20th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Appropriation Bill 1962-53.
Appropriation (Works and Services) Bill 1952-53.
– On the 11th Sep tember Senator Laught asked a question relative to wharf and railway facilities at Port Pirie, in South Australia. I communicated with the Minister of Marine in the South Australian Government, the Honorable Malcolm McIntosh, who has advised me that the following improvements will shortly be made on the waterfront at Port Pirie : -
It will be seen that the South Australian Government has in hand a complete scheme for the improvement and rehabilitation of the wharfs at Port Pirie.
SenatorWOOD. - In view of the huge loss of stock in the north-western area of Queensland and the Northern Territory which have been of tragic propor tions, amounting to the loss of a great national asset, would the Minister for
Shipping and Transport consider the extension of the Queensland railway system from Dajarra to Newcastle Waters in the Northern Territory with a view to its connexion eventually with Darwin? Such an extension would assist greatly in the shifting of stock in drought periods as well as in the speedy transport of stock for the nation’s usual requirements.
– The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, the officers of the Department of Territories, and others have been examining transport problems in the Northern Territory and northern Queensland, particularly in relation to drought problems and the need for the development of the cattle industry. The proposed railways from Birdum to Newcastle Waters and from Dajarra to Newcastle Waters are under consideration but no decision for their construction has yet been made. I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the committee which is dealing with this matter and provide him with a reply to it at the first opportunity.
– Will the Minister for National Development supply to honorable senators a copy of the Joint Coal Board’s special report to the Australian Government and the New South Wales Government concerning the production of coal and suggesting rationalization measures?
– I am not prepared to supply the report, which is a confidential document addressed to the Cabinet of the Australian Government and also that of the New South Wales Government. The contents of the report should never have found their way into the newspapers until such time as they had been considered by the governments concerned. They certainly were not made available to the newspapers by any one on the Commonwealth side of the activities of the Joint Coal Board, because I was the only one who had a copy of the report.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration a question which refers to a statement made by the Minister for
Immigration in Melbourne last Sunday regarding employment rights of new Australians, a statement which was interpreted by the Dean of Sydney, Dr. Barton Babbage - and in my opinion correctly - as indicating that the Government acknowledges neither a legal nor a moral responsibility to ensure employment for immigrants. Can the Minister say whether this view represents the opinion of the Government and whether it has always done so? If that is so, has this point of view been conveyed to the governments of the countries concerned? As a dangerous misconception evidently exists in the minds of new Australians already in Australia, will the Government, in order to do justice to intending immigrants and to preserve Australia’s good name overseas, make it clear : (a) That the performance, on both sides, of the contract which stipulated that employment would be made available for two years, was dependent on the existence of full employment in Australia ? (b) That full employment has ceased to exist in this country, that the date of its restoration is uncertain and its return unlikely? (c) That immigrants now come to this country at their own employment risk and that the Government accepts no legal or moral responsibility in this matter ?
– My understanding of the statement which I saw attributed to the Minister for Immigration was that, under the agreement, it was clearly understood that immigrants would be available for labour to which they might be directed over a period of two years, but that if they were not so directed they were free to seek employment in the labour market. I understood that to be the statement which the Minister made, in which he indicated that that was clearly a part of the agreement made with the governments concerned. I do not accept the honorable senator’s suggestion that full employment has departed from this country in any real sense. I regret that he should join in the chorus which his colleagues have endeavoured to maintain on that subject. I shall direct the attention of the Minister to the suggestion of the honorable senator that a statement be made on this matter.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration inform the Senate how many assisted immigrants have received permanent work in rural areas and what percentage have been given permanent work in the capital cities of Australia?
– I think that the honorable senator will recognize that I cannot answer his question immediately, but I shall ascertain from the Minister for Immigration whether the figures that he has requested are available.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
What are the duties and powers of immigration officers and agents throughout Australia who are not paid officers or officials but are appointees of the Department of Immigration?
– The Minister for Immigration has supplied the following answer : -
There is a- distinction between an immigration officer and an agent. The former is always a government official appointed in connexion with the general administration of the Immigration Act. The powers and functions of immigration officers vary considerably. They have to be specially authorized by the Minister to carry out certain duties, such as the grant of landing permits or exemption certificates, the search- of premises, &c. Other functions include the examination of migrants on Arrival to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Immigration Act, checking and mustering of crews, effecting the departure of prohibited immigrants, conducting prosecutions for breaches of the Immigration Act or Regulations and reporting on applications by aliens or non-Europeans for admission to Australia. Immigration agents are private persons or firms who have been authorized to render services in connexion with (a) applications by or on behalf of intending migrants for admission to Australia; or (ft) arranging or securing the passage of an intending migrant. The fees which may be charged for these services by an agent are prescribed and no person or firm who has not been registered under the Immigration Act may demand or receive a fee for services rendered under penalty of a fine of £200 or imprisonment for one year.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for-Labour and National Service received information that the seamen’s dispute has been extended to involve four government ships in ‘Brisbane and that many ships in other ports have been deserted by their crews?
Will the Minister examine the Australian Industries Preservation Act with a view to considering whether the activities of the seamen’s union bring it within the provision of that act as an illegal combine? If the act does not apply to the seamen’s union will the Minister consider proposals for the amendment of the act so as to prevent the destruction of Australian industries by detrimental combines, whether of capital or labour?
– I have not seen the report of the particular dispute to which the honorable senator has referred but I shall direct the attention of the Minister for Labour and National Service to the suggestion that he has made and obtain a reply to the honorable senator’s question from the Minister.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Civil Aviation inform, the Senate whether it is a fact that a loan of £4,000,000 is to be made available by the Government to Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited for the purchase of new airliners? If this loan is to be made available, what rate of interest will be charged for it? Will the books of Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited be made available for public perusal if such an amount of taxpayers’ money is lent to this company? Will Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited trade on equal terms with TransAustralia Airlines under the agreement relating to the loan, that is to say, will it operate as a common carrier as Trans. Australia Airlines has operated in the past?
– The subject of the relationship between Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited and Trans-Australia Airlines is under consideration. However, the honorable senator’s question involves a matter of Government policy and the Government will inform the Senate of its decision at an appropriate time.
– Will a copy of the agreement between Australian National Airways Proprietary Limited, Trans-Australia Airlines, and the Australian Government be made available11 to honorable senators in the near future? Is the Minister aware that many of the curtailed services of Trans-Australia Airlines are not convenient for interState travellers, and that the standard of catering and other services has fallen on Trans- Australia Airlines aircraft since the agreement has been in operation? Will the Minister have a check made of the schedules of Trans-Australia Airlines to ensure that the business of that organization shall not be jeopardized by indirect methods?
– A bill to ratify the agreement to which the honorable senator has referred will be placed before the Senate in due course, and if the honorable senator will be patient, he will then have an opportunity to continue to blackguard a company which pioneered air travel in this country.
– On the 17th September, Senator Courtice asked the following question : -
Can the Minister representing the Prime Minister say whether the Government is taking the strongest possible action to secure the inclusion of the United Kingdom in the security pact between the United States of America, New Zealand and Australia?
The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer: -
The Anzus treaty is a regional treaty between the United States of America, New Zealand and Australia. There are good reasons, which I shall not recount in detail, why the three governments concerned consider that the treaty should be confined, for the present at any rate, to the original signatories. If anybody should be under the misapprehension that this entails any drawing away from the Mother Country, I repeat the assurance, which I have given previously in public, that no such movement is intended or, in fact, has taken place. Our adherence to bur Mother Country, Great Britain, to the general British connexion, and to the Commonwealth generally, is precisely what it always has been.
It is generally acknowledged that the hard core of democracy for the future must be the closest possible relationship between the British peoples and the American people. The Anzus treaty is only a, local manifestation of closer British-American relations. To my mind, it is not by any means necessary that every self-governing member of the Commonwealth should be a party to every treaty or arrangement entered into with the United States of America. The Anzus treaty is a geographical, regional arrangement, and I hardly believe that it is necessary for me to repeat the fact that the limitation of this treaty to the original three partners carries no evidence whatsoever of any slackening of our interest in, concern with, and affection for the Mother Country.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Health ascertain whether a statement can be prepared for the Senate showing, the cost of the free milk scheme in each State of the Commonwealth and in the Australian Capital Territory in each of the yearssince the scheme commenced ?
– I shall place the honorable senator’s request before the Minister for Health, who, I am sure, will be only too willing to provide the information that is sought.
– Some time ago, the Queensland Government received a most optimistic report from a Dr. Eskreiss on the possibilities of distilling oil from coal obtained from the famous open-cut field at Blair Athol. Can the Minister for National Development say whether that report has been forwarded to the Australian Government? If it has been received, has it been investigated? Can the Minister say whether the report bears out the optimistic statement by Dr. Eskreiss that cheap fuel oil can he produced from Blair Athol coal?
– I remember the receipt of the report from the Queensland Government, together with the views pf that Government upon it. I- do not think that the views of that Government were as optimistic as were those. of the writer of the report. The .Queensland Government placed the proposal before the Australian Government in a responsible and fair manner and, although it has been considered, I am riot certain that the Commonwealth’s views have yet been conveyed to the Queensland Government. If that has not yet been done,. it would not be proper for me to announce them at this stage. I ask the honorable senator to place his question on the notice-paper. If the Queensland Government has not been advised of .the views of the Commonwealth on this matter, it would not be appropriate for an answer to be furnished to the honorable senator’s question.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has furnished the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration, upon notice -
– The Minister for Immigration has furnished the following answers : - 1 and 2. Although no official advice has been received in the Department of Immigration that two half-caste natives at Darwin have recently created a record in the amount of pearl shell fished there, I understand that the achievement was reported in the press.
No approval has been given for the admission of Japanese divers for employment in the pearling industry at Darwin or Thursday Island. Cabinet approval for the entry of Japanese divers applied only to those who would be engaged in the industry at Broome, Western Australia.
This approval was given only after a very thorough investigation of the labour position in Broome was made by a joint CommonwealthWestern Australian mission of inquiry, which reported that if no other suitable labour could be obtained overseas, a sufficient number of Japanese might be allowed entry.
Inquiries made by Australian representatives overseas at all likely centres revealed that the prospect of securing alternate labour was negligible.
As pearl shell is a large dollar earner and having regard to the fact that if Australia failed to explore pearl shell beds adjacent to our shores other nations are likely to do so, Cabinet approved the entry of a maximum number of 35 Japanese for employment in the industry at Broome. The conditions under which they are to be employed are very stringent and, moreover each Japanese whose entry is applied for will be screened by the Australian representative in Japan and none will be admitted whose entry is likely to constitute a security risk. So far no Japanese divers have reached Australia.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to-
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend the Navigation Act 1912-1950.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) put -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the billbeing passed through its remaining stages without delay.
– There being an absolute majority of the whole number of senators present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
In doing so I indicate that it is hoped to get the bill through the Senate to-morrow. The main purpose of this bill is to amend the Navigation Act 1912-1950 to provide for the replacement of the Maritime Industry Commission. In introducing the measure, I refer to the very disturbed conditions which have existed in the shipping industry during the post-war years. Honorable senators will be aware that in 1942 the Maritime Industry Commission was established by regulations under the national security legislation to secure the adequate and efficient manning of Australian merchant ships and to improve and safeguard the conditions of all persons serving therein.
The present members of the Maritime Industry Commission are -
Mr. , S. T. Edwards, acting chairman.
Mr. F. W. Radford and Mr. L. G. Mathews, representing interstate shipowners.
Mr.F. J. R. Gibson, representing intranstate shipowners.
Captain W.G. Lawrence, representing the Merchant Service Guild.
Mr. E. A. Cole, representing marine engineers.
Mr. J. A. Tudehope, representing marine cooks, bakers and butchers.
Mr. A. Moate, representing marine stewards.
Mr. E. Y. Elliott, representing seamen.
Mr. M. Bourke, Government representative.
The first chairman of the commission was Mr. Justice de Baun. He rendered notable service until November, 1944, when he resigned because of the failure of the Labour Government of the day to support his decision to reduce the war risk bonus, following on pressure tactics by the unions. The Labour Government failed to appoint another chairman, and Mr. S. T. Edwards has since rendered untiring service as acting chairman. Any successes which the commission has achieved in recent years have been due, in a large measure, to his individual efforts and wide knowledge of the industry.
The commission’s functions include the administration of discipline in the maritime industry, the hearing and settlement of’ disputes, and a range of functions relating to the employment of seamen. However, despite the efforts of the commission, the shipping industry has suffered grievous hold-ups, in many instances caused by petty industrial disputes, and the refusal of the Communistcontrolled Seamen’s Union of Australasia tto man vessels, often in defiance of the commission or the findings of conciliation commissioners. Statistics show that, over the last two years, industrial disputes have caused delays to 74 Commonwealthowned ships and 287 privatelyowned ships in the interstate trade, with the appalling total of 4,237 ship days lost.
The Government has, therefore, examined the industrial position and has concluded that a stronger approach is necessary to maritime industrial and disciplinary . problems than is possible through, the machinery and constitution of the Maritime Industry Commission. The’ Government has decided that in place’ of the commission there shall be established under the Navigation Act machinery to deal expeditiously both with industrial, questions in the industry and with the allied problems of discipline of seamen. and crew accommodation which have .contributed materially to delays of vessels.. To. this end, the bill makes provision for the appointment of a single judge . pf the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to deal with industrial .questions in the maritime industry, for the preservation of existing orders of the Maritime Industry Commission, ‘and for the continuance, under the’ Navigation Act, of disciplinary measures’ on’ similar lines to those exercised by the commission. A new feature in favour of the seamen is the provision of a right of appeal to the judge. The proposed arrangement for a single judge to deal with industrial questions in the maritime industry is similar to those which operate in some other industries for which legislation has been enacted in recent years.
The judge will exercise all the powers of the court in relation to the maritime industry. He may make orders and awards, and determine matters relating to salaries, wages, rates of pay and other terms and conditions of employment. He may, if he thinks fit, refer matters to the Full Court, and shipowners or maritime unions may, with the approval of the Chief Judge, appeal against decisions of the judge.
There are important advantages in having a single judge deal with industrial matters in such a turbulent industry as the shipping industry. The judge will be in a position not only to deal expeditiously with industrial disputes, but also to become specialized in the problems of the industry.
The provisions of the bill which deal with discipline are of major importance. As I have indicated, the bill preserves the orders of the Maritime Industry Commission. Under these orders, a disciplinary code for seamen has been developed by which seamen are excluded from employment if they receive three bad discharges or are guilty of particularly serious misconduct, failure to join ship or desertion being included as a bad discharge. Seamen are also required to serve a minimum period at sea each six months, upon penalty of exclusion from the industry. The master of a merchant vessel is empowered to take a vessel to sea if it is short not more than onefifth of its deck or engineroom complement. These and other disciplinary measures have been exercised by the commission for some years, and have come to be accepted as necessary by the employers and all but the Communist-controlled Seamen’s Union of Australasia.
Other orders of the commission provided for in this bill include amendment of the form of the agreement entered into between the master and the crew to include a statement of offences and the amount of fine which may be imposed by the master. Provision is made to continue to exclude from the maritime industry seamen who have been excluded under the orders of the commission. The bill proposes to continue the commission’s order enabling a seaman engaged for a voyage exceeding one month to certain areas to make an allotment of his wages to relatives or to a bank. The right of a seaman to wages, in case of termination of services by loss or wreck of a vessel, as decided by the commission, is preserved.
While the measures proposed in this bill are similar to the disciplinary code exercised by the commission, the administration of these measures will be exercised by superintendents of mercantile marine offices. Superintendents will be . obliged to refuse to approve the engagement of a seaman who has received three bad discharges over the preceding five years, or who is guilty of serious misconduct, or who fails to serve a minimum period on articles during any six months. After six months, a superintendent may readmit to the industry a seaman who has received three bad discharges, but if he receives another bad discharge within the next twelve months he shall then be excluded from further employment in the industry. While superintendents will be required to exercise some discretionary powers in their administration, it is intended that these will be strictly limited. Honorable senators will observe that care has been taken in this bill to provide that a seaman aggrieved with a decision of a superintendent may appeal to the judge. This provision safeguards a seaman against the possibility of any injustice.
Regarding crew accommodation in ships, considerable developments have taken place in recent years in the design of ships, and much improvement has been made in the accommodation provided for seamen. Despite the good quarters and amenities now provided, disputes which delay vessels for considerable periods still occur. The Government, therefore, has considered it desirable to provide for the establishment of a crew accommodation committee on which shipowners and unions directly concerned will be represented, assisted by the expert advice of governmental shipping and ship-building officers.
The crew accommodation committee will be empowered to make orders to give effect to its decisions on accommodation matters. Should its decision not be accepted, and an industrial dispute arise, this will be dealt with by the judge. There is, however, no appeal from a decision of the committee on accommodation matters. The Government believes that as the committee will consist of practical shipping men, representing both employees and employers, and will have technical advice available to it, its decisions should be binding on accommodation problems.
The opportunity has been taken in this’ bill to repeal the existing sections of the Navigation Act dealing with crew accomodation. These are outdated and the new provisions not only provide for the committee to deal with crew accommodation matters, but also for regulations to be made in relation to a number of important crew accommodation requirements which are stated in the bill. Thus, at the same time as the crew accommodation committee is established there will also come into force by regulation up-to-date provisions relating to standards of crew accommodation generally.
