20th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported : - -
Repatriation Bill 1951.
Wheat Industry Stabilization (Refund nf Charge) Bill 1851.
– Oan the Minister for Trade and Customs state whether it is a fact that persona who send to Great Britain food parcels which contain tea are required to obtain a permit and to pay 2s. 6d. for each 1 lb. of tea that is sent? Is it a fact that in the event of tea being included in parcels without a permit having been obtained, the parcels are opened and the tea extracted ? Can the Minister also say whether tho tea that is extracted in those circumstances is Bent back to the sender?
– I am not aware of the actual procedure. I do notknow whether the authorities take statutory declarations concerning the contents of parcels, dr whether the assurance of the sender that such parcels do not contain tea is accepted. However, I think that all honorable senators will agree that, as the Australian Government pays more than £7,000,000 a year, or approximately 2s. 6d. per lb., by way of subsidy on tea, in the interests of the Australian people it should ensure that tea which is heavily subsidized in Australia is not exported for consumption outside the country. Exactly what precautions are taken .in order to see that- tea is not exported in food parcel?, I do not know.
– Has the Minister representing the Prime Minister read a statement that ten typists have arrived from England, and are to be employed at the Immigration office in Canberra? How does the Minister reconcile this recruitment of personnel with the reduction of staff in the Public Service? Have any Australian typists been dismissed in the course of the recent Public Service purge?
– I have not seen the statement, which is obviously based on a newspaper report, and such reports are not always accurate. I assure the honorable senator that no permanent public servant has been dismissed in the application of the Government’s retrenchment policy.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs give the Senate any information about the importation of tractors into Australia during the last twelve months?
– I assume that the honorable senator is seeking information about various types of tractors, and the countries from which they are imported. I shall be pleased to obtain that information for him.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that tractors and other farming machinery, of a standard equivalent to ‘ imports from the United States of America, aro being produced in large quantities by ChamberIain Industries Limited in Western Australia, and that, because orders placed with ‘that company by farmers have declined by 33-J per cent., 200 of ‘ its employees were dismissed recently? Will the Minister see that there is no relaxation of the duties that are imposed on imports from the United States of America, which would react to the detri-ment of this very fine Australian secondary industry?
– I am well aware of the excellent quality of the farming machinery that is produced by Chamberlain Industries Limited in Western Australia. That company is really doing a most magnificent job. It is rendering a .great service, not only to Western Australia, but to Australian industry generally. Only this morning I discussed with officers of my department the matter that has been raised by the honorable senator. It is causing us grave concern. The falling off of orders lodged with Chamberlain Industries Limited has not been due to an unbalance of importations from the United States of America. There has been a general falling off of orders, due to credit restrictions or to some other circumstances. The matter is being investigated. I assure the honorable senator that Australian industry -will not be swamped or prejudiced by an undue inflow of farming- machinery and other equipment.
– Yesterday, 1 asked a question of the -Minister foi Trade and Customs on a matter which seemed to me to be of particular significance. I now ask him whether, in the interval between then and now, anything has occurred to make clear the position of the Australian Labour party in view of the fact that on Wednesday last two important events occurred. First. the party censured the Premier of Tasmania. Mr. Cosgrove, because he did not tafe
Dart in the campaign to protect Communists during the recent referendum. Secondly, Senator Morrow stated in this chamber that the objective of the Australian Labour party, of which he was a member, was to bring about socialism, and as an illustration of the great benefit that would accrue therefrom he mentioned the conditions that now obtain in Russia. Can the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate has repudiated that statement?
– I have heard nothing from any representative of the Australian Labour party to indicate whether members of the party stand loyally behind Senator Morrow, whether they believe that he correctly interprets their views, or whether they repudiate those views. A clarification of their attitude “would be welcomed by the people of Australia, particularly those who have given lifelong support to the old Australian Labour party.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration seen a report in to-day’s press that a certain Mrs. Jessie Street obtained by false pretences a British passport, to visit Moscow? If so, can he say whether the press report is well founded? If it is, can he say whether this Mrs. Street is the same person to whom Senator Morrow referred in the Senate on Wednesday last as a “most reputable person “ who had written to him a letter, which he read in the Senate, that contained extremely eulogistic references to Communist Russia ?
– I did happen to see the report referred to by the honorable senator, but, naturally, I cannot vouch for its accuracy. Whether the -Jessie Street therein referred to is identical with the Jessie Street referred to by Senator Morrow, I do not know, but the description fits.
– In view of the number of propaganda questions that has been addressed to Ministers this morning, I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he expects an early election as the result of the opinion expressed’ by the people in the recent gallup poll?
– I assure th-2 honorable senator that we do not expect an early election, but if one does come we shall face it with confidence and come out of it with victory.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he has seen the result of the gallup poll that was published recently? If so, did he notice in that poll that if an election were held to-morrow; the Government would be defeated? Is the series of propaganda questions asked this morning an effort to offset the Gallup poll, which marks the doom of this Government ?
