdings.
Dealing with the price of wheat in years gone by, it is interesting to note that, in the House of Representatives on the 11th April, the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Archie Cameron) said that at one time he had sold thousands of bushels of wheat at ls. 2.58d. a bushel. I have heard that in Western Australia in some seasons wheat-farmers had to sell their product for as little as ls. a bushel. This measure envisages organized marketing and a stabilized price for wheat. During the war years, a similar system of control ensured economic security to the wheat-farmers. Open marketing would mean a reversion to the sale of commodities through middlemen, and therein lies the opportunity for the food exploitation that has been going on throughout’ the history of the wheat industry and of other primary industries in this country. The Labour Government has made a practical effort tq ensure the organized marketing of commodities under an entirely different system, and I believe I can say with a great deal of confidence, that that system which found expression in the war-time wheat acquisition scheme, and will be continued by this legislation, is far more preferable to primary producers than open marketing. Very often, the selling agent determines the sale price of primary products. He always ensures that, despite the price realized, his commission shall be substantial. Under this legislation the middleman will be practically eliminated in the disposal of wheat. That will be of great benefit to the growers who have been’ exploited by the middleman in the pa3t. I have already pointed out that, in 1939, following the disastrous fall of prices, the growers in Western Australia had to walk off their holdings. Forced sales of farms were the order of the day. .Apparently, honorable senators opposite have no real, quarrel with the measure. Their main criticism is that because high prices are now prevailing for wheat, and are likely to continue for some years, no necessity exists for this legislation. They argue that under such conditions open marketing is preferable to a stabilization plan. However, the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies), speaking to this measure, said - 11 we are to solve the problem of the wheat industry there must be a stabilization upon the footing of a guaranteed price . . . Therefore, we must be prepared to protect the wheatgrower in respect of not only that portion of his crop which is sold here but ‘also a reasonable volume of protection for export.
Thus, the right honorable gentleman agrees with the principle of this legislation. The Leader of the Opposition the Farmers. Debt Loan (Adjustment) said -
I realize that we have to give a guaranteed price, and farmers will have to submit to control of production.
– That is only his view.
– I presume that when speaking as Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, he .voices the policy of the Liberal party, and, therefore, speaks on behalf of honorable senators opposite.
– No ; honorable senators on this side of the chamber are free to express their own opinions.
– Senator James McLachlan’s interjection is evidence of the lack of unity among honorable senators opposite. The. present Government assumed office because the Opposition parties could not agree among themselves. lt is significant that whilst some honorable senators opposite object to this legislation, the leaders of the Opposition parties in the House of Representatives agree with the principle of the measure. The Leader of the Opposition in that chamber declared that a reasonable price should be .guaranteed in respect of a reasonable proportion of the wheat crop. He did not contend that growers should be encouraged to produce the maximum. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), who is Deputy Leader of the Australian Country party in the House of Representatives. also contended that the guaranteed price of 5s. 2d. a bushel should be provided only in respect of a limited quantity of wheat; and his leader, the right honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Fadden), said that a price of 5s. 9d. a bushel should be guaranteed. Thus, members of the Opposition parties are at variance on a vital feature of the Government’s plan. It is interesting to recall that the Lyons Government promised to make £20,000,000 available for the relief of wheat-growers, bur on being returned to office, presumably with the assistance of a large num-ber of wheat-growers who “ fell “ for that promise, that Government enacted legislation appropriating only £12,000,000 for the relief of the industry, and, in fact, made only £10,000.000 available to the growers.
– Is the honorable senator sure of those figures?
– To the best of my knowledge they are correct. This legislation meets the request made to the Government by the Australian Wheal Growers Federation at its annual conference in December last. That organization is best qualified to speak on behalf nf the wheat-growers of Australia as a whole. It has endorsed the plan embodied in the bill. The Leader of the Opposition said that “over the years “ there had been considerable muddling so far as the wheat industry was concerned. He did not specify any period. He knew that he could not apply that ‘ observation to the last two years. If1 his charge can be substantiated, responsibility for such muddling must be laid at the door of governments formed by the parties now in opposition; because, since the 7th October, 1941, the primary producers of this country, including the .wheatgrowers, have enjoyed the best economic conditions they have yet experienced.
– Was not the war partly responsible for such conditions?
– But for the fact that the Government went to the assistan.ee of the wheat-growers, they would have been obliged to. walk off their, farms, because it was impossible under war conditions to export wheat. I agree with the honorable senator that the policy of the Government in dealing with the industry during the past few years was dictated largely by war conditions; but it is all the more to the credit of the Government that it went to the assistance of the industry rather than abandon the growers to the mercy of exploiters. I t has been authoritatively stated that, as a result of the wheat acquisition scheme, the indebtedness of primary producers, not merely the wheat-growers, has been reduced by £60,000,000.
– That is problematical.
– I believe the statement to be correct. Country storekeepers, particularly in Western Australia, can tell the honorable senator that they have no bad debts on their books now.
– Why ?
– Because the farmers have sufficient funds, as the result of stabilized . prices, to . liquidate their liabilities.
– That state of affairs is partly due to the operation of the Farmers Debt Loan (Adjustment) Act.
– I cannot agree with the honorable senator. Let us examine the situation from a practical point of view, The farmers have been receiving such good prices for their products that they have been able to discharge their liabilities. That has happened throughout Western Australia. Storekeepers in any country town can tell, the honorable senator that debts which they had carried on their books for years have been cleared since this Government stabilized the wheat industry. I have also heard it said, that the private banking institutions are apprehensive because farmers are now able to remove mortgages on their properties. The Leader of the Opposition said that he was proud of the fact that, when he was a Minister, he was instrumental in establishing the Australian Wheat Board. He’, deprecated the removal from the board of certain members whom he had appointed. Those persons were not truly representative of the wheat-growers. The honorable senator would have difficulty in proving to the Senate that they were fitted for positions on the board.
– Are not the Teas-‘ dales important wheat-growers in Western Australia?
– I do not know much about Mr. Teasdale, apart from the fact that he is associated with wheat-growing. He was one of the honorable senator’s appointees to the Australian Wheat Board.
– He was a United Australia party candidate at the last Senate elections too.
– That is so. The qualifications of the members of the board appointed by the Leader of the Opposition were, very slight.
Sitting suspended from 5.5J<. to 8 p.m.
– The Leader of the Opposition stated that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture had his own wheat men, that they were his political friends, and that they had let the wheatgrowers down. I am not prepared to say whether that is correct or otherwise, but since the Scully wheat plan has been in operation the growers have never been in a better financial position than they are to-day. That is the .result of having a majority representation of the growers on the Australian Wheat Board. The Leader of the Opposition remarked that something had been “ put over “ the Minister, when he was persuaded to allow 12s. 6d. an acre to farmers in Western Australia, for not growing wheat. Much has been said in this debate about the restriction of . production. To the best of my knowledge it is not possible to grow wheat in Western Australia without the use of superphosphate. This fertilizer was in short supply during the Avar’ period, as the result of enemy action, and it became necessary to adopt the best course possible in the circumstances. Over £1,000,000 was expended by the Government to compensate farmers for refraining from producing wheat, and it is well to realize that that course was necessary. Apart from the economic necessity for the guaranteed price for wheat, there was the difficulty of shipping it overseas. As far as I can ascertain, at no time since the restrictions have been imposed have the growers cropped the whole of the areas which they were entitled to sow to wheat.
I shall quote an interesting statement made by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon), who for a time assisted the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, and who is still acting on his behalf in Western Australia. According to a report published in the Perth press of 28th January, 1946, the honorable member made a statement on the subject of persuading farmers not to grow wheat. En reply to a gentleman named Diver, the honorable member said- -
Mr. Diver submits that it is unconstitutional to place the present crop in the scheme. This was agreed to’ by the growers, and as there are no deductions ‘ made by the Government from the growers other than their own trust account, which will remain the property of the growers, I fail to see any constitutional issue. Mr. Diver infers that because the growers of Western Australia received £500,000 compensation they had lost £2,000,000. This is entirely without foundation, for at no time since acreage restriction has been in operation have growers cropped the area they were entitled to. The following sets out the licensed area growers were entitled, to crop, the crop sown, and the area which farmers failed to crop.
For the 1945 sowing, there was no restriction whatever, and growers could apply for whatever area they considered they could crop. Although they applied for 2,580,462 acres, they only cropped 1,912,024, which showed a deficiency of 668,438 acres. In the three years of restriction growers failed by 820,204 acres to crop what they were permitted to do. Therefore, this failure was not on account of acreage restriction, but was caused through war-time conditions, such as shortage of man-power and superphosphate, and seasonal conditions.
No honorable senator will claim that the honorable member for Forrest is not competent to discuss the wheat industry.
– But the farmers in that State received about £2,000,000.
– Whatever they were en ti tled to they got, but the restriction of production was absolutely necessary. As the Government was called upon to pay the piper with the taxpayers’ money, consideration had to be given to control of the output.
The Leader of the Opposition has stated that the stabilization scheme should operate for at least ten years. If that is his opinion, I do not see why honorable senators opposite should objectto this bill. It is contended that high prices- will continue for the next five years, and that stabilization will be necessary during that period; but the Leader of the Opposition must apprehend some necessity for stabilization at a later period, and he is wise enough to say that the scheme should operate for ten years. He is probably not the only honorable senator on the Opposition side who is of that opinion. He also predicted that, unless amendments which he intends to propose at the committee stage are accepted, the State governments may not enter into the proposed agreement with the Commonwealth. That appears to be a significant remark, particularly when we associate with it an observation by Senator Allan MacDonald. In referring to the Wheat Industry Stabilization Board, he asserted that the representative of each State should be selected by the two branches of the legislature sitting as one body. I interjected that that- was not a democratic proposal. We find that in Western Australia the popular House is elected on universal suffrage, and comprises 50 members, but the Upper House, which consists of 30 members, is elected on a restricted franchise. If the 80 members of both branches of the legislature sat as one body, the majority of the members elected on a restricted franchise would support the anti-Labour members in the Lower House. In the Upper House the Labour party has eight members as against- 22 members of the non-Labour parties. If we add those 22 to the nonLabour representatives in the Legislative Assembly, we have a majority representation of the Australian Country party Citizens and Democratic League and the Liberal party. Therefore the suggestion by Senator Allan MacDonald is most undemocratic.
A wheat acquisition scheme was adopted by the Menzies Government in J 939, when there was a fairly large section of old wheat in the hands of grain merchants, millers and farmers. Under that scheme wheat in the No. 1 pool was acquired at 2s. 9d. a bushel, which, when costs were deducted, returned to the farmers less than 2s. a bushel. In the No. 2 pool the first advance was 2s. lOd. a bushel, and additional payments made brought the price to 3s. 6.3Sd. a bushel, but freight and other charges reduced it to 3s. a bushel. On the 21st November, 1939 a proposal was made to give to the growers 3s. 6d. a bushel f.o.b. for wheat in the No. 2 pool. The records indicate that when the Labour party attempted to have a vote taken in this Parliament the representatives of the Australian Country party voted with the Tinted Australia party to prevent the Parliament from expressing an opinion on the matter. It is interesting to recall that’ little piece of history. The Menzies Government introduced the regulations for the registration of wheat lands and the licensing of growers in order to control acreage’. The present Government has been criticized by the Opposition for having followed on somewhat similar’ lines, but it must have been a good lead.
– I did not vote for that.
