22nd Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Several business organizations in Western Australia have expressed a desire that the new Minister for Customs and Excise visit that State in the near future. I ask the Minister whether it will be possible for him to do so, and also to visit other -ports in addition to the port of Fremantle.
– Some misunderstanding seems to have occurred. The Public Works Committee will soon be visiting Perth, and the names of the members of the committee, of which I was one, have been published. Of course, having been appointed as Minister for Customs and Excise, I shall not now be making that visit. I have had many representations from Perth to meet deputations on various matters when I visit that city. I shall visit Perth as soon as possible after I have got the activities of the department at Canberra and other places in my vision, which I can assure the Senate I have not yet succeeded in doing by a long way. I shall be only too happy to meet deputations in that city on the various matters that they may desire to place before me.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether the Government has reached a decision regarding the giving of financial assistance to the Queensland Government to recondition the railway and assist in the provision of transport facilities from Mount Isa to Townsville.
– I understand that the Premier of Queensland has been in touch with the Commonwealth Treasurer and other Ministers, but I am not yet aware of the outcome of the negotiations. I should imagine that it will be published in due course.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer let me know what stage has been reached in negotiations relating to an agreement between Australia and Canada for relief from double taxation on income? Are any negotiations pending between Australia and New Zealand, South Africa or Switzerland? Would the Minister care to comment on the general advantages to the export trade of Australia and the level of overseas investment in Australia that could well accrue from further taxation treaties?
– ] am aware that at the present time the matter of an agreement between Australia and Canada is before the Treasurer, and that he will be placing it before the Government. I know of no negotiations with New Zealand, South Africa or Switzerland. Regarding the general principle, we have reciprocal tax agreements with the United States of America and Great Britain. They are rather complicated documents, which are rather difficult to tease out for the purpose of equitable application, and are aimed principally at attracting the investment of overseas capital in Australia. They have, I believe, been successful in that direction.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior been directed to the following report in this morning’s “ Canberra Times “: -
Commonwealth Bridge was closed for about two hours yesterday morning to allow strengthening work to be carried out on the top framework under the bridge. A senior officer of the Department of Works said that the surfacing of the roadway with bitumen over the planking had settled down satisfactorily. It would be given a second coating when the work on (he bridge was completed in about fortnight.
Will the Minister inform the Senate whether he has prominently before him the report of the Public Works Committee concerning the construction of an alternative bridge over the Molonglo River at Canberra, in order to avoid bottlenecks and the diversion of traffic, which will continue to occur until another bridge is provided? Has the Minister any information to give to the Senate in relation to the work that the committee recommended as urgent?
– The report of the Public Works Committee to which Senator O’Byrne has referred is before my colleague, the Minister for the Interior. 1 know that both he and his department are fully seised of the urgency of the work, in order to obviate the traffic bottlenecks that occur in Canberra because there is only one highlevel bridge over the Molonglo River. The Public Works Committee recommended the provision of an additional high-level bridge. I shall place the honorable senator’s question before the Minister, obtain the latest information on the matter and give it to him personally.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General inform me what steps, if any, are taken by the Postal Department to investigate apparently bona fide complaints of over-charging in relation to telephone accounts before the disconnexion of the subject telephones is authorized? 1 ask this question because I have received a serious complaint from a Melbourne businessman who, having lodged a legitimate complaint about his account, suffered the embarrassment of having his telephone disconnected, only to be informed later that a mistake had been made?
– I shall be very pleased to obtain from my colleague, the Postmaster-General, the information that the honorable senator seeks. If Senator Hannan will see me privately, I might be able to supply him, confidentially, with some information concerning the particular subscriber.
– ls the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware that, at a meeting of a fruit-growers’ association some twelve months ago, grave concern was expressed in relation to increases of shipping freights that were then being sought? The opinion was expressed by those at that meeting that it might not be possible to sell their products in England at prices that would be profitable after meeting the increased freight. An interim increase of freights has since occurred, and the fruit-growers are very concerned about the matter. Tn these circumstances, will the Minister look info the present freight charges on fruit and other primary products exported from Australia, with a view to the Government granting a subsidy on freight, or making other arrangements whereby our primary products can be sold on the English market at prices acceptable to the producers?
– The matter of overseas shipping freights does not come within the purview of my administration, which is restricted to coastal shipping. In the circumstances, 1 suggest that the honorable senator place his question on the notice-paper, so that a considered reply can be furnished by the acting Minister for Trade.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral consider the position of witnesses who were subpoenaed to appear before the Royal Commission on Espionage in Australia, and who were completely exonerated by the judges’ finding, but were involved in heavy legal expenses in defending their characters and public reputations? In view of the fact that so many estimable citizens were smeared in documents sold to the Government by the Petrovs although on examination of the so-called evidence they were proven to have been in no way implicated in espionage, and as there was not the slightest suggestion of any disloyal act on the part of such witnesses, will the Attorney-General arrange for their legal expenses to be examined with a view to reimbursing them, in part or in whole, for the heavy costs incurred in the defence of their good name?
– I am not aware of any list of witnesses whose names were smeared in documents handed over to the Government by the Petrovs. On the contrary, I think it was quite clear that the commissioners themselves made it quite clear that no suspicion at all rested upon any witnesses except those who did not deny their implication in espionage work. As regards the legal expenses that have been incurred, 1 know no more about them than, I am sure, the honorable senator does.
– The Attorney-General could find out.
– It would not be my business to find out what people paid for legal representation. The point to which 1 was coming was that if any citizen feels aggrieved by being called as a witness and thereby incurs, unnecessarily or necessarily, legal expenses which he feels have been unjustly placed upon him, and he makes an application to the Government, that application will be considered on its merits.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister acting for the Minister for Trade indicate whether any progress has been made in the discussions currently taking place between the Minister for Trade and his departmental officers and representatives of the British Government on the subject of establishing a more favorable trade basis between Australia and England? If any progress has been made, can the Minister indicate whether the signing of an agreement more beneficial to Australia is imminent?
– A lot of water is flowing under the bridge and a lot of progress has been made; but I do not think I should say more than that. Negotiations have to be concluded and the Minister himself will then make a statement, after reference to the Government, on a matter of such importance.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government. I preface it by saying that in another place the Prime Minister has undertaken to make a statement during the day on the progress of negotiations taking place to settle the very serious situation that exists in the Middle East and which concerns the future security of Australia. Will the Leader of the Government inform the Senate, as the day progresses, of any announcement that may be made in another place?
– I shall be very happy to give earnest consideration to the suggestion made by the honorable senator.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inform the Senate whether it is a fact that the Royal Commission on Espionage in Australia stated in its report on the Petrov affair that Australian security legislation was in need of great repair and strengthening? . Does the Government, propose, to submit any legislation on this matter to the Parliament in this sessional period?
– The matter that has been raised by the honorable senator is receiving the consideration of the Government. It is unlikely that any legislation dealing with the matter will be introduced in this sessional period.
– I preface a question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General by stating that some major works for the Postal Department in various parts of Victoria are near completion. The men employed on those works fear that they will be dismissed when the jobs are finished. Many major works have not yet been started. Will the Minister give an assurance that there will not be any large-scale dismissals of employees of the Postal Department’s engineering branch while so many works have not yet been completed?
– Naturally, I cannot give the assurance that the honorable senator has requested, but I shall refer his question to the Postmaster-General. I am sure that the Minister will do his best, as always, to ensure that employment is maintained in the Postmaster-General’s Department so far as is possible with the finance available.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
What would be the approximate cost to the Commonwealth of granting increases to pensioners, not receiving any relief under the present budget proposals, of (a) 10s. per week each, and (b) £1 per week each?
– The Minister for Social Services has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions -
– On 25th September, Senator Hendrickson asked the following question: -
I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the fact that the Commonwealth Government - as well as the Government of Victoria and the Melbourne City Council-1- is making a large contribution of the taxpayers’ money to make the Olympic Games in Melbourne a success; and having in mind also the outspoken criticism of newspapers which have interests in television companies that the Olympic organizing committee has become a party to a deplorable brawl concerning film and television rights; and in view of the many conflicting statements that have confused the mind of the public, will the Government prepare a considered, nonpolitical statement on film and television rights in connexion with the Olympic Games? Will the Leader of the Government inform the Senate, and the people of Australia, of the real facts, particularly whether the Olympic organizing committee has arranged a reasonable cover of the games for newsreel and television purposes? Can he say whether the statement contained in a newpaper editorial that the decision of the Olympic organizing committee “has the hall-mark of a supreme piece of bungling “ is pernicious propaganda? Will he give any other particulars that will enable the people of Australia to know the real position?
The Commonwealth Government fully appreciates the national and international importance of the 1956 Olympic Games for Australia, and its appreciation is being expressed in the very practical form of substantial contributions, both in cash and in services, to assist in making the games successful. The Commonwealth is not, however, responsible for the organization and running of the games. The organizational arrangements are in the hands of the organizing committee, a corporate body registered under the Victorian Companies Act. The committee is constituted of representatives of the sporting and other bodies concerned with the games and includes a Commonwealth representative. At no time and on no issue, however, has the Commonwealth attempted to force its views on the committee on ..matters .within, the committee’s responsibility.
– On behalf of the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Harold Holt), I lay on the table the following paper: -
International Labour Conference - Thirty-fifth (1952), Thirty-sixth (1953) and Thirty-seventh (1954) Sessions - Statement of action taken or proposed to be taken by the Government to implement the conventions and recommendations adopted.
In the interests of economy, I do not propose to ask that the statement be printed, but copies will be available to honorable senators from the Clerk of the Papers.
– On behalf of the Public Accounts Committee, I present the following report: -
Twenty-ninth Report - Defence Services and Estimates, together with Minutes of Evidence.
I should like to explain that the committee has departed from its usual practice on this occasion in that, in addition to the report, it is presenting the minutes of evidence taken and on which the report is founded. This action is being taken because of some criticism which appeared in the press and which emanated from other quarters, of the evidence given during the inquiry into the Supplementary Estimates. In some quarters, it was also considered that the committee had exceeded its power. Consequently, in order that honorable senators might have the benefit of reading the whole of the evidence given, the minutes are presented with the report.
Ordered to be printed.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Spooner) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to authorize the payment, during the current financial year, of special grants amounting to £13,500,000 to South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. The payment of these grants was recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in its twenty-third report which has now been tabled. In its twenty-third report the Grants Commission has continued to base its recommendations upon the general principle of financial need. The commission has interpreted this principle to mean that provided the efforts made by a claimant State to raise revenue and (o control expenditure are reasonable by comparison with the efforts made by the non-claimant States, its special grant should he sufficient to enable it to function at a standard not appreciably below ‘that of the non-claimant States. In applying this principle the commission makes a detailed comparison of the budget results of the claimant States with those of the nonclaimant States. When making this comparison the commission takes particular account of differences in levels of expenditure and of efforts to raise revenue.
The special grants recommended each year are divided into two parts. One part represents the commission’s estimate of the State’s financial needs for the current financial year. This part is regarded by the commission as an advance payment which will be the subject of an adjustment two years later when the commission has examined in detail the audited budget results of the States for that year. The other part of the grant represents a final adjustment of the special grant paid two years earlier. The grants recommended for payment this year are therefore made up as follows: -
In total, the special grants recommended for payment in 1956-57 are the same as last year. It is estimated, however, that the tax reimbursement payments to the claimant States will increase by £3,711,000 in 1956-57. The net effect, therefore, is that the total revenue grants to the claimant States will rise by about £3,711,000 in 1956-57, of which South Australia will receive £2,077,000, Western Australia £1,627,000 and Tasmania £7,000 more than in 1955-56.
On the basis of the preliminary estimates submitted to the commission last July by the claimant States, the commission’s recommendations would leave South Australia with a prospective budget deficit of £822,000, Western Australia with a deficit of £1,648,000 and Tasmania with a deficit of £843,000. These estimates, however, were highly tentative and, in any event, the special grants paid this year will be reviewed by the commission in two years’ time in the light of the States’ audited budget results for 1956-57. The special grants recommended by the Commonwealth Grants Commission have been adopted each year by the Commonwealth government of the day and the Government considers that the commission’s recommendations should be adopted again this year.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 30th October (vide page 1046), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– Just before the debate on this measure was adjourned yesterday, I was replying to the contention of Senator Hendrickson thai the high price of land had retarded the progress of closer settlement in Victoria. In Tasmania, we have had no difficulty in acquiring land for the settlement of exservicemen. We have obtained all the land that we needed by a system of round-table conferences attended by the Minister for Lands, a representative of the Department of Agriculture, and the owners of the land to be acquired. That method is quite different from the one followed in New South Wales.
I believe that the unreasonable, unfair and high-handed attitude of the New South Wales Labour Government in compulsorily acquiring property at 1942 values did not have die approval of anybody. That system may have given some savage satisfaction to the State Labour government, but it was strongly resented by landowners, who are entitled to reasonable prices for their land based upon ruling values and productive capacity. I also believe that the New South Wales system was not approved by the settlers themselves. In considering the matter in retrospect, it seems that if governments had accepted the fact that there had been a reasonable increase of post-war land values, the ex-servicemen who are still waiting to be settled on the land would already be settled on single-unit farms at a much lower cost than that of the developmental schemes that have been adopted. Labour governments in the States and in the Commonwealth have taken the line that land values have always been too high, and that some one would profit by their transactions if they paid ruling market prices for the land they acquired.