– Obviously the acting Leader of the Opposition was not listening to the question that was asked by his colleague, Senator Ashley, and the reply which I gave to’ it. For his benefit, I shall repeat that the Government does not expect an election in the immediate future, but if by any chance there is an election, the Government will face it with confidence and emerge from it with victory.
– Did the Minister for Trade and Customs hear Senator Morrow on Wednesday night, speaking on behalf of the Labour Opposition in this chamber-
– I rise to order. Opposition senators have been very patiently listening to these propaganda questions. The following rules are made for the guidance of honorable senators in asking questions: -
Questions addressed to a Minister should relate to the public affairs with which he is officially connected, to proceedings pending in Parliament, or to any matter of administration for which the Minister is responsible.
These questions are obviously out of order.
– Order ! I ask the honorable senator to withdraw that remark.
– I was anticipating your decision, Mr. President. I am very sorry. I withdraw it.
– The custody of the privileges of honorable senators may well be left in my hands. I take very strong exception to any attempt by an honorable senator to assume the authority of the President of the Senate. There is only one President of this chamber, and I happen to hold that office. If honorable senators object to my rulings they have their means of redress. As long as I remain President, I propose to control the proceedings of the Senate. Senator Laught will continue.
– You have not answered my point of order, Mr. President.
– Order ! I have given my ruling and I have directed Senator Laught to proceed with his question.
– Did the Minister for Trade and Customs hear .Senator Morrow on “Wednesday night, speaking on behalf of the Labour Opposition in this chamber, claim - -
– I do not desire to question your ruling on this matter, Mr. President, but I think that it is unfair and unjust that of the four questions asked and answered in the last few moments, three referred to Senator Morrow. It is very cowardly-
– Order ! The honorable senator stated that he wished to raise a point of order. What is hi3 point of order?
– My point of order is that it is unfair and unjust for honorable senators to ask questions relating to a member of this Senate during his absence.
– He should be here.
– The point of order is not upheld.
– I rise to order. I should like to know, Mr. President, whether it is permissible for an honorable senator to refer to speeches made by another honorable senator during the current session.
– There is nothing in the Standing Orders to prevent Senator Laught from proceeding with hi.s question. I have ruled that it is in order ; that ruling stands. Senator Laught will proceed.
– Did the Minister for Trade and Customs hear Senator
Morrow on Wednesday night, speaking on behalf of the Labour Opposition in this chamber, claim that the forces of the United Nations and of the Commonwealth of Australia were operating illegally against the Communists in Korea? Will the Minister make immediate inquiries to ascertain whether that foul a.nd dastardly lie has yet reached Moscow for dissemination by way of propaganda to the great democracies of the world, whose sailors, soldiers and airmen are fighting in Korea under the flag of the United Nations? Will the Minister assure the members of the fighting services, the people of Australia and our democratic ally nations that the views of this rather prominent Labour senator arc not the views of the Government of Australia ?
– On Wednesday evening in this chamber I heard Senator Morrow use words to the effect of those quoted by the honorable senator in asking his question that the United Nations forces, including the Australian forces, were illegally fighting in Korea. Whether that statement has yet been broadcast to Moscow I do not know, but a similar statement made by Senator Morrow previously in this chamber was very quickly thereafter broadcast to and from Moscow. I think the world knows that the sentiments expressed by Senator Morrow in this chamber in no way reflect the overwhelming opinion of the Australian people, and I wish that the Australian Labour party would dissociate itself from those utterances.’
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether this propaganda scheme is designed to smother up the Government’s frequent broken promises to put value back into the £1?
– As usual I do not quite understand the remarks made by the honorable senator.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration ascertain who was responsible for issuing a vise to Mr. Elliott, a very wellknown Communist, who has left Australia? Is it the policy of the Government to issue vises to well-known Communists to enable them to attend industrial conspirators ?
– Owing to the opposition to the recent referendum by the Australian Labour party, assisted by the Communist party, the Government is not in a position to deal with Communists as such. The precise circumstances in which the passport was issued to Mr. Elliott are not known to me, but I do know that had the recent referendum been carried and the Government’s legislation, validated, the Government would have been in a very strong position to refuse the passport. That is just one instance.
– About twenty minutes have been wasted on propaganda questions in the Senate this morning. In an endeavour to terminate this propaganda I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether he will place on the table of the Senate the number of vises and permits that has been issued by it since 1949 to well-known Communists, including Mrs. Jessie Street, to visit Russia and elsewhere?