– I am referring to the records as’ I understand them. I have no doubt that the registration of wheat lands and the licensing of growers was the result of action taken by the antiLabour governments. When the Wheat Growers Stabilization Advisory Committee was being formed in 1938 members of the Australian Country party voted against the inclusion of persons nominated by the council of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation. That shows clearly that members of non-Labour political parties give greater consideration to vested interests than to the wheatgrowers. Before the Labour Government came into office organizations of wheatgrowers took strong exception to the fact that the members of the Australian
Wheat Board did not represent . wheatgrowers. The Menzies Government handed over the control of wheat to thosewho had exploited the farmers for many years, but a Labour Government has given to representatives of the wheatgrowers a majority of positions on theboard. Such representatives are elected by a ballot of growers. That is evidence that the Labour party is -willing to give to the growers the representation towhich they are entitled, and answers many of the questions which honorable senators opposite have raised as to the constitution of the board. It is interesting to read what Sir Louis Bussau,, chairman of the Australian Wheat Board, said regarding the value of the Government’s wheat stabilization scheme. His words were -
Had the present scheme been in operation ‘ between 1919 and 1929 the farmers would havereceived £103,000,000 more for their wheat than they had received under open market conditions.
– That is only guess work.
– The statement of honorable senators opposite that wheat prices will remain high for a number of years is only guess-work, because no one can say definitely what prices wheat will bring in the years ahead. We do not know what will happen in other countries. Since war broke out in 1939, Great Britain has greatly increased its production of foodstuffs.
– Under this legislation the farmers will lose £20,000,000 in respect of this year’s crop.
– That is mere guess-work on the part of the honorable senator. I am not prepared to accept guesses in any circumstances. The scheme before us is in the best interests of the wheat-growers of this country, and it is their interests with which I am concerned. A guaranteed price for wheat for a number of years must be to their advantage. The reduction by considerable sums of farmers’ indebtedness since the wheat industry has been controlled is proof of that. Information presented to this Parliament recently showed that the incomes of primary producers had risen considerably since 1939-40. The following table shows the position : -
Those figures show the result of the present Government’s scheme for orderly marketing, and its payment of subsidies in respect of primary produce. It is well that honorable senators opposite should be reminded of other directions in which the Government has assisted primary producers. For instance, it has paid a subsidy of approximately 5s. a dozen in order to keep down the price of corn sacks. In 1944, the Government made available £3,000,000 for drought relief. Half of that sum had to be met by the States, but I emphasize that the amounts paid to the farmers were in the form of a free gift.
– It was the farmers’ own money.
– That is not correct. The farmers had been hard hit by drought conditions, and needed financial assistance. In order to help them, the Commonwealth Government in cooperation with State governments, assisted them. The Government has also assisted primary producers by providing them with superphosphate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- The honorable senator’s time has expired.-
.- I do not propose to delve into the past, but I do intend to deal with some of the statements made by Senator Nash. The honorable ‘ senator probably knows that at a meeting of wheat-growers in Western Australia recently it was decided to raise a fund of £5,000 to fight this legislation, and that at the meeting £1,150 was collected as a first instalment. Senator Nash cited certain figuresrelating to the incomes of wheatgrowers, but they indicate that the number of wheat-growers in Australia is four times the actual number. He also referred to an amount of £10,000,000 which the Lyons Government promised as assistance to primary producers.
– That Government promised £20,000,000.
– That is so. The States applied for £10,000,000, and received it. The other. £10,000,000 was available to them, but some of the States, especially Western Australia, asked that the money should be made available for national works instead of being used to assist primary producers. The Commonwealth Government of the day said, “ No ; we will give it to assist primary producers, but we will not make it available for national works “.
– Was not the money sought for water conservation schemes?
– Some of it would probably have been expended in that way. Senator Nash also referred to Mr. Teasedale, who was dismissed, from the Australian Wheat Board by the present Minister- for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully). “Later, the wheat -growers of Western Australian re-elected him to the board, thus showing their confidence in him.
– I have no quarrel with that.
– Their action showed their confidence in Mr. Teasdale. Senator O’Flaherty said that he had grown wheat that had been shipped to Great Britain since the beginning of the recent war.
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– Senator Cooper asked Senator O’Flaherty whether he still grew wheat, and that honorable senator replied in the affirmative, adding that he had grown wheat this year.
– I did not refer to wheat. I was dealing with foodstuffs.
– Had it not been for the honorable senator’s interjection. I was about to ask him whether he had a licence to grow wheat.
This is one of the most important measures that has ever been presented to the Senate. I say that for the reason that every State parliament will have to pass complementary legislation before this measure can become operative. “We must, therefore, give careful consideration to its provisions. I predict that, some of the States will not pass the legislation necessary to make this measure effective.
– I am afraid of that.
– The position will be different after the referendum.
– In my opinion, the referendum will have a similar fate to that which awaits this bill in tie State parliaments. The measure before us provides not for stabilization but for sheer confiscation. Nor is it a measure which will .operate for five years, because already one year of the five have passed. It is like making a bet on a horse that has won. Senator James McLac’hlan made an excellent speech. Its .effect was like putting an atomic bomb under the statements of Senator 0’Flaherty. because that honorable senator^ arguments were blown to pieces. Instead of the farmers receiving bounties from the Government, the position is that the Government owes the wheat-growers of this country at least £8,000,000. I say that in respect of last season’s wheat, this plan proposes to take fis. 6d. a bushel from wheat-growers. In 194.4, primary producers experienced the worst drought in history. They had no incomes, and. of ‘course no income tax to pay. Naturally, wheat-growers thought that with the proceeds of last season’s wheat they, would be able to recoup portion of their losses from the high price of lis. a bushel;, but the Government says “ No “. It proposes to take 6s. 6d. a bushel from them. Take for instance the position of a man whose crop totals 3,000 bags which is not an excessive figure. The Government will take from him £1,000 for payment into the proposed stabilization fund. If the unfortunate grower rented his land, or was sharefarming, he will not get ls. of that back. -Senator O’flaherty said that the farmers would get their money back at the end of five years. I ask the Minister to say whether any money in the fund at the end of the five years will be distributed amongst present-day wheat-farmers. He is not game to answer that, because he knows that the farmers will not have any equity in their wheat. The primary producers of this country have- always been exploited by other sections of the community. Take for instance the wool industry which is closely associated with, wheat-growing. An amount of £8,000,000 or £10.000,000. representing receipts from excess wool prices, has been paid into a fund. That money rightly belongs’ to the woolgrower, but it has been taken from him by an act of this Parliament. That fund accumulated only because the growers sold their sheep or their wool and skins too cheaply. Wool-growers are to be charged Id. per lb. on the sale of wool from- “the coming clip. In the past the administration of the wool fund cost only a ~haMpenny a pound, but although the new administration will handle only 20 per cent, of the wool, administrative costs will be £3,000,000. ls that fair? That -is an example of the manner in which primary producers are being- treated to-day. I point out too that oats produced in this country go into a pool, and that the price paid to growers is 3s. a bushel. Oats are.sold f rom the pool to race-horse owners and for stock feed generally, at 3s. 2½d. a bushel, despite the fact that there are standing orders for -the export of oats in any quantity at 6s. 6d. a bushel f.o.b. Presumably the oat-growers as well as the wheat-growers, will have a “ shot “at the Government because 3s. is not a -just price when the export price is 6s. 6d.
The whole intention of this plan is to regiment primary producers. It is the first step towards the nationalization of primary production. It is necessary to have a property registered before wheat can be grown on it. A farmer must also have a licence to grow wheat. As Senator James McLachlan said the wheatgrower has a dog-collar round his neck with a chain attached to it. It is impossible for any farmer to obtain a licence to grow wheat a year ahead. I say that definitely, notwithstanding what has been stated by the Minister. A wheat-grower cannot fallow his land to-day for next year’s crop, because he has not a licence to grow wheat next year, and is not sure whether he will be able to get one. T.t is true that he can obtain a- temporary licence if Iris land is registered for wheat-growing; but the wheat-farmer does not carry on his activities haphazardly. He has to make preparation for the future. He must follow a. proper rotation - probably wheat, oats, and then sheep. He cannot do that under the present scheme. He has te trust to Providence. Scores of wheatgrowers in my district had their crops sown and growing before they were granted licences this year. I main- tain that licences should be granted a year ahead so that farmers will know their future. The Government proposes to limit the production of wheat.
– That is not the inntention
– It is. Later I shall read the clause of the bill relating to that matter.
Senator- Courtice. - If the honorable senator puts that question to the Prime Minister he will find that he is quite wrong.
– We can only go by the wording of the bill. I draw attention to what happened to potato-growers who were under contract to the Government. After they had prepared their land, and when the season was too far advanced for them to plant any other crop, tha Government announced that production would be cut by 25 per cent. Just imagine a wheat-grower, after fallowing his land and preparing it for planting, being informed that the Government, under this scheme, proposed to reduce production by 25 per cent. ! Obviously there is something radically wrong. I would ten times rather have open market conditions than a system-of control under which wheat-growers would be regimented as the. Government now proposes. In Western Australia some time ago wheat-farmers were paid to keep 3,343,853 acres of wheat land out of production. Had that restriction not been imposed, an additional 36,000,000 bushels of wheat would have been produced, at an average of twelve bushels to the acre. What a great asset that wheat would have’ been to-day when -starvation conditions are being endured by millions of people in Europe. Also an additional £2,000,000 would have gone into the pockets of the wheat-growers. This is a young country. It has millions of acres of land capable of growing wheat. Australia, is the-second largest wheat exporting nation in the world. Although Australia grows only 2 per cent, of the world’s wheat, it is second only to Canada as an exporter of whe’at. Are we toallow millions of acres of productive land, to lie idle for all time, and make’ a closepreserve of wheat-production “ for thosealready engaged in the industry ? The wool, produced on one acre is worth only 12s., but an acre of wheat may be worth from £3 to £4 ; but under this legislation, despite our vast undeveloped outback districts, the production of wheat will be restricted to existing wheat lands. We should be exporting 200,000*000 bushels of wheat, a year. Such a quantity would provideadditional rail cartage, bring more money into the country, and give employment to many more people. The restriction of wheat-growing to existing wheat: producing lands is entirely” wrong.
Senator Aylett made a most extraordinary statement, as he usually does. Hésaid there was ..a “huge” production of wheat in South Africa. The present production in that country is only 14,000,000’= bushels.
– <Less than half theannual production of Western Australia.
– About one-third. That is the “ vast “ quantity which, according to the honorable senator, is to swamp the world ! Canada produces 479,000,000- bushels annually, South Africa 14,000,000, and Australia - I am citingthe 1939’ figure- 210,000,000. The United Kingdom, because of its exceedingly high yield and small acreage, produces 61,000,000 bushels, and the United: States 700,000,000 bushels. We must remember, of course, that there are about 130,000,000 people in the United Statesof America, and that the average amount of wheat required for food annually is 5 bushels a head. Therefore, 650,000,000- of the 700,000,000 bushels produced in that country is for home consumption; Argentina produces 147,000,000 bushelsannually. The yield per acre obtained. in the various countries is interesting. It is as follows: -
We must remember also that the cost of producing wheat has risen in leaps and bounds in recent years. For instance, in 1939 the cost of a 12-ft. header was £304, whereas to-day the same machine costs £100 more; but I have not noticed the Government taking any steps to fix the price of farm machinery. It has fixed the price of every commodity that the primary producer grows, but it has not fixed the price of the machinery used in the production of those commodities. There is an urgent need for something to be done in that regard. According to the Gepp report, the cost of producing wheat in this country was anything between 2s. lOd. and 10s. 2d. a bushel. I take it that the 10s. 2d. referred to marginal areas which never should have been used for the production of wheat, but are suited to sheep-raising _ because of the light rainfall. I point out that 5s. 2d. a bushel at ports is equal to only 4s. 2d. a bushel at sidings. That is what the Government is guaranteeing - 4s. 2d. a bushel at sidings. Canada is guaranteeing its wheat-growers 7s. 3d, a bushel.
– For how many years ?