War service land settlement has been subject to an immense amount of criticism since it was introduced by the Curtin Government in 1945-46. lt was a magnificent scheme in conception, and at that time it was soundly based. However, it had one fault for us in Tasmania - the land was allocated to settlers on perpetual lease. That system did not meet with Tasmania’s approval, nor with the approval of Victoria. I doubt whether any major project by any government has been criticized so much as has the war service land settlement scheme, and there has been a good deal of misconception and misunderstanding by settlers about the aims and objects of the scheme. I give full marks to the Curtin Government for instituting war service land settlement, and at the time of its inception it received much public acclaim. Nevertheless, the governments of Queensland and New South Wales did not accept the scheme as designed by the Commonwealth because they said that it interfered with their sovereign rights. Although I examined it very closely, I could never really understand that contention. Still, that was the contention, and finally a combined Commonwealth and State scheme was propounded. But there should have been a completely Commonwealth scheme.
As 1 have said, the tenure at the time of the institution of the scheme by the Labour government was perpetual leasehold; but when this Government assumed office, the tenure was changed to freehold in the agent States - Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania. Of course, Victoria has retained its own scheme, which also was based on freehold tenure. As honorable senators know, the principal States - Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales - agreed to accept grants from the Commonwealth. In addition, they used their own moneys for land development and were fully responsible for the schemes which they inaugurated. Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania were really agent States for the Commonwealth and accepted the terms laid down by the Commonwealth and worked in conjunction with it. The Commonwealth, of course, provided all the money that was necessary for development, and the States carried out the work. It must be remembered that the properties were selected by the State governments. They also selected the applicants and administered the properties, subject to overall Commonwealth inspection and approval, lt is important to remember, too. that the States, particularly the agent States, had the final say as to the properties to be developed.
The Tasmanian Labour Government took the view that the single-unit properties were too high, and it decided to develop certain virgin lands for closer settlement and for fa Iamb and beef production and also for dairying. I say advisedly that 85 per cent, of the settlers in Tasmania are fairly well satisfied with the properties that have been allotted to them and with the terms of their agreements. Of course, there have been minor complaints, but I. think they have been adjusted in almost every case. 1 know thai every case that has been referred to me and which has been passed on to the authorities has been adjusted promptly and, I should say, satisfactorily. Except for a small percentage of settlers who have lost their properties because of sickness, family troubles or other reasons, the scheme has been a very marked success in Tasmania. My remarks apply almost wholly to Tasmania, because I know very little about the war service land settlement scheme in the other States.
The difficulties and arguments that arise revolve almost entirely around the withholding of capital assessments from the settlers. They have been withheld for many reasons. In some cases, the properties have not been sufficiently improved to enable a permanent capital value to be assessed, and in other cases protracted legal proceedings between certain settlers and the Commonwealth have only just recently been settled. I. should say that the capital assessments are now available and will soon be furnished to the settlers.
It has been stated that the cost of improvement has been particularly high. I do not think that that can be gainsaid, because, to my knowledge, it has been particularly high in relation to properties that have been developed from the virgin state. I refer to properties in the Montagu Swamp area, which comprises 30,000 acres in the far north-west of Tasmania, on King Island and Flinders Island, and at Marrawah and Waterhouse. Clearing, grubbing, ploughing, sowing down and the clearing of regrowth has been very costly. In reply to Senator Hendrickson, let me say that, in some cases, comparable lands alongside those that have been developed from the virgin state by the Government could be purchased for 25 per cent, or even 50 per cent. less.
– Who does the development in Tasmania?
Senator WARDLAW__ The State does the actual work, but I should say that it has not resulted in a saving. When we talk about the high cost of development, we must remember that similar costs have been experienced by every one else. There ,has been a shortage of machinery, equipment and men, and there have been very many difficulties to surmount. Under the circumstances, a very good job has been done. Several singleunit farms have been acquired, some of which we thought to be very costly at the time, but it has been proved that in every case they have been purchased at the right price, and almost all the settlers on those properties have been successful.
The objective of the Tasmanian Government has been the development of virgin land. It recognized from the start that without cheap Commonwealth money those lands, particularly in the outlying parts, would not be developed. So it took advantage of the opportunity afforded by the war service land settlement scheme to develop them and, at the same time, to increase national production. Most of the work, particularly at Montagu Swamp, has been basic work - the provision of roads, main drains, supplementary drains, clearing, laying down of pastures and clearing of regrowth. After 100 farms, which is the objective, have been established under the scheme, the balance of the country will be available to private enterprise, or for closer settlement, at a very much lower price than would be the case if it had been developed privately.
The Commonwealth has spent a large sum of money on war service land settlement. I understand that it has spent £135,000,000 or, more probably, £140,000,000, £9,000,000 of which has been spent in Tasmania. I do not think any one will say that it should not have been spent, because the State will receive great benefit from the lands that have been developed. Most of the country has been very difficult to develop; probably more difficult country could not have been chosen. But the idea behind the scheme, as I have already stated, is the development of these virgin lands as a long-range policy for the ultimate benefit of the State. From that point of view, I think the scheme has been well worth while. I have personally inspected about 75 per cent, of the war service land settlement blocks in Tasmania, and I have already mentioned some properties that have been very successful. [I have inspected certain properties that have been under criticism, but I have not inspected the properties known as York ;House, Epping, Macquarie Estate and Woolmers
Up to date, about eight or ten exservicemen have been settled on Flinders Island, and it is expected that another twenty will be settled there shortly. 1 understand that, eventually, .128 soldier settlement farms will be established on the island, and most of these should come into production within the next three to five years. During the past seven years, 340 ex-servicemen have been settled on the land in Tasmania. Altogether, 618 applications for blocks were received, many from the mainland. I believe that 56 mainland applicants have been settled in Tasmania, some on King Island. Up to date, about 90 exservicemen have been settled on that island, and a further 70 are in the process of being settled. Most of the war service land settlement blocks on King Island are devoted to dairying; they range in area from 160 to 180 acres. The remainder are used for fat lamb raising. Their average area is from 400 to 500 acres and, on an average, they run from two and a half to three ewes to the acre. Ultimately, it is intended to develop the cattle industry there. The land is of very high quality. Each of the war service land settlement blocks carries about 60 cows, and the butterfat potential is about 10,000 lb. a year. These farms should reach maximum production within the next five years. The Waterhouse property, consisting of 80,000 acres, which was recently acquired, has been the subject of much criticism. Originally, it was intended to subdivide that property into 40 farms, but I understand that it is now intended to establish only twenty farms on it. This might prove to be a wise decision.
From my experience, very many difficulties have been encountered in settling exservicemen on the land. Many exservicemen, lacking both capital and experience, suffered considerable hardship after obtaining farms. However, those administering the war service land settlement scheme have extended the utmost consideration in cases of genuine hardship. In the case of dinkum triers who have encountered undue hardship, Federal and State officials have co-operated in order to grant remissions of rent and so on. I pay a tribute to the manner in which those officials have studied the welfare of the soldier settlers.
– Did I understand the honorable senator to say earlier that only 15 per cent, of the soldier settlers in Tasmania have left their properties?
– Probably that is a bit high. Of course, many complaints have been received from the settlers, but in most instances they have been amicably adjusted.
In my opinion, most of the war service properties in Tasmania are too highly priced. In order that they might be economic propositions, in most instances the values should be written down by from 25 per cent, to 50 per cent. The Government has given a definite undertaking to settle ex-servicemen on the land at a capital cost that will enable them to make the properties pay, and I have every confidence that that promise will be honoured. In many h> stances, final valuations have been delayed in the interests of the settlers. Now that land prices are very much firmer, and markets are more stable, we can see where we are going in this matter. The high prices that have obtained for land in recent years have now given way to more reasonable values.
I hope that the war service land settlement scheme will be wound up within a reasonable time, and that any land not allotted under the scheme will be made available for private development. In their early stages, most of the soldier settlers encountered establishment difficulties, due to a lack of capital. The cost of establishing ex-servicemen on the land has been very high, but I think that the scheme has been well worth while. In my opinion, the cost of war service land settlement should be divided between investment and true cost. Despite the large expenditure involved in the land settlement of ex-servicemen, I do not think that the cost has been too high for the benefit that we shall receive.
It has been said that the war service land settlement scheme will be wound up by 1958, but I think that a little longer time than that will be needed to wind it up satisfactorily - say until December, 1960. Now that more labour and- machinery are available, I think that the tempo of the scheme should be accelerated, with the object of its being concluded satisfactorily by December, 1960. To that end, F suggest that a commission consisting of three practical men, with wide knowledge and experience of farming practice, be appointed to survey the present position in relation to the land settlement of exservicemen throughout the Commonwealth. This commission should assess the probability of settling ex-servicemen who are still waiting for blocks. It should advise ex-servicemen, whose applications have been approved, of the location of available properties. The suggested commission should suitably advise ex-servicemen whose applications have not been approved and, in special cases, compensate them for any loss thus sustained. This commission should state clearly the responsibility of both the Commonwealth and State governments in relation to the land settlement of ex-servicemen. Finally, it should be the objective of the commission to wind up the scheme at a date to be fixed, in a manner that will be acceptable to the settlers, and to both the Federal and State governments. I support the bill.
.- I desire to support the bill and, at the same time, make a few comments on it. 1 am rather disappointed with the progress that has been made with the land settlement of ex-servicemen, lt is eleven years since the war ended. If we take the average age of an ex-serviceman as 30 years at that time, he would now be just on 40 years. But many of them are still waiting for farms, and if the Government does not speed up a little they will have passed middle-age before they get farms.
– They will be grandfathers.
– Many of them are grandfathers now. Up to date £138,500,000 has been spent by Commonwealth and State governments but only 7,529 farms have been allotted since the war ended. That is not a large number. In my own State of Tasmania, only 340 ex-servicemen have been settled on farms during that period.
I agree that it is very difficult to bring into production some of the land that has been acquired by the State for the settlement of ex-servicemen. Senator Wardlaw mentioned the Montagu Swamp. It will be many years before that land can be made productive and able to support a settler without financial assistance being given to him. It takes many years to get land cleared and drained; and when it is cleared and drained it takes a further number of years before it is sufficiently sweetened and brought into production. The Commonwealth and State governments should have acquired more suitable land before embarking on the long-term project of the Montagu Swamp. Other land could have been acquired and brought into production much sooner than the Montagu Swamp land. I agree that there will be no better land than the Montagu Swamp when it is eventually brought into production, but we must consider the time that ex-servicemen will have to wait before that takes place, and in the meantime a lot of writing-down of values will occur. I do not know whether the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) can give me any figures on the price per acre of bringing the Montagu Swamp land into production. I could give him some estimate of the writing-down of values that will be necessary; it will be very large indeed. When considering the writing-down of values of these holdings the Government will need to keep in mind what happened after World War I. when land was purchased at inflated prices. The same thing occurred after World War II. Nobody can deny that fact.
After World War 1., as time went on and things settled to an even keel, overseas prices fell with the result that the productive value of the farms also declined. In the same way the productive value of the farms established after World War II. will also fall. Indications are that the prices of overseas commodities are falling from day to day. It will be necessary for the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the States, not only to value the farms at their productive capacity at the present time but also to write off costs over and above that value. It may also be necessary in a year or two to revalue the farms if our overseas markets continue to dwindle. If history repeats itself and the same thing takes place as happened after World War I., that will have to be done.
The Government should also consider one or two other matters. If an ex-serviceman is fighting for a revaluation of his farm the Government should do something about the matter immediately and not wait until such time as the settler is forced off his farm. It is well known that some settlers are forced off their farms through no fault of their own. When that happens the Government should give them every possible assistance and not allow their wives and families to suffer. 1 am not accusing the present Government of doing that, but I say that if a settler has the misfortune, as a result of ill health brought about by his war injuries, to leave his farm, consideration should be given to his wife and family. I have a very pathetic case in mind at the present time. It relates to one of the farms on King Island referred to by Senator Wardlaw. I do not mind giving the man’s name as at the present time he is fighting for justice just as during the last war he fought for our freedom. He has asked me to assist him. He was one of those exservicemen who waited for a farm and. during the time of his waiting, was trained in farming at the expense of the Government. After obtaining a farm he met with u series of misfortunes including the ill health of not only himself but also his wife and children. He slowly got behind with his rent and was in difficulties with the department. He made the department an offer; he told them he was in financial difficulties and offered to work his farm for £10 a week under the supervision of the Agricultural Department. 1 do not think he could have made a fairer offer than that. He asked for the department’s supervision because he felt in his own mind that if he were given the opportunity he could catch up on his arrears and make good on his farm. The next thing he knew was that the departmental officers were selling up his farm and stock. The stock and machinery had previously been bought by the department at inflated prices, and sold to him at the same inflated prices. However, when it was sold, the department put it up for auction under the hammer and accepted any price that was bid and then billed the soldier for the difference, which amounted to £600.