– I am sorry that the Opposition has become somewhat ruffled about this matter. I do not think that any record is kept of the political, religions, or other associations of applicants for passports. To endeavour to make such a classification might cause serious injustice. Some one who was proud to be a Communist might resent being left off the list of Communists, or, conversely, a non-Communist might be included in the list of Communists. We on this side of the chamber are very careful not to besmirch the reputations of individuals.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has said that the Commonwealth has no power to deal with Communists as such. If the Government has power to deal with sabotage and criminal conspiracy, about which the Minister and his colleagues have made charges in this chamber on many occasions, does it intend now, or at any time, to take action against those saboteurs and industrial conspirators ?
– The honorable senator knows, of course, that it is not customary to give legal opinions in answer to questions, but, as I am in a tolerant, mood this morning, I assure the honorable senator that, if he can produce any evidence that overt acts have been committed, the individuals responsible for them will be prosecuted with the utmost rigour of the law. There are many times when one is certain that a man has committed a certain act, but cannot prove it by sworn testimony. If Senator Armstrong really believes that there is no sabotage or subversion in this country, I am amazed.
– I want action taken.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Trade and Customs by informing him that it is the wish of the Australian Labour party to combat the spread of communism’ in this country. Is the Minister aware that two days ago a statement was made by a member of the Liberal party in the House of Representatives to the effect that he is very much concerned about Communist infiltration of the Public Service? Can the Minister inform the Senate of the action which the Government proposes to take, either under the Crimes Act or in any other constitutional way, to prevent such infiltration?
– I am delighted to hear the honorable senator’s assurance that the Australian Labour party is eager to help the Government and the .people of Australia to destroy communism in this country. However, I do not think we can rely very much on the help of Senator Morrow.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs say how many of the 10,000 public servants who Were recently dismissed under the Government’s retrenchment scheme .were Communists ?
– Because the Communist Party Dissolution Act was declared invalid by the High Court, and because the people subsequently refused to give the Commonwealth Parliament power to re-enact the measure, it is difficult to define Communists, and to pinpoint their positions. Some who are ardent Communists might be annoyed if they were left off the list, whilst others, who should be on the list, might be omitted.
– In view of the satisfactory 3tate of the trade balance between Australia and the United States of America, can the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether the Government proposes to liberalize restrictions upon the importation of essential dollar goods such as earth-moving machinery, tractors, pick-up balers and other machines for harvesting cotton, maize and other crops from the United States of America, where the manufacture of such equipment has reached a very high standard?
– Unfortunately, there appears to be abroad the mistaken idea that the scarcity of dollars lias eased considerably. I remind the honorable senator that Australia’s dollar earnings are not available for the exclusive use of this country, any more than dollar earnings of- the United Kingdom are for the exclusive use of that country. Australia relies for its dollar credits upon the sterling area dollar pool, which, unfortunately, was reduced by approximately 600,000,000 dollars during the three months ended the 30th September. Honorable senators have probably read in the press that a strong British delegation will visit the United States of America with the object of securing a greater flow of dollars and, of course, dollar goods to the sterling area. The Australian Government has always placed earth-moving machinery, farming machinery and developmental equipment high on the priority list of dollar imports, and I think that the importation of those machines has now almost reached the limit of availability. The honorable senator may rest assured that the Government appreciates the paramount need to increase primary production and therefore views the requirements of the man on the land most sympathetically.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has stated that the dollar pool has dwindled by 600,000,000 dollars during the last three months. Can the honorable senator inform the Senate of the number of dollars which remains in the pool at the disposal of the sterling group, and can he say wh ether Australia obtained a fair shareof imports from dollar currency countries as a result of that decrease?
– The figures concerning our dollar resources are published regularly. The last time I saw them, I believe that the total was approximately 3,300,000,000 dollars, but I do not wish the honorable senator to accept that figure as authoritative. I shall ascertain the information and let him have it. Whether Australia obtained a fair share of the available dollars is purely a matter of opinion. Every country wants more than it is strictly entitled to receive, and the question of a fair share depends on the opinions of thoseconcerned. The Australian Government considers that it is not being unfairly dealt with in that respect. The honorable senator may be aware that a conference of Commonwealth Finance Ministers will? shortly be held in London, at which such matters will be discussed.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that the placing of increasing quantities of” synthetic materials on the Australian market is presenting a very real challenge to our woollen industry? Are the regulations relating to the correct labelling of” such textiles being strictly enforced? If not, will the Minister take steps to enforce them?
– There aretwo aspects of the matter that has been raised by the honorable senator. TheCommonwealth, particularly the Department of Trade and Customs, has no jurisdiction whatever in regard to the merchandising and offering for sale of commodities made in this country. Any imported material that in any way resembles wool, even though it may haveno wool content, is subject to a terrifically high rate of duty. As I have mentioned” previously in this chamber, it must bear a substitute notice, and it cannot compete in Australia with genuine woollen material. The Commonwealth has been in negotiation with the various State governments and industries concerned for some time, with a view to achieving uniformity of textile labelling regulations. We desire that the Commonwealth regulations dealing with imported materials shall be identical with the State regulations in relation to commodities that are made within the respective States.