– That is for this year. The United States of America is guaranteeing 8s. 6jd. a bushel; Argentina is paying a bounty of 2s. 4¼d. a bushel, making a total of 8s. 6d. a bushel; South Africa paid 14s. a bushel for the whole of last year’s crop, and is guaranteeing 15s. 1¾d. a bushel for the next crop. New Zealand is guaranteeing 7s. Id. a bushel, and we are guaranteeing only 4s. 2d. at sidings, or 5s. 2d. ports. Senator Nash referred to certain statements made in the House of Representatives by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen). I point out that that honorable gentleman moved an amendment seeking the payment of 5s. 2d. a bushel at sidings instead of at ports, and he also sought the removal of restric tions on production, but his proposals were rejected. A home-consumption price of 5s. 2d. a bushel means that the wheat-growers will pay a subsidy to the consuming public worth £8,000,000 annually. One does not hear wheatgrowers complaining about < consumers getting wheat at 5s. 2d. a bushel ; that is done to enable bread to be sold at ls. a loaf. Australia produces the cheapest loaf in the world, the cheapest butter and the cheapest meat. A similar discrepancy exists between Australian and overseas prices of meat, beef and butter. Senator Nash wanted to know why honorable senators on this side of the chamber believe that the present high prices of wheat will continue for some years. I shall answer the honorable senator’s question. The British Government has purchased the whole of its’ wheat .requirements for the next four years, that is the period for which this plan will operate, at a price of 9s. a bushel Australian currency. Great Britain has contracted to purchase from Canada 160,000,000 bushels for three year3 and 140,000,000 bushels in the fourth year. “What was this Government doing while Canada was making that contract? I am certain that Great Britain will not need ‘ one bushel of Australian wheat. Its purchases of Canadian wheat makes full allowance for a British home production of 60,000,000 bushels a year, and will be sufficient to provide for the next four years five bushels for every man, woman and child in the United Kingdom. That is more than Great Britain will actually require in that period. With these supplies Great Britain will be able to use its. own soft wheat for stock feed, relying upon imports of hard wheat from Canada for wheat for human consumption.
– Where are we going to sell our wheat?
– That is what .1 should like to know. Instead of being as alert as the Canadian Government, this Government has been asleep. It has also failed to obtain markets for Australian beef and mutton. Honorable senators who attended the lecture given recently by Mr.” Boyd were informed- that in Great Britain a pen of 140 cross-bred ewes and lambs fetched £8 a head. In Australia, the wholesale price of a 50-lb. lamb is . £1 less than the wholesale price in
Britain ; the only deduction being freight. ‘ The bill contains some extraordinary provisions. Under clause 4 a board is to be appointed, on which there will be some wheat-growers’ representatives. I do not object to the appointment of that board. But clause 11 provides for the continuance of the National Security (“Wheat Acquisision) Regulations. What does that mean? Under clause 21 a Stabilization Board is to be appointed. That board will have power to licence growers, to regulate their production and to register farms. The board is to consist of representatives to be appointed by the Commonwealth and State governments. The growers will not be able to elect a representative to that board.
– Is the honorable senator in favour of extending the period of the plan from five to ten years?
– .No; I am in favour of open marketing. We need to guarantee the farmer a price which is more than ‘ sufficient to enable him to recover his cost of production. That is the policy applied in other wheat-growing countries. We should not limit the production of wheat, and thereby retard the development of the country. In addition, the wheat-growers are compelled to provide wheat for feed for stock, poultry and pigs at prices below export parity. That is an injustice to, the wheat-grower.
– The honorable senator should consult with his colleague, Senator Herbert Hays, about his views for the stabilization of the apple and pear industry.
– I remind Senator Courtice that the sugar industry is an absolutely safe, secluded industry, into which no new grower can enter because the industry is controlled through the mills, which will not take a new grower’s cane- unless they wish to do so. That industry is totally . regimented. It is based upon the principle of controlled production similar to. the plan embodied in this measure. Such a policy will retard the development of the country, and so long as we persist with such a policy we shall not be able to absorb migrants. Unfortunately, those engaged in primary production are not organized to the same degree as those engaged in secondary industries. However, our primary producers are becoming organized, and it will not be long before they will be able to speak with one voice. When they do so, what they will have to say will come as a shock to the Govern-‘ ment’s candidates at’ the next general elections.
Senator CLOTHIER, (Western Australia) [8.51 1 . - I agree with Senator Gibson that this measure is most important. Honorable senators opposite have displayed considerable interest in the bill, but during the years when governments which they supported were in office, they did nothing to help the wheat-grower. Today, the wheat industry has been stabilized, and the growers enjoy security of tenure. The Minister in charge ‘of the bill (Senator J. M. Fraser), in his second-reading speech said - .
Stabilization of the wheat industry has been discussed for many years past. The industry is subject to sharp changes because prices arc so uncertain, and the rapidity with which prices fluctuate, added to the wide price variation, has made the return to growers more than usually uncertain.
For ten years before the war prices were ruinous, and the wheat-growers needed constant assistance from governments: That condition may come again within’ a few years unless action is taken now. The present plan is intended to give growers a guarantee of a floor price for a reasonable time ahead, and so to remove the uncertainty about the future as much as we reasonably can.
Honorable senators opposite, apparently, imagine that Australia -is the only country which grows wheat. This plan has been adopted at the request of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation following its conference in December last. At that time, world parity for wheat was less than it is to-day. Under the plan a price of 5s. 2d. a bushel is to be guaranteed for the first five years, when it will be reviewed, and, subsequently, even should world parity fall to an uneconomic level a price will be guaranteed to the grower which will give. him security in his in. dustry. The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Menzies) advocated the guarantee of reasonable price for a reasonable quantity of wheat. At the same time, the Leader of the Australian Country party in the House of Representatives (Mr. Fadden) advocated a guaranteed price of 5s. 9d., whilst his Deputy Leader, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. McEwen), advocated a price of 5s.’ 2d. a bushel. It is clear that the Leaders of the Opposition parties are at variance as to what price should be guaranteed to the grower. Under the plan embodied “in the bill, each grower will be assured of 5s. 2d. a bushel and, therefore, will be enabled to estimate his - income from his crop. Senator A. J. Fraser, speaks for the wheat merchant, or, as I prefer to say, the farmer who lives in the city, who for so many years past has got a “ rake-off “ from the industry. Honorable senators opposite advocate a return to conditions which enabled the merchants to exploit the growers. The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives also declared that Parliament is not competent to determine the cost of. producing wheat. It is” clear that the cost varies between districts, and even between farmers in the same district. For instance, one farmer may work his farm with horses whilst other farms may be mechanized. A government supported by honorable senators opposite appointed the Gepp Commission, to investigate the cost of production in the industry. That commission cost the taxpayers of this country £50,000, but not one of its. recommendations was implemented. It is clear that honorable senators opposite do not want to see orderly marketing of wheat, but prefer that the merchant and city farmer should be allowed to continue to exploit the grower. Honorable senators from “Western Australia are familiar with the term “ St. George’s Terrace farmers “. The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives is now urging the people to reject the Government’s proposals for the orderly marketing of primary products at the forthcoming referendum. He refuses to commit himself to any plan for the stabilization of the industry, but he has left no doubt that he wants to perpetuate the system of open, marketing which means an “ open go “ for the wheat merchants. Fortunately, the . wheatgrowers of this country are aware of the intentions of the Opposition parties. During the last war, the prices of all
Senator Clothier. primary commodities increased but after that conflict had concluded prices collapsed. In 1930 the price of wheat was 2s. a bushel. The government of the day did not attempt to guarantee any price to the growers at a time when the depression descended upon this country, resulting in the collapse of prices of all primary’ commodities and widespread unemployment. Some farmers lost their homes at that time. No man in Australia has a warmer feeling for the primary producers than I have. I come from a farming family, and I have relatives living on the land in Queensland and Western Australia. I am trying to help them and their fellow farmers now.
– Then come over to this side of the Senate.
– If I did, my father would probably rise from his grave and shoot me. stone-dead. . The farmers to-day have a feeling of security. I do not know much about the primary producing districts of the eastern States, but I should like to visit them and ask the storekeepers how business has been during the last two years. The prosperity of the storekeepers in the country districts is the best indication of prosperity in primary industries. I am confident that the storekeepers would say that they have fewer bad debts on their books now than they have had 1 for many years past, particularly when the parties now in* opposition . were in power. Those parties made grandiose promises to the primary producers, but conveniently forgot them as soon as they were elected to office. Now that they are in Opposition, they ngui like Cheshire cats against the Government’s progressive schemes, but they are not getting anywhere. No political party has done inure to protect the fanners than has the Labour party. The Leader of the Opposition has repeatedly asked for action. This Government has been -very active ever since it came into office. The Opposition, on the contrary, went to sleep when it was in power. All of its promises represented just so much talk. This Government has not only gone into action but also has achieved very satisfactory results. Some honorable senators opposite say that the farmers should be allowed to take full advantage of the high world prices for wheat for the next five years, or even ten years. The present high price is only temporary. What would happen to the growers if there were a world-wide glut of wheat while the industry was not protected by the Government’s stabilization scheme? Australia is not the only wheat-producing country in the world. Great Britain is ‘growing more wheat to-day than ever before. Argentina is doing likewise.
– No. Its crop amounts to. 147,000,000 bushels a year.
– I am not prepared to accept the honorable senator’s figures. Canada and the United States of America are also producing large quantities of wheat.
The Liberal party, supposedly the friend of the farmers but in reality the friend of agents and vested interests, has a damning record of procrastination and broken promises. I have often heard members of the Liberal party make glowing promises to’ the people from public, platforms. They did so in Western Aus>tralia, but it was a Labour government in that State which came to the assistance of stricken farmers and remitted’ charges which, had accrued for land rent over a long period of years. It makes ‘my heart ache to hear the false promises made by members of the Liberal party. I admit that conditions to-day are vastly different from those which applied in the primary industries after World War I. Mechanization of farms has made possible rapid expansion of production. I know how hard it is to ‘sow 22 acres of wheat a day using an eight-horse team. To-day, using a tractor, I could sow 50 acres -in the same time. It is possible to more than double production by the use of modern farming machinery. Honorable senators opposite ask what the Government is doing to help the farmers. They complain that the farmers are being illtreated and ask. the Government for all sorts of assistance. The Government and its supporters are very sympathetic towards the farmers. Many members of the Labour party in this* Parliament are experienced farmers, and they know what should be done to- help the men on the land. For instance the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Lemmon) knows as much about farming as any man in the
Commonwealth. Is he likely to neglect the interests of his fellow farmers? The Government also has the advice and assistance of such nien as the Minister for Commerce and . Agriculture (Mr. Scully), the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McLeod), the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. Pollard) and the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Breen). These men will safeguard the interests of the farmers. Members of the Australian Country . party on the other side of the Senate should trust their fellow farmers in the Labour party. It would be interesting to know the exact number of men who were forced off the land in Western’ .Australia when antiLabour governments were in power. I believe that in one year about 700 men had to leave their properties, which were sold on behalf of the banks. We do not want that sort of thing to happen again, and it will not do so while this Government is in power. The Leader of the Opposition referred to restrictions on the production of wheat in Western Australia, and said that such controls were undesirable. That statement shows his lack of sympathy with Western Australia*1 farmers and indicates that he is ignorant -of conditions in that State. Restrictions on wheat production were necessary because of the shortage of man-power to handle the crop and the shortage of superphosphate. Senator Gibson knows that, without fertilizer, a good crop of wheat can be raised in Western Australia only on virgin land. Mr. Teasdale, to whom honorable senators opposite have frequently referred during this debate as being, an expert on wheat production, actually recommended a complete “ wheat holiday “ in Western Australia for twelve months. Therefore, ‘ honorable .senators opposite are inconsistent in condemning the . restrictions which were applied by the Goverment. The payments made to wheat-growers to compensate them for reduced acreages enabled them to remain on the land and ultimately were of great benefit to the wheat industry. Western Australia was affected more adversely than any other State by the shortages of manpower and materials. It has produced fair crops of wheat in the last two years, considering the difficulties that the growers had to overcome. That State has been the backbone of Australia. The Government’s action gave help to the growers when they, needed it most. The growers would not have been able to sow the normal acreage of wheat, even if the restrictions had not been applied, because of war-time shortages of man-power and superphosphates. Members of the Australian Country party in the Senate talk freely about what their party will do for the primary producers. In fact, opinions within the party are often at variance. I recall when members of the Australian Country party held a meeting . in a small town in New South Wales IS months ago, and a move , was made to secede from the party. In the final, vot-ing, 50 members favoured remaining in the party and 48 favoured breaking away from it. That did not indicate unity in the party. Probably the secessionists would have joined the Labour party. As the result of this Government’s actions, farmers to-day are able to plan confidently for the future. As Senator Gibson, Senator James MacLachlan and Senator Mattner know, there are two sorts of farmers, the clean farmers and the dirty farmers, the good and the bad. A good farmer can tell by looking at his growing wheat approximately what quantity it will yield to the acre. His estimate is usually accurate to within a couple of bushels an ‘acre. Under the Government’s plan such a man “can plan ahead, knowing what his income will be. He usually has a number of sheep as well, which represent money growing while he sleeps. Therefore, he is in. a very sound position to-day, although I admit th’at prices of commodities generally have increased. ‘ I recall . the time when I. was farming when I would have regarded a price of 3s. ‘4d. a bushel forwheat as being very handsome. I am pleased with the Government’s scheme, and I am satisfied that representatives of farming communities in this chamber and in the House of Representatives must also approve of it, even though they may attack it for party political purposes. The scheme guarantees security to the farmers.