I shall give the Senate some idea of the misfortunes with which this man was confronted. He took over his block at Mount Stanley and started milking on 27 th September. In the same year, on 2nd November, his son aged nearly three years met with an accident, broke bis arm, and was in hospital for almost three weeks. In the following January, his wife had a daughter. In April of the following year a son was born, and in June of the same year this man broke his leg and had it in plaster until November. Between times another son was badly scalded and had to go to hospital for three weeks. Another girl had a bad accident; she lost a finger and was in hospital for three weeks. This man had to make a trip to Hobart to see a specialist, and from King Island a trip to Hobart is very expensive. It necessitates going by air to the mainland and then by road to Hobart and one does not obtain the services of a specialist for nothing. The following year this ex-serviceman developed a cancerous hip and was in hospital, with his hip in plaster, for many months. In the meantime, he had to get somebody to help him on the farm, and labour was scarce. He employed a man who appeared to be a good worker, but the man was charged with having stolen money from his wife and was bound over.
When the settler was getting back on to his feet, the authorities demanded the payment of arrears. He owed hundreds of pounds in other debts, and offered to conduct his farm under instructions from the authorities for £10 a week. He was not allowed to do that, and he has left the farm, which has been sold. I have referred this case to the Minister for Agriculture in Tasmania, and have received letters from the Minister and from the Premier of Tasmania stating that the case is being investigated.
In the meantime, the settler is getting letters from Mr. H. R. Driscoll, manager of the Agricultural Bank in Tasmania, informing him that unless he pays at least 30s. a week off the debt owing by him, the matter will be put in the hands of the Crown Solicitor and action will be taken. This is not the first threat that has been made by Mr. Driscoll. On 15th June. Mr. Driscoll wrote the following letter to the settler: -
I desire to inform you that you have made no effort to pay arrears outstanding on your account with this bank. I have this day instructed the Crown Solicitor to take legal action for the recovery of money due and unpaid.
That was on the 15th June. I took up the case and no action was taken then. On 5th October, Mr. Driscoll wrote the following letter to the settler: -
With reference to your letter of 18th June, 1 have to advise that the question of your arrears has been considered by the Commonwealth authorities.
It has been decided that these arrears must be repaid, and 1 am directed to ask you to make payment at the rate of 30s. a week.
This decision by the Commonwealth is binding on the Closer Settlement Board and I. must, therefore, require you to make a payment forthwith and further payments regularly.
I wrote to Mr. Driscoll, and asked him politely if he would send me a copy of the letter from the Commonwealth authorities. Mr. Driscoll replied that he regretted that he was unable to supply that information to me. I presume the ground was that this was a private matter between the settler and the bank. I am convinced, however, that Mr. Driscoll is bluffing. No government, State or Federal, would deliberately take the bread out of the mouths of little children. This man had eight children when I saw him last. He is working only part-time because he has a cancerous hip and has to return to the repatriation hospital at Hobart at intervals. He fought for democracy and freedom, and should be given a chance to rear his children decently. He cannot earn more than £14 a week, and surely the Government would not take 30s. a week from him. He has ten persons in the family to maintain. Several of his children are of school age, and as there are no good education facilities in the district, they will have to be sent to Launceston or Hobart.
Mr. Driscoll has stated that the Commonwealth Government has decided that the debt must be paid in full. Any money that is paid by this man will be at the expense of his little children. 1 have visited the man’s home and I know the facts. 1 deplore the letter from Mr. Driscoll stating that the Commonwealth Government is demanding its pound of flesh. The man’s name is 3. E. O’Shea, of Grassy, King Island. Mr. O’Shea would work his property for £10 or £12 a week under the supervision of the authorities if he were allowed to do so. He is a good worker and an honest Australian. I do not know whether any similar cases were included in the 15 per cent, of settlers who, according to Senator Wardlaw, have left their properties.
After World War I., many settlers went off their properties, which had been bought at inflated prices. They were not revalued until a State Labour government led by the late Mr. A. G. Ogilvie introduced a measure providing for the revaluation of all soldier settler properties according to their capacity to produce. That is the only basis upon which we should place exservicemen on farms. Once they have to pay interest charges and rent over and above the productive capacity of the holdings, they soon get into debt and have to leave the properties. I ask the Minister to do something about Mr. O’Shea, and to consider my suggestions for the revaluation of these properties.
– I propose to say something about war service land settlement purely from a Tasmanian point of view. I shall confine myself to broad aspects, and not deal with particular cases. I do not find myself in agreement with Senator Aylett very often, but I do agree with some of the statements he has made to-day. I believe that Senator Wardlaw painted too rosy a picture, and I do not agree with him completely. War service land settlement in Tasmania has been successful in the past. Many of the early settlers are doing very well, although they have a grouse because they have not been informed of the capital values of their properties. I believe that that matter is in hand, but it is taking too long, am.! their complaints are justified.
A matter about which we are all concerned is the value of the properties that have already been allotted, and the valuations that will be placed on single units and on farms in the Montagu Swamp and Waterhouse areas. The capital value of the farms must be examined carefully. I agree with Senator Aylett that if a man has to pay interest and other charges out of proportion to the producing capacity of his farm, he will go broke. Senator Wardlaw has stated that about 15 per cent, of the men have gone off their properties. I think the figure is too high. I believe that was a shot in the dark, and I should like some information on the point from the responsible Minister. I am prompted by the figures quoted in a report on a survey of the Australian sheep industry made in 1954 to suggest that the value of these properties must be given very careful consideration. That report includes figures relating to Tasmania. That report is a most illuminating document and I am sure the findings will surprise many people. The review was conducted by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. It undertook a survey of the Australian sheep industry and its work covered all the major sheep-carrying areas in Australia. It started with Tasmania; and the report is based on the financial year 1952-53. In Tasmania, the bureau surveyed 54 properties located mostly in the more fertile parts of the island. It did not take in undeveloped properties.
– Does it cover sheep or mixed-farming properties?
– I propose to give the details of both types of properties. Twenty-three of the 54 properties surveyed were classified as sheep only whilst the remaining 31 were farms engaging in all forms of production in addition to sheep. In other words, the remaining 31 were average Tasmanian farms. The average capital value of the 31 mixed farms was £28,309. which is far more than it would cost to settle a returned soldier to-day. I should say the ceiling price in Tasmania to-day would be something between £18,000 and £20,000. That being so, the figure I quote to-day will probably have to be reduced considerably if we are to arrive at the earnings of an ex-serviceman on a small property under present conditions. According to the survey made in 1952-53, the average value of plant on these farms was £2,778. That is remarkably low when we consider what it costs to buy a tractor to-day. I should certainly hate to have to buy plant for a farm for £2,778 to-day. The average value of live-stock in that year was £5,915, which again is low when we consider present-day prices. One honorable senator opposite said that lambs were worth about £8 each, but that is rather high. I should be happy to take half that price for my lambs. The average total capital value of the farms surveyed was £37,002. In that year, the average return from sheep and wool was £5,067, and in those days wool reached its second highest price. It is now about 20 per cent, lower than it was then. The average return from cattle in that year was £222, whilst the return from crops was £145 and that from dairying was £278. The other income earned from the properties was £333 for the year, so that the total income from all sources in that year was £6,045. 1 come now to the costs for that year. Labour was responsible for £1,611; and I emphasize that this figure does not include anything for the owner’s labour. Materials cost £1,218, services cost £612 and rent and depreciation came to £617, making the total cost for the year £4,058. It will be noted that rent has been included. That is because some of the properties surveyed were held under leasehold tenure.
– Those costs do not include interest?
– They do not include one penny for interest. Out of a total average income of £6,045, the farmer had to meet costs averaging £4,058, so that he was left with a net income of £1,987. The survey put a charge of 5 per cent, against capital, so that the interest on capital in that year averaged £1,850, leaving the farmer with only £137 for his own labour and management. On the other hand, if the farmer had invested the £37,000 capital in government bonds, or any other venture returning 5 per cent., and went to work for the basic wage, he would have been much better off. It will be appreciated, therefore, that the position as disclosed by the figures I have quoted offers no encouragement to any one to go on the land.
Let me put it another way. Still working on an average farm income of £1,987, and charging for the settler’s own labour, which was taken on the basis of the rate paid to a station hand in that year - it is a lot higher now - he would have earned £658, but his return on capital would have been reduced to £1,329, or 3.59 per cent. To-day, an ex-serviceman pays 3£ per cent, interest on his loan which is higher than the average return from a mixed farm in Tasmania. If his land is to be valued at the current rate in Tasmania, he has a very slender chance of enjoying a good living.
– Does he have to pay off his farm?
– In addition to paying 3J per cent, interest, he has to repay the loan. That is why I am careful to advise ex-servicemen to think very carefully before asking the Government to put them on farms under present conditions. I certainly admit that such things as a free home have not been taken into account in these figures, but the position is still most discouraging; and in my view a returned soldier would be unwise to venture upon the land under those conditions. If the Government does not write down the capital value of these properties the soldier settlers will have a poor chance of succeeding. I regret that at this stage I cannot refer to the alleged profits being made by the man on the land. Life on the land in Tasmania is not a bed of roses, and unless soldier settlers there receive preferential treatment they will not earn even the equivalent of the basic wage on their properties.
– In the case the honorable senator mentioned was the £1,600 the amount paid out in wages?
– That is so. That settler paid £1,611 for labour, not including his own. If a charge of 5 per cent were made against his capital he would be left with £137. If he received the basic wage for that year as a return for his own labour, that would be £658 and the total return on his capital would be £1,329 or 3.59 per cent. He would receive considerably more if he invested his capital at 5 per cent, in securities.
A settler on the land is undertaking a hazardous occupation because, among other things, he has to face the risks of the seasons. Any intending soldier settler in Tasmania should carefully study this pamphlet entitled “ The Australian Sheep Industry Survey, 1954 “, because he will find that it contains , I. I. useful information. Many settlers in that State obtained their land in earlier years, they reaped the benefit of the high prices paid during the wool boom and they have done extremely well. I am not saying that many ordinary farmers in Tasmania are not doing well, but they probably inherited their properties from their fathers, who obtained them originally for a very small sum. I am not saying that every man on the land in Tasmania is broke, or that he is foolish to be there, but I warn any intending soldier settler in Tasmania to be careful before he takes up land. The Government will have to reduce the capital cost of land if it wants to prevent more settlers from leaving their properties.
– I support the bill, which authorizes the lending of £8,500,000 for capital expenditure on soldier settlement, and also the payment of £2,200 000 for living allowances, interest, rent remission and the writingdown of the cost of holdings. These two amounts make a total of £10,700,000, and when that is added to the £137,000,000 that has been previously advanced by Commonwealth and State governments, it is found that more than £147,000,000 has been devoted to the successful settlement of ex-servicemen on the land.
I wish to deal, briefly, with soldier settlement in South Australia, which is one of the agent States. The Commonwealth provides all the costs of the scheme except the part that is paid by the State for administration. Any rent, interest or principal that the settlers may pay is received by the State authority and remitted to the Commonwealth. During the training and assistance period, benefits are provided by the Commonwealth, but if a loss is incurred in the, settlement of the settler, the agent State is responsible to the extent of twofifths and the Commonwealth bears the remaining three-fifths. This involves what is commonly known as the production value of the farm.
One difficulty encountered when a settler goes on to his farm is the assessing of us productive value. One of the causes of apprehension in the settler’s mind is that the value of the property is not then assessed. I am now speaking of areas of virgin country in South Australia, which have been cleared and brought into production. Nearly all of the settlers in the Cooltong-Loxton areas on the Murray, and the Wrattonbully in the south-east of South Australia have done very well, as have those on the western coast of the Eyre Peninsula. I wish to speak specifically, however, of the settlers on Kangaroo Island. It is of great importance to a settler that, when he goes on to his property, an assessment should be made of the price that he must ultimately pay for it. If he engages in pioneering work it may be unfair to him in three years’ time to have his property assessed at its then productive value, because he has laboured for three years in improving it. All honorable senators will agree that he is at least worthy of his hire.
The comment has been made that exservicemen are not being settled on the land quickly enough. Enormous pressure has been exerted by ex-servicemen’s organizations, farmers’ associations and public bodies to accelerate the rate of soldier settlement, but if the men are settled too quickly on virgin country the result may be detrimental to them. The Minister (Senator Paltridge), in his second-reading speech, referred to approximately 250,000 acres of virgin country on Kangaroo Island, where a very good attempt is being made to bring land into production. I know of no similar area in Australia. When the Government went to work to bring it into production it had no pattern to guide it. Some of the methods of cultivation employed could be criticized, but no one could say whether that criticism is justified, because this scheme was started in 1952, and the four years that have elapsed since that time is not a long enough period for anybody to say whether the methods of clearing, ploughing and so on are the correct methods for this type of country.