The bill also amends the Navigation Act in its references to the complement of ship’s officers and crew. One of the” most serious causes of delay to vessels has been the refusal of unions to complete crews which in many oases have been only one or two men short. While the Navigation Act provides that all ships shall be adequately manned, this bill empowers the master to give a lawful command to the crew to take a ship to sea under certain circumstances short of either officers or deck and engine-room ratings. These circumstances, briefly, are that the ship has not less than four-fifths of its deck and engine-room complements, and that in the case of officers, the superintendent is satisfied that those remaining on the ship are capable of performing all the duties to be performed. I emphasize that the principles of these provisions are not new, but have been in existence on the coast for some yearsHowever, the effect of this bill is toclarify the rights of the master and the obligations of the crew to take a vessel to sea with less than the full number of crew, and to strengthen the position of the master in this connexion.
I should mention also that the bill amends the provisions of the Navigation
Act relating to the obstruction or interference with officials or officers, and har- bouring or secreting deserting seamen or apprentices. The opportunity has been taken in this bill to double the penalty for desertion provided in section 100 of the Navigation Act, to bring the fine prescribed, which has been unaltered for many years, into line with current values. Several minor amendments of a machinery nature are also made in the bill. These include clarification of definitions, omission of out-of-date provisions relating to employment of aliens, clarification of the method of computation of wages, allotment of seamen’s wages to banks, and the right of a union official to supply a seaman.
In summary, this bill represents an attempt to streamline the machinery for the hearing and settlement of the varied industrial questions which are likely to delay the sailing of ships. A single judge of the court will deal with industrial questions in the industry. An expert crew accommodation committee is provided to deal with matters of accommodation. ‘ The disciplinary code which has been developed by the Maritime Industry Commission is preserved, and its administration through the superintendents at Mercantile Marine Offices is provided for. Through provision for appeal by seamen to the judge against decisions by superintendents, the rights of seamen are fully preserved. The Government believes the effect of this bill will be to improve the operation and efficiency of the coastal shipping industry, and I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to give effect to the Government’s decision, already announced, to increase the assistance at present afforded to the Australian cottongrowing industry under the Cotton Bounty Act 1951. Under that act, cotton-growers were guaranteed a return of 9 1/2d. per lb. of seed cotton of grades higher than “ Strict Good Ordinary “, for a period of five years which commenced on the 1st January, 1951. The present bill will provide for that guarantee to be raised to 14d. per lb. of seed cotton harvested during 1953, and thereafter for a guaranteed return which may be varied in accordance with economic trends, from time to time by regulation. The bill provides, however, that the guarantee shall not fall below 9£d. per lb.
In 1948, the Australian cotton industry requested a guaranteed return of 32d. per lb. of raw cotton which was subsequently increased to 34d. per lb. on all raw cotton produced. That request was referred to the Tariff Board for inquiry and report, and in May, 1949, during the course of the board’s inquiry, the industry amended its request to one for a guarantee of 9-Jd. per lb. of seed cotton, which was equivalent to approximately 30d. per lb. raw cotton, claiming that this basis was. more familiar to the cotton-grower. The figure of 9-Jd. per lb. of seed cotton was computed as affording growers a return commensurate, not only with costs of production existing at that time, but also with returns then being received by producers of other primary products grown in the cotton areas.
Upon economic grounds, the Tariff Board was unable to recommend the granting of the guarantee. However, in 1951, the present Government, taking into account all factors associated with the request, and not limiting its consideration entirely to the economic aspects with which the Tariff Board is concerned, decided to grant the industry the requested guarantee of 9£d. per lb. of seed cotton. The Government’s decision took into account that diversification of the economy was desirable, that a thriving cotton industry was necessary for Australia’s full industrial development, and that cotton growing is one of the few primary industries for which there is a large domestic demand, Which is unsatisfied by local production, and which has an important defence potential. The guaranteed return of 9£d. per lb. was intended to introduce into the industry an element of stability during a period when developmental programmes in research, mechanization and irrigation, which promised the eventual establishment of the industry on a permanent and efficient footing, were coming to fruition.
There is no doubt that the announcement of the guarantee of 9£d. per lb. was responsible for stimulating interest in cotton-growing in Queensland. This is instanced by the fact that issues of cotton seed for planting increased from a quantity sufficient for only 4,000 acres in 1950, to a quantity sufficient for 7,000 acres in 1951, and nearly 15,000 acres in 1952. That actual production of seed cotton has shown a disappointingly small increase is due almost entirely to the severe drought conditions experienced in Queensland during the past two seasons which apparently discouraged many potential cotton-growers from planting seed.
Since the guarantee of 9£d. was first given, there have been several changes in conditions affecting the Australian cotton-growing industry which have made a review of the guarantee desirable. Returns to producers of other primary products grown in the cotton areas have increased, making the guarantee to cottongrowers relatively more unattractive. Moreover, the Australian Agricultural Council, in April, 1952, set a target of 60,000 acres under cotton, to be reached by 1957-58, and this target envisaged a large expansion of the industry, an expansion for which the industry will need assistance on a more generous scale than formerly.
The Cotton Marketing Board, supported by the Queensland Government, based its request for a guarantee of 14d. per lb. mainly on two grounds. The first, to which I have already referred, was that higher returns to other primary producers had made cotton growing relatively unattractive. The second basis for the request was the increased costs that had been experienced by the industry. Regarding the higher returns to other primary producers, the Cotton Marketing Board has pointed out that, in the interval between May, 1949, when the application for the original guarantee of 9Jd. was made, and May, 1952, when the increase to 14d. was requested, the butter price guarantee to dairy-farmers had increased by 47.4 per cent., and the index of wheat production costs by 41.2 per cent. In the same period, the wholesale price index, movements in which indicate trends in price and costs generally, had risen by 57 per cent. An increase of 4£d. per lb. in the guaranteed return of 9-Jd. per lb. is equivalent to an increase of 47 per cent., and is, therefore, closely in line with increases being received by other primary producers. Referring to costs, I point out that the return received by growers for seed cotton has fallen from 20.7d. per lb. in 1951 to an estimated 11.9d. per lb. in 1952. Part of this reduction is due to a slightly lower price being received for raw cotton, but it is mainly due to increases in ginning costs, incurred because of the low production caused by the drought in 1951.
The benefits that can be expected to accrue to Australia from a long-term programme of expansion in the cotton industry are considerable. Most of Australia’s raw cotton requirements are imported, and any increase in production here will enable savings of dollar and other overseas credits to be made. I have already referred to other factors, such as the diversification and full development of the Australian economy, and the significance of cotton growing from a defence , viewpoint. A system of cotton and grassland rotation is used by dairy-farmers for pasture improvement, and the by-products include protein-rich cattle food. It is in relation to those benefits that the possible money cost to the Commonwealth of this guarantee must be considered. The cost will, to a large degree, depend on two factors - the actual return received by the grower, and the amount of seed cotton produced. The growers’ return will, in turn, depend largely on the price received for raw cotton, and this latter price is closely related to prices on the world’s markets. It is, accordingly, appropriate to consider recent movements in world prices in endeavouring to form some estimate of the cost which the Commonwealth might incur as a consequence of granting this further assistance to the industry.
Following the outbreak of war in Korea, there was a spectacular increase of world cotton prices, and that increase was reflected in the return to growers, which reached 20,7d. per lb. of seed cotton last year. World prices have now receded by approximately 25 per cent, to 30 per cent., but it seems somewhat improbable that there will be a further significant recession, particularly while the American price support scheme is in operation. Assuming that returns to Australian growers were stabilized at approximately the same level as the estimated
L952 return, namely 12d. per lb., this would entail bounty payments at the rate of 2d. per lb. so long as the guarantee was maintained at 14d. The total amount of bounty that would be paid out depends, of course, on the total pro- duction of seed cotton, and, as yet, no estimate of this for the 19-53 season is available. For 1952, production is expected to be 1,250 bales of raw cotton, and, if this figure were maintained in L053, the bounty would be approximately £15,000. On a higher production, say 2,000 bales, the bounty would be about £25,000, although, of course, it must not be overlooked that as production increases, unit ginning costs are reduced and the return to growers is correspondingly greater, with a consequent reduction in bounty payments. It is not possible, at this stage, to give any estimates of the post to the Commonwealth in future years covered by the act. Under the terms of this legislation, the guarantee of l4d. will apply in the first instance only to cotton harvested during 1953. The bill provides that. after 1953, the guarantee may be varied by regulation but not so as to fall below 9-Ad. per lb. The Government has decided on this in order to introduce some degree of flexibility in the guarantee, to enable the rate of assistance to be reviewed from time to time, after 1st January, 1954, in accordance with changes in economic conditions. In future years, therefore, the money cost to the Commonwealth will depend largely on world cotton prices, the level of Australian cotton production and the rate of guarantee.
When the guarantee of 9£d. was first riven, the Government realized that something more than financial measures was needed to stabilize the industry on a longterm basis. It obtained from the Queensland Government assurances that that Government would pursue -
These extension programmes, in conjunction with increasing mechanization, and the increased guaranteed return provided by this bill, should afford the industry an excellent opportunity to become firmly established on a long-term economic basis. The Government can see no reason why cotton growing should not be successful, with the attendant benefits to the Australian economy. I commend the bill.
Senator COURTICE (Queensland) 4.2 . - This is not a contentious measure, and the Opposition is prepared to consider it immediately in accordance with its usual practice of co-operating in every way possible with the Government. The second-reading speech by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) gave a factual and impartial outline of the position in the cotton industry. This measure is called a “bounty” bill, but there is little likelihood that it will impose any immediate financial obligation on the Australian Government, because., for some years now, the overseas price for cotton has been considerably above the guaranteed price. I believe that the Government could have been a little more generous. I hope that there will be no reversion to a guarantee of 9£d. per lb. for seed cotton after next year. The industry really needs an assurance of stability. Its development has not been satisfactory. Cotton-growing has been more or less a sideline. The labour problem has been acute and this coupled with the high prices offering for other primary products, lias militated against an expansion of cotton growing. The scarcity of habour made the cultivation of land for cotton-growing most difficult, but most farmers could manage to carry on dairy ing.
I congratulate the Government upon this measure. It will give a guarantee to the industry and will encourage its development. The expansion of cotton growing together with increased production of meat and sugar could be of great value to Queensland. Cotton-growers have been seek ing a guarantee for a long time. In other cotton-producing countries ‘ production methods have undergone very great changes. In the United States of America the drift of the negro population from the cotton areas has resulted in the mechanization of that industry. In place of negro labour a great deal of the picking is now done by highly efficient cotton-picking machines. The mechanization of the industry has largely overcome labour difficulties. Some years before the present Government took office a number of cotton-picking machines were imported into Australia and used with great success. The mechanization of the industry, should enable the cost of production to be reduced and should promote that stability which is so necessary for its success. Irrigation schemes must be undertaken to bring into production land not otherwise suitable for the cultivation of cotton. Growers must also engage in rotational cropping in order to retain the fertility of their land.
The Queensland Government has been unfairly criticized for its attitude to the cotton industry. Far from having neglected the industry, that Government has done everything possible to promote its welfare. In 1950-51 it provided for assistance to the industry an amount of £398,000. In the following year it made available £617,000 for that purpose.
– In what form was the assistance given?
– Principally in the implementation of irrigation projects and in advising cotton-growers of the latest scientific methods of production. The money expended by the Queensland, Government in that direction will be of great benefit to the industry. There are reasonable grounds for assuming that the industry will be placed upon an economic basis. In the past, because of the very low’ price paid for cotton in the overseas markets, it was impossible for the Australian industry to prosper, and many cotton farmers diverted their efforts to other forms of primary production. When the price of butter and of other dairy products was increased, many cotton-growers switched to dairying. The cotton industry also suffered a setback during the war because of shortage of man-power. At the inception of cotton growing in Australia few men were attracted to the industry because of the low wage then paid to rural workers. The application of scientific methods of cultivation and the mechanization of the industry will enable it to be developed. Increased cotton production will result in the saving of dollar expenditure. As the quantity of cotton likely to be produced in Australia will not equal more than one-eighth of the present importations, the total bounty payments are not likely to be unduly heavy. Having regard to the importance of the industry to Australia, expenditure on the bounty will be fully justified. I congratulate the Government upon the introduction of this bill, which will help to place the industry on a stable basis and at the same time conserve the interests of cotton users.
.- I wholeheartedly support the bill and I commend the Government for having had the foresight to introduce it. Having regard to the importance of the cotton industry one wonders why the possibilities of its development were not foreseen long before this. Not until the Menzies Government came into office was any serious attempt made to give to the industry the support that it has so badly needed. As a Queensland senator, I commend the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) for the sympathetic assistance that he has given to this industry ever since he has held his portfolio. As the result of his good offices, cotton-growers are now to be guaranteed 14d. per lb. for their product compared with the prevailing price of 91/2d. which was the previous guarantee made by this Government. It is regrettable that the
Labour Government should have failed to help the industry in 1948, by refusing to increase the then guaranteed price of 5-Jd. when it so badly needed assistance.
I should also like to pay a tribute to the honorable member for Capricornia in the House of Representatives (Mr. Pearce) for his endeavours on behalf of this industry. He saw its possibilities and has done his utmost to assist it. In the main the industry is situated in the Capricornia electorate in the central region of Queensland. Its history must tantalize the thoughts of all Australians. A few years ago it seemed likely to develop into one of Queensland’s most important primary industries; but it met with a serious reverse; later it rose, only to slip back again. Though its history has been marked by a series of reverses and recoveries, its future has never looked more promising than it does at present under the benign influence of this Government. The provision of the guaranteed price of 14d. per lb. will encourage producers to engage in the growing of cotton with every prospect of success.
Cotton is a very important product in peace-time as well as in war-time. We all recall how during World War II. the shortage of cotton placed this country in a very difficult position. Many honorable senators probably have not seen a cotton crop. Cotton is grown mostly by small farmers a3 a side line in conjunction with other primary products. Cotton does not grow like wheat, but rather like a low shrub. The bolls have to be treated and ginned in order to extract the seeds from them. Although the cotton plant does not require good soil, it needs a certain amount of moisture. Due to a most disastrous drought in the cottongrowing areas of Queensland during the last two years, the increased guaranteed price that was granted to the industry by this Government has not benefited the cotton-growers appreciably. However, with the return of good seasons, the growers will derive a benefit from the increased guaranteed price. The cotton crop grows fairly quickly, but, in common with other crops, it is affected by disease. Some years ago, when the industry showed signs of expanding in Queensland, the bol weevil made its appearance and almost destroyed the crop. As a result of the introduction of improved scientific methods that pest has been almost eradicated, and the industry is now on a much sounder basis than formerly. Fortunes have not been made from the growing of cotton in this country. Until quite recently the cotton had to be picked by hand. This work is now carried out more expeditiously by imported mechanical pickers. As a result of the eradication of disease, the introduction of improved methods of tilling the soil, and mechanical picking, the cotton industry is now well established in Queensland.
The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) pointed out during his second-reading speech that, following the increase of the guaranteed price to 9/d. per lb. in 1951, greater amounts of cotton seed were planted by cottonfarmers, but, due to the severe drought, the benefit of the increased price had not been received by the farmers. During this year sufficient seed with which to plant 15,000 acres has been distributed. The committee that sat some time ago to study agricultural production stated that it was hoped to increase the area sown to cotton in Australia to 60,000 acres. In the main, the growing of cotton in this country is confined to Queensland. If the cotton-growing acreage could be increased to 60,000 acres the industry would receive a tremendous uplift. As I have already mentioned, individual farmers plant only relatively small crops of cotton. Therefore more farmers can be engaged in cotton growing on a specified area of land than the growers of many other kinds of crops.
I commend the Government for introducing this bill to increase the guaranteed price of cotton to 14d. per lb. The previous Labour Government failed to measure up to its responsibility in this connexion by refusing to increase the guaranteed price of cotton. The Queensland Government also failed to assist the cotton industry by refusing to make a request for an increased guaranteed price. I realize that a contingent financial liability rests on the Government in this matter. The Minister has stated that the Government could become liable for an expenditure of £25,000 in a year as a result of the provisions of the bill. I consider that that risk is worth taking in order to assist the development of an industry which could become as important to this country as is cotton growing to the United States of America. It is destined to become a very valuable factor not only in the economic life of Australia, but also in meeting the requirements of our people. I am convinced that the development of the cotton industry will have an important bearing on the future prosperity of this country.
– In 1951 the Government brought down a bill similar to the bill that is now before the Senate, to provide a bounty on cotton. As the Government was not called upon to bear a financial responsibility last year, as a result of that legislation, I believe that, by the introduction of the present bill, the Government is playing with a double-headed penny.
– Does the honorable senator intend to vote against the bill?
– No, but I intend to show that, by bringing down legislation of this kind, the Government is wasting the time of the Senate.
– The cottongrowers will be most interested in that statement.
– I do not believe that the Government will have to pay out even a penny as a result of this bill.
– Does the honorable senator consider that it is unnecessary?
– It is unnecessary. Senator Guy has voted against himself on many occasions. There was a time when he voted with the Labour party for the passage of legislation. However, after the honorable senator changed his political colour he became a sponsor and supporter of legislation such as measures to compel aged people *to forgo their homes in order to qualify for the age pension. I am able to please myself and to form my own opinions about these matters. Honorable senators opposite are fully aware that the Government will not be required to pay out any money to the cotton-growers under the provisions of the bill. As far as I can see, the Commonwealth itself will be the only beneficiary. Why should a bounty be payable on the production of cotton, in view of the high prices that are being paid for that commodity in the markets of the world?