– This bill is of great importance not only to the wheat farmers but also to every other section of the community.’
In the first place, the wheat farmers provide one of the staple foods of the people. In the second place, the exportable wheat surplus provides credits overseas which are needed to pay for goods which are not yet produced here, such as petrol, oils, and capital machinery. Any measures that are taken ‘ to diminish the production of wheat so as to leave no surplus for export will react very adversely on the economy of the nation and upon the standard of living of Australians. I regret that, under the methods of control which the Labour Government has seen fit to adopt during the last few years, wheat production has decreased from 153,000,000 bushels annually to approximately 67,000,000 bushels annually. The quantity of wheat consumed annually within Australia is 60,000,000 bushels. The fact that at present we have an exportable surplus of only 7,000,000 bushels will have a very detrimental effect upon our external credits, which are badly needed .at the present time for the purchase of goods such as I have mentioned. Honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber have endeavoured to belittle members of the Australian Country party. I cannot understand why they should do so unless it be that members of the Australian Country party have criticized various aspects of this measure.
The Australian Country party has always favoured the stabilization of the prices of primary products. . Organized marketing has been a plank of it.3 platform since its inception. The vital difference. between it and the Australian Labour party, with regard to methods of stabilization, is that it believes in grower control and orderly marketing schemes, which should be based on the cost of production, plus a fair margin of profit for the growers. The Australian Labour party, however, has always advocated the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. In criticizing this bill, one looks- for provisions in it to implement the .policy of the AustralianLabour party. I do not blame that party for doing its best to. give effect to its policy, but members of the Australian Country party claim the right to criticize it, and the methods by which it -seeks to give effect to its policy. In this hill, instead of grower control, provision i3 made mainly for departmental and ministerial control. As I proceed, I shall endeavour to indicate the clauses in which that is apparent.
In clause 4 provision is. made for the establishment of an Australian Wheat Board. It is to consist of a chairman,, and one other member who shall be the representative of flour-mill-owners, each of which members shall be appointed by, and shall hold office during the pleasure of the Minister. The Minister is to have discretion as to how long they shall hold office and who the members shall be. In addition, certain members are to be appointed from each State to represent” the wheat-growers, but they also shall hold office during the Minister’s pleasure. That is not grower control, according to my conception of the term. The Australian Country party requires a ballot of the growers to decide who the representative shall be, and it also considers that they shall be appointed for a definite period and not at the discretion of the Minister. Clause 21 provides for the creation of a Wheat Industry Stabilization Board. Clause 23 .defines its duties, and states -
The Stabilization Board -
shall, in relation to any Territory, have such duties, powers and functions in relation to the control and regulation of the production of wheat, the registration of wheat farms, and the licensing of ^persons to grow wheat as are prescribed; and
The board will hold , the key to the whole situation. It can, at its discretion, determine the areas to be sown to wheat, the States in which the wheat is to be grown, and the production to be permitted throughout, the Commonwealth. The board is to hold office during the pleasure of the M’inister. I have shown one of the main differences between the Australian Country party’s conception of a wheat stabilization scheme and that of the Australian Labour party.
The limitation of acreage has proved most detrimental to wheat-growers in
Queensland. During the war, the population of that State increased greatly owing to the influx of - Allied and Australian service personnel. The production of wheat in that State was restricted, and millions of bushels had to be imported at 5s. 7d. a bushel, although it could easily have been grown in that State at the then guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel.. A great mistake was made in not allowing further areas to be sown to wheat in Queensland at that time. The importation of wheat at a high price necessitated the use of rolling stock for its transport during a period when it could have been well used for the transport of army personnel and equipment.
Queensland has’ a State Wheat Board which has given valuable service for many years. It consists of six members.. The chairman is appointed by the Government of Queensland and .there is one Government representative. Four members are elected by the growers themselves. A grower is defined as a farmer who markets his wheat. The representatives of the growers are elected for a period of three years. To show how effective the work of the board has been for the last nineteen years, I point out that the wheat-growers of Queensland have averaged 4s. 5d. a bushel for their wheat at sidings,- as against (he estimated price of 4s. 3d. a bushel at sidings which is guaranteed under the provisions of this bill. The period of- nineteen years to which I have referred includes the terrible depression years. When this measure becomes operative, will the Queensland Wheat Board be superseded by the Advisory committee to be appointed in each State by the Minister? That board has rendered excellent service, and it should be used as a State committee Tinder, the general scheme. Its method of election should be retained. I am reliably informed by the Queensland Wheat Board that it is opposed to the inclusion in the scheme of the 1945-46 wheat crop. Personally I’ consider that its opposition to that proposal is justified.
The legislation now proposed is retrospective. I can well remember tha’t, when Ministers and their supporters sat on the Opposition benches, they vigorously objected to legislation of a retrospective kind. The Government has acquired the 1945-46 crop under National Security Regulations and by including the crop in this scheme is breaking faith with the growers, because they expected their wheat to be acquired at a just price: The price that has been received for a portion of that crop is 10s. a bushel. That would constitute a just “price for that wheat but under the provisions of the bill before us growers are to be paid, not 10s. a bushel, but only. 5s. 2d. a bushel for it. I remind the Minister that prior to the 1945-46 harvest wheat-growers in Queensland had two extremely bad seasons. When a bill to grant relief to the growers of cereals was before the Parliament I drew attention to the fact that the growers in Queensland would not participate in the £3,000,000 that was being provided as assistance. The 1945-46 crop was a good one, but because it is included in the live-year period for which the scheme is to operate, wheatgrowers will not have a chance to recover losses incurred by them in previous years. South-western Queensland is still suffering from drought conditions, and as it is most unlikely that there will be a good wheat harvest there this year the acquisition of the 1945-46 crop has placed Queensland wheat-growers in a serious position. The extra money that would go into their pockets ‘ if that crop were excluded from the scheme would be of great advantage to them. As far as I can judge, there is no likelihood of the Government being called upon to make any contribution towards this scheme during the five years for which it will operate. In the first place,- one year has already passed, and as the price of wheat for the 1945-46 harvest was above the guaranteed price the Government will not be called upon to make any contribution in respect of that crop. The indications are that world prices for wheat will not fall below an average of Ss. a bushel for the remaining four years for- which the scheme is to operate. My reason for that statement is that Great Britain has entered into a contract with Canada for the purchase of wheat’ at an average price of 8s. Sd. a. bushel for a period of five years.
– The rate is about 9s. a bushel.
– I have mentioned a conservative price. Britain’s agreement with Canada will continue for one year longer than the scheme before us is to operate.
Members of the Australian Country party desire to know how the rate of 5s. 2d. a bushel was arrived at. All honorable senators will agree that farmers are entitled to a payment which covers the cost of production, and allows them’ some margin to cover the risks that they run and pay for their own labour. Before any decision is made in respect of assistance to a secondary industry, those engaged in it are entitled to ask the Tariff Board to investigate production costs in order to protect the industry against the competition of imported goods. No such inquiry has been made in regard to wheat. Yet, the Government decided on 5s. 2d. a bushel, f.o.r. at ports. I believe that the last inquiry into the cost of producing wheat was made in 1932-33 by the Gepp Commission. At that time, the average cost of producing wheat was found to be 3s. 6d. a bushel. No one will deny that costs have risen considerably since 1932-33. A portion of the price that primary producers receive for their exportable surplus is represented by the exchange rate of 25 per cent. There is no guarantee that that rate will remain stationary for the next four years. Should it fall, primary producers in this country* will be the losers. Those engaged in secondary industries are not in that insecure position, because the Tariff Board generally includes in its reports a recommendation to cover any possible lowering of the exchange rate between Australia and other countries. Primary industries are entitled to the same protection, following a complete inquiry, as is given to secondary industries, but no such inquiry has taken place. The rate of 5s. 2d. a bushel was decided arbitrarily, and farmers are expected to accept it. In my opinion production costs are now at their peak. Farm machinery is scarce and costly; and the same can be said of building materials, and other farm requisites. Practically everything that a farmer buys is much more costly to-day than ever before.’ I am pleased that” living conditions in the country have improved, but that means added cost to primary producers. Better living standards, however desirable they may be, have to be paid for, and their cost should be allowed for in arriving at production costs.
The bill makes no provision for export parity prices being paid in respect of wheat consumed in Australia. It is estimated that during the past twelve months, 32,000,000 bushels of wheat was used to make flour. Another 28,000,000 bushels was converted into breakfast foods and stock feed. That means that in respect of 60,000,000 bushels of wheat so used the growers will receive only 5s. 2d. a bushel, whereas on the basis of export parity they should receive at least 8s. 2d. a bushel. I put the rate at 8s. .2d. a bushel in order to make the difference a clear 3s. a bushel rather than a more precise figure The wheatgrower is entitled to *hai, extra 3s. a bushel, which represents. ,£9,000,000 in respect of the 60,000,000 bushels of wheat consumed in this country. On the same basis, wheat-growers would be entitled to £45,000,000 in respect of wheat so used during the five years for which this scheme is to operate. That is the sacrifice that wheat-growers are’ asked to make in order tha.t the prices of bread, breakfast foods, and feed may be kept at reasonable levels. The maintenance of low living costs is a commendable objective, but the burden should be borne by the community generally and not by only one section. As every person in the community shares the benefits arising from cheap living, every person should contribute towards the cost, i It is the duty of the Government to reimburse wheat-growers an amount equal to the difference between the home-consumption’ price and world export prices. There are precedents for such action. Potatoes for which growers are paid £.12 a ton, are being sold to the public at £6 17s. 6d. a ton, the difference being made up by. a subsidy. Many subsidies are being paid to secondary industries. For instance, subsidies are being paid on sheeting and other household goods. The additional cost is borne by the community at large. There is also a subsidy on tea to .keep the retail price at a reasonable figure. That is a matter which concerns not one particular section of the community, but the community as a whole, and every member of it is called upon to bear his share of the burden. I admit that in the past wheat-farmers have received some financial assistance from previous governments. Some money has been given to them as a gift and some has been advanced in the form of loans to wipe out debts and enable a new start to be made. Is it the intention of the Government under this plan that wheatfarmers shall be required to repay financial assistance given by previous governments, plus interest? That certainly appears to be the intention. The bill provides for a stabilization fund for the wheat industry, but as I pointed out earlier, this fund is to be subscribed by the wheat-growers themselves, and not provided by the Government. “Wheat-growers are to be guaranteed a price of 5s.’ 2d. a bushel f.o.r. ports, over the next four- years. Should the export price increase to more than 9s. 6d., growers will receive the total amount in excess of that figure. Of the 4s. 4d. representing the difference between 5s. 2d. and 9s. 6d.’,’2s. 2d. will be paid to the grower, and 2s. 2d. will be paid into the pool from which payments will be made to bring the return to the growers up to 5s. 2d. a bushel should the export price fall below that figure. This scheme may operate unfairly against some growers. If, for instance, after participating in the scheme for three or four years, a grower died, and his property had to be sold by his widow, the contributions to the pool made by the farmer under this scheme would he lost. That is my interpretation of the bill, and if it be .correct, the measure is most unfair because the money paid into the pool will represent- portion of the realization price of the farmer’s wheat, and should rightly be regarded as an asset in his estate. I see no reason why a register could not be kept of the amounts paid in by all wheat-growers, so that contingencies such as “that to which 1 have drawn attention could be met and the money reimbursed. That concession would not have any serious effect upon . this legislation, because other growers would be coming into the scheme and contributing to. the pool. If - the scheme is to be wound up at the end of the five-year period, I contend that every grower should be repaid the amount that he has contributed to the pool, less, of course, administration costs and any disbursement that has been made. Personally, I should like to see the pool continued beyond the five-year period, not as proposed in this legislation, hut under the altered conditions to which I have referred. I fail to see that a guaranteed price for four years, during which the people of many nations will be crying out for food, will be of any great assistance to the stabilization of the wheat industry for any length of time.