We do not know whether the land should lie fallow for twelve or eighteen months after clearing or whether it should be planted immediately with pasture grass. We can all have our own ideas about those matters. However, we do know that the time at which grass seed is sown has a very important bearing on the ultimate pasture obtained. lt is difficult to compare the carrying out of a scheme like this with the operations of a private individual. A private person might have 2,000, 3,000 or 4,000 acres of land, and he can select the ideal time to do his cultivation work and plant his grasses. The ideal time for planting might be late March, and the private person can carry out all his planting at that time. However, with a scheme such as that with which we are dealing, the area of land is so large that the planting of grass seed would perhaps start in early March and would not be finished until the end of May, or early June. If the ideal time for planting is late March, honorable senators will see that in these circumstances most of the planting would have to be done at times which are not so suitable for the germination and growth of the seed.
It is not possible at present to grow cereal crops such as wheat, oats or barley on lands with which we are dealing. Those crops cannot be grown until several years after the holdings have been developed. There are several schools of thought about the quantity of superphosphate that should be applied to the land at the initial dressing, the time of application and the quantity that should be applied subsequently. When the scheme was started superphosphate cost about £8 a ton, but to-day farmers in that area have to pay £20 a ton for it. That type of land needs at least li cwt. to a bag of superphosphate each year, and that works out at about 35s. an acre. Therefore, it is apparent that this land will be fairly expensive to develop. I believe the scheme will be wonderfully successful, but the problem of when and how superphosphate should be applied must receive serious consideration. Indeed, I believe that factor will make or mar this settlement. Superphosphate is generally applied by a broadcaster, and if a settler has to apply 30s. to 35s. worth of superphosphate an acre to 800 acres, it will cost him about £1,200 to £1,400. Therefore, the means of distribution must be very reliable in order that he shall receive value for the money that he expends. The old seed drill, or combine, would perhaps give better results than the broadcaster on land such as this, although they are slower in operation.
– There are also stumps to be considered.
– That is so, but, as I have already said, this is a pioneering project. I know that stump picking is not an entertaining job, but the settlers in this area are used to mallee country and are used to the back-breaking job of stump picking. I should like to see a few horses on the farms on Kangaroo Island, and a few jinkers and old-fashioned tip-drays. They would probably be very valuable in the arduous work of stump picking. I know that arguments have been advanced against the use of drills, or combines, for broadcasting superphosphate, but those arguments are not insurmountable because £1,400 a year is quite a large sum of money to spend on superphosphate, and the farmers must get full value for that expenditure. If these men want to be successful they will have to make up their minds to use superphosphate.
On a number of holdings we are discussing dairy cows are kept, and wherever one sees a dairy cow he can be sure that the settler is meeting his butcher’s and baker’s bills each month. This is a very big project, and if the settlers are able to win through, then in ten or fifteen years’ time their properties could be easily subdivided into two, or even four, exceptionally good holdings. When these men are put into category 2 and become selfsupporting, I should like the Minister for Primary Industry and the departmental officers to consider giving them some concession in regard to the purchase of superphosphate. I have no definite figures in mind, but perhaps the Government could then make available to each settler £1,000 a year for three years at, say, 2± per cent, interest. Then the settlers could, in their turn, make a corresponding reduction of their stock mortgages of about the same amount. It should be remembered that these settlers have very little ready cash and that is why they are sometimes adversely criticized.
An ex-serviceman goes on his land with practically no liquid capital, whereas Bill Smith, the private individual, has paid for half his property and has a fair amount of liquid cash available to buy his stock and plant. In other words, he has working capital. It is difficult for ex-servicemen on the land to get working capital, but if money were made available to them as I have suggested they would have a good chance of making a success of their holdings. I do not know whether the holdings are too large. When they have 600, 700 or 800 acres of pioneering country, to get into production is a very big task, because no outside labour is available.
Party politics are not involved in this matter. All of us, whether we have been members of a Liberal-Australian Country party government or a Labour government, have been eager to see these lads make good on their properties. 1 am delighted to know that just recently two federal officers, Mr. Colquhoun and Mr. McDonald, and two State officers, Mr. Rowe and Mr. Hill, visited almost all of the Kangaroo Island area and met as many settlers as they could. They went where they were asked, interviewed the men, and met their representatives to discuss some of their problems. I think a lot of good flowed from that visit. I do not know what proposal will be placed, before the Minister for Primary Industry, but I know that the Kangaroo Island settlers were very pleased to see that co-operation between the Commonwealth Government and the State Government. But 1 go one step further. I should like to see the Minister visit South Australia in the very near future and discuss these matters with the responsible State Minister, the Honorable Cecil Hicks, on a ministerial level. It is vital that they should visit Kangaroo Island, the river Murray settlement, and the settlement in the southeast. We should maintain the happy relationship that exists between the Commonwealth and the State. The Commonwealth should investigate the cases, not of every settler, but of many of them. Indeed, T understand that the Kangaroo Island people have been promised that a thorough investigation will be made of the settlers’ prospects, assets and liabilities.
It was determined originally that the tenure would be a perpetual leasehold, but since then the Parliament has given the settler the option, after ten years, of making his property freehold. I am delighted at that step, because formerly ex-servicemen, who had fought to save this country, were the only people who were debarred from having freehold land. I believe that, before the settlers’ liabilities are fixed, the Commonwealth and the States should make an assessment, so that the settlers may make a success of their enterprise. I support the bill.
– in reply - I do not wish to delay the passage of the bill, which is receiving support from both sides of the Senate. Honorable senators this year, as they did last year and on previous occasions, have emphasized the need to bring the scheme to a conclusion as early as possible. During my secondreading speech, I mentioned the number of farms that had been allotted, but during the debate various speakers have asked when a further milepost will be passed. June, 1959, has been set as the target date, and it is hoped that at that date all applicants who are to receive farms will be on their blocks, even though that might necessitate the acceptance by the Commonwealth of certain concessional commitments and even though the farms will not have reached the standard of productivity which is thought to be desirable. The number of applicants in the various States awaiting the allotment of blocks is as follows: - In New South Wales, fewer than 4,000; in Victoria, 1,500; in Western Australia, 730; in South Australia, 400; and in Tasmania, 330. Interestingly enough, the number of applicants for blocks in Tasmania includes 110 applicants from the mainland. The degree to which those applicants are settled, particularly in the principal States, will depend upon the amount of money that the States make available.
Senator Pearson expressed some interest in the amount that the Commonwealth has expended to date on write-downs. I have been furnished with the following figures relating to write-downs, Commonwealth and State, in the agent States to 30th June, 1956:- Western Australia, £312,036; South Australia, £146,000; Tasmania, £237,799. I cannot give figures showing the direct relation of those write-downs to individual farms, because in many cases the costs are spread over group holdings. The Commonwealth’s contribution to the principal States for write-downs is as follows: - New South Wales, £160,978;. Queensland, £116,105; Victoria, £1,632,929.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I direct to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) several questions relating to the freeholding of properties in the agent States, particularly South Australia. 1 regard the ability to freehold as being very important, and I compliment this Government for having made it possible. It should be remembered that the previous government would not have a bar of giving to the settler the right to freehold his land. It is very important, because without the ability to make land freehold, it was quite impossible to make an adequate distribution of property by will when the whole question of the tenure of the settler was in doubt.I am very grateful to know that the freeholding work is well on the way in South Australia. About a month ago, the department sent out roneoed letters to the soldier settlers briefly setting out the official point of view in relation to freeholding. I should like the Minister to let me know how many years must elapse after an ex-serviceman takes over his block in South Australia before he can have it made freehold. Is the period likely to be less in cases of urgency, such as the death of the soldier settler, or his incapacity? I should also like the Minister to inform me of the method of evaluating the property, so that the basis on which the land can be freeholded can be arrived at.
Will the Minister also let me know how it is proposed to exclude from any valuation improvements that the soldier settler himself has effected since being allotted the property, say, eight or ten years before? How can the value of pasture improvements, for which he has been personally responsible, be eliminated, so that, when he freeholds the property, he will not have to pay again, as it were, for improvements that he has made? I regard as important the matters that I have raised, and I congratulate the Government on moving towards this end, so that the soldier settlers will be able to have a freehold title that they can pass on to their families or, should they decide to leave their properties through advancing age or for other reasons, they will have an asset that they can sell, and so recoup themselves for all the work they have done.
.- If it is convenient for the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), I shall address to him two questions similar to those that have been asked by Senator Laught in relation to South Australia. I should like to remind the Minister that two years ago, when Mr. Kent Hughes was administering the war service land settlement scheme, a meeting of soldier settlers was held in Tasmania, and it was then arranged that the Minister would again visit Tasmania with a view to making an early decision on four specific matters in relation to each holding under the scheme. They were, the rental value, the valuation of improvements, the price at which land was available for purchase on option, and the terms of the settler’s tenure. Those matters had created such a degree of dissatisfaction as to lead to lengthy litigation - even to the High Court - on behalf of some soldier settlers in Tasmania. The general election followed, and a new Minister took over. The decision of the High Court was not announced until later in the year. In the meantime, the Tasmanian senators kept before the Minister the necessity for the department to put itself in a position to be able to announce decisions upon those four business aspects of each holding as soon as the decision of the High Court was announced.
I was very pleased to hear the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) announce yesterday that the capital valuation of the Lawrenny estate had been concluded. However, the Tasmanian exservicemen are entitled to a definite statement about the figures at which the department will offer blocks to them under those four headings for their individual selections. It is ludicrous that, upon the death of a soldier settler, his widow or family do not really know what interest they have in the property, the value at which it will be offered to them, or even the rental that will be fixed from a certain date with, if the director thinks fit, retrospective application. Before we pass this measure to make available £8,500,000 for the land settlement of ex-servicemen, I urge the Government to make expeditious decisions on the four matters that I have mentioned, and to communicate them to all soldier settlers, so that each new settler will know precisely the terms and conditions upon which he holds his selection. That is the very basis of his incentive to develop it, because, by exercising his option, he can become the owner of it. 1 think that a period of eighteen months was ample time in which to make decisions on these points.
I only want to make one further point, and that is in relation to the cost of improvements. Up to 1951, soldier settlers were assured that the cost of structural improvements would be debited to their accounts, on the basis of 1946 costs. I hope that there is no intention to depart from that arrangement, but I believe that the authorities, having given the settler the benefit of 1946 costs for improvements - although improvements may now be worth £5,000, on 1946 costs they would be taken into account at, say £3,000 - now intend to incorporate the gross amount. In that case, an amount of £2,000, intended to be deducted from the cost of improvements, will be included in the soldier’s option price.
I should like an assurance from the Government that the elements of dissatisfaction to which I have referred will be the subject of definite decisions at a very early date, so that the individual settlers will know precisely the terms on which the Government is doing this business - business which is represented to be of a concessional nature so far as the settler is concerned.
.- - I am greatly indebted to the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) for supplying me with figures in relation to the writing-down of valuations that has occurred in relation to the land settlement of ex-servicemen in each State. I understand that he is unable to inform me of the areas in which the written-down blocks are situated, or the number of holdings that have been affected. As this matter is of considerable interest to me, I should be glad if the Minister would undertake to supply me in writing with the information I have sought, after the department has had an opportunity to look into the matter.
– I shall bring to the notice of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), Senator Pearson’s request for further figures in relation to the writing-down that has taken place. In answer to Senator Wright’s question, I am advised that the rental value will be the economic rent with a ceiling-
– I know the formula. The dissatisfaction arises from the application of that formula to a property. 1 want the Minister to supply the actual figures in relation to each individual settler.
– I understand the honorable senator desires the Government to address itself to that matter with the greatest urgency. I understand that, and 1 was about to tell him that I would bring his request to the notice of the Government. I did not understand that he was already aware of all the details.
asked what period had to elapse in South Australia before a property could be converted to freehold tenure. The period is ten years, the same as in Western Australia. The honorable senator may be interested to know that in Tasmania the period is six years. The widow of a deceased settler is an eligible person and can qualify as a recipient of the benefits of the scheme. The value to be applied is the market value on the completion of the works or the cost, whichever is the less. As to the query regarding the exclusion of the settler’s own assets, a settler can claim for the value of any assets or structures which he places on his property.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Reports on Items.
– I lay on the table reports of the Tariff Board in respect of the following subjects: -
Bags, sacks, packs and bales.
Chemicals of the thiocarbamyl type.
Fish preserved in tins.
Forged steel spades.
Furnishing and upholstery piece goods.
Locomotives as used underground in mines.
Men’s half hose, men’s and boys’ full golf hose, women’s and girls’ stockings, and socks and stocking N.E.I.
Piece goods used as substitutes for canvas and duck.
Pneumatic hand tools.
Single or multi-tyned cultivators.
Women’s and children’s socks.
Ordered to be printed.
Debate resumed from 25th October (vide page 960), on motion by Senator Paltridge -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– -At the outset I say that the Opposition does not oppose this bill. As a matter of fact, we do not wish to delay the passage of the measure, but will assist the Government to expedite its passage; particularly in view of the heavy business sheet before the Senate. Similar sugar agreements, as honorable senators realize, have been considered by various governments, whether they have been Liberal, Labour or otherwise, over the years since 1921.