– I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation to a cartoon which appeared in the Melbourne Argus of yesterday, depicting the kangaroo on the TransAustralia Airlines insignia with its tail cut off, and the motto “Fly T.A.A., the friendly way” altered to” “ Fly T.A.A., the Menzies way “. Will the Minister give an assurance that because the withdrawal of some government business from Trans-Australia Airlines is likely to result in criticism of the airline if it does not make a profit the organization will not be forced to prejudice its present magnificent record of accident-free service? Will the Minister also give an assurance that travellers whose fares are paid by the Government, including members of this Parliament, will have complete freedom of choice concerning the airline which they wish to patronize, even though portion of such business will be allocated to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited?
– The matter is one that concerns my colleague, the Minister for Civil Aviation, and I shall refer the honorable senator’s question to him. I think that it is completely unfair to say that the tail of the kangaroo has been cut off. We are asking the kangaroo to operate on a competitive basis.
– As the Minister for Shipping and Transport has repeatedly made public charges in this chamber concerning stoppages in industry and industrial conspiracies by waterside workers and seamen, will he present to the Leader of the Government the facts which support such charges in order that action may be taken? If he is not able to do so, may we take it that the honorable senator has been making such charges for the last eighteen months without any foundation in fact?
– I am convinced that there is a conspiracy. I am also convinced that the action of the Australian Labour party in campaigning for the defeat of the recent referendum on communism has assisted in preventing this Government from taking appropriate action.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration aware of reports that Japanese divers are to be permitted to return to the pearling industry in the north and north-west of Australia ? Has he read statements attributed to a Mr. Alexander, a former pearler, who is reported to have said in Perth yesterday that he has .proof that many of the Japanese working in the pearling fleets in 1939 were naval spies, and that before the last war Japanese employed in the pearling industry refused to go to sea under the supervision of white men and had thus gained control of the industry? Is it a fact that the only reason why certain persons advocate the return of Japanese divers to the pearling industry is that such persons will thus be given an opportunity to “ dummy “ far the Japanese? In view of the statements towhich I have referred, will the Minister assure the Senate that there is no possibility of the Government permitting Japanese divers to operate again in the industry? I inform him that the Malayan divers who are at present employed are doing a good job and one that is profitable to the owners of the luggers, who, at the present, are receiving approximately £3,000 a year from the operations of each lugger.
– I appreciate that the matter raised by the honorable senator is of prime importance. I assure her that it will be kept under very constant and vigilant observation by the Government.
– Does the Minister for Shipping and Transport appreciate the disastrous position of coastal shipping in Australia to-day? Is he aware that consignors of goods to other States are being compelled to pay enormous freight costs? Has he seen recent press reports to the effect that steel and other products have been transported by road from New South “Wales to Western Australia at a freight cost of between £50 and £60 a ton? Does the Government appreciate the effect which such costly freight charges will have on the inflationary tendency, and do the supporters of the Government propose to do anything else but lie down like dumb cattle and bellow about communism and production?
– I rise to order. As I am neither dumb nor bovine, I ask that the words used by the honorable senator be withdrawn.
– Order! As Senator Robertson has taken exception to the honorable senator’s remark, I ask him to withdraw it.
– To which remark does the honorable senator take exception?
– To the remark that she is dumb.
– She interjects too often to be dumb.
– I ask Senator Ashley to withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw it.
– In reply to the question asked by Senator Ashley, I inform him that the majority of the people also regard the position as serious. Because it is serious, I cannot understand why prominent members of the Australian Labour party including its leader, Dr. Evatt, have done so much to protect Communists.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McLeay) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to amend section 5 of the Commonwealth Grants Commission Act to permit of increases in the salaries and sitting fees of the chairman and members of the commission. When the government of the day established the Commonwealth Grants Commission in 1933, to inquire into and report upon all matters relating to requests from States for financial assistance under section 96 of the Constitution, the salaries of the chairman and members were fixed at £300 and £200 respectively. Provision was also made for a sitting fee of £5 5s. a day for the chairman and members.
Since 1933, the relations between Commonwealth and States have become increasingly complex, particularly in the realm of finance. The work of the Commonwealth Grants Commission has on this account grown considerably, both in scope and importance. War-time and post-war conditions have caused considerable disturbance to Australia’s economy, and the work of the commission to-day is further complicated by factors arising from the huge expansion of social services, the developmental and defence works on which the nation is engaged and other elementswhich are present in our economy. Although the responsibilities of the commission have increased, there has been no corresponding increase in the salaries paid to the chairman and members of the commission. This bill provides for increases in the salaries of the chairman and the members to £600 and £400 respectively, and an increase in the sitting fee of the chairman to £6 6s. a day.I commend the bill to honorable senators as a timely recognition of the increased responsibilities of the commission.