Having listened carefully to Senator Wood’s speech, I am convinced that he knows nothing whatever about the economics of the cotton industry. Indeed, I doubt whether the honorable senator has ever visited the cotton-growing areas of Queensland. I have been closely associated with those areas since 1934. It may surprise honorable senators to learn that there is not at present in Queensland a group of farmers known as cottongrowers. Farmers engage in the growing of cotton only as a sideline of their dairying activities. They have found dairying to be more profitable than cotton growing as a principal activity, because stock can withstand the effects of drought fairly successfully. Unfortunately, the cotton-growers have to depend on storm rains during periodical droughts. Generally speaking, if rain does not fall at the right time the cotton crop will fail. Cotton growing is a highly speculative undertaking. I believe that if the Government desires the acreage sown to cotton to be increased it will have to provide far more encouragement to the cotton-growers than is obtained in this measure. I remember how the industry started.
– That was in 1861.
– I do not think the honorable senator can remember so far back.
– The bill makes no provision for retrospective payments to the cotton-growers, although the Government favours legislation that will operate retrospectively in some instances. As Senator Wood has mentioned, the cottongrowing industry is centred almost exclusively in the Division of Capricornia. It is grown principally in the Dawson area. In 1934 the hoboes became tired of jumping the rattler and decided to pursue the more restful occupation of cottongrowing. The majority of cotton-growers in the Dawson area in 1934 and 1935 were in receipt of ration relief from the Queensland Government. There are in existence files of paper sufficient to fill a four-ton truck dealing with the financial circumstances of the cotton-growers at that time. The value of the rations that were advanced to them formed a charge against their crops and their holdings. The industry expanded only slowly in the following years, and reached its peak in 1939, when 41,000 acres were sown to cotton. In that year, the harvest was approximately 17,000,000 lb. At the present time, the crop is not one-sixteenth of the 1939-40 crop. . After cotton growing had been carried out for some years, the growers discovered that the land was also suitable for dairy farming. Butter factories were constructed, and it was not very long before the cotton-growing industry was displaced by the dairying industry. During World War II. labour was not available to harvest the cotton. Accordingly, farmers would not grow cotton unless they could be assured beforehand that they would be able to harvest it. Consequently, the industry almost went out of existence during World War II. Since then, there have been spasmodic attempts to increase the acreage. The Queensland Government has played its part in that attempt and has afforded to cotton-growers all the assistance which a State government could afford. Amongst other things, it has been responsible for the purchase of harvesting machines. As Senator Wood has already stated there are difficulties involved in harvesting cotton. Three pickings are necessary, and, consequently, a good deal of labour is required. That problem is not so acute when families are able to do the harvesting themselves, but if a cotton-grower must pay wages at harvesting time, he usually finds that the harvesting cannot be carried out- economically.
According to figures which relate to the 1948-49 season, and which I understand are the latest available, slightly more than 1,000,000 lb. of cotton was harvested in that year. The area under crop was slightly more than 6,000 acres. If the Government really wishes to provide a tangible benefit for cotton-growers, I suggest that it should arrange to pay them so much money for each 100 lb. of cotton harvested.. The bill before the Senate merely proposes ‘that a certain price shall be paid at harvest time next year. It is reasonable to assume that the price of cotton next year will exceed the liability of the Government under this bill. I seriously suggest that the Government should withdraw the bill and have it redrafted, and that it take upon itself the obligation to pay the cotton-growers not a bounty but a subsidy based on the quantity of cotton harvested..
– This measure is of great importance to honorable senators from Queensland. As Senator Benn has pointed out, it is not possible to see that any immediate financial responsibility will rest on the Government because of the proposed increase of the bounty. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) clearly and reasonably set out, in his secondreading speech, the reasons which have prompted the Government to increase the bounty. Cotton is one of the most important crops of the world. It is widely used in civilian life and also has great potentialities in time of war. For those reasons, and because new areas of cotton production have come into operation in various parts of the world, the cotton mar-, ket in the United States of America, which is one of the major producers of cotton, is most susceptible to sudden fluctuations. It seems to me that the solicitude of the Government in introducing this measure arises from the fact that any rapid deterioration of the price of cotton should be provided against as far as possible.
In my opinion, the mere provision of a bounty, which may or may not be called upon, is not the only way in which the Government can assist the cotton industry. Senator Wood has already referred to the history of cotton growing in the Capricornia district of Queensland. In -that traditional cotton-growing area the industry has been fostered, but unfortunately, without conspicuous success. As I stated in the course of a speech when the Senate was recently considering the Estimates, the Queensland Government is contemplating the extension of cotton growing to the far north of Queensland in the only possible and practical way - by the growing of cotton in irrigation areas. It is significant that, in presenting this bill, the Minister has stated that one of the bases for the proposed increase of the bounty is that, although the last crop was smaller, costs had increased, because the area under crop was smaller, manufacturing costs increased and the nut return to the growers declined. That indicates that one of the great economic hazards of cotton production is seasonal fluctuations. If this industry is to be placed on a sound commercial and economic basis, I suggest that its future lies in irrigation areas. Appreciating that fact, the Queensland Government has embarked on the Mareeba-Dimbulah irrigation scheme, to which I have referred many times in the Senate. The figures in connexion with that scheme are most illuminating. It is expected that 3,840,000 lb. of cotton can be produced from approximately 15,000 acres of irrigated land. The Queensland Government has approached the Australian Government for direct financial assistance for this project, and I am sure that this Government is not unsympathetic However, I regret the delay that has occurred in granting such assistance.
This bill points to the fact that the future of cotton rests in its irrigation possibilities. Whilst this measure will serve as an encouragement to cottongrowers to increase the yield of cotton, to learn the technique of COttOn growing, and, in a great degree, to pioneer the industry, it does not represent the only way in which the industry can be assisted. The Queensland Government, within its financial limitations, is providing the monetary assistance and technological advice which are absolutely essential for any young industry. The history of the cotton-growing industry in Australia is a short one and is not to lie compared with that of many other industries. It is a history of mistakes and of learning the hard way. On the other hand, the United States of America has an extremely long cotton-growing history. Nevertheless, American cottongrowers are still making mistakes and paying for them. We cannot expect too much from our cotton industry, but I believe that with the technological assistance provided by the State Departments of Agriculture and Stock, and the stimulus provided by measures such as this, we are on the way to the establishment of an industry which can be of great value. Not only will it be able to absorb many settlers, but ultimately it will prove of great financial benefit to the economic stability of the country. I am pleased that the Government has seen fit to increase the bounty. I hope that it will carry its solicitude further and will endeavour to encourage in every possible way this young industry, not only in the Callide, Biloela and Capricornia areas, but also in other areas where it is considered that cotton may be grown economically and with advantage to the country.
– I should like to .compliment the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’Sullivan) on his initiative in bringing forward this measure which is designed to afford an incentive to cotton-growers in Queensland and elsewhere throughout Australia to undertake further plantings of cotton. The cotton industry in Queensland has had its ups and downs. Cotton was first planted in Queensland during the American Civil War, in the ‘sixties of the last century. Very substantial acreages were sown in the Moreton district, notably in the vicinity of Ipswich and Brisbane. When the American Civil War ended, cotton was again grown in the United States of America by cheap labour, and the Queensland industry went out of existence. It was revived at different times, most effectually about a quarter of a century ago. Cotton was then planted over widespread areas of Queensland extending from the southern border well up into the central part of the State.
Undoubtedly, cotton is a crop which can be grown on millions of acres in Queensland. However, it has always been one thing to plant cotton and quite another to harvest the crop and obtain an economic price. A number of retarding factors have operated in the industry. When the Queensland Government initiated the irrigation scheme at Theodore, on the Dawson River, 25 years or 30 years ago, the intention was to grow cotton by means’ of irrigation. Irrigation facilities were made available. However, whilst it is easy for people to say that cotton can be grown by irrigation, it is first necessary to have skilled irrigationists. It is not merely a matter of entrusting valuable land and water to anybody at all; it is necessary to have selected men with experience of irrigation methods, if the scheme is to be successful. Despite the expenditure of more than £1,000,000 by the Queensland government of the day, the Theodore scheme came to nothing. Very little cotton has been produced from that big irrigation project, because many of those who went in for cotton growing on the Dawson River at that time were illequipped for the task and had neither the training nor the experience which is essential in order to develop a successful irrigation scheme. The same considerations will apply to any future scheme of irrigation which may be attempted further north, as has been recommended by Senator Byrne. Unless experienced men are selected to carry out the irrigation work, such a scheme will fail. In my experience, the greatest retarding factor in the growth of cotton in Queensland has always been the dry spells to which the central districts are subject. These droughty conditions recur from time to time. Secondly, there is the labour problem. “When many thousands of acres have to be harvested large numbers of men and women are required to pick the cotton. The economic factor is most important. I have observed that because of low prices cotton-growers of Queensland have had difficulty in paying the scale of wages that have been set by the Industrial Court in that State. Another factor is the relative value of cotton and other primary products. If a farmer finds that he can obtain a more profitable return from potatoes, onions, cabbages, sorghum, or other crops, he will not grow cotton. Since the war all of the industries that I have named have given favorable and assured returns, but the growers have not been certain of good returns from cotton. No farmers in Queensland are dependent entirely upon cotton. Usually it is grown as a sideline. Very often cotton is grown in association with dairying, and unless a dairy farmer has a big family, the work of the dairy farm for seven days a week occupies his time fully. The dairy farmers have contributed substantially to cotton production but they will not continue to do so unless they are given an incentive. This bill is a movement in the right direction. The Government has taken into consideration factors that have retarded the expansion of the cotton industry. The proposed bounty will induce farmers to grow cotton. The industry is essential for manufactures and for defence and it should be encouraged. In the past the industry has not been sufficiently attractive and I hope that as a result of this measure, the planting of cotton will be substantially increased. I compliment the Government on its proposals.
.- While I support the bill generally, I take little comfort from the remarks of Senator Maher that the proposal should induce cotton-growers to plant more cotton. Senator Maher pleaded for stability in the industry. I believe that the proviso in the bill that the bounty may be reduced in a short period destroys the value of the measure to a great extent.
– The bounty could be increased as well as decreased.
– The bill as I read it provides for an increase in the bounty and there may be a subsequent reduction by regulation.
– There may be an increase also by regulation.
– I shall refer to that point later. I believe that it is a great pity that in measures of this type, that are designed to assist an industry, changes under the bill can be put into effect only by means of regulations. Every time the Government proposes to change a bounty to assist an industry, we should be able to study it and measure it against other industries. When a bounty is referred back to Parliament it is open to debate. I do not like the principle under which a bounty may be increased or decreased after fourteen months by regulation. That implies a degree of instability for the cottongrowers. They do not know whether they will get an increase or a decrease. They are not sure whether they may have to accept a reduced price from the 1st
January, 1954, after increasing their acreage of cotton. I believe that more would be achieved if the Government fixed a definite price so that the cottongrowers could proceed without the risk of a reduction. A definite price would give more encouragement to the growers. I do not support the principle of adjusting bounties by regulations. The sum that is involved in this measure is only £25,000. If it were doubled it would be only £50,000 and if it were halved it would be only £12,500, so that the amount involved is infinitesimal, but the principle is important. I believe that the use of regulations for this purpose is eroding our liberal point of view and the democratic principles of the parliamentary system of this country. All payments out of revenue should be debated in the Parliament. Then not only the industry that is under consideration but all industries that may need support or warrant the withdrawal of assistance can be reviewed. I support the bill, but I regret that the amount of the bounty is not fixed and that it is not alterable only by being first referred to the Parliament.
– I support the remarks of Senator Tate. Obviously the Government wants to develop the cotton industry and it seeks to encourage greater production by giving a bounty, although the amount proposed is not generous. The granting of a bounty imparts some stability to the industry. But the Government proposes to introduce a bounty that may be lowered or raised by regulation, so that the grower is unable to proceed without some degree of uncertainty. When the industry has become established, the Government may review the bounty in such a way that people who have invested capital in it may have to sell their product at a’ cost that is below production. Previously some industries, including the’ tobacco industry, have been developed and then have been left lamenting because the bounty has fallen. If an industry is to be established properly and securely, there should be a plan so that both the Government and the growers will operate to some degree under a form of contract that will ensure an income to the growers for a definite period. I ask the Government to recognize that the tobacco-growing industry and other industries should be given encouragement by a guarantee of stability.
. - in reply - I appreciate the manner in which honorable senators generally have accepted this measure. I am astonished that Senator Courtice marred his otherwise generous acceptance of the bill by saying that it could give more and that it could be better.
– I did not say that the bounty should be more but that the industry should be guaranteed stability.
– That matter has been raised also by other honorable senators. The present bounty was brought into operation on the 2nd January, 1952. It represented an increase of nearly 100 per cent., from 5-Jd. to 9£d. Yet by March the industry was asking for a further increase from 91/2d to 14d. or almost 50 per cent. It is wisest to limit the review of the bounty from year to year because of the wild and extraordinary fluctuations that occur in the price of cotton. This year values have fluctuated by between 25 and 35 per cent. If the bounty is pegged at 14d. to the end of 1955 without any possibility of review, the amount might be far too low by that time, or it may be far too high. Senator Tate was critical of the derogation of the powers of the Parliament in that the bounty would be fixed by regulation, but once a general principle in relation to the price of a commodity has been established, it is not necessary to take up the time of Parliament with specific legislation where only the alteration of a figure is involved. Honorable senators should bear in mind also that the regulations that will be made under the act will be open to debate in this chamber and may be allowed, amended or disallowed. It will not be possible for the Government to fix a price without having regard to the wishes of Parliament. I was amazed that Senator Benn, a Queenslander, should have criticized this bill so severely. He said that he had been through the cotton-growing district. He had better hurry through it the next time he goes there and not linger on his way. As he knows, there is a cotton-growers’ association and a cotton board in Queensland. It was at the request of these two bodies that the Government considered increasing the bounty. An increase was requested in 1949, but the then Government refused to increase the amount from 5 1/4d to 9 1/2d per lb.
– Because cotton was selling at over 20d. per lb. at the time.
– That does not matter. The then Government refused the industry’s request. The present Government gave effect to it with the result that the area planted with cotton more than doubled. But for the drought, the area would have increased from 4,000 acres to 15,000 acres, which was the area for the planting of which seed cotton had been handed out. Senator Benn called this legislation a double-headed penny and its introduction a waste of time. He would have the bill withdrawn. Apparently,- in the opinion of Senator Benn, the cotton-growers of Queensland and the Queensland Cotton Board do not know what they want, because this measure gives effect to their precise requests.
– Why not subsidize the industry ?
– The Government made that suggestion to the Queensland Government. As the cotton board is an instrumentality of the Queensland Government the Australian Government asked the Government of Queensland to pay some of the ginning costs in order that the growers might obtain a better return from their product, but the Queensland Government declined to do that. I am sure that the Queensland Government is as keen as I am to expand the industry, but the Australian Government has demonstrated its desire to assist the industry in a more practical way than the Queensland Government has done. Senator Benn said that it was most improbable that the Australian Government would be called upon to pay anything under this guarantee. That is pure speculation. Unless the return to the grower is substantially more than it was last year, the Australian Government will have to pay between £20,000 and £25,000 under the provisions of the bill - allowingfor an increase of 2,000 acres in the area planted. If there is a greater increase than that in the area under crop the prospect of the Government’s having topay any amount will be remote because the more cotton the growers put through the ginnery the less the overhead of each will be. Ginning costs were high last year because of the failure of the peanut crop, the processing of which has helped to meet the overhead of the cotton ginneries.
I thank the Senate for the manner in which this measure has been received. I trust that it will redound to the expansion of this very important industry. In view of the irrigation services which have been projected by the Queensland Government I am confident that this industry will expand because this guarantee will enable the growers to have confidence in it. Cotton is a crop which lends itself to the review of prices from year to year. If growers are given adequate notice of the guaranteed price before planting they will be able to decide whether the return will be attractive or not and the Government will be in a position, from year to year, to assess the economic position of the industry and the consequent need for an increase or decrease in the guaranteed price.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I do not wish to take up the time of the committee, but, unfortunately, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) misrepresented me. At the outset of my remarks on the second reading of the bill I congratulated the Government on its introduction and said that the price that it had proposed was very fair and reasonable. As the Minister has said, the industry needs stability. The industry requires to know what price to expect for its product over a period of years so that it can plant a large area. This would reduce overhead costs because the greater the volume of production the lower the relative cost of ginning. A guarantee of a certain price over a period of years would enable the industry to develop. The Government has provided for the payment of a guaranteed price, but only in respect of this year’s and next year’s crops. The guaranteed price will then be reviewed. That proposal will destroy the value of the guarantee. It will destroy the psychological effect of the bill. The Government is so anxious to safeguard the Treasury that it does not realize the importance to primary producers of a guaranteed price for a number of years. It takes time to prepare land to produce a crop. Why not delete the provision for future guaranteed prices to be fixed by regulation ? Another government may come into office in the future and decide to reduce the guaranteed price. The farmers know that. The amount of the price guaranteed is not as important as is the period for which it is guaranteed. The Minister should endeavour to extend the period during which the guaranteed price will operate for at least an additional year or two.