I thought of dealing with the history and economics of the industry but that is not necessary in the present circumstances. Honorable senators are familiar with the sugar agreement because, as I have said, similar agreements have been in existence over very many years. I shall state briefly just what this bill proposes to do. Its purpose is to obtain parliamentary approval to an agreement made between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments to regulate the production and marketing of sugar in Australia during the next five years. Honorable senators will remember that this agreement, particularly regarding the price of sugar, was reached in May last and this bill is really being brought down to ratify the agreement made on that occasion. Included as a schedule to the bill is an agreement which continues a series of agreements between the Commonwealth and the Queensland Government which have existed for more than 30 years. The terms of the present agreement are virtually identical with those of preceding agreements except that in the present agreement a further small concession is being made to the fruit people. The previous agreement expired on 31st August, 1956.
The main principles contained in these agreements have remained substantially unaltered since the first agreement was introduced. As indicated in the second-reading speech of the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), the main features of the agreement are that the Commonwealth Government undertakes to continue to impose an embargo on the importation of sugar; and the Queensland Government, on its part, undertakes to acquire all raw sugar produced from cane growing in Queensland and New South Wales, to make sugar available in Australia at certain prices fixed by the Commonwealth Government, to control production, to accept responsibility for losses arising from the export of surplus sugar - that means that the industry has to accept any losses on sugar that is exported - to pay rebate on the sugar content of goods exported and to contribute to the funds of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee.
To my mind the main aspect of this bill is, of course, the provision for an increase of1d. per lb. in the price of sugar. Honorable senators will realize that in the scheme of things, because of the inflation that has taken place over the years, costs have risen. I am sorry to say that there does not seem to be any indication that the Government is doing anything to arrest that inflation. The sugar industry is the one business undertaking in Australia that is compelled to come to the Government and request it to look into the industry’s affairs and fix a fair and reasonable price which will enable the industry to carry on. The Government has done this and has decided it is necessary to increase the price of sugar by1d. per lb. As I have said, it is inevitable that the price of sugar must be increased because, as honorable senators realize, the costs of the industry have gone up over the past few years. Freights, whether of State railways or overseas shipping, have increased. Sugar produced in Australia has to be exported and consequently incurs heavy shipping freights. In addition, the increased cost of fertilizers has made it absolutely necessary for the industry to state its case to the Government, which has seen fit to increase the price by 1d. per lb. Unless something is done to arrest inflation and prevent rises in costs, the ink will hardly be dry on the document giving assent to this bill when the industry will be compelled to seek relief again.
I recall that in 1948, the sugar industry asked the Chifley Labour Government for an increase in the price of sugar of a halfpenny per lb. The price of sugar was then 4d. per lb. The representatives of the industry said then that if they were granted an increase, the industry could continue to develop. It had an ambitious policy to settle a number of ex-servicemen on properties and to increase production. Under the bill before the Senate, the Government proposes to fix the price of sugar at lOd. per lb. That reminds us that we are tending to price ourselves out of world markets. The sugar industry has to export more than half its production, and must compete with producers in the rest of the world. Our costs have risen more than those in any other country, and an industry is at a great disadvantage when it depends upon its export trade.
I believe that the Government is acting correctly. I do not believe in giving an industry anything more than is reasonable, but I am sure that, at the proposed price, the sugar industry will be able to continue to expand and develop. It has become the greatest agricultural industry in Australia and has contributed substantially to our overseas credits. Last year about £25,000,000 or £26,000,000 came into Australia from the export of sugar. The development of thousands of miles of coastline in Queensland for the production of sugar has been a boon to Australia. 1 remember when many persons living south of northern New South Wales believed that it would be impossible for the industry to prosper in Queensland. This is the only country in the world where sugar cane is produced by white labour. The industry has had an uphill fight. When it was started, indentured labour worked under slave conditions, and an improvement in the industry has been difficult to achieve.
Because it was started on a low standard, critics tend to compare present prices with those that were imposed in the early days. The fact is that the sugar industry is the most efficient industry in Australia. It is a secondary industry as well as an agricultural industry. It grows the best and sweetest sugar cane in the world, and more sugar is obtained from a ton of Queensland cane than from any other cane in the world. This is not a spoon-fed industry. All those associated with it earn what they get.
Nearly all the work is done by contract. I assure honorable senators that the sugar industry is worthy of every consideration by the Government.
I expect that the agreement will be subject to some criticism or opposition. An anomalous position has arisen in connexion with concessions for the fruit-growing industry. In the early days of the sugar industry, we were in the wilderness and, to get support, we went to the fruit industry in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. We told the fruit-growers that, as they would be customers of ours, we would do all we could to assist them. The sugar industry is the only one in Australia that is asked to carry the burdens of another industry. Any concessions that have been given have been offered voluntarily by the sugar industry. I admit that this might have been a case of self-interest. Those who believe that the sugar industry, should give more support to their manufacturing industries should take their problems to the Commonwealth Government and seek the support of other industries. I do not want to provoke any honorable senators but I point out that every other feature of the agreement has been accepted for many years.
The industry has settled many exservicemen on the land and now they are facing great difficulties. They are likely to be faced with the problem of placing a surplus of thousands of tons of sugar against world competition. The Government has been very generous to those who are customers of the sugar industry, and I am prepared to concede that that policy should be continued but not to the extent proposed in this bill. The Commonwealth Government alone is responsible for rising costs. We are unable to get the culprits who have exploited Australia until costs have risen unduly, but the Labour Government left this Government an economic pattern that should have protected the sugar industry to a large extent. The position of the economy could have been better than it is to-day. If costs had been kept down, we would not have had our present problem in competing with the rest of the world. We cannot blame anybody else. The Government is responsible for the present situation and for the need to increase the price of sugar and other commodities. When the sugar industry seeks protection, it has to throw its affairs open to the searching investigation of Treasury officials and officers of the Tariff Board, who examine them thoroughly. The costs of production of every cane farm in Queensland over the last quarter of a century are on record. That is not the case in any other industries. The canegrowers are required to send in returns every year, with the result that the industry knows the costs of production and the value of the farm itself. All that information is available to the Government’s experts, and if the same principles had been applied to other forms of business and industry in this country we might have been able to protect the people by preventing a good deal of the exploitation that has taken place over the years. I support the bill and express pleasure at the fact that honorable senators on the Government side are prepared to expedite its passage.
.- 1 have listened with a great deal of interest to Senator Courtice. As usual, he has espoused the pecuniary interests of the sugar industry as though they were the peculiar prerogative of Queensland. Looking at it from a State point of view, I can understand his enthusiasm, because the sugar industry is located largely in Queensland. For all practical purposes, it is located entirely in Queensland. I join with him in expressing admiration of the achievements of the producers in that industry in respect of its efficiency and its contribution to defence in our northern latitudes. He would be a very short-sighted Australian who could bring himself to disparage in any degree the progress made by the sugar industry. It is an industry of which this country is very proud indeed. Although it involves some extra impact upon internal cost, that cost is very well spent because we have established in the tropics an industry in which sugar is produced by white labour.
It is a primary producers’ industry, and I remind Senator Courtice that within recent weeks in this chamber I took the occasion to lay particular emphasis upon the gravity of the future which, in my view, is facing Australian primary producers in general especially when we compare their position with that of the manufacturing, wageearning and salary-earning sections of the community. I pointed out that during the last three or four years farm incomes in Australia have dwindled from £443,000,000 to £411,000,000 and, to show the different trend in other sections, the incomes of wage and salary earners have increased during the same period from £1,100,000,000 to £2,500,000,000. I repeat those figures now to make it quite clear that I speak not only in defence of the sugar industry but also in support of adequate provision by way of remuneration for the cane-growers as a section of primary producers generally who, as a class, are suffering great disadvantages in comparison with other sections of the community which are more immediately benefited by the particular type of economy that is being promoted in Australia. I hope that, having said that, there can be no doubt as to where I stand in supporting the sugar industry.
I repeat briefly, that this is the one primary industry in Australia of which there is complete governmental control and regulation. This is brought about by a combination of the Commonwealth’s power to put a complete embargo upon sugar imports and the exercise by the Queensland Government of its power to acquire compulsorily the crop, with the consent of the Australian Sugar Board and, ultimately, the consent of the producer. Because of that arrangement, the Government is able to control the internal price of sugar. In my view, it is very proper that the price should be increased to lOd. per lb. as now proposed so that there will be a fair margin of return to the producer. Without that increase, his margin of return would be insufficient. In my opinion, he is entitled to the increase without any equivocation.
The lamentable mistake made by the advocates of the sugar industry who will not attain an Australian outlook is that we are here dealing with a national measure based upon the constitutional powers that I have mentioned. When dealing with the sugar industry, it must be realized that we are dealing with an industry that makes an essential impact upon the fruit industry. The interests of the two are inseparable. They are married to each other. They are partners in the prospects of Australia’s economy. It is no part of my function, in the observations I am about to make, to subtract in the slightest degree one sixpence from the sugar-growers’ return. My argument is that on this national occasion when we are passing a measure for the regulation of this industry for the next live years, we should take the Australian outlook and embrace within our perspective not only the particular interests of the sugar producer but also the interests of the fruitgrower because the two industries are inseparable.
Under this proposed agreement, we are providing a price which everybody who consumes sugar in Australia will pay for sugar that is retailed within Australia. Who pays that price? The Australian consumer pays it, and all that the fruit-grower asks is that the price be sufficient not only to ensure an adequate return to the sugar producer but also to compensate the fruitgrower for any adverse effect this legislation may have upon the prospects of his industry. We dp not ask for any benefit at the expense of the sugar producer, but we do ask for a parity of justice in respect of the general realization of the national product provided for in the agreement under discussion so as to compensate the fruit-grower for what we say is the damage, in an economic sense, that is done to the realization of fruit in its various forms, either fresh or manufactured, in Australia. Looked at in that way, I appeal again, as I did in 1951 and succeeding years, for a unified outlook on the part of these two great primary producing industries so that they will not compete but join to see that the arrangement made under the sugar agreement provides for not only an adequate return to the sugar producer but also sufficient compensation for any adverse effects that this legislation has upon the fruit industry in its various forms.
– Will the honorable senator indicate some of those adverse effects?
– I am asked to indicate some of these adverse effects. It is quite obvious that insofar as government legislation increases the Australian price of sugar used in all forms of fruit processing for consumption in Australia, to the extent that the amount of the sugar content is increased so will the price of the processed fruit product be increased. Obviously the fruit industry should be compensated to the extent that the cost of sugar has been increased because this has increased the price of the processed product and set up a sales resistance.
To answer Senator Kendall’s question further, it might be appropriate to mention some figures which illustrate present tendencies in the industry. In 1948, over 65,300 tons of sugar was used by fruit processors, and of this quantity 53,000 tons was used for jam alone. In 1954-55, the total quantity had fallen to 53,000 tons, of which only 21,000 tons was used in jam making. Over this period jam production had fallen by 60 per cent., despite an increase of more than 15 per cent, in the Australian population. Let me add that Australia is not the only country in which a reduced jam consumption has been observed. I readily recognize that there may be - I say “ may be “ and not “ are “ - several factors responsible for that reduction. Undoubtedly one of them is the greatly increased cost of jam, rendered necessary to cover the cost of the sugar content.
– lt is only recently that the price of sugar has been higher in Australia than in other parts of the world.
– That has been the case since 1952. I shall refer in a moment or two to the manner in which the Labour government adjusted the price of sugar during a decade in which that situation prevailed. Let me deal first with the matter raised by Senator Kendall, the impact of the increased price of sugar on the price of processed fruit products. Other figures with which I have been supplied show that the manufacture of jam in Australia has decreased from more than 1 98,000,000 lb. in 1948 to 78,000,000 lb. in 1956. During this period the cost of sugar rose from £36 lis. 9d. to £80 a ton. The value of sugar in a dozen 24-oz. cans of jam in 1947 was 3s. 7d. compared with 6s. to-day.
– What was the fall in export?
– The market for jam in 1 948 was extensive, but since then, owing to the increased cost of sugar and other factors, a serious, indeed an almost disastrous, decrease in the amount of jam exported has occurred. The loss of this overseas demand for Australian jam, and more particularly that made from berry fruits since 1952, has meant that there has been a large-scale reduction in areas devoted to the production of jam-making fruits. In Tasmania, the berry fruits areas have been reduced by approximately 1,300 acres in a period of three years. There has been a reduction in berry fruit production from 8,369 tons in 1951-52 to 3,635 tons in 1954-55. These figures are selected simply as illustrative of the impact that legislation of this kind makes upon the fruit industry in its various branches. I have no desire to make my speech a mere recital of statistics. May I merely add that jam exports in 1950 amounted to approximately 29,000 tons but by 1955 they had fallen to 3,000 tons.
– It could not be said that the price of sugar was responsible for that.
– I have made lt abundantly plain that the price of sugar was not entirely responsible for that.
– Was it responsible to a major or a minor degree?
– To a major degree.
– How does the honorable senator account for that?
– I shall not go into the calculations at the moment. That is a matter for debate. Those who have made the calculations know that the sugar content in a tin of jam is about 60 per cent.
– How much of the cost is represented by labour?