Debate (on motion by Senator Armstrong) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the loth November (vide page 2089), on motion by Senator O’Sullivan -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- -It is seldom that I feel the urge to commend the Government, but on this occasion I congratulate it upon having brought down the Cotton Bounty Bill, which I have much pleasure in supporting. In his second-reading speech on the bill, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) said that the purpose of the measure was to give effect to the Government’s decision to assist the Australian cotton-growing industry by guaranteeing for five years, commencing from the 1st January, 1951, an average annual return of 9½d. per lb. for seed cotton. Actually, this is not really a bounty bill, because it will not involve the Government in any financial outlay - for the time being, at any rate. At present, the overseas price of cotton is nearly double the amount of the guarantee
– But what if the price should fall?
– That, of course, is another matter. In 1949, representatives of the cotton industry approached the Labour Government with a request that it should guarantee a- price of 9-jd. per lb. I thought that the claim might have been granted, but it was not. That was three years ago, and as honorable senators know, costs have increased considerably since then. Therefore, the proposed guarantee of 9½d. per lb. now is not over-generous, although in normal times it would have been sufficient. In 1949, the Government did not grant the request of the industry because it believed that the overseas price would, for a number of years, continue to be higher than the guaranteed price sought. At any rate, that was the excuse offered. However, the Labour Government did relieve the industry of an overdraft of £170,000.
Many years ago cotton production in Australia was twenty times greater than it is to-day. The drift of rural labour to the cities, and general man-power problems, forced many cotton-growers to let their cottonproducing land go back to pasture. Their returns were not sufficiently attractive to induce them to carry on. At the beginning of the war, in 1939 and early in 1940, the government of the day, having no true appreciation of the value of our rural industries, permitted the military authorities to recruit rural labour for enlistment in the fighting forces. Country men eagerly responded to the call for recruits and soon the country areas were denuded of man-power. “When I complained to the military authorities, I said, “ These men are good farmers “. They said, “ They will make good soldiers “. The set-back suffered by rural industries at that period has never been overcome. Many farmers and rural workers who joined the fighting services did not go back to the land after the war ended. Some of our most efficient rural labour was absorbed by secondary industries in the cities. The cotton and tobacco growing industries were perhaps hardest hit by that calamity.
The decision of the. Government to guarantee the price of cotton for five years will give a fillip to the industry. Cotton-growers will know that for at least five years they will receive a sufficient return for their labours to justify their continuance in the industry. I commend the Government for having introduced the bill.
The cotton, tobacco and dairying industries of Queensland are capable of great development. I realize that I should not be in order if I referred at any great length to the tobacco-growing industry, but as its future is so closely allied to that of the cotton-growing industry, perhaps I may be permitted to discuss it briefly. The tobacco-growing industry was established in Queensland nearly a quarter of a century ago, but, because of the shortsighted policy of successive Liberal and Country party governments, it was practically destroyed. For many years Australian tobacco manufacturers said that Australia could produce only tobacco of very inferior grade. Within the last few years their attitude has completely changed. Australian tobacco-growers will eventually supply all the needs of Australia if they are given sufficient encouragement and a reasonable measure of protection against imports. To-day, there is a great shortage of tobacco because imports from dollar countries have been severely restricted and Australian tobacco manufacturers now realize the true value of the Australian product. In the interests of national development the cotton and tobacco growing industries of Queensland should be fostered. They provide opportunities for decentralization and the building up of the population in scarcely settled districts.
From inquiries I have instituted, it seems likely that, if conditions are favorable, the number of cotton-growers will he increased from 7,000 to 14,000 this year. Some honorable senators opposite contend that the encouragement of cotton-growing is a State matter. I do not agree with them. The Commonwealth, in consultation with the States and their expert officers, should evolve a common policy for the development of that industry and of other primary industries. In these days great emphasis is placed on the need for defence preparations. Of what use are defence preparations if we have not a sufficiently large population adequately to defend this country? We can best increase our population by attracting immigrants of the best type to come to Australia. If the Commonwealth does not take the initiative in the development of our natural resources, how will we be able to cater for the needs of a greatly expanded population? The previous Government, in conjunction with the Government of Queensland, undertook to expend no less than £29,000,000 on one great developmental project alone.
Many honorable senators opposite owe their presence in this chamber to the fact that they made grandiose promises to the people that, if the parties to which they belong were elected, great developmental works would be undertaken immediately. Those promises have already been repudiated. The Government has claimed that the exigencies of defence will not permit it to undertake a great many of the developmental projects about which it spoke so glowingly not many monthsago. The potential resources of Queensland must be developed if we are to absorb 180,000 immigrants a year. Where are we going to place those people?
– In Western Australia,
– This Government is greasing the fat pig all the time. It is assisting States which can well look after themselves. In the conservation of water, more money has been spent in Victoria than in all the other States put together.