I do not consider that the bill embodies a sound wheat stabilization scheme. The Government is only guaranteeing to pay wheat-growers 5s. 2d. a bushel f.o.r. ports for a period of five years. One of those years has already elapsed, so that the scheme will end four years from the passing of this measure. Present indi- cations are that the world price of wheat will remain high, and that the Government will not have to contribute ohe penny towards the stabilization of the industry.
– in reply - The statements made by Senator Cooper in regard to the growing of wheat in Queensland are not correct. Strange to say, with the exception of one year, the production of wheat in Queensland during the war was higher than in pre-war years. There was, of course, no restriction upon wheat acreage in that State. It is true that growers had to obtain licences before they ?ould produce wheat; but I may say on behalf of the Government, that during the war period the production of wheat in Queensland was encouraged.
I agree with speakers who. have said that this is a most important bill covering a most important industry. It is a measure which I hope will give some measure of stability to the wheat industry for a- number of years. T have no doubt that the Scully acquisition plan, which was in operation during the war years, had some defects; but I remind the Leader of the Opposition (Senator
McLeay) that it was ‘the first attempt ever made by a government to provide for growers elected by the growers themselves to be represented on the controlling authority.
In his opening remarks, Senator James MacLachlan said that he did not propose to delve into ‘ the past ; then he proceeded to go as far back as 1S50 to develop his arguments. I shall not do that. I am concerned only with the future of the industry; but I shall refer to the past in respect of wheatgrowing in Western Australia, because opposition speakers who have referred to this matter obviously have little knowledge of what occurred. Let us examine events from 1939 onwards. At the beginning of the war, there were few secondary industries ‘ in Western Australia, and generally speaking the population of that State was engaged largely in farming pursuits, mainly the production of wheat and wool. During the early stages of the war. voluntary enlistments of servicemen and servicewomen from the country districts of Western Australia exceeded, on a population basis, corresponding enlistments in any other State by 25. or 30 per cent. The result was that rural areas were depleted of man-power. That was one reason for the Government’s decision to’ restrict wheat acreage in Western Australia. The shortage of superphosphate was another. In addition, wheat silos in Western Australia were full, and more silos could not be erected because of the shortage of man-power and materials. Having regard to .what I have just said, and bearing in’ mind the fact that all of the superphosphate available during the war was required for the production of other foodstuffs necessary to supply the fighting services, the wheat-grower probably found it profitable to change over to the production of other crops. The wheat-growers agreed that the restriction of acreage was justified in those circumstances. Growers affected by that scheme in Western Australia were compensated at the rate of 12s. 6d. an acre. When I was a member of the Opposition in this chamber I declared that 1 would not agree to the restriction of wheat production in this country; but I little knew then that
Australia would be threatened with invasion and that the circumstances which arose during the war would develop in this land. To-day, millions of people in other countries are starving. They are clamouring for all the foodstuffs that can possibly be sent to them. I recall the “ grow more wheat “ campaign which was conducted in this country some years ago; and 1 shall not forget the subsequent glut which produced disastrous results for the farmers. This plan is designed to prevent a repetition of that experience. No honorable senator will convince me that unlimited production in this country during the next four or five years may not be followed by a glut with the same disastrous effects upon the industry. For that reason, the wheat-growers endorse the plan embodied in the bill. Senator Gibson stated that large tracts of wheatgrowing land in Victoria do not require superphosphate.
– Millions of acres.
– During the war it was my painful duty to reject many applications from farmers in Victoria for superphosphate to grow wheat when other foodstuffs were required more urgently. The achievements of our primary producers in feeding our armed forces and those of our Allies will always stand to their credit. We are now in the period of transition from war to peace, and we hope that world peace will endure. In such circumstances it is the duty of the Government to take heed of the lessons of the past. Senator Cooper spoke about the subsidies paid to secondary industries. That assistance had to be given in order to enable us to maintain a stable economy. The wisdom of price control will be made clearer to honorable senators when I present to the Senate within the next few days, in answer to a question which has been asked by Senator Arnold, information dealing with the fluctuations of prices in the United States of America since price controls were lifted in that country about a month ago. Naturally, some people will endeavour to make profits by attempting to export commodities which are in short supply in this country and which we require urgently for our own use. I repeat that the proposed guaranteed price of 5s. 2d. a bushel will give to the wheat-grower the security he desires. For obvious reasons, it is verydifficult to determine the cost of produc-. tion of wheat in this country. I am afraid that some honorable senators opposite are out of step with the times. The wheat-growers themselves approve the plan embodied in the bill.
– The honorable senator stated that a meeting of wheat-growers in Western Australia decided to raise a sum of £5,000 for the purpose of fighting the Government’s plan, and that £1,100 had already been subscribed. I suspect that the greatest contributors to that sum are what are known as “ St. George’s Terrace farmers “ ; becauseI have no doubt that if the real farmers, such as those who welcomed the Scully plan were opposed to this scheme they would now have established a fundto fight it far in excess of the sum mentioned by the honorable senator. There are from 8,000 to 9,000 wheat-growers in Western Australia. If those growers were now to reveal the spirit which they displayed during the depression when their crops were claimed by the financial institutions their opposition to this plan would be overwhelming if they were really opposed to it. But, of course, it is evident that the growers do not oppose this scheme. I admit that growers have held many meetings, at which a conflict of views has arisen. It may be that the Farmers and Settlers Association of New. South Wales oppose the plan ; but that is not surprising when we know that the president of that body will be an antiLabour candidate at the forthcoming general elections. However, Mr. Field, the president of the Australian Wheat Growers Federation, approves the plan.’ The Government has made several compromises in order to meet objections raised by . the wheat-growers when the plan was being evolved. For instance, it abandoned its original proposal that contributions to the fund should be made by the growers and the Government in the ratio of 60 to 40. The Government was obliged to compromise on that and other features of its original scheme in order to obtain the support of the States which must pass complementary legislation. Senator James
McLachlan asked why the Government introduced this measure before the States passed their complementary legislation. I have no doubt that he would be the first to criticize the Government had it failed to follow the course it is now pursuing. One honorable senator opposite said that supplies of superphosphate were actually being built up during the war. That is a foolish statement. Apparently, the honorable senator believes that superphosphate is required only for wheatgrowing. However, supplies of superphosphate have increased considerably since the cessation of hostilities, and will further improve next season. It is equally foolish to contend that the production of wheat should not have been restricted during the war. In “Western Australia sufficient rolling stock was not available to handle the wheat which was produced in that State during the war.
– Will the Minister say what the Government proposes to do with the funds which will accumulate at the end of the five-year period?
– The scheme will be reviewed at the end of three years.
– But what will happen to themoney?
– The scheme will operate for five years, and the Opposition has contended strongly that it should operate for at least ten years.
Therefore, it must have some merit .
– The Minister has not yet answered my question.
– Questions can be asked in committee on the appropriate clauses. .
-Will the Government record the names of men who contribute money to the pool?
– I have not seen legislation introduced in this Parliament or in any other Parliament which has not contained anomalies of some sort. As the result of our experience of the operation of the scheme, we shall be able to remove anyanomalies that become apparent. The Opposition wants the Government to give a detailed account of what is to be done. That is humanly impossible.
– Unless the names of men who contribute to the fund are recorded, they will not be able to claim any share of theresidue to which they may be entitled at the expiration of the scheme.
– I am not a farmer, and I do not believe that the honorable senator knows very much about farming. He knows more about the marketing of primary products than the growing of them. The point is that, if a wheat-grower, who has contributed to the fund, sells his property, he will have an equity in the fund. In the committee stages I shall’ endeavour to give honorable senators any information that they may desire regarding the separate clauses of the bill. That is my custom. If I answer questions now, I shall only delay the passage of the measure and I shall be obliged to repeat my statements in committee. I do net want to do that. I thank the Senate for the reception which the bill has received.
Question resolved in the affirmative:
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
The several sections of this Act shall commence on such dates as are respectively fixed by proclamation.
.- I move -
Tlmt. at the end nf the clause, the following words be added: - but not before this Act has been approved of by apollofwheat-growers. and in any case not earlier than the first day of October, One thousand nine hundred and forty-six “.
I have two reasons for submitting this amendment. The first is thatthe bill should not become law untilit has received the approval ofa majority of wheat-growers. The second isthat it should not become law until the 1st October, 1946, so that, the1945-46crop will be excluded from the scheme.Ifthe amendment be agreed to, it will be necessary to make a consequential amendment to clause 4. Honorablesenators on the Government side of the chamber have reiterated that the bill is for the purpose of establishing organised marketing of wheat.I point out that organized marketing is not new. It was introduced in Queensland about 1923, and since then, marketing acts have come into operation in every State.- There is one cardinal principle of all such legislation, namely, that no commodity will be controlled until such time as the producers, at a poll, have expressed their approval of such control. It is true that the wheat industry has been controlled during the last six years, but that has been done under National Security Regulations aa the result of war-time conditions. This bill has been introduced because those regulations will cease to have effect at the end of this year. My amendment is designed to test the statement made by the Minister that the proposals embodied in the measure have the approval of the growers.- Should the growers express approval of the scheme at a poll, whatever we in opposition may have to say will be of no consequence. Although the Minister may have good reasons for making his statement, I have abundant ‘ evidence that growers are not satisfied with the bill.
– The onus is on the honorable senator to produce * that evidence.
– I shall do so. I suggest that the expressions of approval submitted to the Minister on behalf of the growers were made before the bill came before this Parliament. The growers have now had an opportunity to study the measure, and they are dissatisfied with it. It contains certain provisions about which we are extremely doubtful and nothing has been said to dispel our doubts. I now produce the evidence for which Senator Sheehan has asked. T have here a letter, written on the 27th July by a grower living in the north-western district of Victoria.
– Is that the only one?
– No. I have others. The letter states -
I do not intend to write this in an “ Itoldyousn “ vein, but feel constrained to say that anybody who had any hopes of fretting good for the growers out of this plan and this Government had them all coming from wishful thinking and are now directly disillusioned. I a.m Imping it will be well scrubbed in one of the State Houses.
I also have a copy of the minutes of a meeting of the Southern Mallee District
Council, held on the’ 26 th July, at which a resolution was adopted in the following terms : -
That in view of the fact that Mr. Scully, on February 2.3rd, 1945, stated that wheatgrowers would receive whatever the . Pool realized for 1945-40 season, this Southern Mallee District Council considers- that it would be, repudiation by the Federal Government if any deduction is made from this Pool.