– Do not let us argue in circles. There is no contention between the sugar industry and the fruit-processing industry. All I am appealing for is that the sugar interests shall recognize the shortsightedness of a policy that is damaging the fruit-processing industry, both in internal consumption and in export trade. The fruit-processing industry is one of the sugar industry’s best customers and it is a shortsighted policy indeed that does not provide compensation for the fruit industry when it is making provision for the sugar industry.
Let me proceed to another aspect of this legislation. In 1923 the legislature recognized the inseparable interests of the sugar and the fruit-processing industries by establishing the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession
Committee. During the greater part of the decade preceding 1931 the amount paid into the funds of that committee was of the order of £6 5s. a ton.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– The way in which the original legislation provided for the link between the fruit industry and the sugar industry was by the establishment of a fruit industry sugar concession fund, for which it was directed that there should be paid out of the sugar proceeds a sum of £216,000 a year. That fund had to provide not only the export sugar rebate, but also the domestic sugar rebate; and it is interesting to note that the fund was fixed in 1932 as a depression measure when the rate a ton was reduced from about £6 5s. to £2 4s., and the contribution was reduced to £216,000 a year. It is very disappointing indeed to know that that is one figure in Australian, legislation which has remained at depression level, and although the price of sugar then was about £36 a ton and it has now increased to £80 a ton, there is a stubborn resistance against the increase of that figure of £2 4s. a ton for the provision of some part of those proceeds for the fruit industry.
The situation was aggravated by the provisions of the 1951 agreement, which was made after we had had nine years of wartime economy during which the Australian sugar price was less than world parity, and therefore the export rebate had not to be paid. The funds in the hands of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee built up to about £1,000,000, and the Minister of the day suspended further contributions to the fund as long as the money in the hands of the committee exceeded £500,000. That was a completely prodigal approach, because anybody who had an eye to the economy in 1951 should have foreseen very readily that the export rebate would soon grow to such an extent that it would absorb the contributions. So, in 1951 and 1952 there was no export rebate. In 1953 the sum was £57,000, in 1954 it was £163,000 and in the two subsequent years it was £170,000 and £197,000 respectively. This year, with the price at lOd. per lb., the export rebate is expected to be £250,000.
It was therefore essential that the basis of that agreement should be revised, but it is well to remind ourselves of the inept provisions of that agreement as they worked out over a five year period. The result was that instead of having about £1,000,000 in hand, we have to-day about £170,000 - on face value - in the hands of that committee. However,, if you consider the Commonwealth’s stock at market value - and this is of tremendous significance to see how Commonwealth stockholders and fruit-growers are left unprovided for by this Government - we find .that the committee’s actual assets are about £147,000.
I am pleased to note that in the present arrangements it is provided that the export sugar rebate shall be fully reimbursed whatever it costs. I know that the fund so far has always been sufficient to pay out what should be paid out, and if the agreement had not expired in 19S6 the fund would have been bankrupt. However, there has now been an improvement in that respect There will be a complete reimbursement, but unless we realize the significance of it, we shall be misled by a statement by the Minister in his secondreading speech that the effect of this agreement is that instead of the contribution of £216,000 per annum as heretofore, hereafter the growers will receive under this agreement a sum that is expected to be £370,000. That increase is solely due to the increase of Australian costs over world parity, which necessitates that margin of increase for the export sugar rebate alone.
The factor upon which I am in difference is that the annual contribution has been reduced from £216,000 to £120,000, and that is the fund out of which the domestic sugar rebate is to be provided. The shortsightedness of that can be seen When we realize that the domestic sugar rebate in 1950 was responsible for an expenditure of £127,000. In 1952, the expenditure was £121,000, and in 1955 it was £101,000. It is a short-sighted approach to say that £120,000 is a proper figure to fix rigidly for each of the years from now to the end of the next five years. When we realize that the purpose of that domestic sugar rebate is to make it available to those who manufacture fruit products in Australia if they pay a proper minimum price prescribed by the committee to the fruitgrower, it is obvious that £2 4s. a ton on sugar as a domestic rebate in relation to the .price that the manufacturer has to pay to-day - £80 a ton - is insignificant, and is no inducement to the manufacturer to pay the producer a proper price. Therefore, we have a complete surrender on the part of the committee of any principle whereby the manufacturers are required to pay the cost of production. The committee has surrendered completely the idea that the producers should set the cost of production, and then the committee justifies itself by saying that if the berry fruit industry has been sacrificed, it cannot be forgotten that the canned fruit industry of the mainland is in a good position. That proposition overlooks three factors - that the present prosperity of the canning industry is dependent on the abnormal exchange position between America and England, that the South African canning industry will offer us tremendous competition in the next five years and that there have been ravages of the peach crops in the Goulburn valley in the last few months of this year. Therefore, the domestic sugar rebate should be amended to make it correspond with the current price of Australian sugar. If £2 4s. a ton was proper in 1932 when sugar was £36 a ton, then the price should be relative to the £80 a ton that we are permitting by this legislation.
– Would that not have a bearing on the ultimate outcome?
– Yes, because the fund under this committee’s control is to be used for the promotion of the Australian market in processed fruit products. It is also there for scientific research into the fruit industry in order to preserve thai industry, and it is convenient for those who have sugar interests to promote by this contribution those vital factors of expansion. I therefore wish to indicate that in committee I propose to move an amendment which will be designed to require the agreement to be amended so as to make the amount of the domestic sugar rebate correspond to the current Australian price of sugar.
.-1 have very much pleasure in supporting the bill. I think it is essential to place before the Senate information about ‘ the industry, how it works, and its difficulties. The sugar industry has its difficulties just as the fruit-growing and jam making industries have theirs. The theme of the sugar industry for many years has been that of efficiency. It does not matter whether we talk about the production of the various varieties of cane, the growing, cutting, milling, or anything else; the aim has been to make the industry increasingly efficient and more economically sound, and to keep down costs wherever possible.
It is an industry to which the people of Australia have made a significant contribution, because it is what is known as a white labour industry. Contrary to the expectations of many people, the introduction of white labour has been a very great success. It is well to recall that one of the conditions stipulated by Queensland at the time of federation was that its sugar industry, if it had to forego the use of black labour, should be protected. As a white labour industry, it has gone ahead and has made great progress. The protection that was then sought and which has since been given must be clearly understood. So often people talk about the sugar industry as being subsidized. It is not subsidized; it is protected. It has a guaranteed Australian price, which is quite right, because the people who grow sugar cane and who manufacture sugar have to pay Australian prices for commodities used, not only in their ordinary way of life, but also in the development of the industry.
Dotted throughout the sugar-growing areas of Queensland, from Maryborough and Bundaberg, or even as far south as Nambour, to the northern part of the State are experimental stations, which display to the world how the industry is prepared to plough back its money in order to develop a higher degree of efficiency. Those stations are kept going by a levy on the cane grown by the farmers, in addition to which the Queensland Government pays a small subsidy of £7,000 a year, which has not been increased for very many years. They test thousands and thousands of seeds in order to produce new varieties of cane. The proving of a new variety of cane takes quite a number of years. When the station thinks it has the variety fixed and that it is suitable, samples are distributed to the farmers for testing in the field under practical conditions. If it is found to be worth while, it is accepted as a variety that is suitable for planting and milling.
The application of science to the raising of cane varieties has resulted, in the district of Mackay, which I represent and which is the largest sugar-producing area in Australia, in the tonnage of cane per acre being increased by 50 per cent, during the last ten years. That is an illustration of the notable advance that has been made in the science of agriculture. Certain varieties have made a notable contribution to the success of the industry. The variety known as Q50 has made a very great contribution towards increasing the tonnage produced in the Mackay area and other areas. Another variety, knows as Q56, seems to be very promising and should raise the tonnage even further. The story of the raising of better varieties of cane is really very interesting, and is one of which we can be proud.
The growing of cane has been improved. The experimental stations also test fertilizers with a view to determining the best types of fertilizer to use on different varieties of cane, in addition to seeking improved methods of cultivation. I can say without fear of contradiction that continual progress is being made in the development and use of modern machinery for the tilling and working of the canefields The sugar industry suffers from insect and other pests, as do other primary industries: but as soon as trouble is experienced, every effort is made to overcome it. 1 well recall that a few years ago a disease called pineapple disease attacked the cane. The cane had the appearance of a watery pineapple. Before very long the problem was tackled. The result was that before the cane plants were placed in the ground they were sprayed with hot water, and in no time the disease was coped with. At another stage, the variety known as Q28, which was a very stable cane, developed a stunting habit, but the problem was tackled and a newer variety produced. The example shown by the sugar industry in the application of science to the production of cane, and the drive and energy displayed in tackling various problems, might well be followed in other industries.
One of the great problems relates to the cutting of cane. In Australia, most of the cane is still cut by hand, which means that it must be cut stick by stick. There has even been an improvement in the cutting technique. In past years, the cutters chopped at the base of the stem, then cut off the top, and went up and down the stick to remove the leaves or trash, as it is called. Nowadays, they cut the cane, it falls down, and as it lies on the ground they go along and cut off the tops very quickly. The result is that the rate of cutting is now much greater. But the industry has never rested, and for many years thousands of pounds must have been spent in trying to discover a suitable cane harvesting machine. One of the difficulties associated with the harvesting of cane by mechanical means is that, although the ground might be level, all the sticks of cane do not grow to the same length. It will be seen that it is necessary to have a blade that can adjust itself to the varying heights of cane so that not too much is wasted. The farmers have been very ingenious in this regard, and very many of the harvesting machines in use in the Mackay district have been designed by the farmers themselves. There are probably more types of cane cutting machines in that area than in the rest of Queensland. That shows that the farmers are eager to improve their efficiency. But no one would say that the ultimate stage of development has yet been reached. I know that in other countries, such as Hawaii, harvesting machines are used; but in Hawaii the cane is pulled out of the ground and is milled in a different way. The Queensland industry could not operate in that way, because there would be a loss of soil efficiency. Hawaii has very deep topsoil and can afford to waste soil, but in Queensland we cannot afford to do that, lt is necessary, therefore, to evolve a more scientific cane-harvesting machine than we have at the present time. I have no doubt that one will be evolved and that it will make a very great contribution towards the efficiency of the industry.
I can truthfully say that the mills have played their part by increasing mill efficiency. Many of the Queensland mills are cooperative concerns which are owned by the farmers. The sugar millers are to be commended upon the enterprise they have shown in trying to make the industry efficient. If honorable senator have ever visited a sugar mill, they will appreciate the size of the equipment used. If the millowners discover that it is possible to install more efficient machinery, they will pull out existing equipment and install newer machinery, even if it costs many thousands of pounds. The aim of the industry is to crush the cane and obtain 100 per cent, of the sugar content. It is not yet possible, but they are working closer towards it by increasing milling efficiency.
It is interesting to note that, in the Mackay area of Queensland, all of the Queensland sugar mills have contributed to the establishment of a body known as the Sugar Research Institute. This institute is investigating various scientific means of extracting the maximum amount of sugar from sugar cane. The institute is housed in a very fine building. As soon as it was formed, it advertised for, and obtained, men from all parts of the world. In the four years since it was established, it has been responsible for increased efficiency in the Queensland sugar mills.
You, Mr. Deputy President, will recall that earlier this year, when you visited Queensland, I took you to the Pleystowe sugar mill. There we saw a miniature mill, which cost £10,000 to establish. It is situated alongside the larger mill. Its purpose is to try to devise means of obtaining 100 per cent, efficiency in the extraction of sugar from cane, lt should be very gratifying to every one to know that the tropical portion of Queensland is the only place in the world where the sugar industry is a white man’s industry. Furthermore, I believe that the Queensland sugar industry works more efficiently than sugar industries in other countries.
Apart from the pests that I have mentioned, the sugar industry in Queensland is burdened with other difficulties that increase its costs. I refer particularly to high rail freights. In this connexion, the Queensland Government has slugged the sugar industry very hard in recent times. Not long ago, the primary producers of Queensland were shocked by a terrific increase of 50 per cent, in railway freight on sugar cane being conveyed to the sugar mills.
– The Queensland Government had to balance its budget.
– That is so, but why did it pick on the sugar industry? That industry was chosen to bear the bulk of the burden. I think that it was a dastardly action on. the part of the Queensland Government to increase so heavily rail freight on sugar cane. The increased return of Id. per lb. granted some time ago to the producers had nearly all been absorbed by increased costs before this latest freight rise.
– The Queensland Government also picked’ on the wool industry.
– Yes, but it lost a lot of revenue because it did not tackle the shearing strike quickly enough. The position has been reached in Queensland that it is now uneconomic to convey sugar cane to the sugar mills by rail. I know of instances in my own district of Mackay in which sugar mills lose from 2s. 7d. to 2s. lOd. on each ton of sugar cane brought to the mills by rail. A similar position obtains elsewhere in Queensland. Therefore, it can be fairly said that the Queensland Government is slugging the sugar industry.
– It is slugging all primary industry in Queensland.