– I rise to order. I submit that the honorable senator is speaking on subjects that are irrelevant to the bill. The Senate is discussing the Cotton Bounty Bill and I would like to be informed on the terms of that bill if the honorable senator is able to do so.
– There is no point of order. I appreciate the honorable senator’s point, but as long as I am in charge of this chamber, I hope to conduct the business. I rule that Senator Courtice is not trespassing against standing orders.
– I will not willingly offend. I believe that the Government is prompted by a desire to develop an industry which will be of considerable value to the nation. Am I to discuss only whether9½d. per lb. is sufficient for the cotton industry? I would like to see close co-ordination between, the Commonwealth and State governments in the development of this industry.. I believe that the Government is not running any great, financial risk with this bounty. In the United States of America and other countries where cotton could be produced cheaply at one time, a great change has taken place. Cost of production has risen. Therefore, I ask the Minister to consider sympathetically the cotton industry’s needs in relation to mechanization. Many efficient modern machines are available although their purchase involves dollar expenditure. Cotton picking is tedious even at9½. per lb. The Queensland Government is undertaking some responsibility in this matter and is willing to co-operate with the Commonwealth Government in the general advancement of the industry. I suggest that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization should apply itself intensively to research which will assist the cotton industry, particularly in pest control and plant selection. There has been too much talk about development and about defence and war. Talk alone will not solve the problem. There is no substitute for work. I resent the statement by Senator Cormack in this chamber recently that the Australian Labour party has been planning for scarcity and controls. Before the Labour party was in office primary production was in a desperate state.
– I draw attention to the state of the Senate.
– There is a quorum present.
– If I had time [ would give in some detail the prices for primary produce that were obtained in this country under Liberal party and Country party administration. Poor conditions then prevailed in primary industry. I believe that this bill will be of benefit to Australia and that the possibilities of the cotton industry now are very great.
– The Opposition completely supports the proposed bounty. The tragedy is that there has been such great difficulty in Australia in starting industries that are fundamentally important to the nation. All governments have been responsible in some degree for the fact that the cotton industry is not flourishing. In 1934, production of cotton in Australia was 17,000 bales. It dropped as low as 500 bales in the year before last and last year production was only 800 bales.
– That was due to the blight.
– There are many other reasons also why the industry, which looked like taking its proper place in primary production, has almost gone out of existence. My only query is whether the Government is doing enough. In this bill it is making a handsome effort surpassing anything that has been done in the past but the task must be a gradual one. This bounty will take the price of raw cotton to approximately 30d. per lb.
Previously it was 15d. per lb. The substantial increase will give cottonfarmers encouragement to produce more. As I have said, the rehabilitation of our cotton-growing land is a gradual process. Throughout the world, the cotton industry was established in cheap-labour countries but, with changing world conditions that, too, has changed. One of the greatest difficulties that we encountered in establishing cotton-growing in this country originally was severe competition from overseas. Nevertheless, cotton is a fundamental necessity, particularly in wartime. Apparently, to ensure success, cotton -growing in this country will have to be carried out in irrigated land. Already good results are being obtained in the Burdekin valley. At last we seem to be setting off in the right direction. However, the development of irrigation areas is slow and expensive, and I completely agree with Senator Courtice that Commonwealth assistance will be necessary. We have seen tragedies in other industries. Not many years ago, tobacco-growing flourished in northern New South Wales, particularly around Tamworth and Inverell. Suddenly, the industry disappeared. Mareeba, in Queensland, had a similar experience although to-day, Mareeba is producing tobacco of high quality by -world standards. The market for good quality Australian-grown tobacco is almost unlimited, and we all hope that this industry has now been established firmly in the soil of the Atherton Tableland. The future of the tobacco industry in this country is limitless, provided the enterprise is competently managed. Importations of tobacco are involving us in huge dollar commitments. Cotton, too, is a dollar spender. If tobacco and cotton can be produced here in reasonable quantities, we shall at last be malting progress in our attack upon our dollar deficit. That brings me back to my argument that the Commonwealth must play its part in the development of those industries. Since the introduction of the uniform tax system, many developmental projects have been placed beyond the financial means of the States. Therefore, Commonwealth and State co-operation is essential. The solution of the problem of producing cotton economically in a high-wage economy such as ours is the mechanization of the industry. I am not suggesting that the cotton industry should have a counterpart of the Joint Coal Board, but I believe that the Commonwealth and State governments should get together to provide a pool of mechanized equipment so that cottongrowers may have the benefit of the latest picking machines and other mechanical aids. Commonwealth assistance on these lines has already been given in other industries. I have mentioned the Joint Coal Board. There is also a Commonwealth cargo handling equipment pool, which has enabled stevedoring organizations to move cargo rapidly.
– Would the honorable senator like to see conditions on the waterfront duplicated in the cotton industry?
– The waterfront problem would have been far worse had the Commonwealth cargo handling equipment pool not been established.