Also, to-d.ay’s issue of the Sydney Morn- . ing Herald refers to a meeting of wheatgrowers which will take place next” week. Motions will be submitted at that meeting expressing disapproval of this bill. In view of this opposition to the plan, it is only right that a poll should be taken to ascertain whether a majority of .the growers approve of it. It is . clear that many wheat-growers are firmly of the opinion that the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) gave an undertaking in February of last year . that the full price obtained for wheat harvested in the 1945-46 season would be paid to the growers.
– A similar assurance, was given by the late Mr. John Curtin.
– That is so. These facts- should be sufficient to ensure that the 1945-46 crop be excluded from the plan. Senator Cooper gave good reasons, why the crop should be excluded. I have in mind- the case, of a share farmer with a reasonable equity in the pool. If he leaves his farm, he will lose a considerable amount of money represented by that equity. A similar fate might befall the widow of a farmer who had contributed substantially to the pool prior to his death. She might leave the land, or turn from wheat production to some other form of primary production. Injustice would be done in that case also. We have asked the Minister to state what will become of the money held in the. . pool at the end of the scheme. There is a good reason why we should demand an answer. It . is not proper for the Minister to put our questions aside.
– The Opposition cannot demand anything.
– We can demand an answer, but whether the Minister’ gives one or not is another’ matter. The wheat-growers will be in a similar position to the egg . producers if the scheme comes into operation in its present form. The egg producers have accumulated a fund of £500,000 which, we are told, the Government will retain. It can be proved also that certain export charges levied on the dairying industry, ‘which a year or so ago amounted to about £500,000, are being held by the Government.
– What about the subsidy paid to the dairying industry?
– The Minister for Commerce and ‘Agriculture has acknowledged that the subsidy is not paid to the dairying industry. It is paid to ensure that the price of butter for local consumption will be kept down. Furthermore, we -must consider the amount of money returned periodically from Great Britain in respect . of Australian butter, which the Government is retaining. The Government may have good reasons for keeping this money, but I do not know what reason it has for retaining the £500,000 fund accumulated by the egg producers. The money that will be paid into the wheat stabilization fund will clearly belong to the growers. If the export price of wheat does not fall below 5s. 2d. a bushel during the operation of the scheme, not one penny will ‘be expended from the fund. Therefore, it is reasonable to ask the Minister to indicate what will happen to the fund at the end of the scheme. The Opposition is anxious that the promises given to “the wheatgrowers shall be fulfilled. In order that no injustice shall be done to those farmers, who in good faith, delivered their 1945-46 wheat, that harvest should be excluded from the scheme.
[10.311. - This is one of the important amendments desired by the Opposition to which I hope the Government will give further consideration. Honorable senators opposite may snigger, but throughout thewheatgrowing areas protest meetings have been held by the farmers, and they are still being organized to express objection to the inclusion of’ the 1945-46 crop. The first objection is that that wheat was acquired under National Security Regulations, and that matter will be tested in the High Court. It is deplorable that the Government is prepared to use the growers’ money for a legal battle against them, whilst the growers have to use their own money in lighting the Government. The . season prior to 1945-46 was a .drought year, in which the farmers delivered to the Australian Wheat Board approximately 39,000,000 bushels, although the average crop for Australia over a period of years has been 140,000,000 bushels. Thus we see how disastrous- was the- effect of the drought in that year. Prior to the war, the farmers experienced ‘ very low wheat prices. The Government should encourage them to plant as much wheat as possible, but it is wrong to deny them the benefit of the substantial price received for the 1945-46 harvest: Production costs have increased considerably, and have imposed heavy financial burdens on the growers. It is deplorable that the Government intends to fight the growers in the High Court, when- the Constitution provides that property acquired by the Crown shall be purchased on just terms.
1 10.35] - The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) has referred to the legal aspect of the matter. If the Government accepted the amendment the operation of the scheme would be delayed. If it were decided to take a ballot of the growers, that could not be done until after the general elections. The contention was advanced in the House of Representatives that it is unfair to include in the scheme the last crop, and that the growers need the full price obtained for their product in 1945-46. in order to restore their financial stability. I maintain, however, that the inclusion of that .crop in the pool . is fair and reasonable. The Government’s advisers state ‘that there is no -legal bar to its inclusion. When prices are high the growers should make a contribution to ensure their own financial salvation. All that is asked is that the growers shall now contribute a reasonable sum towards the cost of the great benefits which they will derive from the plan of stabilization when they most need assistance. If a farmer disposed of his property after he had worked it for a year or two, he would have an equity in. his land for which he would receive credit, but would it be fair to him, after buying . another farm, to reap the benefit of his earlier contribution to the fund ? The plan for which the bill provides operates over a period of five years, but it will be reviewed at the end of three years. The deduction of 2s. 2d. a bushel for stabilization purposes may not be so great as that, after a review has been made, if it is found that the fund accumulating is unnecessarily large. Whoever sells a wheat farm sells the equity in it, and therefore 1 cannot accept the amendment.
– The Minister appears to have failed to realize the importance of the proposed amendment. The sum of money involved in respect of the 1945-46 season is about £7,000,000. The Minister states that a wheat farm has an equity, but even this year some farmers who harvest a considerable quantity of wheat in normal years are experiencing drought conditions. Although they may have harvested 30,000 or 40,000 bushels in a favorable year, this year they may not get more than sufficient wheat for seed purposes. During the next four years some farmers may not harvest any wheat at all. What equity will they have? None at all. The more we examine the Government’s proposal the clearer it becomes that an injustice will be done to some of the farmers. Take the position of a share-farmer, who may usually harvest, say, 30,000 bushels. It may he that his sons have returned from active service, and have taken over his farm. He will have lost his equity in last season’s crop, if it is included in the scheme. All that the bill proposes is that a certain proportion of the payment for wheat shall be held back from the growers- for a period of years. Nothing has been said to indicate how that money is to be returned to the growers, although it is implied’ that if, during the next four years, the overseas price falls below 5s. 2d. a bushel, part of the farmer’s loss will be made up’ to him. That is not a- scheme for stabilization or orderly marketing. It is a proposal for compelling the producers to accept a- fair share of the burden in respect of both export and locally-consumed wheat. The producers have been able to get a fair price for that part of their output which is sold .on the home market. The whole purpose of orderly marketing is to prevent loss on the wheat sold on the local market, and to compensate the grower for the loss experienced on wheat that is exported.
– The argument advanced in favour of the amendment is of the most specious kind, and is designed to destroy the bill. Honorable senators opposite have appealed for the adoption of & short-sighted policy, or at least have suggested that by dangling a bunch of carrots before the farmers’ noses they will object to the Government’s offer. This is the old story of the dog dropping the bone for the shadow. Supposing we excluded the 1945-46 harvest from (he scheme, and next year the shortage of wheat in the world continued with high prices overseas. Then the arguments now adduced by the Leader of the ‘Opposition (Senator McLeay) and Senator A. J. Fraser could again be advanced. Thus we could, year after year, suggest that the current season’s harvest should be excluded from the pool, until the bottom fell out of the world’s wheat market. Then there would be a clamour for assistance from the Government to tide the farmer over in the day of his adversity.
asked what would happen to a woman who lost her husband if she owned a farming property and wheat was being sold at 2s. or 3s. a bushel. I point out that if a pool has been established which will guarantee to the purchaser of her farm a payable price of 5s. 2d. a bushel for wheat grown on it, the widow would receive a better price for her property if she had to sell it. We must give to farmers an equity in their holdings, and so the 1945-46 crop is included in the scheme. I am sure that the farmer who takes a long-range view will accept the scheme. Those who advocate the exclusion of the 1945-46 harvest know that there always has been, and probably always will be, farmers who are individualistic and refuse to participate voluntarily in any pool. In the past, when, attempts were made to establish voluntary pools, many farmers refused to have anything to do with them. They thought that they would receive more for their wheat by selling it in what is now called the black market. Honorable senators opposite hope that their arguments will create opposition to the pool. I ask all who claim to be friends of the farmer to adopt a straightforward attitude. If they wish to protect the wheat-growing industry by ensuring that it will be prepared for the days that are sure to come, when prices will not be so good as they now are, they will not object to the inclusion of the 1945-46 crop in the scheme. Those who are anxious to keep the farmer on his property will advocate the acceptance of the scheme, including the provision for the inclusion of the 3945-46 crop.
– Two questions are involved in the amendment, first, whether the wheatgrowers want the scheme, and secondly, whether the . 1945-46 harvest should be included in it. I remind the committee that the wheat grown last season still belongs to the farmer. It does not yet belong to the Government or to the board that is to be set up. When the bill becomes law, the wheat will no longer belong to the farmer, but to the Government. Surely the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator J. M. Fraser) will agree that those who own the wheat should have the right to say whether they agree to the hill. Why is he opposed to a > poll of wheat-growers? It would not take long to ascertain their views. The Minister has told us that he wants this bill passed before the forthcoming general elections, and yet be accuses honorable senators on this side of indulging in political propaganda ! His only objection to a poll is that it could not be taken before the elections.
– That is totally untrue.
– Another extraordinary statement made by the Minister, which was supported by Senator Sheehan, was that, in the event of a wheat-grower dying or having to give up wheat-growing, after having paid, say, £400 or £500 into the pool, he will have an equity in the pool. I want to know what that equity is? The Minister said that if the farm were sold he. would get a bigger price for it because of his equity in the pool. Did he mean that the money in the pool will belong to the farm or to the individual? Will the equity belong to the land on which the wheat ‘ was grown, or to the individual who owns the . land? Some explanation from the Minister is called for. If the money in the pool will belong to the individual I want to know how he will get it out.
– By the increased price that he will receive for the farm when he disposes of it.
– Let us see exactly where we stand. I want the Minister to explain what he means by his reference to; a man’s equity in the pool. I have studied the bill carefully and I cannot see anything to that effect in it. When Senator A. J. Fraser demanded something just now, he was not successful. Therefore, as - we cannot demand an answer from the Minister. I beg of him to give an answer to my questions. The Minister laughs. That is because he has no serious answer to those questions. I ask him to supply an answer.
– Senator Sheehan said that a farmer will gain because of his equity in the pool. We are all agreed that the price that the farmer receives from his wheat represents his wages. As wheat prices are now reasonably high we are told that he should accept a little more than the basic wage, ana. allow his employer to keep the balance due to him as a deferred payment to be given back to him at a later date, or used for his benefit in the event of sickness, drought, or partial unemployment. If that logic were applied to industry generally, T wonder what the reaction of honorable senators on the Government benches would be. and what workers generally would think of it. If I am wrong I should like the Minister to explain the position. ‘
– -There is a complete answer to the point raised by Senator A. J. Fraser. Under this proposal,, the Government guarantees that the farmer will receive a basic return of at least 5s. 2d. a bushel. It then’ suggests that if a greater amount is received for the product of his labour, the farmer shall make provision for certain contingencies which may arise during bis career as a wheat-farmer. As a wise nian, the farmer will utilize some of that increased increment by providing himself with an insurance policy to meet a possible time of adversity, and so he places a certain amount of money in the pool. That money is there to assist him when his wages are hot so high. ‘ He may then draw on it. The bill also provides that, in the event of world parity price for wheat rising higher, he will cease to contribute to the insurance fund, and will enjoy the full increase himself. As J have said, there is a complete answer to the point raised by Senator A. J. Fraser.
– That is not the answer.
– It is. The bill provides a guarantee to those engaged in producing wheat, in the event of the bottom falling out of the market. Should that happen, wheat-growers, instead of being forced to accept the dole, as they had to in years gone by, will be assured of a return for their labour. This’ scheme goes farther; it provides that should a period of depressed prices continue, and the amount in the fund become exhausted in any one year, the Government will come to the assistance of wheat-growers and pay out of Consolidated Revenue, sufficient money to ensure to growers the guaranteed price of os. 2d. a bushel.