Under the bill it will be possible for the Government, by regulation, to alter the guaranteed price without the sanction of Parliament. The sugar industry has been developed by providing it with stable conditions over a period of years. It was provided with a guaranteed price which was much lower than the price in many other parts of the world, but the important factor was that it could depend on receiving that amount. If the guaranteed price were applied to a period of four or five years it would enable the Government of Queensland to proceed with its irrigation projects with confidence. The Queensland Government has already guaranteed to purchase the cotton crop. No government can afford to spend a lot of money on an industry the economic conditions of which can be altered by another government at any time. That state of affairs is not conducive to stability. The clause which limits the period of operation of the guaranteed price destroys the bill’s objective. It will detract from the confidence which would otherwise be experienced in the industry. The Government determines, by its fiscal policy, what the economic status of the industry shall be. If this industry is developed it will be of great economic value to the country. I have received urgent requests from growers to urge that the regulation-making power should not be included in the measure. It would please the industry if -the Government deleted that part of the bill. I do not believe that the Government is not in sympathy with the industry. I believe that it wishes to do everything possible to encourage cotton growing, but the limitation of the period of operation of the guaranteed price destroys the importance of the measure.
– I think that Senator Courtice has misconceived the Government’s intention in providing that it may vary the amount of the guaranteed price from time to time. If the Government were to fix the guaranteed price provided in the bill for a period longer than has been stipulated, it would be unable to accede to any request of the industry to increase the guaranteed price during that period. The bill provides a quick and efficient means of adjusting the guaranteed price. Why does the honorable senator say that the guaranteed price must fall at the expiration of the period mentioned in the bill? Since the Government has been in power it has raised the guaranteed price, first, from 5£d. per lb. to 9-Jd. per lb., and then to 14d. per lb. Is that not sufficient evidence of its good faith and interest in the expansion of this industry? Acts of Parliament require some considerable time to become effective. Under the means provided in the bill it will be possible . to adjust the guaranteed price expeditiously and the Senate will have power to disallow any regulation. In an industry in which the price varies so greatly, it would be very unwise for the Government to bind itself to the payment of a particular price for a long period. Had we at the commencement of this year bound ourselves irrevocably not to alter the guaranteed price of 9d. per lb. we would have been unable to accede to the request of the industry to increase that amount. I suggest to the honorable senator that, to any one who may interview him about this matter, he need only cite this Government’s record. He should say, “ When I was Minister for Trade and Customs, we refused to raise the guarantee from 5£d. to 9£d. per lb. This Government raised it from 5£d. to 9£d. and then to 14d. Trust this Government on its record, and you will not be disappointed “.
. It is a source of satisfaction to note that discussion of this measure has been directed to the principles involved and has been free from party politics. The second-reading speech of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) was, in my opinion, a complete justification of the measure. As one who comes from the antipodes to Cape York, I rejoice to think that at least £15,000 of Commonwealth money can be committed to the expansion and stabilization of the cotton-growing industry. Bearing in mind the magnitude of the appropriation to which we were asked to agree last week, the question confronting us now should be not whether the proposed assistance to the cotton industry is too much, but whether it is really enough. The industry is confined to one State of the Commonwealth, and as, in this chamber, the States are appropriately represented by an equality of votes, this is a measure on which the Senate can make heard its real voice. I assume from the fact that the bill has been introduced first into the Senate that there can be no suggestion that it is in any sense an appropriation measure, and that therefore the Senate’s right to disallow a regulation made under it is beyond dispute. For instance, at some future date the Government might decide to increase the bounty by regulation to 23d. per lb. An honorable senator might wish to move for the disallowance of that regulation on the ground that the bounty should be reduced or perhaps should be further increased. I should like to be quite sure that such a motion would be within the competence of the Senate.
Notwithstanding what has been said by the Minister, I believe that consideration should be given to stabilizing the cotton-growing industry, not by fixing a specific bounty for a definite term, but by fixing the bounty that is to be paid until the Parliament otherwise decrees or, better still, by providing that the bounty payment shall be determined by a formula based on the ascertained market price of cotton over a certain period. I offer those suggestions in the interests of the cotton-growing industry. There is, of course, the constitutional problem. I am sorry that the Government has decided that the cotton bounty may be varied by regulation, and I should like the Minister to give an undertaking that this matter will be re-examined and a statement made upon it at some future date.
– I realize that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator O’sullivan) is eager to have this measure passed as soon as possible, and I have no wish to delay it unduly. I support Senator Wright’s suggestion. The cotton-growers are apparently fairly certain that, next year, the overseas market price for raw cotton will be greater than the guaranteed price provided for in this measure, and the purpose of this bill, I assume, is to ensure the stability of the cotton-growing industry over a longer period. If the cotton-growers believed that the overseas price would continue to be high, they would not be very much concerned about receiving a guarantee from the Australian Government. The industry’s fear is that the overseas price will drop. The inference that the cotton-growers will draw from this legislation is that, should the world market price fall, the Government will vary the guarantee accordingly by regulation. If the Government wishes to convince the industry of its generosity it should provide that if the overseas price of cotton increases, the guaranteed price, too, will be increased. The grower* would understand that. The danger to the industry as I see it, and as the cotton producers will see it, is that, should other cotton-producing countries reduce their prices, the Government could step in and say to the Australian cotton-growers, “ You shall no longer enjoy your present conditions. The guaranteed price will be reduced.” I agree with Senator Wright that variations of the amount of the guarantee should not be made by regulation.
– I agree with Senator Courtice and Senator Wright that cottongrowers will not consider that this legislation gives them the guarantee that they need against variations of the world price of cotton. I approve of the cotton bounty and of the encouragement that it will give to the industry in Queensland, but I wish to correct a misstatement that Senator Wright made. The honorable senator claimed that this legislation would affect only one State. I remind him that, for the past 35 years, cotton has been grown, although not in commercial quantities, in both Western Australia and the Northern Territory. The proposed bounty will give encouragement to growers who have had experimental plots under cultivation for some time in the north-west of Western Australia and in the Northern Territory to extend their plantings. Therefore, I support the bill.
– I can only repeat that it would be very unsound and unwise to fix the bounty at a definite figure for a number of years. I remind honorable senators that planting is carried out only at a certain time of the year. Whether or not plantings are to be extended will depend on the price that is offering at the time of planting. The Government will ensure that the growers are given notice of any intention to alter the guaranteed price. Had we decided to give a guarantee for a fixed period, say, up to the end of 1955 the price would probably have been 91/2d. and not 14d. With violent fluctuations of overseas prices, it would be most unwise to fix in advance any price that might be completely inadequate, or on the other hand, far too high. I shall consider Senator Wright’s proposition, but I cannot undertake to amend the bill.
– I did not ask that the bill be amended. All I sought was an assurance that consideration would be given to the matter.
– I give an unqualified assurance that the Senate will not be taken by surprise by any alteration of the bounty. No action will be taken without due notice being given to the Senate.
– I rise again because I should not like it to be thought that this proposal to vary bounty payment by regulation has been overlooked by the Senate. Does the Government consider that the machinery for the disallowance of regulations provides an adequate substitute for legislation? Let us suppose, for instance, that the Government were to increase the bounty to 20s. per lb. Payments at that rate might be made for three months before the Parliament met and therefore three months would elapse before the Senate would have an opportunity to disallow the relevant regulation. In those circumstances, would the disallowance of the regulation be considered by sensible men to be a practical expedient? In legislation such as this, providing as it does for variation of bounty payment by regulation, is there adequate safeguard in the proper expenditure of government money? Is this method adopted in connexion with the payment of any other bounties?
– In the short time that I have been a member of this chamber, I have seen an increasing tendency to fix emoluments, travelling expenses and other payment by regulation. That is a province that governments should leave to the Parliament. The right of the Parliament to exercise authority over the appropriation and expenditure of public money is well established. I should like to know whether . this is the first occasion on which an attempt has been made to determine bounty payments by regulation. I believe that my remarks on the subject of the constitutional authority of the Senate to disallow regulations providing for the expenditure of money are worthy of consideration.
– Senator Wright’s remarks are very valuable, but, with all due respect, they are quite irrelevant to the proposal now under discussion. He has expressed the fear that reduced or increased bounty payments may be made for some months before either House of the Parliament will have an opportunity to disallow the regulation under which the variation has been made. That could not happen in this instance because, for a guarantee to be of any value at all to the growers it must be given three or four months before the end of the year prior to that in which the guarantee is to operate. Therefore, the regulation will have to be promulgated long before any payment will have been made pursuant to a variation of the guarantee.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; reported adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 8th October (vide page 2622), on motion by Senator McLeay -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– My colleague, Senator Sheehan, proposed to resume the debate on this bill; in his absence I record the fact that the Opposition will not oppose the measure by vote. I seek certain information from the Minister and I propose to voice a few words of criticism of the measure. In a particularly short second-reading speech, the Minister indicated that the wheat tax of 2s. 2d. a bushel, which would normally be payable this year under the 1948 legislation, will be suspended, the reason being that the Wheat Stabilization Fund is adequate to provide for possible contingencies for the balance of the current five-year wheat stabilization, plan, which terminates with the marketing of the 1952-53 wheat crop. Has this matter been discussed with the wheat-growers and their organizations?
– The proposal has been submitted at the request of the wheat-growers.
– I invite the Minister to comment on a Statement that I have seen to the effect that the Victorian Wheat and Wool Growers Association has written to a member of this Parliament urging him to oppose the proposal, stating that its members do not favour it. Apparently, the wheat growers and their organizations are by no means unanimously in favour of this legislation, nor have they sought it. When the Minister replies to the debate I should like him to. indicate what kind of approach was made to the Government by the wheat-growers which would fit into the statement to which I have referred. I point out that the suspension of the tax will confer no real financial benefit upon the growers of wheat this year, who also grew wheat in 1950-51. If the usual practice had been followed this year, the growers of wheat in 1950-51 would have had refunded to them the tax that they paid in that year, and the fund would be built up in the current year with the proceeds of the tax which, but for this bill, would otherwise be payable. Let us consider the position of the person who harvested wheat in 1950-51 and also in 1952-53. Whilst he will not have to pay tax in 1952-53, he will not be repaid the tax that he paid in 1950-51. The principle of what has been described as a “ rotating “ fund, under which, when the fund was deemed to have assumed adequate proportions, the tax paid by growers in earlier years would be refunded, has now been abandoned. The Wheat Export Charge Act 1948 does not indicate what is an adequate reserve to be held in the fund. The previous Government assumed that £20,000,000 would be an adequate reserve. In his second-reading speech the Minister has indicated that a reserve of £19,000,000 is either in hand or in sight. This proposal will impose hardship and injustice on wheat-growers engaged in the industry in 1950-51 who have since retired from the industry and the dependants of those who have died and whose executors are now seeking to collect outstanding amounts owing to them. I should like the Minister to indicate to the Senate whether the complaints pf persons in that category have been addressed to the Government and if so whether they comprise a very large number. I have no other criticism of or comments to make on the bill.
– in reply - I understand that the ruling body in the wheat industry is the Australian Wheat Growers Federation.
In order to provide an incentive for the growers of wheat in the coming season the Government decided to suspend the application of the wheat export charge. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen) is now considering the extension of the stabilization plan for a further year. If that is done, the application of the wheat export charge will also be suspended in that year. The extent of the wheat stabilization fund is decided by the Commonwealth in conjunction with the State Premiers and the representatives of the Australian “Wheat Growers Federation. I am not in a position to reply to the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition regarding the hardship that may be experienced by wheat-growers who have left the industry since 1950-51.
– How can the Government consider an extension of the scheme for a year, when the existing scheme expires in 1953?
– Should the scheme be extended for another year it is intended to suspend the application of the charge for that year. The whole of the proceeds will be paid from that particular pool. If it is agreed between the Commonwealth and the States that the practice should be continued, the whole of the proceeds of the crops for the two years will go back to the growers who will be given an incentive to produce more wheat. The Minister for Commerce and Agriculture will probably not make a decision on the repayment of the amounts collected until finality has been reached in the formulation of another five-year stabilization plan. The purpose of this bill is to give wheat-growers the greatest possible incentive to produce more wheat, particularly during the next two seasons.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– If the Government proposes at a later stage, to extend this scheme, or if a new stabilization plan for a period of five years or for some other lengthy period is agreed to, and, whilst preserving some kind of fund to bolster the guarantee, the Government intends not to impose the charge for a period of two years, the burden of providing the funds to support the guaranteed price will fall upon those who harvested crops in the 1950-51 and 1951- 52 seasons. No burden will fall upon those who harvest crops in the 1952- 53 and 1958-54 seasons. The danger that I see in this proposal is that an increasing number of cases of hardship will arise among those who harvested wheat in the 1950-51 and 1951-52 seasons. Many of them may have since dropped out of the industry. Probably some of them have died and their executors will look to the Government to repay moneys paid by them in the 1950-51 and 1951-52 seasons. It is not fair to ask the growers of wheat in those two years to provide the whole of the funds to finance the payment of a guarantee to growers in subsequent years. The Minister should give to the Senate some assurance that, if cases of hardship arise as the result of men leaving the industry for one reason or another, refunds of tax will be made to them or to their representatives. I realize the need for the establishment of adequate funds for this purpose. I should be glad if the Minister would indicate the amount which the Government regards as adequate. I ask him to take seriously my suggestion that we should not impose burdens on growers in past years in order to provide funds to finance the guarantee to growers in future years. If the Government contemplates the extension of the wheat stabilization plan for more than a year, it must protect the interests of those who left the industry in earlier years by refunding the charge paid by them.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna) has raised a matter of policy in respect of which I am not prepared to commit the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. McEwen). I can do no more than promise to bring the honorable senator’s remarks to the notice of the Minister.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 5.44 to 8 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Repr esenta tiv es.
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 bill is to authorize the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner to construct a standard gauge railway from Stirling North to Brachina in the State of South Australia, which will form a part of a standard gauge railway which the Commonwealth has agreed with the State of South Australia shall be constructed between Stirling North and LeighCreek North Coal-field. Construction of the northern section is already in progress, under the authority of the Brachina to Leigh Creek North Coal-field Railway Act 1950. Honorable senators will recall that a difference of opinion arose between the Commonwealth and the State on the route to be followed by the part of the railway between Stirling North and Brachina, and it was agreed that the matter should be referred to a royal commission. By the Port Augusta to Alice Springs Railway (Alteration of Route) Act, 1950, the Commonwealth undertook to cause a railway to be constructed between Stirling North and Brachina on the route recommended by the royal commission. The necessary consent to the construction of the railway has been given by the Northern Railway (Alteration of Route) Act, 1950, of the State of South Australia. A royal commission composed of the following members was duly appointed : - the Honorable Mr. Justice A. A. Wolff, of the Supreme Court of Western Australia - as Chairman; Mr. R. J. Pitch, M.E., M.I.E. (Australia), Chief Civil Engineer of
Commonwealth Railways - as the member nominated by the Commonwealth; and Mr. J. A. Fargher, M.C.E. M.I.E. (Australia), Assistant to the South Australian Railways Commissioner - as the member nominated by the State. The royal commission was asked to examine, inquire into, and report on which of the following two routes was the more suitable for the construction of the railway : - “ B.2 “ route, which follows generally the route of the existing narrow gauge railway through Quorn; and the “ C “ route, which by-passes Quorn and skirts the Flinders Range to the westward.. The “ B.2 “ route, through Quorn, had been recommended by the South Australian Railways Commissioner, and the “ C “ route, by-passing Quorn, had been recommended by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner. By its terms of reference, the royal commission was required to have regard to - (a) the proposed conversion to standard gauge of the railway from Port Augusta to Alice Springs; (b) the cost of construction and maintenance of the respective routes;
The advantage of the “ C “ route to the Commonwealth and to the State as a whole outweighs any disability (which we do not think would be considerable) to the operation of the State Railway system.
The preponderance of advantage in adopting the “ C “ route far outbalances any economic loss which would be suffered by the towns of Quorn and Hawker and the districts on the east of the divide of the Flinders Range. Even if B.2 route were adopted there would be a degree of injurious affection, and when this is taken into account in comparing one route with the other the advantage of the “ C “ route is even more marked.
Honorable senators who have perused the report of the royal commissioners will be satisfied that the route of the proposed railway has been determined only after a complete examination of all aspects of the matter.
The bill provides for an appropriation from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, or the proceeds of any loan raised under the authority of an act, of such amounts as are necessary to provide for the construction of the railway, and for the purchase of rolling-stock for the railway, such amounts not to exceed in all £5,600,000. In the estimation of this figure, allowance was made for the purchase overseas of some essential materials and equipment which are required urgently. It is possible that, if the availibility of labour and materials in Australia should improve during the next twelve months, some savings may be effected in the cost of construction. The bill provides also for the consolidation of the appropriation for the construction of this part of the railway, and for the purchase of rolling-stock, with the appropriation in respect of the northern part authorized by the Brachina to Leigh Creek North Coal-field act, 1950. The bill thus provides for the appropriation of moneys for the construction of, and for the purchase of rolling-stock for the two parts of the railway as one railway, the amounts not to exceed in all the sum of £11,000,000; and for the repeal of the relevant sections 6 and 12 of the Brachina to Leigh Creek North Coal-field Railway Act, 1950. This provision is designed to simplify accounting procedures which, if the construction were to be financed by two separate appropriations, would be complicated by the need to apportion the cost of those items, such as earth-moving equipment, tractors, &c, which would be used on both sections of the railway.
As honorable senators are aware, the proposed railway will convey coal from the Leigh Creek fields for use in the regional electric power station now in course of erection at Port Augusta, and elsewhere. That power station is expected to be in operation by 1954, and it is therefore essential that the railway should be constructed in the shortest possible time. I commend the bill to the favorable consideration of honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Critchley) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cooper) read a first time.