– During the last ten years, the Queensland railway freight on sugar cane has been increased by about 400 per cent., although the basic wage has risen in the same period by only about 180 per cent. If that does not. amount to slugging the sugar industry, I do not know what does. But, in addition, the freight on sugar has been increased by 16§- per cent. I shall cite another striking example of the burdens that are being inflicted on the sugar industry. During the cyclonic- floods earlier this year, the Mirani bridge over the Pioneer River was washed away, ‘ leaving about 1,000.000 tons of sugar cane, on the side of the river furthest from Mackay. The Queensland Government subsequently constructed a temporary bridge over the river, at a cost of £60,000, and then imposed on the sugar people a charge of 2s. 6d. a ton of sugar cane conveyed across that bridge, m order to recover the cost. If private industry did anything like that, the honorable senators on the other side who are now interjecting would whip the cat and yell to high Heaven about it. Although the railway system in the Mackay district pays handsomely, the Queensland Government has slugged the sugar-cane farmers in the way that I have mentioned.
– But it built the. Kangaroo Point Bridge in Brisbane at no cost to the people of that city.
– Yes, because the Queensland Government, has, a large Labour following in Brisbane. Due to the huge increase of railway freight on sugar cane, some of the sugar mills desire to extend their tramline systems. In the Mackay dis.trict many of the mills own their own locomotives and cane trucks and want to extend their tramline systems. I believe that sugar mills in other parts of the State also want to extend their tramway systems, in order to reduce costs. In order to illustrate the saving that can be effected by this means, I shall cite some figures. The rail freight on sugar cane at one sugar mill is 18s. 6d. a ton on 150;000 tons of cane, compared with the cost to the mills of only 7s. 6d. a ton over their own tramlines. In the case that I have in mind, it can easily be seen that, by effecting a saving of lis. a ton on the carriage of sugar cane to the mill, a company would soon redeem the capital debt, besides paying interest.
It is essential, from the point of view of both the Australian and British consumers, that every opportunity should be afforded to the sugar industry to improve its efficiency. I do not think that anything should be done by the Government of a sovereign. State to prevent an. industry from becoming more efficient. The Queensland sugar mills should be permitted to extend their tramline systems. That is something that this Government should, take up with the State government, with a view to ensuring that no obstacles are placed in the way of the sugar mills in this connexion. I have heard the opinion expressed in Queensland that it is doubtful whether the Queensland Government will grant permission for such extensions. We must remember that the negotiated overseas price of sugar is based on the average cost of the production of sugar in all of the countries of the British Commonwealth. This Government has to certify as to the cost of Australian sugar. I believe that no obstacle whatever should be placed in the way of the Queensland sugar industry increasing its efficiency, even if it is necessary for the industry to withdraw its traffic from the railways. As we know, a State government can prescribe that certain commodities shall be transported by certain means. That is what is being done in Queensland. I emphasize that this Government should discuss the matter with the Queensland Government. I think that we should tell that government plainly that we are prepared to do certain things only if the industry is encouraged to increase its efficiency. That provision could with advantage be written into the agreement.
Discussion has taken place to-night in regard to the help given by the sugar industry to the fruit canning and jam processing industry. I compliment Senator Wright on the broad Australian outlook he adopted when, before the suspension of the sitting, he told us what he thought of the sugar industry. Knowing him as I do, I believe he was very earnest and, to me as a Queenslander, it was most fitting and enjoyable to hear him pay tribute to the industry. The sugar industry has done much for the fruit canning and jam processing industry. Let me state the case in simple terms. The sugar industry provides sugar to the canners and jam manufacturers, who are manufacturing for export, at a price equivalent 10 the cheapest price at which they could import sugar into Australian. The cheapest sugar obtainable to-day is South African sugar. The fruit canning and jam processing manufacturers are obtaining a very fair deal because they could do no better if they were to import sugar from South Africa, which, as I have said, offers the cheapest sugar on the open market.
An important point to realize is that the jam manufacturers would not be able to import sugar from South Africa at the present time because the South African industry has markets in the United Kingdom on a negotiated price. It has protection in those markets and therefore would not be prepared to sell to Australia on the same basis. The fruit canning and jam manufacturing industry has a great advantage in that it has sugar available to it in Australia in large quantities at a low price.
– The Opposition is not opposing the bill.
– I know it is not. Further, as well as obtaining sugar at a reasonable price for use in the manufacture of their export products, the canners obtain a rebate of £2 4s. a ton in respect of sugar used in the manufacture of products to be consumed in Australia. That is a very fair concession from the sugar industry. It was arranged some years ago and I do not think anybody can cavil very much at it. The fruit canning and jam processing industry is not affected by the price of sugar only. Costs of tinplate, processing labour, printing of labels, marketing and so on must be considered. The cost of sugar represents only a fraction of the total cost. Senator Wright cited very startling figures which demonstrated a decline in the sale of jams in Australia and on the export market. I do not think the sugar content of the product has anything to do with this decline in sales; I believe it is one of those circumstances that has come about with the passing of time. A change has taken place in the way of living of people. Jam is not eaten to the same degree as it was when we were youngsters. It was accepted in years gone by that on every dinner table there had to be a po.t of jam.
– Or “ cocky’s joy “.
– Yes, or “ Cocky’s joy “. To-day, other spreads are available such as soft cheeses, peanut butter and so on. Many of these things are on the market and the jam industry has suffered as a result. Whilst the jam industry will never go out of business, it has declined because of the production of these various other kinds of spreads.
As an instance of how much the sugar industry gives to the fruit canning and jam processing industry in respect of goods manufactured for export, I mention that the adjustment last month worked out at £26 7s. a ton of sugar; that is the reduction in price a ton of sugar to the fruit canning and jam processing industry.
– For export products.
– For export products. In addition to the rebate of £2 4s. a ton and the £26 7s. a ton for export products, the sugar industry afforded other special assistance. It has conducted advertising campaigns and in various other ways during the last three years it has assisted the fruit-growing industry to an amount of £240,000. The total amount of assistance given during the last three years has amounted to £929,000. That, I think, is a very notable contribution from the sugar industry.
The industry is proud of its achievement in this regard, lt is an extremely valuable industry to Australia. In addition to providing employment in this country, it is valuable to Australia as an external credit earner. It exports a considerable proportion of its product. In 1934 the total production of sugar was worth £54,500,000 of which £25,500,000 worth was consumed in Australia and £29,000,000 worth was exported. In 1954 the value of sugar consumed in Australia was £25,000,000 and the value exported was £28,000,000, making a total of £53,000,000. The value of the industry the previous year was £50,000,000. This year it is estimated that the production of the industry will reach £54,000,000 in value, and that 45 per cent, of the sugar manufactured will be consumed in Australia and 55 per cent, sent overseas. On a value basis exports will represent approximately half the production. Any industry which can bring into this country from £25,000,000 to £29,000,000 a year is extremely valuable at this stage of our development when we so sorely need industries which will earn funds overseas. If, at this moment, we could initiate another industry which would bring in that amount of money we would be able to overcome some of our obstacles and feci that we had received a very valuable windfall. Let us appreciate the sugar industry because of what it is doing in that direction.
Another feature of the industry is that it is a great populator of the coastal and northern areas of Queensland. As one travels through that State one finds cities and towns of considerable magnitude, of fine standards and with civic pride. If the sugar industry failed most of the cities and towns along the Queensland coast would disappear.
– They would wither away.
– That is so. Therefore, as Senator Wright very finely expressed it, the industry is not only excellent from the point of view of populating the north; it is also a bastion in the defences of this country. The sugar industry must be protected and encouraged in every direction.
We need to remember that the retail price of. sugar in -Australia is still less than it would be if sugar had to be imported. 1 remind those living in the southern States that if the Queensland sugar industry were to collapse, the effect would be felt immediately by the big manufacturing industries of Sydney and Melbourne and throughout every State. They would realize then the true value of the sugar industry to Australia. It is an industry of great magnitude. Between 7.000 and 8,000 growers are producing cane. Many thousands of men work at cane-cutting and in the sugar mills. The industry supports cities and large rural populations. It provides a market for Australian manufacturers, lt has proved that white men and women can work in tropical areas and rear healthy families.
The theme of the sugar industry is efficiency. As southern visitors have often said to me, after following the ramifications of the industry from the production of the cane to the milling of the refined sugar, they are amazed that, notwithstanding the expenditure of so much effort, it should be possible to produce a commodity at a price so cheap as lOd. per lb.
.- I had not intended to participate in this debate because of the acceptance throughout the community of the value and significance of the sugar industry in the Australian economy. The agreement that is to be ratified is one of a series. It does not embody any new principles, but re-writes those that have received general acceptance. I propose to put a few thoughts to the Senate, however, in reply to some comments that have been made by Senator Wright and Senator Wood.
The speech of Senator Wright differed only slightly from a similar speech that he made in this chamber when the agreement was previously before honorable senators for ratification. His attitude has always been that the sugar industry should be asked to bear an impost which would be quite inequitable and unjust. Senator Wood believes that any difficulties that have arisen can be placed upon the shoulders of the Queensland Government, and that it must accept responsibility for doing something about them. The attitude of the Australian Labour party is that the problems of the sugar industry are the direct and inevitable outcome of the Commonwealth Government’s economic policy. Supporters of the Government must accept their share of that responsibility.
We are aware of the financial difficulties facing the State governments, to which Senator Wood has referred. The Queensland Government has always striven for economy in public finance, and its objective has been a balanced budget. Its high regard for the judicious control of finance is shown by the fact that it has succeeded in balancing its budget for the past ten or twelve years, with the probable exception of this year. Other State governments have failed in that direction. Naturally, when the State Premiers come to Canberra for conferences with Commonwealth and State Ministers, and seek increased grants, i hey are asked what they are collecting from their own revenues. Some States have been charged, quite properly, with having failed to measure up to their responsibilities. When the Queensland Government was compelled, by the exigencies of the financial situation and the demands of a Premiers conference, to increase its revenue from its constitutional resources, it increased railway freights, including the freight on sugar. . In those circumstances, the blame should not be laid at the door of the Queensland Government, but should be placed upon the Commonwealth Government which forced Queensland and other State governments into a difficult financial position.
The history of the sugar industry in Australia is virtually the history of the development of the Labour Government in Queensland. An honorable senator who suggests that the Queensland Government has lost its regard and solicitude for the sugar industry displays an inexcusable lack of knowledge of Queensland political history. Senator Courtice, who has had a lifetime of practical association with the sugar industry and with Federal and State politics, has reminded me of several facts that I should place before honorable senators. In its present form and in the way it is controlled, the sugar industry is virtually the creation of Queensland Labour governments. Labour governments built many sugar mills from Consolidated Revenue, and handed them over free of cost to the industry. That was a magnificent gesture. It is unjust, therefore, to suggest that governments which had proved so generous could impose an unfair burden on the carriage of cane.
– How many of the 31 sugar mills were built by Labour governments?
– I do not know how many, but there were many of them. Senator Wood would know that better than I. The Queensland Labour governments built the mills from Consolidated Revenue, and handed them over free of cost. They are now being operated as co-operative mills. In addition, cane has been carried on the tail ways at less than cost. That is a tremendous contribution to the industry. Senator Wood has suggested that harvested cane should be transported from the canefields by privately-owned lines. In that connexion, Senator Courtice has reminded me that the method adopted now is to build feeder roads from the main arterial roads, and transport the cane by road vehicles. That is a technical matter on which I personally would not be competent to speak, but I offer it as an individual piece of information from a man with a lifetime’s association with the sugar industry. ^
I wish now to comment briefly on the submissions made by Senator Wright on the question of the prejudice that is being suffered by important sections of Australian manufacturing industries, the fruit processing industries in particular, because of the price of sugar. Senator Wood has dealt with this matter accurately. I am sure that the facts he placed before the Senate are compelling; but there are one or two points I should like to make. First, we cannot fail to acknowledge the fact that the spiral of inflation which has operated for many years now has raised to extraordinary levels the costs of all components used by fabricating industries. By question, I endeavoured to elicit from Senator Wright information as to what the actual sugar component was in the increased price of jam which he has suggested has created a consumer resistance to the purchase of jam and has, therefore, prejudiced the fruit processing industry. Although presenting a case which he asked the Senate to accept, Senator Wright was not able to supply those’ figures, and I doubt if he has made the calculations; but it is interesting to note that, the difference between the price at which South African sugar could be obtained by these industries and the price of sugar from Australian mills is the difference between £56 and £49; in other words, the difference is only £7 Australian, and that £7 Australian, works out at approximately .75d. per lb. in the price of sugar used in jam, assuming that 1 lb. of sugar is used in the manufacture of 1 lb. of jam. Some figures which I obtained from the Commonwealth Statistician this afternoon set out the value in Australian currency of jams and jellies exported from Australia in the years 1954-55 and 1955-56.
In 1954-55, the value of jams and jellies exported to the United Kingdom was £122,000, giving an average of Hid. per lb. of jam or £108 ls. per ton. In the same year, the value of jams and jellies exported to all destinations was £361,000 in round figures, representing £118 a ton, or ls. 0 1/2 d per lb. At the most, if 1 lb. of sugar went into 1 lb. of jam, the difference of £7 a ton in the price of sugar would mean an increase of .75d. in the price of the sugar content of 1 lb. of jam. Nobody could say that of the £108 ls. per ton received for jam exported to the United Kingdom the added cost of things like tinplate, labour and the fabrication of tins would not represent a greater percentage than the .75d. in» the increased price of sugar. Therefore^ I feel that Senator Wright has not established, certainly to my satisfaction- and- possibly not to his own complete- satisfaction, that this differential price in sugar is the compelling and operating factor which, in his opinion, is so greatly prejudicing the processors of fruit and the manufacturers of jam.