– But the scheme will operate for only four years.
– That is just a red herring drawn across the trail. It does not mean that this plan will necessarily become inoperative after four years. Provision is made for a review of it after three years.
.- Senator A. J. Fraser’s amendment is quite clear.. It provides that a poll shall be taken of wheat-growers to determine whether they are in favour of this plan, and that in any case, this legislation shall not come into operation before the 1st day of October, 1946. I am in, favour of such a poll being taken. If the amendment were agreed to growers would understand that if they voted against the whole stabilization scheme, the question of the inclusion of the 1945-46 crop would not arise.
.- - I, too, support the amendment. The Government’s action in including the 1945-46 crop in this scheme is astounding. I believe that a poll of wheatgrowers ls the only democratic way to decide ‘ whether the scheme should be adopted. After all, the wheat that is to be acquired is the property of the growers, and they, should have the right to decide what should be done with it. As Senator A. J. Fraser has pointed out, the price of wheat is the wheat-growers’ wage. This Government has always expressed its opposition to industrial conscription, and has inserted safeguards in certain legislation to make such conscription impossible. How can it reconcile that attitude with this proposal? This plan means, in effect, industrial conscription of wheat-growers. . The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator J. M. Fraser) claims that the growers approve the plan, but he has not given any figures to support that statement. The onus is on him to say how many growers support it. I recall that when an organized marketing scheme was proposed for the dried fruits industry, there was a wide divergence of opinion. However, a poll was held and a majority of growers decided in favour of the scheme. We then had peace in that industry, and that is the only way in which we will get peace in this industry.
– We are having a poll on the 28th September.
– But not only of. .wheat-growers. If our fate as members of this chamber were to be left to the wheat-growers, I should not have any doubt about my own security. Again I appeal to the Minister to accept the amendment, which I believe would go a long way towards making this measure acceptable.
– I wish to correct a misunderstanding that has arisen over my remarks in regard to the general elections. What I said was if the amendment were carried, the elections would intervene and there would be some delay in bringing this plan into operation. I believe that the majority of wheat-growers are in favour of the scheme and wish to see it in operation immediately.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be added (Senator A. j. Fraser’s amendment) be added.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator B.Courtice.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 - (1.) For the purposes of this Act there shall be an Australian Wheat Board. (2.) The Board shall consist of -
Australia and one member elected to represent the wheat-growers in the State of Western Australia.
– I move; -
That, in sub-clause (2.) paragraph (b), be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof, the following paragraph: - “ (b) three memburs elected to represent the wheat-growers in the State of New South Wales, two members elected to represent the wheat-growers in the State of Victoria, one member elected to represent the wheat-growers in the State of Queensland, two members elected to represent the wheat-growers in the State of South Australia and . two members elected to represent the wheat-growers in the State of Western Australia “.
The representation proposed under the clause is ill-balanced. New South Wales and Victoria are to be given two representatives each and Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia one representative each. Having regard to the part which the proposed board will play, the provision of fair and adequate representation of growers in the various States is most important. The proposed board will replace the existing Australian Wheat Board, which hasdone an excellent job. I have moved my amendment in order to provide for fairer representation between the States. Whereas Queensland produces only 2.94 per cent. of the total Australian crop, Western Australia produces 19.23 per cent. and South Australia produces 20.72 per cent. I am anxious to ensure that justice is done to growers in Western Australia and South Australia by giving to each of those two States two representatives on the proposed board. It is natural to expect that during the next five years the disparity to which I have referred will be accentuated. In my second-reading speech I pointed out that we are rapidly overtaking the leeway of our production of wheat, which will soon equal the 1939-40 crop of . approximately 200,000,000 bushels, of which New South Wales produced 75,000,000 bushels and Western Australia and South Australia each 40,000,000 bushels. On that basis, the allocation of three representatives to New South Wales and two each to Western Australia and South Australia, as I propose, is fully justified.
– The Government must have good reasons for adhering to’ the proposal embodied in the clause. However, a3 Senator Allan MacDonald has pointed out, it seems strange that only one representative should be given to each “Western Australia and South Australia when growers in those two States produce as much wheat as is produced in Victoria, and almost as much as is produced in New South Wales, with the probability that should acreages be increased the two former States will increase their production. I fail to understand why either Western Australia or South Australia should be given less representation than the other States. By what principles was the Government guided in determining the composition of the board as proposed iri the clause? Would it not be fairer to give representation to the States on the basis of their production?
– Representation on the proposed board has been allotted on the basis of the number of wheat-growers in the respective States. Western Australia, which this year has 8,475 growers out of a total number of growers of from 60,000 to 70,000, was considered jo be fairly represented by one member.
– How many wheatgrowers are there in Queensland, which also is to be given one representative on the proposed board?
– The number of growers in the respective States this season is. as follows: - New South Wales 23,340, Victoria 18,099, Queensland 3,436, South Australia 15,507 and Western Australia 8,475. Although Queensland has the smallest number of growers, the Government is of the opinion that that State cannot be denied a representative on the proposed board.
– The representation seems to have been worked out in a peculiar way having regard to the fact that Queensland is to be given the same representation as South Australia, although there are only 3,436 growers in Queensland compared with 15,507 growers in South Australia.
– The Government desires to limit the number of members of the board to the lowest practical minimum.
– 1 am unable to reconcile the figures given by the Minister in respect of Victoria and Western Australia, namely, 18,099 growers and 8,475 growers respectively, when the average crop in Western Australia is likely ‘ to exceed that in Victoria. If those figures are correct the Government should be prepared to do justice to the growers in Western Australia and South Australia by apportioning representation on the proposed board on a basis which will make a fair allowance for the gre*ater production of wheat in Western Australia despite the fact that growers in that State number less than half that of those in Victoria. That can be done on a grower plus bushelage basis. A somewhat similar principle was applied in the allocation of grants to the States under the Federal Aid Roads Agreement. Originally, it was proposed to allocate those grants on a population basis only, but later a population plus area basis was adopted in order to do justice to Western Australia. A similar principle should be applied in this instance.
– The Government believes that the fairest way to apportion representation on the proposed board is on the basis of the number “of growers in each State. Senator Allan MacDonald is not correct when he says that Victoria grows less wheat than Western Australia. The reverse is the case over a period of five years.
– That would be because one-third of the growers in Western Australia were eliminated from the industry during the past three and a half years.
– It is true that under the restrictions impose’d during the war a considerable- proportion of growers were eliminated from the industry in Western Australia. Similar “restrictions were applied in Victoria although the number of growers affected! in that State was not so great.Over a period of five years, Victoria grows more wheat than Western Australia.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Allan MacDonald’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator B. Courtice.)
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (State committees).
.- This clause provides that a committee may be appointed for any State and that -
Each such committee shall be constituted of such number of persons, and in such manner, as are prescribed.
I presumethat this means “prescribed by the Australian Wheat Board “. Subclause 2 contains the proviso that at least one member of each committee shall be nominated by “the appropriate Minister of State of the State for which the committee is appointed”. That is clear enough, but sub-clause 3 states -
The members of each committee shall be appointed by the Minister and shall hold office during the “pleasure of the Minister.
I assume that this refers to the Commonwealth Minister for Commerce and Agriculture.
– That is so.
– I interpret that sub-clause to mean that the Commonwealth Minister may appoint the members of each committee and discharge them at any time he may think fit.
– That is correct.
– The States will have to carry out a considerable portion of the work involved in the scheme. As far as I can see, the States will have very little power under this clause. This bill - requires legislation to be passed by each State government. Have the States agreed to the form of this, clause ? It is rather extraordinary for States to agree to such an arrangement in a matter in which theyare vitally interested.
– The State Governments have agreedto this clause. The committees will be merely committees of convenience. The powers provided in the clause may not be exercised at all, but the Government wants to have the power to appoint such committees should it be considered desirable to do so.
– I am not satisfied with what the Minister has said. I contend that this legislation can have no effect until such time as complementary legislation is passed by each State parliament. The Parliament of Western Australia has only recently commenced its present sittings, and it may not pass complementary legislation for two months or more. Therefore, the Minister’s contention that delay would be fatal to the interests of the wheatfarmers cannot be substantiated. I ask the Minister to assure me that this legislation can have no force until each State Minister is granted power, by means of State legislation, to nominate persons for appointment to the State committtes.
– Complementary State legislation is notrequiredfor the appointment, of State committees.
– The State Ministers will be powerless without such legislation.
– The . State Ministers have agreed to this proposal.
– But the State parliaments have not done so.
– It is not necessary- for State legislation to he enacted to enable this clause to come into operation..
Senator A. J. FRASER (Victoria) 1 11.39 .- 1 agree with what Senator Leckie has .said. The clause is clumsy. It is not clear whether a State Minister or the Commonwealth Minister for Commerce and Agriculture is intended by some of the references to “ the Minister “. It would have been better to have included a definition of “ the Minister “ in clause 3. The State committees may he called upon, under powers delegated to them, to undertake some very important functions. It appears that there may be some doubt as to- which Minister shall appoint each committee and control it, and this doubt should be resolved at once.
– I can allay the honorable senator’s fears. Wherever “the Minister” appears in the bill, the reference is to the Commonwealth Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, unless the contrary intention is specifically stated.
– I understand that, but, according to sub-clause 2, a State Minister may nominate- more than one member of each committee.
– That is possible. “ This sub-clause specifically refers to State Ministers.
– Is the Minister satisfied with the phraseology of the clause? Would it not be better to make an amendment so as to indicate clearly that “the Minister” means the Commonwealth- Minister for Commerce and Agriculture? Sub-clause 2 provides, in part, that at least one member of each committee shall be nominated by “ the -appropriate Minister of State of the State for which the committee is .appointed”. Sub-clause 3 then states -
The members of each committee shall be appointed by the Minister and shall hold office during the pleasure of the Minister.
The Minister may say that sub-clause 3 refers to the Commonwealth Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, but would that be clear to the High Court? The. Minister would be wise to place beyond all possibility of doubt that the Commonwealth Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will exercise the broad powers provided in this clause.
– The clause provides for the appointment of State Advisory Committees, which have been constituted in the past and which have performed useful functions in relation to the wheat industry in various States. They have provided a valuable liaison between the Commonwealth and the States. The Government’s legal’ advisers are satisfied that the meaning of the clause is clearly’ expressed.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 (Licensed receivers).
– This, clause also requires some explanation. Sub-clause 2 states -
An authority acting under any State act as a receiver of wheat shall be entitled to a licence under this section to receive wheat and to the extent provided by that act.
As the Commonwealth will be taking over the wheat, a State should not have power to- licence a receiver of wheat. Approval for the granting of a licence should be given only by the Commonwealth Minister for Commerce and Agriculture. There is a likelihood of misunderstanding occurring here.
.- The Queensland Wheat Board, and the Victorian Grain Elevators Board will retain their rights under the respective State acts.
– But the Commonwealth will be taking the wheat out of the hands of the States.
– The Queensland Wheat Board still retains its rights.
– The Commonwealth Minister has no power to appoint wheat receivers as far as Queensland and Victoria, and possibly other States, are concerned; or, in any event, he must accept any person or firm licensed to receive wheat by the appropriate authority in those States, or who may be licensed in future.
– There are other agents.
– My point has not been replied to.
– Sub-clause 1 of the clause provides that the board may licence, subject to such conditions as are specified in the licence, any person, firm, company, or State authority, to receive wheat on behalf of the board, and may cancel or suspend any such licence. The following sub-clause states that an authority, acting under any State act as a receiver of wheat, shall be entitled to a licence under this clause to receive wheat, and to the extent provided by the State act. If a receiver had been appointed under a State act, the board could cancel the appointment, provided the State authorities agreed to that abrogation of their power. There seems to be a good deal of room for explanation of the exact meaning of this clause.