Senator COOPER (Queensland - Minister for Repatriation [8.8]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill is designed to amend the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act, in order to enable the partnership that has been established between the Government and the medical and pharmaceutical professions to work smoothly and efficiently to implement the free life-saving drug scheme. The previous Government had tried methods of compulsion in relation to those professions. The present Government has adopted methods of cooperation, which have resulted in satisfaction to the whole community. The essence of all phases of the present Government’s national health programme is the establishment of a nation-wide partnership of the community at large, the Government, the providers of medical and therapeutic services, and all voluntary organizations that specialize in providing services for the sick. This partnership functions by using the agency to carry out the work nearest to and best fitted for the job. Thus, experts control functions in which they are expert. As a result, the whole scheme is working very smoothly.
Supervision of the scheme and discipline of its participants are secured by advisory committees that have been nominated by executives of the professional organizations engaged in implementing the scheme. There was no provision in the original act for the appointment of these professional advisory and disciplinary committees. The bill remedies that lack.
The amendments now proposed to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act will be substantive clauses of the master national health legislation that it is intended to introduce early next year to repeal all existing acts and to consolidate and coordinate the whole of the Commonwealth’s health legislation.
One of the first steps that was taken by this Government to implement the present scheme was to make provision for the free supply of life-saving drugs for the prevention and cure of disease. This step was taken in the early stage because of the immediate effect it would have on many phases of individual and national health. For instance, free use of the wonder drugs cuts short, or prevents, many infectious diseases in the individual. This lessens the time of stay in hospitals of such patients, thus permitting a quicker turnover and more effective use of hospital beds. The smoothness, effectiveness and popularity of the scheme are shown by the use that has been made of its provisions since September, 1950, when the free distribution of life-saving and’ disease-preventing drugs was inaugurated.
It is impossible to number the lives that have been saved or to measure the human suffering that has been alleviated; but some idea of the effectiveness of the scheme, and certainly of its popularity, is given by the statistical information now available for the year ended the 30th June, 1952. Pharmaceutical benefits paid from the National Welfare Fund through approved chemists, doctors and private hospitals totalled £6,699,002. Altogether, 6,512,826 prescriptions were written. In addition. £59S,279 was paid through public hospitals and other instrumentalities. Amounts paid in respect of each State were -
The saving a head from free lifesaving drugs amounted to 16s. 6d., which is more than equal to the annual premium for hospital insurance. Under the limited scheme introduced by the previous Government, a total of £294,446 was expended and only 903,027 prescriptions written over a period of twenty-seven months.
Conscious of the special needs of pensioners for medical care, a service was designed to provide a general practitioner medical service for age, invalid, widow and service pensioners, and recipients of tuberculosis allowances and their dependants. Last year, this service cost £1,034,225. At the 3rd June, 1952, approximately 501,367 pensioners and their dependants were covered by the service, in which the majority of doctors engaged in general practice were enrolled. The success of the medical service to pensioners is evidenced by the fact that 2,332,S24 medical services were given during the year 1951-52.
The antibiotic drugs available under both these services have been only recently discovered and developed. They are very potent. To secure the best results they must be used with discrimination, skill and care. Their unnecessary use in minor cases may cause the development of germ resistance which lessens their value and efficacy in serious cases. In fact, patients may be rendered allergic to their use. Consequently, the use of these drugs may not be possible when they would be specially valuable to a patient seriously ill with a specific infectious disease. Their use must be safeguarded for effective life-saving purposes in specific serious diseases which otherwise would prove fatal.
It is obvious that this necessitates the closest co-operation and liaison between the medical and pharmaceutical professions and the Government. First, only proved drugs must be chosen. Second, there must be advice and supervision of the exhibition of these potent drugs to patients. Through the development of a spirit of partnership and the removal of arbitrary controls and legislation, active support, co-operation and advice in these respects have been made available by the professions. The practising professions as a whole have co-operated in the scheme. Their official organizations have nominated men of the highest standing, experience and skill to serve on committees which work in the closest cooperation with the Government and its advisers. The object of this bill is to regulate these committees and give them statutory powers to enable them to function effectively. “When this Government took office, its first responsibility was the appointment of a pharmaceutical or life-saving drugs advisory committee. The organized medical profession made available five highly esteemed physicians, drawn from the various States of Australia, together with two professors of pharmacology. The functions of the committee are to examine and report to the Minister on any drug or medicine suggested for inclusion in the list of drugs under the act and/or for their deletion, and to advise on any matter relating to the list of benefits. No drug or medicine will be included in the list unless it has the approval of the committee. The principle has been observed that all the drugs should be specific and individual. The list is continually under review and is made available to doctors and chemists. Chemists are provided with a price list approved by the Pharmaceutical Guild. I am happy to say that the Government has been able to pay its accounts within a month after receiving the accounts from chemists.
In a scheme of such magnitude many problems and unexpected difficulties are unavoidably encountered. To overcome these, the medical and pharmaceutical professions have agreed to set up committees to advise the Minister for Health of the ways and means of ironing out these problems. Practical experience gained in the provision of these various services over the last eighteen months to two years has shown that, without adequate control and supervision, practices can arise which are not entirely in the best interests either of patients or of the medical profession taken as a whole. These practices may cause the total cost of these services to be unduly high. For example, practical experience in the widespread use of some of the new antibiotic drugs has shown that prescribing habits can arise which are clinically unjustifiable and which can cause the cost of supplying the drugs to rise to excessively high levels. In no quarter has this tendency been observed and noted more promptly than by the medical profession itself. The Federal Council of the British Medical Association agreed some twelve months ago to establish committees with various functions in all the States and also to set up certain advisory committees for the Commonwealth.
Regulations have been drafted under the National Health Services Act which will establish committees of inquiry and investigation into abnormal activities by chemists and doctors under the pensioners’ medical service. These regulations will be promulgated in the near future. They will provide that the Minister may refer to the committees details of various matters and circumstances encountered in the practical administration of these schemes. The committees will be in a position to suggest or recommend to the Minister certain action that he might take to achieve more efficient operation of the services. Also, where necessary, with respect to individuals whose conduct is questionable, the committees may recommend appropriate action against such persons.
In order that similar provisions may exist with respect to the activities of doctors, chemists and other persons under the Commonwealth pharmaceutical benefits service, it has been found necessary to bring the provisions of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act in relation to committees into line with the provisions which exist in the National Health Services Act and the pensioners’ medical service. As the position stands at the moment, the act provides for the establishment of only one committee in each State. Experience has shown the need for a separate federal committee, in addition to committees in each State, composed of doctors where the matters being dealt with relate to doctors, and of pharmaceutical chemists where matters concern chemists. The National Health Services Act is broad enough in its scope to authorize the setting up of such committees and provides authority for the committees which deal with matters under the pensioners’ medical service. The same position will now obtain with respect to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act.
At the present time, where, for example, there is a technical or a minor breach by a chemist of the regulations made under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Act, the only remedial actions open to the Government are to cancel his right to supply pharmaceutical benefits, to proceed against him under the act, or to institute criminal proceedings. This state of affairs is, of course, wrong. It is considered far better, not only from the point of view of the person concerned, but also in the interests of the profession and of the public generally, that the matters which arise from time to time and require investigation should be dealt with by a committee of professional experts acquainted with the usages and customs of their profession. They can make appropriate recommendations to the Minister concerning the action he should take. This system does not, of course, preclude the use of normal legal proceedings which would be employed where the facts of the case warranted such action.
The investigations and inquiries of these committees will help the Government to control the provisions of these services by closely supervising the activities of all persons participating in them. These researches will provide a body of knowledge and experience from which beneficial rules can be established and varied as the situation demands from time to time. The committees will investigate, report and make recommendations to the Minister for Health on matters referred to them. As these committees will be operated by and with the full co-operation of the executives of the various branches of the British Medical Association and the Pharmaceutical Guild, their deterrent effect on malpractices under the various schemes should bc considerable and should have a salutary effect on fraudulent, extravagant and wasteful provision of services. This action, in turn, it is considered, will keep the cost of the various services within reasonable limits, at the same time ensuring that only such services as are necessary and expedient in the interests of the health of the people will be made available. The work of the medical and pharmaceutical committees will be of very great value. I commend the bill to honorable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 23rd September (vide page 1867).
Clause 3 (Grants to States).
/ - When this bill was previously before the committee I asked a series of questions of the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner). I hope that he has since been able to ascertain the information which I sought. I have grave doubts whether the money which this bill seeks to appropriate will be expended in the best interests of Australia, particularly in Tasmania. One of the purposes of the bill is to meet the cost of administration of prices control. In my opinion, an indication that prices control as it is at present operated is ineffective is given by the fact that two lamb chops cost as much as 3s. 6d. It seems that in Tasmania, at least, prices control is an absolute farce in 75 instances out of 100. Has the Minister any check in detail of the expenditure of this money by the States ? Is the money spent on staff or office equipment, and how many items are controlled by the Tasmanian Prices Branch?
– Does not the honorable senator trust his own State government?
– This Australian Government said that the States could control prices better than the federal authority. When the Commonwealth was controlling prices, the people did not have to pay 3s. 6d. for two small chops. Butchers are still buying mutton and lamb at the prices that they were paying five years ago, but instead of getting ls. 5d. to ls, 6d. per lb., under State prices .control they are getting 3s. to 3s. 6d. per lb. for the meat they sell. The money that is being granted to the States is not being spent wisely if it is intended to be used for the administration of prices control, because prices are not being controlled properly. Did the Minister get a report from the Tasmanian Auditor-General at the end of the last financial year to account for the proper expenditure of the money? Provision is made in the bill for a report to be supplied by the AuditorGeneral in- each State at the end of this financial year. Did the Minister get such a report for the last financial year? If so, where can it be seen? Grants to assist the States financially are made willy-nilly year after year, but this Government has no control over planning or administration and it is difficult to know whether satisfactory results are being obtained from the money spent. That is wrong, irrespective of the political colour of the government that is in power. How can the Government be satisfied that the administration of prices control is adequate when inflation is becoming worse daily ? Does the Minister believe that the financial assistance to the States is curbing inflation? The Government should ask the people whether they believe that the States are controlling prices properly or whether they favour the return of prices control to the Australian Government. The Government is providing assistance to the States because it has not the courage to do the work itself. It will not try to stabilize the economy of Australia. If the Minister is sincere he should arrange to submit the question of prices control to the people by means of a referendum to ascertain whether they want the powers handed back to the Australian Government.
– I remind Senator Aylett that the arrangement that is contained in this bill was made with the State governments, including the Tasmanian Government, by the Chifley Government in 1948, and that it was supported by the honorable senator.
– That is correct.
– When the Chifley Government made this arrangement, it tied it up very satisfactorily from financial point of view. The Premier of Tasmania submits to the Australian Government a statement of the expenditure that is involved in the administration of the grant. The statement is audited by the Tasmanian Auditor-General. When it is received by the Australian Government, it is checked again by Commonwealth officers and the Department of the Treasury has the right to disallow any item. No financial arrangement could be more properly safeguarded. Senator Aylett has suggested that the Australian Government can control prices better than the State governments. I do not believe it. In relation to the price of mutton and lamb, Senator Aylett has lost sight of the fact that, since 1948, prices for wool have risen. In one year they reached extraordinary heights. As a result, the price of meat has risen enormously. I am quite satisfied that prices control as practised by the Tasmanian Government is efficient. It is not correct to suggest that prices would not have risen if the prices organization had been conducted by the Australian Government. I hope that Senator Aylett can understand that. The Government is not prepared to submit the question of prices control to a referendum. We believe that the State governments can control prices better than the Australian Government can do it, but we are not silly enough to believe that any prices control can keep prices down while wages and costs go up and hours of work become shorter.
– The Minister is a little at sea in his reference to the effect of wool prices on prices of meat. Some butchers bought and killed lambs and received more for the skins than they paid for the live lambs. The high prices of wool returned so much to the butchers that they virtually bought the carcases for nothing, and the returns from the sale of the meat were all profit. It is true that the Chifley Government handed prices control over to the States, but only after it had lost a referendum on the question. The Chifley Government did not believe that the States could control prices more efficiently than the Australian Government. The Labour Government knew that the Prices Commissioner in New South Wales, for example, had no hope of checking the cost of production of commodities that were grown in Tasmania. It saw loopholes of that nature, but they were not evident to the Minister. Subsequently, when the Labour party saw that control of prices by the States was a failure, it suggested that the Government should refer the question to the people again, but the Government was not game enough to do it.
– The Minister has referred to happenings that took place in 1948. Since then prices have been increased, but the Minister has not explained why they have risen. Many statements that are based on mere assumptions have been made, but none of them has been convincing, because they have not been in accordance with the facts. The Minister has referred to shorter hours.
– Order! The honorable senator should direct his remarks to the financial grants to the States.
– The Minister has said that shorter hours have increased prices. Is a shorter hour less than 60 minutes, or a longer hour more than 60 minutes? The Minister has said that wages have risen. Wages have not been increased in terms of commodities. In fact, in terms of purchasing power they have been reduced. Certainly wages have risen in terms of inflated or fraudulent currency. The price of bread in Melbourne is to be increased from lid. to ls. id. for a 2-lb. loaf. No reason has been given for the increase. A simple announcement has been made by the Prices Commissioner.
– Order! The honorable senator must confine his remarks to the bill, which provides for the grant of financial assistance to .the States. It has nothing to do with prices.
– The bill refers to rents and prices. Clause 3 states -
There is payable to each State, for the purposes of financial assistance towards the costs of administering the control of prices and rents in that State during the financial year which commenced on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and fifty-two . . .
Will the Minister’ give details of the action that is to be taken to control rents and prices? What methods are to be adopted? The Minister has been silent on the matter. He has indulged in generalities. I do not expect the parliamentary draughtsman to prepare a bill that is more specific, but I expect the Minister to give to the committee some details of the proposals because prices continue to increase. If prices are to be controlled, how is it to be done? Either the Minister does not know or he will not give the committee the information. Prices are an important matter, particularly to pensioners, persons on superannuation and those who have small fixed incomes.
It is proposed in this bill that a grant shall be made to the States for the purpose of fixing prices but no indication has been provided of how those prices will be fixed. In effect, the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) has proposed that the State prices commissioners shall be given an open order. They will be constituted a law unto themselves. They will be under no obligation to give reasons for fixing prices. They will merely announce, through the press, that certain prices have been fixed. That is what has been happening. Those who wish to have the price of their commodity increased have submitted loaded or inflated costs to the prices commissioners. They have been accepted on their face value and the price of the commodity has been increased as requested. That practice cannot continue indefinitely. It must result in an industrial reaction. This ingenious, systematic and arbitrary system of price fixing is without justification. Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport tell me the extent to which the State commissioners in charge of price fixing are under an obligation to state to the Australian Government theprecise extent to which prices have been increased or reduced and the reasons for such variations? Are the States merely subsidized for the purpose of fixing prices in the interests of those who benefit from the sale of the commodities?
– The State governments have full authority and power in relation to prices control. They receive no directions from the Australian Government on the methods that they shall adopt in fixing prices. TheChifley Government arranged, because of the limited finances available to the States, that the Commonwealth would reimburse them for the expense of administering prices control. The determination of items to be controlled is left completely to the States.
– Am I to understand that the Government, having subsidized the States to the amount of £1,083,000, will be prepared to allow them to spend that money as they wish ? I suggest to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) that if the Government provides a sum of money for the purpose of meeting an obligation the body which receives that money should provide par ticulars of how it has been spent. When the Government provides money for the States to spend on other purposes they are usually under an obligation to inform the Commonwealth how the money has been spent. If the Government disapproves of the method of expenditure the grant can then be withheld. Surely it is not in the interests of the people for the Government to hand over £1,083,000 to the States for them to spend as they wish. This action is only likely to be in the interests of thepeople who sell goods and who benefit by increases of prices which are unjustified and unwarranted.
– The point which Senator Cameron made is a valid one. It is a fact that grants of this nature have been made since 1948 without any requirements having been imposed on the States in relation to their expenditure. The Opposition desires to ascertain the basis on which the Government has made these advances. The Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) said that the Government did not exercise any strict scrutiny on the statement of expenditure.
– I did not say that.
– As to the mode in which the money had been expended-
– I did not say that.
– That is what I understood the Minister to say. Does the Government endeavour to ascertain whether the grants have been extravagantly expended? Does it ascertain whether the money has been effectively spent? When that question has been put to the Minister in the past he has said that the Government does not consider that prices control can be administered as effectively by the Commonwealth as it can be administered by the States. That is the only defence available to the Minister. The introduction of this bill represents a line of thought which is con- trary to the generally expressed opinion ofthe Government parties. They have stated that prices control cannot be effective either in the hands of the States or the Commonwealth. If that opinion were correct this expenditure would not be warranted and no moneys should be voted for State prices control. The Government has completely established the Opposition’s case in favour of price- fixing.
The Minister has said that increases in the price of meat have resulted from increases in the price of wool. One of the great difficulties in fixing the homeconsumption price of meat has been that the State authorities do not control the export price of the product. I was associated in a. secretarial capacity with State prices administration and I know that when the States were required in 194S to make some effort to control prices that difficulty was recognized in connexion with the fixing of the price of meat. In order to preserve a supply of meat for the home market State price-fixing authorities were compelled to raise the local price to the level of the export, price. That is one of the difficulties inherent in pricefixing administration. It is fantastic for the Minister to suggest that the Chifley Government was responsible for the present position in relation to this legislation!.