– The pool causes strikes at many ports.
– I am afraid that the honorable senator’s mental grasp is failing. If the cotton-growers themselves are unable to establish their industry on an economic basis they must have assistance. They are not wealthy farmers, and consequently they are unable to purchase mechanized equipment themselves. I see no reason, therefore, why a machinery pool should not be established, at least for the time being. The pool could be provided with the very latest equipment which could be hired out to the cotton-growers.
I cannot overstress the importance A cotton-growing to this country. Just before World War II., the industry had reached the stage of producing 17,000 bales of cotton a year, and I believe that had sufficient encouragement been given, despite the problems of war, Australiangrown cotton would to-day be saving us millions of dollars. Because of dollar restrictions, Australia has been forced to import cotton piece goods from South America and Japan, and as we have no option but to buy cotton from those countries, they keep increasing their prices. Some time ago, in this chamber, I drew the attention of honorable senators to the effect of that policy. The latest basic wage increase of 14s. a week represents an extra .7d. per lb. on the price of cotton. The necessity to buy cotton on the dearest market overseas means an increase of 34d. per lb. It is important, therefore, that the Government should be taking this step to rehabilitate the cotton-growing industry in this country. I am glad to have the opportunity to say these few words in support of the bill. The virtual extinction of cotton-growing in this country at a time when the industry appeared to be nourishing, has always been a mystery to me. Once more, cotton-growers will be able to look forward to making a substantial contribution to the stability of the Australian economy.
– in reply - I appreciate the general support that has been given to this measure by the Opposition, but I regret that the occasion has been seized upon by some honorable senators opposite to indulge in political propaganda. My secondreading speech on the measure was free of propaganda. No mention was made in that speech of the fact that the Chifley Government had refused the bounty that will be paid under this measure. I pointed out, too, that whilst the Labour Government had refused to pay a bounty, it had given the cotton industry the benefit of more than £68,000. I also mentioned that no immediate financial obligation was expected to be thrown upon the Government under the bounty scheme, but that the purpose of the plan was to give security to the industry over a number of year3.
That the industry has been substantially encouraged is evident from the fact that plantings in the immediately past yeh,.v were double those of the previous year. It is all very well for Senator Courtice, with tears in his eyes and a tremor- in his voice, to say that the Australian Labour party is the only party that loves the men on the land.
– I have been on the land all of my life.
– Let us consider the facts. The story of rural development in Queensland since 1915 is a very sad one. During the whole of that period, with the exception of three years from 1929 to 1931, a Labour Government has been in office in that State. Although Senator Courtice professes to love the land, he has not displayed much intelligence in connexion with this matter. He made the very ineloquent and false statement that this Government is greasing the fat pig. Does he call the Queensland sugar-growers “fat pigs “ ? I remind him that it was this Government that gave them an extra ltd per lb. for their sugar. Why did not the previous Labour Government grant them an increased price? It is this Government that has given the cotton industry a leg along, and under its protection and encouragement the Queensland tobacco industry has developed. Does Senator Courtice say that the tobacco-growers, the sugar-cane growers, and the cottongrowers of Queensland are fat pigs ? If he does, I entirely disagree with him.
Senator Armstrong was a member of the former Labour Government that refused to provide a bounty on the production of cotton seed. Yet, in his affable and charming way, he has now asserted that this Government is not doing enough for the cotton-growers. I refer the honorable senator to a report that was published recently on the pastoral industry in Queensland. I almost said that it refers to pastoral development in that State. However, it reveals a retrogression of vital Queensland primary industries, which, in the scheme of things, it is not within the province of the Commonweatlh to encourage and protect. Those that were properly within the province of the Commonwealth to encourage and protect are now the strongest in Queensland. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Repeal)
.- Sub-clause (2.) reads- (2.) Bounty under the acts repealed by this section is not payable in respect of raw cotton produced from seed cotton harvested on or after the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-one.
Will the Minister explain the reason for that provision?
– The guaranteed return on raw cotton was originally intended to apply up to the 31st December, 1951. This measure guarantees the return from the 1st January, 1951. There is thus an overlapping period.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 to 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 (Grade and quality).
.- The clause reads-
Bounty is not payable in respect of seed cotton unless it is of a grade higher than the grade known as “ strict good ordinary “ and is of good and merchantable quality.
Will the department determine whether the seed cotton is of a grade higher than “ strict good ordinary “ ?
Senator O’SULLIVAN (QueenslandMinister for Trade and Customs) T12.28]. - It will be determined by the Queensland Cotton Board, which will control the ginnery.
– I am concerned with the growers rather than the processors. It appears that if the Queensland Cotton Board decides that the seed cotton is not of a grade higher than “ strict good ordinary “, the grower will not receive the bounty.