– The legal authorities . in the various States and the Commonwealth law authorities agree that the interests of the States are fully protected under the clause.
– Is.it not clear that the board has no authority to suspend any licence issued by a State authority in Victoria or Queensland?
– I suppose that would be so if such action would conflict with the views of the State authorities.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 agreed to.
Clause 10- (1.) The board may, subject to any directions of the Minister, for the purposes of the export of wheat and wheat products, the interstate marketing of wheat and the marketing of wheat in the Territories of the Commonwealth -
– This clausedeals with the powers of the Australian Wheat Board. When the bill was introduced in the House of Representatives the words “subject to , any directions of the Minister “ were not included. I protest against the action of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) who, after he had dismissed men who knew something about wheat, appointed to the Australian Wheat Board some of his “ yes “ men, which enabled him to direct the board to do things which were not in the interests of the growers. While the Minister had that authority under the ‘ National Security Regulations,wheatfor bread was sold at 5s. 2d. a bushel, for power alcohol at 3s.11d. a bushel, for gin distilling at 3s. 11¼d. a bushel and for pig-feed at 3s. 10d. a bushel. Those prices are lower than the cost of production. I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), the following words be left out: - “subject to any directions of the Minister “.
The Minister has behaved so badly towards the wheat-growers that he should not be given the authority proposed to be conferred upon him under this, clause.
. -I am not prepared to accept the amendment. When the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) was Minister for Commerce, the Australian Wheat Board was subject to ministerial direction, and I have vivid recollections of what happened then. I recall that that Minister appointed Mr. Thompson as chairman of the board.
– What was wrong with that?
– I know Mr. Thompson. I could say more, but I do not wish to be forced to do so. I was Assistant Minister for Commerce at a later stage. I have nothing against Mr. Thompson. The. present Minister had as much right to dismiss Mr. Teasdale as the Leader of the Opposition had to. appoint Mr. Thompson.
– The Minister has either said too much or too little. He has expressed thoughts that convey an innuendo against Mr. Thompson. He should either withdraw the reflection on that gentleman, or offer an explanation. Mr. Thompson held a responsible position, and many members of the Opposition have a high regard for him.
– I take strong exception to an honorable senator, who has been a member of this chamber for a very short period, telling me what I should and I should not do. I stated clearly that I did npt wish to cast any reflection on Mr. Thompson. I reminded the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) that whilst he, as a Minister, had the right to appoint Mr. Thompson, the present Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully) was equally entitled to dismiss Mr. Teasdale.
. -I take strong exception to the Minister’s remarks regarding myself.I entered this chamber in accordance with the provisions of the Constituti’on. If I had been a member of the Senate for only a. few minutes, I should have a right to express my views as J think fit, provided I showed respect for the Chair.
– The honorable senator has not shown respectfor me.
– I was induced torise in my place because of the Minister’s innuendo against Mr. Thompson. He said that he did not want to be forced to say too much about Mr. Thompson. He should now say more, or he should have held his peace. The Minister pointed out that some time ago the Australian “Wheat Board was subject to the direction of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture, but the circumstances to-day are totally different. It is most unlikely that the Government will be called upon to accept any financial responsibility under the bill, whereas, in the case referred to, in which the boardwas required to accept a certain direction, the Government was accepting a definite financial responsibility. I strongly support the amendment.
Sitting suspended from 11.59 p.m. to 12.45 a.m. (Friday).
Friday, 2 August
– Sub-clause 1(a) of clause 10 authorizes the board to “ purchase or otherwise acquire any wheat, wheat products, cornsacks, jute or jute product’s “. In other words, it empowers the board to deal in merchandise. The term “ jute products “ may be intended to cover cornsacks, but it could also cover wool bales. In order that the intention may be clear, I move -
That, in sub-clause (1.), paragraph (a), after the word “products” second occurring, the following words he inserted: - “ for the harvesting or protecting of the wheat harvest”.
The adoption of the amendment would make it clear that the paragraph is intended to cover only cornsacks and hessian used to protect wheat.
– I am unable to accept the amendment. The paragraph is intended to empower the board to arrange for the supply of cornsacks and jute goods, as was done during the war.
– This clause relates to the marketing of wheat in the Territories of the Commonwealth as well as the interstate marketing of wheat. According to the definition of “ Territory “ in clause 3 the word means “ a Territory of the Common/wealth which forms part of the Commonwealth “. I should like to know whether that is the meaning in this clause.
– The clause is intended to refer to the Territories of the Commonwealth over which the Commonwealth has control. That means the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.
– Little, if any, wheat is grown in either of those territories.
– I understand that more wheat is grown in the Australian Capital Territory , than is grown in Tasmania. At this stage, the Commonwealth has no jurisdiction over wheat grown in Tasmania, but the clause is intended to enablethe board to acquire wheat in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.
– I am still not clear as to what is intended.
– As the honorable senator knows, complementary legislation willhave tobepassed by the States to confer certain powers on the Commonwealth. I draw attention to clause 33, which reads -
Nothingin this act shall be deemed to prevent the board or the. stabilization board from exercising any power or function conferred upon it by any State act.
Clause 10 is a necessary provision.
– I suggest that the powers of the board are set out in clause 4 of the Wheat Export Charge Bill. I realize that that legislation is not now before the committee, but under it the board is authorized to impose charges on the export of wheat.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 11 (Continuance of National Security (Wheat Acquisition) Regulations).
.- This clause provides that the National Security (Wheat Acquisition) Regulations shall, in so far as they relate to. wheat harvested in any wheat season up to and including the1945-46 season, continue in force until such date as is fixed by proclamation. All that this measure does is to give expression to a pious hope until the State parliaments have passed complementary legislation. The National Security Regulations referred to in the clause may, or may not, expire in December of this year. It may be that the Legislative Council of Western Australia, beforeagreeing to complementary legislation, will refer the matter to a royal commission, and require a poll of wheatgrowers in that State to be taken. I see no barrier to such a course being adopted. In such an event, could the Commonwealth Government re-impose the regulations giving to the Commonwealth the power to do the things set out in this clause without the consent of the State Parliament.
– This clause is intended to cover the transition period between the termination of the present set-up and the inauguration of the new scheme. In the event of the Legislative Council of Western Australia postponing the passing of the necessary complementary legislation, the Commonwealth Government would have to decide what its policy would be.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 12 to 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 (Sale of wheat in Territories).
– Does the word “ Territory “ in this clause refer to the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 16 (Delivery of wheat).
.-There is nothing in this clause to prevent a person who has acquired wheat from the board selling.it back to the board. It would be possible for a person to buy wheat from the board at 5s. 2d. a bushel and to sell it. back to the board at a higher price, in which event he would be entitled to participate in the pool, thereby paining a substantial advantage. Clause 17 does place some restriction on the sale of wheat, but I do not thinkthat it covers the position entirely. Sub-clause 1 of clause 16 reads -
Any person who is required to sell wheat to. the’ board or any personwho is desirous of, selling wheattothe board may deliver or consign the wheat to any licensed receiver.
Perhaps the Minister is in a position to make a satisfactory explanation of this matter.
– All States rights are preserved. The point that the honorable senator raises concerns the selling of wheat back to the board. That matter will be covered by regulations.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 17 agreed to.
Clause 18- (2.) In determining the price to be paid by the Board to a grower for wheat of any wheat season, the Board shall take into account the net proceeds of the whole of the wheat delivered to it in respect of that season, but in any event the price so to be paid for fair average quality bagged wheat shallnotbeless than Five shillings and two pence per bushel free on rail at the port from which it is normally exported. .
– This is a vital clause and I move -
That subclause (2.) be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the. following sub-clause : - “(2.) The guaranteed minimum price for the first year shall not be less than five shillings and twopence f.o.r. portsand thereafter on the basis of cost plus profit as recommended by a Rural Industries Board and approved by the Minister.
The price at which the Board shall sell wheat for flour for home consumption to be the average cost of producing wheat plus a reasonable profit - such price to be determined fromtime to time by a Rural Industries Board.
Where sales are made for stock feed, &c, at a price below parity the Government shall pay the difference to the Board for ultimate distribution to growers.
The return to the Wheat Board for all other sales shall be at export parity.”.
– The Government is unable to accept the amendment. In any case, I believe that the amendment is out of order,becauseitwould mean an increase of the appropriation.
– I rule that the amendment is in order.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator McLeay’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Chairman - Senator B. Courtice.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses19 to 22 agreed to.
Clause23 (Duties of Stabilization Board.)
– “Will the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Eraser) now inform me what are the duties of the Stabilization Board? So far as I can gather, the board will have no jurisdiction except in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. Either the Minister was wrong in his definition of a “ Territory “ or the Stabilization Board has no duties at all.
– Clause 21 and the following clauses deal with the control of production. A Stabilization Board is to be created consisting of Commonwealth and State nominees. Under war-time powers, a “Wheat Industry Stabilization Board has been a Commonwealth body. This bill will constitute a board that actually will be a joint Commonwealth and State body. The States will control the production of wheat within their own borders, and the board will control production in the territories. It will also act to preserve uniformity of administration throughout Australia, so that the plan will operate on the same lines in all wheat areas. Clause 23 outlines the functions of the board in regard to the Territories of the Commonwealth. Under State legislation’ similar boards will be provided for in each State, and the board to be created by this bill will act as a liaison body to ensure uniformity and to remove any anomalies between the Commonwealth and the States. This clause provides the machinery for regulating production and adjusting supplies to the markets. This is an essential feature of the scheme and entails an attempt to plan the progress of the industry so that ill effects resulting from the alteration of over-supply and under-supply will be avoided in the future.
. -It is easy to understand what is intended, but the bill does not express it clearly. The Wheat Industry Stabilization Board will be a Commonwealth instrumentality created under a Commonwealth statute; but so far as I can see no power is given to the board at all. Surely the Minister must be wrong. If it were provided that the board should exercise certain powers, and also that it should have authority in the Territories of the Commonwealth, the clause would be understandable; but so far as I can gather this body will not have any powers or functions.
– Clause 23 states -
The Stabilization Board -
The board will make provision in that respect.
– If the position is that the six States may confer on the board any powers that they may determine, the board may have differing functions in the various States.
– Not necessarily.
– No, but it is possible. I believe that the Crown Law authorities should re-examine this provision.
– The States have agreed to enact uniform legislation. The Commonwealth Crown Law authorities . and the States have conferred on the drafting of such legislation.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 24 to 30 agreed to.
Clause 31 (Wheat Prices Stabilization Fund).
– In view of the hour I do not propose to move an amendment to the clause. However, this provision hardly meets what I believe to be required, because it does not give to the growers any equity in the money which they contribute to the fund. That omission has been responsible for much of the criticism levelled against the measure. In the circumstances I have grave doubts as to whether individual growers will have any equityin the moneys which they contribute to the stabilization fund.
Clause 32 agreed to.
Clause 33 (Powers under State Acts).
. -Thisbill must be read in conjunction with the Wheat Export Charge Bill, and neither of these measures , can be implemented until the States pass complementary legislation. I should like to know whether the States will enact these two measures, or an entirely different measure.
– The States will pass a States bill.
Will the same bill be passed by each of the five States, and will it be prepared by the Commonwealth or by the States?
– The bill which trill be passed by each of the States will be drafted by the Commonwealth. It will not; conflict with the Commonwealth’s legislation.
Clauses 34 to 36 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a thirdtime.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Civil Aviation - A. F. Kurrie.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired for Defence purposes - Eagle Farm, Queensland.
National Security Act -
National Security (General) Regulations ‘ - Order by State Premier -New South Wales (No. 83).
Regulations - Statutory Rules1946, No. 125.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules1946, No.118.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat ofGovernment ( Administration ) Act-
Regulations - No. 2 of 1 946- (Buildings and Services Ordinance).
Senate adjourned at 1.25a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 August 1946, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1946/19460801_senate_17_188/>.