The agreement between the Commonwealth and the States which was negotiated in 1948, following the defeat of the prices referendum, was only effected in order to make the best of a bad situation. The Labour party accepts no responsibility for this situation beyond that fact. Our intention was that Commonwealth prices control should continue. When it was found impossible to continue Commonwealth prices control constitutionally a referendum was held on the subject. The present Government parties strongly campaigned against the proposal. The then Government was forced to conclude an alternative agreement to provide for some measure of prices control. It realized that the system would not work as well as it desired. The system has worked as well as could be expected because of the brave attempts that have been made by the States to implement it. However, it is not the ideal for price fixing. It is erroneous for the Minister to say that this bill has been prepared under the terms of an agreement which was completed by the late Mr. J. B. Chifley with the States for the purpose of fixing prices. The previous Government only tried to make the best of an extremely bad situation which had been brought about by the lack of foresight of the present Government parties which campaigned against the referendum proposals.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 (Statement of expenditure by State).
– I understand that it has been proposed that rents should be increased in Victoria and in other States. In Victoria it has been proposed that they should be increased by 20 per cent. Under this bill, would the Government automatically condone that increase whether justified or not, or would it ask on what grounds the rents were to be increased? There are hundreds of thousands of houses the capital cost of which has been recovered by the landlords many times. I do not see why a landlord should be paid over and over again for a service which he has not rendered any more than a man who gives a week’s service should be paid for it several times. I should like to know whether the Government approves of the proposal to increase by 20 per cent, the rents of dirty filthy hovels.
– Who has proposed that?
– The people whom Senator Gorton supports. The anti-Labour Government-
– Where have they proposed it?
– In Victoria and in other States. This has been the policy of the Government parties from time immemorial. These unfortunate people have always been expected to pay the maximum rent that can be extracted from them.
– The honorable senator should refer to the clause. He has wandered all over the place.
– The word “ rents “ is included in the clause.
– It is the administration of rent control with which the Senate is concerned.
– I want to know in what way it is proposed to administer rent control. I submit that I am entitled to ask the Minister exactly what is meant by the words “ administer rents “.
– Yes, but the honorable senator may not indulge in propaganda.
– What do those words mean? Will the Treasurer increase rents or reduce rents, and, in either instance, what will be his reasons for so acting?
.- I fail to see how the Government is reimbursing Tasmania for its administration of rent control. The Tasmanian Prices Commissioner has no say in the control of rents and, for the information of honorable senators opposite who have been interjecting, I say that rents have been increased in spite of prices control.
– Where ?
– In Tasmania.
– Under a Labour government !
– This bill is to grant financial assistance to the States in connexion with the administration of the control of prices and rents. Government supporters claim that rents are not rising, but they have already risen in Tasmania, and by legislation too.
– Order ! The committee is not discussing rents. It is discussing expenditure by the States.
– The purpose of the bill is “ to make provision for the grant of financial assistance to the State in connexion with the administration of the control of prices and rents “.
– It relates to expenditure by the States.
– Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) say what proportion of the grant to Tasmania is for the administration of rent control? If he will answer that question, I shall not delay the bill any further.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 (Amount of grant payable to States).
– This clause provides -
Upon receipt of a statement from the Premier of a State in accordance with subsection (1.) of the last preceding section, the Treasurer shall determine the amount payable to the State under this Act, being the amount set out in that statement less the amount of any item of expenditure disallowed by the Treasurer in pursuance of sub-section (2.) of the last preceding section.
That is a very involved provision, and I should like to know what it means. What are the powers of the Treasurer? How does he determine the sums that are payable to the States ? Has the Premier of a State power to say whether or not a grant shall be increased?
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 (Advances).
– I should like some elucidation of this provision also. Apparently the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) is ignorant of the contents of the bill. He refused to explain clause 5. Clause 6 provides that the Treasurer may, at such time as he thinks fit, make advances of such amounts as he thinks fit to a State on account of the amount payable to that State under this legislation. Exactly how does the Treasurer propose to act? Does he propose to act in accordance with the statements received from the Premiers, or in accordance with the advice of his officials? What is meant by the phrase “ as he thinks fit “ ? Is ho to be a law unto himself or is he to be subject to the .provisions of the act ? As this clause is so loosely worded, I consider that I am justified in asking those questions, and I shall persist in asking them.
– I rise to order. Standing Order 421 states -
The President or the Chairman of Committees may call the attention of the Senate or the Committee as the case may be, to continued irrelevance or tedious repetition and may direct a Senator to discontinue his speech.
I submit that Senator Cameron’s remarks are tedious repetition. Even if they are not repetitive, they are certainly tedious.
- (Senator George Rankin). - Senator Cameron may continue.
– Repetition is necessary for thick heads. All I want from the Minister is some idea of what is intended. I do not wish’ to appear to be pedantic or to attempt to prolong proceedings. Throughout the discussion of this* measure, the Minister has refused to answer relevant questions upon it.
– The honorable senator was a member of the Cabinet that agreed to the original measure.
– Most cabinets have an intelligent appreciation of what they are doing. Apparently the present Cabinet is lacking in such appreciation. If the Minister cannot answer the questions that I have asked, he. should be honest and confess his ignorance. I would forgive him.
– 1 observe from the attitude of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) that he does not propose to reply to the questions that have been addressed to him from this side of the chamber. 1 hope he will reconsider that attitude. He is treating the representations of the Opposition with great discourtesy. That is a most undemocratic attitude to adopt. Clause 6 is closely linked with clause 4 to which it refers. It makes reference also by implication to clause 5. Several questions have been addressed to the Minister. He has been asked first whether the Commonwealth proposes to exercise any influence over the States in determining their attitude to increases of rents. Secondly, he has been asked what items the Treasurer is likely to disallow when he receives a statement from a Premier, and whether any items have been disallowed in the past. The Minister should take those questions seriously. The honorable senators who have asked them, are entitled to the courtesy of a reply. If the Minister does not know the answers, he should say so. One could readily forgive him for not knowing because this matter is outside his normal province, but at least he should, treat members of the Opposition with ordinary courtesy. If he does not do that, he must be. prepared to take the consequences of his behaviour. It is not ministerial propriety to ignore questions completely.
If the Minister needs a little more time to consider the matters that have been raised, perhaps some of his supporters will be able to think of further questions to ask him so that he will have time to pursue his inquiries. If honorable senators opposite are not willing to offer that assistance, I have no doubt that one of my own colleagues will be prepared to fill the gap.
– In reply to the first question that has been asked by the Yarra Bank specialist of the Opposition I say that-
– I rise to order. T take exception to the Minister’s offensive reference to my esteemed colleague as “ Yarra bank specialist “ and I ask that the words be withdrawn.
– The honorable senator must withdraw the words.
– I withdraw them. In reply to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), I say that the Commonwealth Government does not exercise any influence over State governments or State prices commissioners in fixing rents. Secondly, the Commonwealth Treasurer has not disallowed any item of expenditure submitted by the Government of Tasmania.
– Has it disallowed items submitted by any other Government?
– The Treasurer has only disallowed one item submitted by the Government of Victoria. This record indicates that the statements of expenditure incurred in the administration of the control of prices and rents are prepared by responsible State officers. They are, of course, in each instance, subject to the scrutiny of the State Auditor-General. The Government that introduced the original reimbursement legislation provided ample safeguards to ensure that the Commonwealth would not be asked to reimburse the States for expenditure that had not in fact been incurred. I hope that Senator Cameron will be satisfied with that courteous reply.
– I am not satisfied, but I forgive the Minister for not knowing the answers.
– I thank the honorable senator very much. 1 assure the committee that I am most eager to have this measure passed by the Senate and I hope that the Opposition will reserve until to-morrow whatever drastic action it may have in mind.
– Paragraph (b) of sub-clause 2 provides that if the total of the advances paid to a State exceeds the amount determined by the Treasurer in accordance with clause 5, the excess shall be repaid by the State. I think that when the original legislation was enacted it had a purpose beyond that explained by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator McLeay) in his second-reading speech on this measure. The Commonwealth reserved to itself the right to decide whether expenditure incurred by a State in the administration of prices was justified. In “Western Australia prices control is now limited almost solely to commodities that are taken into account in the computation of the “ C “ series index in order that wage increases may be kept to a minimum. Even prior to the imposition of prices control as a war-time measure it was the practice for the governments of most of the States to control the prices of such commodities. “We have now reached the stage at which prices control is not as extensive as it was when prices control was introduced throughout the Commonwealth as a wartime measure. We are paying for services which are not now rendered by the States. The State departments are not now doing the work for which they were established when Commonwealth prices control was imposed. Has the Government at any time considered that commodities have been decontrolled to such a degree in some States that the whole subject should be further examined? Has it considered whether the States’ claims for assistance in this connexion can be justified having regard to the degree to which control of prices has been lifted?
– The Government is satisfied with the statements of expenditure submitted by the Western Australian Go vernment in this ‘Connexion. It is not the policy of the Commonwealth to dictate to the States which commodities should be subject to prices control.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 18th September (vide page 1628), on motion by Senator Spooner -
That the bill be now read a .second time.
– The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), in his secondreading speech stated that the purpose of the measure is to provide the capital moneys required for the acquisition, development and improvement of properties and for advances to settlers for stock, plant, working expenses, &c, for purposes related to the war service land settlement scheme in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. If ever a matter required the undivided attention not only of all honorable senators but also of the people of the Commonwealth it is the need for the opening up of our rich undeveloped areas. The financial difficulties that face Australia at the present time are principally due to the fact that primary production has declined to such a degree that we are unable to maintain the standard of living that we expected to maintain and to finance imports from overseas by the sale of our primary products abroad. It is the responsibility of the Australian Government to honour the promises made to those who fought in the service of their country. Those promises should be kept prominently in the minds of the people. Although seven years have elapsed since the end of World War II., between 25,000 and 30,000 exservicemen who are qualified for and capable of settlement on the land as primary producers are still awaiting settlement. But for the difficulties placed in the way of ex-servicemen securing suitable properties, it is possible that the number would be 50,000. Ex-servicemen are subjected to great frustration in trying to unravel the red tape that surrounds the war service land settlement scheme. The provision of £6,000,000 for allocation between the three States for this purpose during the present financial year is totally inadequate. The Government has sought to cover up the true position in relation to war service land settlement. Under the provisions of this bill authority is sought to raise a loan of £6,000,000 for war service land settlement in the three States in which there is the smallest aggregation of population. This bill does not deal with the main problems of war service land settlement. The Government is closing its eyes and bypassing the solemn promise made to exservicemen on their discharge from the forces that their interests would be protected. The fact that the loan allocations of the States this year are considerably below the demands made by the States at the meeting of the Australian Loan Council is in itself proof that the Government has dishonoured its promises to exservicemen. Are members and supporters of the Government so smug and self satisfied that they regard the provision of £6,000,000 for war service land settlement to be sufficient to meet the requirements of the less populous States? The Minister has told us that developmental projects at King and Flinders Islands and Montague Swamp have been undertaken with a view to the ultimate settlement of ex-servicemen in those areas. I remind him that in the vicinity of Launceston, in the north of Tasmania, 200,000 acres of rich agricultural land, which have been held by a very few big landholders under grants that date back to the early convict days, are not being properly utilized. By the exercise of various subterfuges, by deed of gift or by some other process, the owners of the land have been able to retain title either in their own names or in the names of their relatives. They have done nothing to develop it. The war service land settlement scheme is not being implemented in Tasmania in the best interests of either the ex-servicemen themselves or the economy of the State.
– Why does not the Tasmanian Government acquire some of this land ?
– The miserable amount to be made available to the Tasmanian Government by this measure will be insufficient to enable it to do so and it has not sufficient funds of its own with which to acquire the land. Government supporters have always boasted that private enterprise should be allowed free rein. As we all know, private enterprise, as represented by the big land-owners, has always extracted the last ounce of blood and the last pound of flesh nearest the heart of the government of the day in connexion with sales of land required for war service land settlement. After World War I., land-owners were eager to have ex-servicemen settled on their land, to stay on it for two or three years and then walk off it knowing that they would be able to get it back again. No honorable senator opposite can contradict that statement.
– I contradict it.
– Many areas that were resumed for the purposes of war service land settlement after World War I. reverted to their original owners.
– That is entirely false.
– Many people who dug in very successfully during the war are now exacting exorbitant prices for land that is being acquired for the settlement of ex-servicemen, many of whom gave up five or six years of their lives to fight for their country.
When I was an officer of the Department of Post-war Reconstruction I persuaded many ex-servicemen to settle on the land because of their pre-war experience on farms. As I had had a. long experience on the land, I was well qualified to judge their suitability for rural pursuits. The amount proposed to be expended during this financial year on the land settlement of ex-servicemen in the three States that I have mentioned is totally inadequate. A vast amount of developmental work remains to be undertaken in Western Australia, which will share with South Australia and Tasmania the amount of £6,000,000 that is to be made available for the purpose. Although the owners of some large properties in Western Australia probably obtained them by the payment of only the first year’s rental, and for improvements, they would not sell their properties for less than about one-tenth of the amount that the Government proposes to allocate to the three States. Seven years after the end of the war the Government still cannot claim that the scheme for the land settlement of ex-servicemen has been successful. We should be able now to compliment ourselves on having settled on the land many able ex-servicemen who, by ploughing the land, fencing, and otherwise developing their properties, should be our most valuable asset. Many eligible and intelligent ex-servicemen are still waiting to be settled on the land. In view of the Government’s attitude to this matter, it appears likely that they will continue to remain square pegs trying to fit into round holes. ‘ The Government proposes to make only a miserable allocation of £6,000,000 for this tremendously important purpose. The amounts that have been so far allocated to Tasmania for the land settlement of ex-servicemen have been grossly inadequate. The departmental officers have not been able to undertake large-scale plans because of the inadequate finance that has been made available for the purpose. On the inauguration of the scheme the Commonwealth offered to make available sufficient money for the acquisition and development of land, and to make advances to settlers. An allocation of £6,000,000 for that purpose during this financial year is insufficient.
– How much did Tasmania receive last year ?
– Senator Pearson will have an opportunity to address the Senate on this subject. The Minister has stated that during the last financial year approval was given for the acquisition of 741 properties for the land settlement of ex-servicemen in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. The sub-division of those properties resulted in 1,570 single unit farms becoming available for the purpose of the scheme. Only 1,202 of that number have been allotted. That is only a small proportion of the total number of ex-servicemen who are eligible for land settlement under the scheme. I have been told recently by ex-servicemen in Tasmania who wish to settle on the land in other States that they have been informed that the land settlement of ex-servicemen in Queensland and New South Wales is virtually at a standstill and that the authorities do not know when land will be made available for them. The Minister should tell honorable senators frankly of the Government’s policy on this subject. He has stated in a snide manner that the Labour governments of New South Wales and Queensland have been responsible for a slowing down of the land settlement of ex-servicemen in those States. The fact of the matter is that the allocations of loan moneys by the Australian Loan Council for the land settlement of ex-servicemen have been insufficient. There has been much top level political play between the Commonwealth and State governments. Well informed people have warned us about the dire consequences that will flow- from our failure to develop this vast land. To improve the carrying capacity of large areas of land in this country we should push on with subdivision, and irrigation and water conservation projects. Capitalism is clashing with the needs of society. The good of the community should be paramount. Many of the selfish people who seek to make large profits from land that they purchased when the finest of our men-folk were absent from Australia on service got in on the ground floor during the war. I sincerely believe that the Australian Government should make a positive approach to the subject of redistribution of the large land-holdings. Land should be made available not only to eligible ex-servicemen, but also to any other Australians who have the ability to develop it successfully. Furthermore, many immigrants who are highly skilled in market gardening and other rural pursuits should be given an opportunity to settle on the land. I point out that many large areas of land are held only temporarily by their present owners. Unless they are subdivided and made available to people who have the ability to undertake development, we shall witness uprisings amongst our own people similar to the demonstration by unemployed
Italian immigrants recently. If the owners of large tracts of country are not prepared to do the right thing, I believe, in justice, that they should be dispossessed of their land. I consider that, by the allocation of only £6,000,000 for the purposes of war service land settlement scheme in Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania in this financial year, the Government is reflecting adversely on the departmental officers who have administered the scheme. Those officers are well qualified to carry out the work that has been entrusted to them, but they have been hamstrung by the lack of finance. It must be heart-breaking to them to learn that the Government in this financial year proposes to make available for this work such a relatively small amount. It is futile for the Minister to claim that the Commonwealth has done all that was within its power in this matter, because New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria did not elect to co-operate in the original scheme. It is disgraceful that from 25,000 to 30,000 ex-servicemen are still awaiting allocations of land, so long after the war. The Government should encourage a continuation of the pioneering spirit of the early settlers by assisting the thousands of eligible applicants to settle on the land. The Government stands condemned for the paucity of the proposed allocation. I trust that steps will be taken to raise a substantial loan to implement the war service land settlement scheme before the end of this year.
– I appreciate that this debate will no doubt consist of contributions concerning the disabilities of the war service land settlement scheme in the various States. I propose to confine my remarks to the position of the scheme as I see it in Tasmania at the present time. Tasmania is an agent State, which means that it shares the cost of the scheme with the Australian Government. I understand that this Government finds approximately three-fifths of the cost of the scheme and that the Tasmanian Government provides the remainder. There is, therefore, almost complete dual control. In my opinion that control, in. many instances, has been the cause of delays in settling exservicemen on the land. Delay has been one of the big bugbears of the Tasmanian scheme. First, there is considerable delay in securing suitable land; then there is delay in preparing it for settlers; there is more delay in settling exservicemen on it; and finally, and most unfortunately, there is great delay in fixing the cost of the properties. In that connexion, I understand that not one lease has been signed in Tasmania. A kind of tentative lease is proferred, but some ex-servicemen have refused to sign such a document. Most ex-servicemen occupy their land under a licence system which provides, amongst other things,, that they must pay so much per annum according to the stock they run.