– That aspect of the matter is covered by clause 17, which provides -
Bounty is not payable to a processor unless he satisfies the Minister that the requirements of this Act and the regulations have been substantially complied with.
– The machinery provides for a very just distribution, on an incorporated basis. One of the difficulties in connexion with the industry is that the total crop is so small. In addition, overhead costs of ginneries are high. I do not see anything objectionable in the bill.
– Can the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) inform me what the estimated annual cost of the proposed bounty will be?
– As I stated in my second-reading speech, because of the prevailing world price of cotton, it is not expected that there will be any immediate call on the Government for payment of the bounty.
– SenatorCourtice is acquainted with the cotton industry, but the purpose of this clause is still not clear in my mind. Let us suppose that A, B and C grow cotton. B happens to grow cotton of good quality and qualifies for entitlement to the bounty. What happens as far as A and C are concerned if their cotton is not of good quality?
– A and C will be in precisely the same position as a man who sends to the market bad apples or pears which are not accepted and not paid for. I point out to the honorable senator that cottongrowers are represented on the Queensland Cotton Board.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 7 to 14 agreed to.
Clause 15 (Penalty for refusing to answer questions, &c.).
– This clause reads as follows: -
A person shall not refuse or fail -
to attend before the ComptrollerGeneral, a Collector, or an authorized person;
to he sworn or to make an affirma tion; or
to answer questions or produce any account, book or document, when so required in pursuance of this Act. Penalty: Fifty pounds.
Is this a further extension of bureaucracy on the part of the Department of Trade and Customs in order that it may inquire into the private affairs of cottongrowers ? I point out that the prescribed penalty is similar to that which a court of law might impose.
– The provision is not an extension of what the honorable senator describes as bureaucracy. This legislation is similar to legislation which was introduced by the Government of which Senator Ashley was a member.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 16 and 17 agreed to.
Clause 18 (Offences).
– The penalty prescribed by this provision for offences is £500 or imprisonment for twelve months. I suggest that it is possible for a person to make a misleading statement without intending to mislead. Primary producers, in common with every one else, are apt to make mistakes. Would the presiding judge or magistrate take into account the fact that no misrepresentation was intended and decline to impose a penalty or impose a. much lighter one? Can the Minister inform me whether the prescribed penalty is the maximum penalty?
– The penalty prescribed is the maximum penalty. I think the honorable senator will agree that we may have complete confidence in the discretion of the presiding judge or magistrate.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 19 agreed to.
Clause 20 (Regulations) .
– This clause provides for the making of regulations. I have always been averse to the inclusion in bills of provisions such as this. Should not the regulations that will be made under this legislation also come before the Parliament?
– The Acts Interpretation Act deals with that matter.
– I am of the opinion that all regulations must be laid on the table of the Senate within a certain period.
– The Acts Interpretation Act provides that every regulation must be laid on the table of each House. Any member of the Parliament has the right to move for the disallowance of any such regulation within a specified time, which I understand is within fifteen sitting days after the promulgation of the regulation. I am moved to speak on this matter only because of the interest which I share with Senator O’Flaherty in the scrutiny of such regulations. I think it is desirable that all honorable senators should appreciate their rights in that connexion The members of this Parliament enjoy the advantage that every regulation which is made by the Executive outside the Parliament is circulated to them. We do not have to come here to peruse the regulations.
– Section 48 (1.) of the Acts Interpretation Act 1901-1948 provides as follows : -
Where an Act confers power to make regulations, then, unless the contrary intention appears, all regulations made accordingly -
shall be notified in the Gazette ;
shall, subject to this section, take effect from the date of notification, or, where another date is specified in the regulations, from the date specified; and
shall be laid before each House of the Parliament within fifteen sitting days of that House after the making of the regulations.
Clause agreed to.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 21st November (vide page 2348)., on motion by Senator Cooper -
That the bill bc now read a second time.
.- The effect of this bill will be to increase the cost of listeners’ licence - fees to those who can least afford to bear it. At the present time, if a person is fortunate enough to possess three or four radio sets, he is required to pay £1 for the first set and 10s. each for the others. This legislation provides that the fee will be £2, regardless of the number of sets concerned. The result is that the worker who can afford to own only one radio set will be obliged to pay an additional £1, although the entertainment that is provided at the present time is of a much lower standard than it was in 1939. Badio programmes have not improved. The people of this country have been denied the benefits of frequency modulation and television, although the requisite antennae have been’ erected by the Government in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Although there has been a great deal of talk about television, nothing has been done to make it a reality. If television and frequency modulation had been made available to the people, I could understand the reason for increasing the cost of wireless licences. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Apple and Pear Organization Act - Fifth Annual Report of the Australian Apple and Fear Board, for year 1950-51, together with statement by Minister regarding the operation of the Act.
Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of Civil Aviation - R. R. Shaw.
Senate adjourned at 12.45 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 November 1951, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1951/19511123_senate_20_215/>.