I myself was referred to as a successful soldier settler after Warld War I. When the present scheme was first mooted I attended conferences in connexion with it. It was decided that everything should be done to avoid the mistakes that were made in the first scheme. I am sorry to say that many of those mistakes have been repeated. Indeed, some of them have been accentuated. I do not know where to place the blame for that state of affairs. One of the main arguments presented in favour of the establishment of the present war service land settlement scheme was that farms would be revalued before the ex-servicemen went onto them, instead of after they had left them. After World War I. many men who would otherwise have been good settlers were lost to the land because they were kept on over-capitalized properties under impossible conditions. Ultimately, they had no alternative but to leave the land. The farms were then revalued and civilians reaped the benefit of the hard work which the ex-servicemen had done. It was hoped that that would not happen this time. However, I received rather a rude shock recently when I attended a conference of exservicemen at ‘Scottsdale, at which the Tasmanian Director of Land Settlement, Mr. R. J. Veale, stated -
The government is no longer prepared to write off large sums of money spent on establishing soldiers on the land. It no longer can afford to acquire highly developed single unit farms for soldier settlers.
Ex-servicemen are not concerned so much with highly developed single unit farms as they are to ensure that the land which they have developed should not be overcapitalized. The Director of Land Settlement also stated -
Only poorly developed farms can now be acquired for soldier settlers.
It is most regrettable but the best we can offer future ex-service settlers is poorly developed land. The fact that such a policy is necessary is a great disappointment to all those who are interested in war service land settlement.
Another bone of contention is the fact that when the scheme was commenced after World War II. the Australian Government of the day decided on a system of perpetual leasehold. Most exservicemen claim that that system offers no incentive to young men to go on the land, because they are not permitted to purchase their properties. I contend that there is no comparison between the perpetual leasehold system and the system under which the settler ultimately secures the deeds of his property. When the perpetual leasehold system was introduced it was claimed that its operation would be easier on ex-servicemen during the first few years of settlement. In my opinion, however, these men are entitled to expect the opportunity to purchase their properties and ultimately to be able to call them their own. After all, they fought for Australia. Surely the least that we can do for them is to give them the right to own a property before they are too old to pay for it.
I was pleased to note that Victoria, which is a principal State, very soon introduced the right to purchase. Similar legislation has been enacted in Tasmania, but its provisions are such that it is unlikely that many ex-servicemen will ever be able to purchase properties. The legislation provides that the purchase price must be based on the total cost to the Government of the property at the time that it is taken over by the settler. When honorable senators appreciate the difficult conditions under which these farms are developed, with high costs for fencing, and the construction of roads and buildings, they will not need to use much imagination to see that most ex-servicemen will be indeed fortunate if ever they are able to purchase farms. That feature has given those who think about these matters a great deal of concern.
Another bad feature of the scheme is that, no doubt to allay public criticism, many ex-servicemen have been placed on undeveloped properties. Much ‘publicity was given to the contention that when they went onto the land the present-day settlers would start practically where the settlers of the World War I. scheme left off. It was claimed that the World War II. settlers would not have to do the pioneering work which the previous settlers had done. As honorable senators will remember, many of the original settlers were obliged to clear the land before they could commence farming operations. However, it has been found that in some instances settlers under the World War II. scheme have gone onto properties which were not properly cultivated before the grass was sown, with the result that the scrub has grown up again. Many of the settlers will be obliged to re-sow the grass before their farms can be brought to a reasonable standard. In addition, some properties are not well fenced and watered, and others are in districts where hydroelectric power will not be available for many years. In my opinion, it is unfair to ask men to take their wives and children to remote places and to attempt to make a living under such conditions unless the value of the properties is written down. In addition, their wives are entitled to all the conveniences of suburban life if they are required to spend their lives on dairy farms. If there is to be no writing down of the values of the properties, the sooner ex-servicemen are aware of that fact the better.
Much capital has been made of the recent high prices for wool. It is true that some ex-servicemen, who were sufficiently fortunate to obtain early allocations of farms, have been able to make a considerable amount of money, but I point out that many of them have not gone onto sheep properties. Those who have gone onto dairy farms find that it takes years to build up a paying herd of cows. Such cows simply cannot be bought; it is necessary for the settlers to build up a herd as best they can by grading. Many settlers were supplied with young cattle by the Government when they went onto their farms, and those cattle have since turned out to be unsuitable as dairy cows. None of them had been graded or tested. As in everything else to-day, efficiency is the keynote of success in the dairying industry. But a dairy farmer cannot be efficient unless he has a reasonable chance to start off on the right foot.
Ex-servicemen settlers require a great deal of understanding. They do not ask for sympathy. If they receive understanding and the scheme is adjusted as it should be, some of them at least will have a chance of success.
Senator AYLETT (Tasmania) f9.55]. - I support the bill. Any criticism which I may make will be made in a constructive manner. It is pleasing to note that “ the Government does not intend to jeopardize the success of closer settlement because the necessary funds are not available. It appears that the Government has at last come round to the view of the previous Labour Government - that the issue of credit for reproductive works, such as war service land settlement, is sound policy. I take it that if the Government is not able to borrow the necessary money for the conduct of this scheme it intends to issue treasury-bills. In addition to the £6,000,000 for which this bill provides, it is proposed to repay to the three States concerned £1,800.000, making a total of £7,800,000 for those States which participate in the scheme in conjunction with the Australian Government.
I understand that in Victoria there will be insufficient funds available this year to open up new land for the land settlement of ex-servicemen. The funds of the Victorian Government will merely carry on the scheme as it is at present. That Government is between £4,000,000 anl £6,000,000 short of its real requirements for war service land settlement in Victoria. In my opinion, that is a ridiculous state of affairs, in view of the fact that Australia is so lacking in primary products.
As the Minister pointed out in his second-reading speech, £23,575,000 has been expended to date on war service land settlement. A total of 1,570 holdings have been acquired of which 1,212 have’ been allotted. Senator Chamberlain has drawn attention to the fact that many of these blocks, although allotted, are not yet occupied by ex-servicemen. It is reasonable to ask what has happened to Australia that three State governments and the Australian Government between them have been able to place only 1,212 ex-servicemen on the land since the end of “World “War II. I suggest that that state of affairs indicates some lack of intelligence or foresight on the part of the States and the Commonwealth. If the costs to which the Minister referred art worked out, it will be found that the cost of each allotment is approximately £14,888. I do not know how big the allotments will be. Some will be large but others may be only 100 acres according to the quality of the land. Both the Australian Government and the Tasmanian Government have fallen down on the job. We want production and we want to put ex-servicemen on the land, but areas that have been acquired will take years to clear and sweeten. In some areas of Tasmania, exservicemen will not be put on the land for ten years, but a few miles away property that is under the control of the Van Diemen’s Land Company could be put into production quickly at a tenth of the cost. The governments have not attempted to acquire that land and put it into production. The Montagu Swamp area has been approved by the Australian Government and the Tasmanian Government for the settlement of ex-servicemen. That land cannot be put into production for years, and by the time that it is ready for cultivation, it will have cost £200 an acre. The settlers will have a millstone placed around their necks. Ex-servicemen who risked their lives in the war are entitled to a farm but they should be settled close to communities where amenities are available to them and their families. They should not be put on the land on an island in the middle of Bass Strait that will take years to prepare. Some of them are to be given land on Flinders Island because somebody at the top wanted to be a little dictator. That man was the manager of the Agricultural Bank of Tasmania, who had the support of various sections of the community. At present he is on the retired list and living on a full pension after the Commonwealth Grants Commission had found that the accounts under his administration were in such a mess-
– That is not a fair statement.
– I am repeating a statement from a report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. If the commission could make such a statement, I see no harm in repeating it in this chamber. That gentleman was in charge. He was a soldier of World War I., but he pushed ex-servicemen on to allotments on an island in the middle of Bass Strait. They cannot be ready for cultivation for years. He was also able to influence State Ministers and Commonwealth officers to approve the swamp areas that will take years to prepare. I do not say that the land is not of high quality. It will be good land when it is brought into production, but it will be costly and the situation is too remote. Another settlement will be on King Island which is also midway between Tasmania, and the mainland of Australia. Those blocks will not be nearly so costly, but the island is dependent almost entirely upon air transport. Sometimes ships arc able to call there. At other times they cannot get near it. Consequently extra cost is involved in the transport of goods in and out of King Island.
At the same time some of the best land in Australia is lying idle in Tasmania. The cost of bringing it into production would be lower than the expense involved in developing Flinders Island and the Montagu Swamp. More ex-servicemen could be settled there in less time. Commonwealth advisers are conversant with the conditions and they know that I am speaking the truth. They should know also that tens of thousands and probably hundreds of thousands of acres of good land is available not far from the Montagu Swamp but it is lying idle. Now that labour is available, the Australian Government should co-operate with the Tasmanian Government in bringing that land into production. The Government is crying for more production but it is doing nothing about it. There are some comparatively big holdings in Tasmania that are not being put to their best use. The Tasmanian Government and the Australian Government could settle more ex-servicemen on those properties, but they will not interfere with the wealthy land-holders. It would be better to divide those holdings for the settlement of ex-servicemen than to push them on to islands in the middle of the ocean or into undeveloped swamps. Apparently some big holdings have been acquired because the Minister has stated -
In addition to the proposed expenditure oi £7,800,000 during 1952-53 for the purposes I have mentioned, an amount of £1,052,00” will be made available by Parliamentary appropriation to provide mainly for Commonwealth contributions to writing off excessive costs’ of acquisition.
Apparently the Government is paying £1,652,000 in excess of the value of the land that it is acquiring. Why does the Government acquire land above its valuation? Perhaps there has been a court case, although 1 have not heard of one in Tasmania. The figures may relate to another State. If land is wanted for the settlement of ex-servicemen, it should be acquired at its productive value. Should an owner not be prepared to sell at that valuation, there is a way of overcoming the difficulty. The Government has abandoned the federal land tax. If an owner is not using land to its full capacity, the unimproved value of his land should be taxed so. that they would be forced to cut it up.
Statistics indicate that Australia will be importing foodstuffs by 1960 if production is not increased. At present production is declining in comparison with the increase of the population. If ex-servicemen are not prepared to go on to the land in sufficient numbers, it should be made available to farmers’ sons. They would have more security on the land than they would have in any other employment. Now that the Australian Government has a pool of unemployed to whom it is giving a dole, the time is opportune to develop the land. If Tasmania is not receiving enough money for the purpose it has only itself to blame for not having complained about it to the members of this Parliament. Senator
Chamberlain referred to the experience with regard to the land settlement of ex-servicemen in the past. I have seen ex-servicemen leave their farms because they had paid inflated prices for them. They were not placed on a sound financial basis until the Labour Government in Tasmania re-valued the farms at their productive value, wrote off excess charges and started the settlers afresh. In the meantime many of those farms had reverted to those who had them originally or to others who were grabbing small farms and combining them into big properties. We do not want to see that happen again. Current prices will not last. The price of land cannot be based on the production value of a year ago. Before basing the cost of land on its production value it is necessary to consider whether stable price levels are available. Using stable prices, one can determine the. value of land on a productive basis. If land is sold or leased to exservicemen at above its productive value the ex-servicemen must fail to work it profitably. At present, those who purchase land are asked at least twice its productive value because of inflated commodity prices which will not continue.
I hope that the Government is sincere, for once, and that it really wants more rural production. If it does, it has never had a greater opportunity to increase rural production than it has now that it can absorb the pool of unemployed in order to bring into production millions of acres of fertile land. This land could feed our own people and develop export markets which must be developed if we are to live at peace with the other nations of the world.
– I have much pleasure in supporting the bill. I am pleased that the Government has proposed to allocate more funds for the settlement of exservicemen on the land. As I said recently in this chamber, these men fought for this country and deserve every consideration and help. Therefore, it is pleasing that a further sum of money is to be allocated for this purpose. Many people have drifted to the cities and it is heartening to know that returned men are prepared to develop primary industry. The bill refers to the agent States in which the Government has some control over the expenditure of the money which it provides for land settlement. Various schemes are submitted to the Government by these States, but that procedure is not followed in the principal States, of which Queensland is one. Sometimes we hear rosy stories of land settlement by exservicemen. From. information that 1 have in my possession I fear that these stories may not all be true. I doubt whether the principal States are doing a job which is worthy of these returned men and which is consistent with their requirements. In Queensland a great fanfare of trumpets has been heard in connexion with the Burdekin dam, which will irrigate an extensive area and solve many problems. Originally, it was to have cost about £30,000,000, but the latest estimate is that it will cost over £70,000,000. A large section of the area to be irrigated by this dam was to be used for growing tobacco. A small settlement of 70 farms has now been formed and is known as the Clare Settlement. The Government of Queensland has announced Clare as a fine example of the settlement of returned soldiers. I have information which has caused me to doubt whether these men have been treated as they should have been. The story might make interesting hearing for some honorable senators. It is not my usual practice to quote, but on this occasion I intend to quote copiously because these statements have been made by people from the Clare settlement. I realize that in all schemes such as this one the human factor is important, as some men many be more capable than others. But at Clare the men generally do not appear to be doing as well as they should. Some have been successful, but I believe that some special reasons may apply to them.
In June, 1952, an information sheet called The Crisis at Clare was issued. It was an economic survey of the Clare war service land settlement tobacco irrigation area which had been prepared under the auspices of the Burdekin Tobacco Growers Association. It commenced -
The Clare project is the spearhead of agricultural development under the Burdekin Irrigation, Hydro-electric and Flood Mitigation
Scheme, which has been propounded by highranking public servants in Queensland and endorsed by the States to Government as a matter of immediate national importance. The present unsatisfactory position at Clare could re-act unfavorably against the State Government’s application to the Commonwealth Government for financial assistance to proceed with the main scheme. An investment of national funds to the extent of approximately £1,000,000 is already at stake. Approximately half of this amount has already been spent in providing irrigation facilities for 53 tobacco farms established at present, and further considerable expenditure will be required at Clare to provide the irrigation and drainage works necessary to serve the total of 70 farms which it is intended to establish. In addition, an amount of approximately £420,000 is at present outstanding in advances to individual settlers; some settlers are already in arrears on repayments due in 1951, and approximately 75 per cent. of the settlers will be unable to meet commitments due during 1952. Up to the present, the income available to settlers to meet domestic requirements is much below that provided for in the basic wage. A continuance of this condition will lead to the establishment of a low-standard-of-living area with the consequent undesirable features of the sweating of child and other family labour, and a frustrated ill-informed and badly educated community susceptible to Communist agitation.
It is rather disconcerting to read that. The survey continues by stating that one of the factors responsible for the present position has been the wastage of settlers’ capital by the construction authority. The survey reads -
Wastage of Settlers’ Capital by the Construction Authority.
The improvements programme on individual farms and a certain amount of the purchasing of Capital items has been carried out by Government Departments. Resulting from the lack of personal interest a considerable wastage of labour and materials has occurred.
Unrealistic Approach of Water Distribution Authority.
There hasbeen a tendency to forget that the engineering aspect of the Clare Project is only a means toan end and that the ultimate objective is the economical production of crops. As a result it has become necessary to make adjustments to normal farm practices, and thereby increase production costs, in order to allow engineering problems to be overcome.
Inexperience of Water Distribution Authority.
No previous attempts have been made at the irrigation of crops in tropical areas under a large scale, controlled irrigation scheme. Successful irrigation of tobacco requires expert knowledge of the plant’s requirements and the availability of water at short notice: these requirements are almost absent in the Clare area.
The survey stated that ten of the settlers who commenced operations in 1949 had produced three crops of tobacco. Concerning the present financial position of the settlers it continued -
The initial capital advances amounted to approximately £6,500 but these were all reduced by the proceeds from the 1949 crop. Further necessary capital advances have been made, and with the amounts outstanding on working advances, six of these settlers are now in debt to the bank for amounts of £7,500 or more. In the case of these six the proceeds from the 1951 crop will not reduce the total advances by more than £1,500 and in the meantime it will be necessary for them to receive advances of at least £1,500 if they are to produce tobacco during the 1952 season. The position at 31st March, 1953, will be that the total debt will have been further increased by an amount of approximately £270 in respect of interest. Four of these settlers are now working for wages in order to meet current domestic requirements, and unless adequate financial assistance is available immediately will be unable to enter into tobacco production during the 1952 season.
That sets out the financial position of the first settlers who went onto the Clare irrigation project. An independent survey of the Clare situation has mentioned the very few men who are succeeding. Part of it reads as follows: -
Generally, however, the Clare settlers are at present subject to extreme financial embarrassment. In addition there is also a most unhealthy general feeling of frustration which increases in intensity in proportion to the length of time the individual has been at Clare. Since the first occupation of the farms in 1949 the settlers have endeavoured to gain recognition of their problems by the various authorities concerned in the scheme. The most acute of these problems is the excessive capital costs and the policy of the Agricultural Bank regarding the repayment of capital advances, as a result of which the settler is unable to make provision for urgent additional capital expenditure which is a necessity on all farms.
The report also stated -
All this has brought about a condition where approximately 80 per cent. of the settlers find themselves virtually insolvent, with underdeveloped farms which are overcapitalized, and with a borrowing power insufficient to meet the costs of efficient tobacco production. For the past three months the Settlers’ Association has endeavoured to get the State governments interested in the problems, and to gain a review of financing policy which would allow settlers to enter into efficient tobacco production during the present season. To date no progresshas been made and as a result many farmers have lost the opportunity to enter into tobacco production during the current season, many farmers will not be able to produce tobacco and some are preparing to abandon their farms. A newspaper report of an interview between the settlers and the Minister for Lands indicates that the Minister did not consider that the settlers had any problems but that he considered the interview was a good opportunity to put in some propaganda on behalf of his own political party.
The report continued -
The present attitude of the Government and the various departments concerned may be summarized briefly - They realize that things at Clare are not as they should be, they are unable to decide on any steps which may put matters right. Clare is only a small section of the community and a failure would not cause any great public outcry, they hope that by adopting a coolie standard of living the settlers will work out their own destiny, and they hope that something might turn up.
The Clare settlement has been featured in Queensland as a shining example-
– What is the honorable senator trying to prove?
– Order ! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. Edward Mattner.)
Majority . . 8
Question so resolved in the negative.
– The report on the Clare settlement to which I have referred states, in relation to production costs -
Interest charges ranging as high as ?350 per annum and depreciation have so far notbeen taken into account by authorities who are bo pleased to point out the potential income of the Clare farms. In addition settlers have as yet not been faced with the heavy commitments for repairs and renewals associated with machinery and equipment wearing out and becoming obsolete, but in the near future those will become heavy because buildings and plant a.re now being allowed to get into a state of disrepair because of the lack of finance to meet normal maintenance costs.
Clare can probably claim a record high among tobacco growing areas for the following items of production costs: - Water charges (?4 per acre foot plus internal farm distribution costs ranging up to ?4 10s. per acre foot for spray irrigation); land rents (perpetual lease at 10s. per acre) ; drainage rate (8s. per acre) ; pest control (insecticides cost over ?10 per acre).
The investigator who prepared the report reached the following conclusion : -
There is nothing to indicate that the Clare settlers have not given the State Government their full co-operation in the plans for the development of the Burdekin Valley areas and in increasing tobacco production.
There is evidence that the Clare settlers have not reached the technical and financial assistance which it is their right to expect, and they have not received any encouragement to develop their farms and enter into full production.
In the matter of water distribution the Clare settlers are not receiving the service which they could reasonably expect in return for the dues they are called1 on to meet.
He also made the following suggestion: -
The War Service Land Settlement Agreement provides for an economic survey and consequent write down to economic value of farms provided under theAgreement. If action along these lines is not taken immediately the community is in danger of losing some of its best settlers.
In the meantime provision must be madefor adequate financial assistance for the production of tobacco during the current season if settlers are to enter into efficient production and not get themselves further into debt.
There is a feeling amongst the Clare settlers that much of the planning that was carried out was not ofthe right kind. They believe that they should have had some say, for instance, in the planning of buildings. The planners adopted a very callous attitude towards the prospective settlers by resorting to pinch-penny tactics. They approved items of obsolete design including curing barns. They also approved the use of second-hand fibro cement roofing on the first ten properties. This resulted, in one instance,in a loss of a ton of tobacco through rain leaking th rough the roof. Every one of the first ten temporary dwellings assumed the characteristics of a shower bath in any moderately heavy storm. The design of the temporary homes indicates that absolutely no imagination was used. Those dwellings were supposed to be replaced by the settlers out of their profits in the first few years, and were then to be used for other purposes, but no good use can be found for them as they are not suitable for implement sheds and do not meet the requirements of industrial awards relating to accommodation for workers. They were just shells. They had no linings or ceilings. They were divided by case-quality three-ply partitions, and had no baths, stoves, sink tubs, storm guttering, rainwater tanks, or any of the other accessories generally accepted as necessary equipment in any home. In spite of those shortcomings, the cost of the temporary dwellings constructed before July, 1949, was more than £100 a square after allowing approximately £140 for the defective roofs and floors. A comparison of that cost with building costs generally ruling in Queensland at that period will probably show that the structures were dearer than fully equipped and properly finished homes. Not one of the first 30 farmers was allowed to take any part in planning the improvements to be effected on his farm. He was not allowed to determine the lay-out of his farm or the siting of the building, nor was he allowed to participate in any way in the work of effecting those improvements. From the very beginning, settlers have agitated for a voice in the planning of the settlement, but their requests have always been ignored. On the 25th June, the Burdekin Tobacco Growers Association wrote to the Minister for Lands in
Queensland, the honorable T. Foley, and said, amongst other things -
The letter continued -
We know that your efforts on our behalf are severely handicapped by the lack of sympathetic understanding among those members of the Government who have no contact with primary producers. We would like you to help us to place the necessary facts before these people and in particular would like to suggest that -
Any members of the Government who are with you now should take this opportunity to talk to us and get to know us personally.
Arrangements be made for the Minister for Transport to spend a couple of hours with us when he visits Ayr to open the Show.
You and members of your party have a discussion with the Premier before he visits us so that he will have some knowledge of what we want to talk about.
At the present time seven of the 53 established tobacco-growers (including four of the first ten) are away from their farms working for wages in an endeavour to make ends meet. “More farmers intend to follow their example and a large number of the Clare farmers this season will attempt to grow tobacco as a part-time occupation.
Any one with a knowledge of tobacco production knows that this is downright folly but the farmers concerned have no other alternative under present conditions. We consider that it is imperative that these farmers should be afforded adequate immediate financial assistance to enable them to stay on their farms and enter into efficient tobacco production.
We hope tha t you will appreciate the urgency and give this matter your immediate attention.
That letter indicates how the settlers feel about the matter. The following report was published in the Townsville Daily Bulletin on the 19th August: -
Government to Defend Settlers’ Writ. Brisbane, 20th August. - The Premier (Mr. V. C. Gair) in Parliament to-day said that the Government would defend a writ issued against it by two ex-servicemen Burdekin irrigation area settlers.
Two settlers have gone to the length of issuing a writ against the Queensland Government in connexion with this matter. The Clare settlement is held up by the State Government as an indication of the future success of the Burdekin scheme. The story of that settlement, as told by these ex-servicemen, is not a pretty one. I present the statements made by them for what they are worth. The Queensland Government administers the war service land settlement scheme on its own authority and without dictation by this Government.
– Where does it obtain the money?
– To-day I watched Senator O’Byrne almost shed tears when he spoke of the difficulties of ex-servicemen who have settled on the land.
– The honorable senator is merely trying to make party political capital of this matter.
-Not at all ! I have merely informed honorable senators what the ex-servicemen themselves have had to say about the Clare settlement. Their statements make one wonder whether some of the State governments are doing the right thing by ex-servicemen in this scheme. On the facts as presented to me, the Clare scheme is far from being the shining example of success which the Queensland Government has claimed it to be.
– War service land settlement is the one aspect of the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen that has progressed most slowly. In all other fields of rehabilitation which were inaugurated and largely completed by the Chifley Government, most satisfactory results had been obtained. Young men have been trained to take their places in trades and professions; others have been established in businesses. It was realized, at the inception’ of the- war service land settlement scheme, that its implementation would necessarily be slow. Certain conditions were laid down in the original act of 1945 regarding the manner in which exservicemen were to be settled. Those conditions were prescribed in the light of the failures of previous attempts by non-Labour governments to settle exservicemen on the land. It will be remembered that after World War I., exservicemen were placed on heavily timbered and unsurveyed country. They had to hew homes out of the virgin bush. Many of them broke their hearts in a futile endeavour to establish themselves on the land. A good deal of the land that was resumed for the purpose of soldier settlement after World War I. reverted to its original owners because it was totally unsuited for the purpose for which it was acquired. Many areas that were thrown open for war service land settlement were reabsorbed in the large original estates to which they had belonged. The original war service land settlement scheme left in its trail hard hands, broken hearts and all the mental and physical suffering that goes with a thoroughly unsuccessful scheme. The second schedule to the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act 1945 provided that -
Settlement shall be undertaken only where .economic prospects for the production- concerned are reasonably . sound,, and the number of eligible persons to he settled shall he determined primarily by opportunities for settlement and not by the number of applicants.
Holdings shall bc sufficient in size to enable settlers to operate efficiently and to earn a reasonable labour income.
Those were the conditions under which the Curtin Labour Government desired to settle ex-servicemen on the land. That Government sought power to resume suitable arable, sweet land for war service land settlement purposes, but was prevented from, doing’ so by the non-Labour parties, despite the fact that vast areas of suitable land were not being used for primary production- or the- rearing of stock. In fact, a great deal of it was not being used in any way by its owners. As the result of opposition by the antiLabour parties, an agreement was subsequently made with the States which was satisfactory neither to the Labour Government nor to the ex-servicemen, and under which the Commonwealth pays the piper, and the States call the tune. On numerous occasions, the Australian Labour Government was in conflict with the State governments in regard to this matter, because it insisted that exservicemen should be settled on the land in a proper manner. As the result of that conflict between the States and the Commonwealth, land settlement was retarded. In spite of those difficulties, the Labour Government succeeded in placing a reasonable number of ex-servicemen on the land. Since the present Government has been in office, the war service land settlement scheme has been most unsatisfactory. Not only has settlement proceeded at an alarmingly slow rate, but also many young men who, on their discharge from the forces were eager to settle on the land, have been discouraged from so doing because of the restrictions that have been placed upon them, and the red tape that surrounds the whole scheme.
– The promises made to them were not honoured.
– That is so. They were given assurances on their discharge from the forces that suitable land would be made available to them. Many instances were brought to my notice of men who had the right to be restored to their former civil occupations and who failed to exercise it because of the promises made by the Government in relation to war service land settlement. They found that, after filling temporary jobs on the gold-fields, in agricultural industries and in other capacities, and having foregone their rights to be reemployed in the jobs in which they were formerly employed, their sacrifices had been in vain. They are still awaiting the allotment of blocks under the scheme. I venture to say that 60 per cent, of the applicants for blocks under the war service land settlement scheme are still in that position. Many of them, unfortunately, have found their way into that pool of unemployed persons which, the
Government contends, is so necessary to the maintenance of economic stability. They have fallen victims of the pernicious doctrines expounded by the fr so-called economists who have advised this Government that only by the establishment of a pool of unemployed equal to 10 per cent, of the work force can Australia’s economy be healthy and virile. Does the Government believe that these unsatisfactory aspects of the war service land settlement scheme can be corrected by the provision of a miserable £6,000,000, as proposed in this bill? If it does, it is guilty of self-deception. Government supporters, with the utmost hypocrisy and cant, have tried to convince the people that the Government is doing a good job in this connexion.
Senator “Wood made a remarkable speech on this subject to-night. It appears to have been written for him by some person in an attempt to prove that the faults in the administration of the war service land settlement in Queensland do not lie at the door of this Government. He treated the Senate to an outburst of vilification indulged in by an independent investigator whose name he did not even know. His speech had no relevancy to the bill. There has been a. distinct change of policy in relation to this matter since the present Government has been in office. The Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner), in his second-reading speech, said -
The Commonwealth has not relied solely upon the acquisition of single unit farms or the sub-division of properties that are already productive; it has also embarked upon the development of large tracts of virgin land.
How many properties has the Government acquired and sub-divided since it has been in office, and how many exservicemen have been settled upon them? How many single-unit farms have been acquired during the last twelve months? There is a saying- that old soldiers never die, but I have no doubt that the lives of many old soldiers will be shortened as the result of the Government’s mismanagement of this scheme. The virgin land to which the Minister has referred may be quickly cleared by bulldozers, but it will be sour for seven or eight years.
– What rot!
– I invite the honorable senator to examine some of the land that wail included in the early war service land settlement scheme in the Denmark district of Western Australia.
– The honorable senator knows nothing about the land.
– A considerable time must elapse before the virgin land which the Government is said to be developing, can be brought to production, and those persons who are settled on it may look forward to obtaining a reasonable living from it. The second schedule of the War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act 1945 also provides -
The States shall set apart Crown land or with funds provided by the Commonwealth resume for settlement Crown land and acquire compulsorily or by agreement private land comprised in an approved plan of settlement at a value to be approved by the Commonwealth, and will hold the same for use for the purposes of the scheme.
Government supporters interjecting,
-Honorable senators opposite do not like to be reminded of these provisions. Their interjections are being made solely for the purpose of preventing me from continuing my speech. I appeal to the Chair for protection.
– Order! I want to hear what Senator Cooke has to say and not what his interjectors wish to say.
– The act also contains the following provision: -
Where Crown land is set apart or resumed for the purpose of settlement, the States shall be credited with such amount as the Commonwealth and the State agree represents the interest of the State in the land.
The agreement was clearly set out. Although the Commonwealth was refused the right to resume land for soldier settlement, the Government has not honestly endeavoured to encourage the States to exercise their sovereign rights in this connexion. As it is now after 11 o’clock I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
– Is leave granted?
Leave not granted. .
– If the Government is sincerely interested in the welfare of the ex-servicemen it would do more than propose to make available only £6,000,000 for the land settlement of ex-servicemen during this financial year. It is time that the Government took an active interest in this matter. Many exservicemen who now form a part of the 10 per cent. economic pressure gauge of unemployment accepted casual employment and fill-in jobs while waiting for the Government to carry out its promise to place them on suitable land.
As ex-servicemen settlers are faced with heavy commitments during their initial struggling years, I consider that the amount of the subsistence allowance payable to them should be raised, to assist them to cope with rising prices. In Western Australia a reasonably good quality of tobacco is grown. Some of the leaf is of first-class quality. The majority of the growers receive only from1s. to 2s. per lb. for the low-grade tobacco leaf, although very few grades of tobacco can be purchased in the stores for less than 2s. an ounce. Price increases are absorbed in the manufacturing process. The Governmenthas adopted a laisser-faire approach to this matter as well as to other matters that have been mentioned in this chamber this evening. The grower receives only what the buyer is prepared to pay.
– He can go before the board.
– Guarantees operate to protect the growers of other commodities. Many ex-servicemen are engaged in the growing of tobacco in Western Australia, and although their cost of production may be 9s. per lb., in many instances they receive only a few shillings per lb. for the bulk of their crop. It is quite impossible for a grower to produce more than a small percentage of first-class leaf. I consider that the Government should take steps to provide the growers of tobacco with the same degree of protection as it afforded to persons who are engaged in secondary industry. If that were done, the Western Australian and the Queensland tobacco-growing projects would become payable propositions
. Mr. President-
– Mr. President
– Order! When I looked to my right I did not see any honorable senator rise. I then gave the call to Senator Cameron, who should proceed.
– The fundamental anomaly of the war service land settlement scheme is that the Government has not assisted soldier settlers to obtain adequate equipment with which to fence and develop their land. When those men were members of the fighting forces they were properly trained and equipped. However, since they have been engaged in primary production they have been handicapped in many ways. Almost every honorable senator who lias taken part in this debate has referred to the way in which many ex-servicemen have been frustrated. There is a vast difference between the treatment that those men received during war-time and the treatment that they have received since their demobilization. When they were members of the fighting- forces they were properly fed and clothed, and their diligence in the field was rewarded with promotion. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator COOPER) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I wish to say something regarding a possible .misunderstanding that may have occurred, in the Senate to-day. I gather from the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) that he was. under the impression that an agreement had been made with the Opposition that the Senate would continue until eleven o’clock tq-night. I wish to recount the facts. T asked the Minister for Shipping and
Transport (Senator McLeay), who was in charge of the Senate at the time, not to continue the sitting beyond 10.30 p.m. The honorable senator told .me that his intention was that the Senate should adjourn at 11.30 p.m. I wrote him a note of protest in view of the fact that a bill covering some 21 pages and involving much consideration of the Navigation Act had been delivered to the Senate to-day. I claimed that it was unreasonable to ask honorable senators to continue to sit beyond 10.30 p.m. On receipt of that note, he informed me that he would make the time 11 p.m. I then informed him. orally, that that was better, but that I was still not happy with the position. Those are the facts. From them it could not possibly be construed that there was any agreement between the Opposition and the Government. I am sure that it will now be appreciated that there was some misunderstanding. I am also sure that the Minister for Shipping and Transport will confirm the correctness of the remarks which’ I have propounded.
I also wish to refer to the fact that the waterside workers at Hobart -have a building which, although quite a good one, is now much too small for their purposes. It is required to accommodate approximately 700 men, but has only two showers. The amenities are inadequate for the labour force that is available. I understand that there was a proposal to extend the building and to provide for the installation of additional amenities, but I have been informed by telephone to-night that it is believed that the proposal has now been abandoned. I mention the matter to-night because to-morrow I should like to address to the appropriate Minister a question concerning the intentions of the Government in this connexion. I take this opportunity to give the Minister forewarning of my. question.
– in reply - I thank the honorable senator for the information that he has given. I shall bring to the notice of the appropriate Minister his proposed question regarding the building for waterside workers hi Hobart.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Air Force Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1952, No. 88.
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land acquired for Department of Civil Aviation purposes- Llanherne, Tasmania.
Land disposed of under Section63 - Return showing manner of disposal.
Meat Export Control Act - Seventeenth Annual Report of the Australian ‘Meat Board, for year 1951-52.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department -
Attorney-General’s - R. W. Brown, H. L. Higginson, A.E. Ingle, J. P. Warry.
External Affairs - F. J. Jacka, G. Major.
Interior - W. F. Buscombe.
Supply- R. W. S. Carlson, R. M. Huntington, H. McBride, R. J. Skevington.
Public Service Arbitration Act - Determination by the Arbitrator - 1952 - No. 66 - Commonwealth Storemen and Packers’ Union of Australia.
Repatriation Act -
No. 1 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal - Report for 1951-52.
No. 3 War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunal - Report for 1951-52.
Whaling Industry Act- Third Annua] Report of the Australian Whaling Commission, for year 1951-52.
Senate adjourned at 11.13p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 14 October 1952, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1952/19521014_senate_20_220/>.