We of the sugar industry have the highest regard and the greatest possible solicitude for the jam processing industry. As Senator Courtice said by interjection, it is one of our best customers; but I feel that the solution does not lie where Senator Wright has suggested that it might lie. We say there are two ways in which the position, could be remedied. One is. by increasing the. retail price of sugar to consumers in. Australia.. The alternative to that,, of course,, would be to make the granting of a subsidy for the assistance, of the fruitprocessing industry the direct financial responsibility of the Commonwealth. Government. The first method possibly would not be acceptable to the Australian community. The second appears to be the just and possibly the only way of effecting this purpose. We see no reason why the- sugar industry should be asked to bear the burden. If it could be demonstrated that the increase in return to the sugar industry as a result of the increase to £80 in. the price of sugar is unduly high and that it is now a luxury industry making undue profits, there would be some justification for increasing the rebate charge on the industry from that excess return;, but nobody suggests that merely because the price of sugar has gone to £80 a ton the sugar industry is. unduly profiting from that increase. It is purely an inflationary result.. That figure is merely a nominal, figure of £80, just as were the figures, of £56 and £37 in years gone by. Unless it can be established that the sugar industry is- unduly profiting and has unduly profited by this increase, in the retail price,, then I do not think, that in- justice we can ask the industry to; return any of that higher price by way of increased rebate.
The obvious and logical solution is to ask the Australian, community as. a. whole, the taxpayers,, to bear any financial burden which may be. necessary and which, could be. justified for the assistance of the fruitprocessing industry. It should, not. rest on the sugar industry itself; it should not rest solely on the consumers and the users of sugar for, although they would’ represent the great majority of Australian people, it would’ still be, in a sense, a sectional tax. A thing like this should rest on the shoulders of all taxpayers and should be paid out. of Consolidated’ Revenue. That, was the suggestion I placed before the Senate on the last occasion when this matter came up for debate, just as I do so to-night in response to the same type of argument which was then submitted by Senator Wright, an argument which,, perhaps, is more compelling to-night because of the grievous financial, difficulties into which the industry in which he is interested is now moving, because of the unrestricted, uncontrolled and evidently uncontrollable inflation. Nevertheless, the position still remains that if this industry is to be assisted, then, in justice, it can be assisted only in the way 1 have suggested. If the Government recognized the position of the fruit processing industry, which has apparently become parlous as a result of its policy, and attempted in the right way to alleviate it - if it put a submission before the Parliament in that form - I am sure it would receive the support and approbation of the Labour party whose members sit on this side of the Senate. I strongly commend the suggestion that some positive step be taken by the Government in that direction so that this irritation which comes up every year might once and for all be removed from the ken of honorable senators.
– I rise to support very strongly the attitude taken and the strong protest voiced by my Tasmanian colleague, Senator Wright. We are indebted to both Senator Byrne and Senator Wood for the survey they have given and the very glowing picture they have painted of the industry in Queensland. We are very happy to know that it is in a good position. We are also indebted to Senator Byrne for his solicitude for the jammakers; but I suggest that it would be very much more to the point if it was of a more practical nature. 1 was very interested to hear from Senator Wood that part of the increased sugar price would be used to bolster the profits of the Queensland railways. I thought that an increase of price was necessary to bolster the sugar industry, but evidently that is not so. Honorable senators will concede that Queensland has done a mighty job in developing the sugar industry to such magnificent proportions. It is an important industry from the viewpoint of defence and the development of northern Queensland. It has mad’e Australia self-sufficient in sugar, and has built an export trade worth £25,000,000 a year, ft has also given employment to many thousands of workers.
Honorable senators representing Tasmania feel, however, that it is their duty to record a strong protest against the ratification of this agreement for a further term of five- years without making adequate provision for raising the sugar rebate to fruit and jam processors. Tasmania is interested in. the growing of fruit, particularly berry fruits, and. the price of sugar is of great importance to the fruit industry. However, the price negotiated between the Commonwealth and Queensland, in our opinion, makes allowance for a generous allocation to fruit and jam processors to enable them to compete in the export markets. The amount of £2 4s. was fixed in 1932 and has remained static until the present time, despite the fact that the price of sugar, during that period, has advanced from £36 to more than £82. To say the least, the Queensland sugar industry is very interested in the jam and fruit processing business, and whether it likes to admit the fact or not, the sugar industry is closely allied with the fruit industry. It is to the distinct advantage of the sugar industry to see that fruit processors are in a position to use the normal amount of sugar so necessary in manufacturing.
I understand that 60,000 tons of sugar is used in Australia in the fruit processing and jam industries, of which Tasmania uses about 6,000 tons. In order to compete in overseas markets, Australian manufacturers should be able to buy their sugar at least at the same price as their chief competitors in the export field, those in South Africa, who are purchasing sugar at £8 a ton less than the Australian price. Since World War II., the price of sugar has increased by more than 130 per cent., without any increase being made in the rebate. We regard this as a non-party matter that involves a definite principle which is of importance’ not only to Tasmania, but also to the whole of Australia. I appeal to honorable senators on both sides of the chamber who represent areas devoted to the fruit industry, to support our protest. Over a term of 30 years, there has been a partnership between the sugar interests and the fruit processors, and it is important that this partnership should be maintained or a proper basis. We are not asking for a contribution from the sugar industry, because we contend that this has already been generously covered in the price of lOd. per lb. agreed to between the Commonwealth and Queensland1, and1 paid’ by the consumer.
Senator Wright has already dealt, with the amount that has been paid to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee by the sugar interests, and I will not labour that point. The working conditions in Iiic industry are excellent, and wages are high. The industry has been brought to a high level of efficiency. It is interesting to note I hat every farthing increase in the price of a pound of sugar means an additional £1,000,000 of revenue to the industry, and i he fruit-processing and jam-making industries consider that they are entitled to some of that extra income to help them in their fight to retain their export markets.
We do not regard this as a fight between Queensland and Tasmania concerning the price paid for sugar. We welcome the fact that the present price of sugar is based on the cost of production. That is a principle to which we always subscribe, and we are pleased that the price has been fixed on that basis. That price was established many years ago, however, in correlation with the fruit industry, and it is in the best interests of the sugar industry to see that all industries related to it are equally solid and prosperous.
I support the measure, but 1 protest against the increased price being agreed to without an increased rebate to the fruit industry.
– in reply - I say at once that the Government will not accept the amendment foreshadowed by Senator Wright. The case advanced by Senator Wright, and supported by Senator Wardlaw, for the processed fruit industry seems to take the line that the sugar industry and the jam industry are married, so that the sugar industry should support the processed fruit industry by increasing the domestic sugar rebate even if this entailed a further rise in the price of sugar to all consumers. Senator Wright made the point that he did not expect the sugar industry to bear that cost but that it should, in effect, be passed on to consumers generally. I suggest to the Senate that the effect of such a policy would not only result in an increase in the price of sugar to the ordinary household consumer, but would also increase costs in a number of industries which, with almost equal justification, might claim that they were married to the sugar industry. I think of industries manufacturing confectionery, condensed milk, soft drinks and beer, all of which depend largely on sugar. They could claim with equal justification an increase of the domestic sugar rebate. They are not making such a claim, and that seems to indicate that they are not suffering the decline in sales being experienced by the jam industry. It indicates, also, that the reason for the decline in jam and processed fruit sales lies in a direction different from that suggested by Senator Wright when he pointed to the price of sugar. Indeed, I have before me a table of interesting figures which seems to support the argument which was referred to by Senator Byrne a few minutes ago. The table shows movements in the fruit’ and sugar costs per 24-oz. tin of jam since before World War II. In Sydney in June, 1938, the retail price of jam was 9.05d. per 24-oz. tin. The cost of sugar in that tin of jam was 2.925d., the cost of fruit was .625d., and the percentage of the retail price for sugar was 32.2 and for fruit 6.91. In March, 1956, the retail price of jam in Sydney had gone up to 30.58d. per tin, but the relevant figures show that the cost of the sugar content had fallen from 32.2 per cent, to 22.01 per cent., and the cost of the fruit from 6.91 per cent, to 4.64 per cent, this year.
– So what?
– I am merely quoting these figures to show what percentage of the total cost of a tin of jam. is represented by sugar and .what . percentage is represented by fruit, and the variation between those percentages since 1938. If we must look for where the increases of price have occurred I think that we should follow the suggestion made by Senator Wood, who indicated that factors other than sugar increases should be considered. They include freight, labour, tin-plate, labels and things of that nature. Relatively, they have all contributed far more to the increase of the price of jam and processed fruits generally, than have the factors mentioned by Senator Wright.
– Of what quality is the jam that the Minister is mentioning?
– I do not know what the quality is. I am quoting averages.
– It may be pumpkin jam.
– Even if it is, I believe that the sugar content would not be different from that of other jams. Jam consumption has fallen, not because of the price, but largely because there has been a very marked increase in the use of substitutes such as cheese spreads and vegetable spreads. Many of those have replaced jams in popularity. Senator Wright mentioned the berry fruit industry in Tasmania, and the implication of his remarks was that the cost of sugar was having a disastrous effect on that industry. However, while there has been a downward trend in the berry fruit industry in Tasmania, there has been a spectacular increase in the production of strawberries and the processing of strawberries in Queensland.
– That is because the industry was’ depressed by this parsimony, and now that we are entering into a better stage, we are not in a position to take advantage of it.
– Why not? The Tasmanian berry fruit industry is on a footing of equal competition with the strawberry industry, but while the berry industry is going down the strawberry industry in Queensland is going ahead. Let us approach this matter from another angle, and consider the figures quoted by Senator Wardlaw. They indicate that £2 4s. a ton has been the domestic sugar rebate for many years and that if the original relationship to the price of sugar had been maintained the rebate would be about £13 14s. If there had been in fact a fivefold increase in the domestic sugar rebate, and it were now £13 14s., its effect would bc to increase the price of jam by only Id. a tin.
– How does the Minister obtain the £13 14s.?
– 1 related the £2 4s. to the retail price of sugar when the domestic rebate was fixed.
– As the price of sugar is now £80 a ton the domestic rebate would be nearer £5 a ton.
– If I have mls- quoted figures cited by Senator Wardlaw, then I must have obtained my information from a debate that took place somewhere else. According to what I understood, if the rebate were related to the price ot sugar, it would now be £13 14s. a ton. However, if the rebate were increased to £13 14s. a ton the price of jam would decrease by only Id. a tin. That, in all reasonableness, would not supply . the remedy sought by Senator Wright. The Government is not unsympathetic towards the jam industry or the fruit processing industry. It has been indicated in quite categorical terms that if they produce a documented case the Government will consider it, and will refer it either to the Tariff Board or to some suitable committee for examination and recommendation. That, in fact, is what happened to the sugar industry itself just a few years ago when its affairs were subjected to an examination. All the factors relating to the industry were examined. I suggest that if the fruit industry felt disposed to do the same thing its case would be heard either by the Tariff Board or by an appropriate committee, and a method of assistance devised which would be more appropriate than that implied by the arguments of Senator Wright and Senator Wardlaw.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- 1 refer to clause 2 which reads -
This Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent, and 1 move -
That the words “ on the day on which it receives the Royal Assent “ be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “ only if and when the agreement referred to in section four is amended to provide a fund for the domestic sugar rebate at a rate per ton proportionate to the current Australian price of sugar “.
During my speech on the motion for the second reading of this measure I indicated my general reasons for this amendment. I do not propose to repeat them, but will content myself with the submission of three or four propositions. 1 think the figures showing that the home consumption of sugar at the present time is 550,000 tons a year and that about 650,000 tons are exported will be supported. My information is that the Australian price exceeds the export price by about £50 a ton. Therefore, this arrangement is worth to the sugar industry about £50 a ton for the 550,000 tons produced for home consumption. In other words, it is worth about £27,000,000 a year. The amount allotted from that for the benefit of the fruit industries is £120,000 - a mere husk!
I suggest that it is a miserable outlook to say that, out of the total realization of this industry, more like £5 a ton for the domestic sugar rebate could not be provided to stimulate the market in Australia for processed sugar products and, as the ultimate objective of the fund, to stimulate research for the improvement and expansion of the sugar industry.
I submit that the argument that has been advanced by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) and others ignores the fact that this agreement is for a period of five years. 1 have shown that the amount absorbed by the domestic sugar rebate in the past has ranged between £100,000 and £120,000 a year. Surely it is wise, in view of the experience of the past five years, to predict changes in price that may well require that sum of £120,000 to be increased. To fix it at a rigid figure is to be purblind to the interests of the fruit industry. To hear the Minister for Shipping and Transport, in answer to this plea for the sustenance of the fruit industry, advance the argument that the percentage cost of sugar in a 24-oz. tin of jam has declined from 32 per cent, to 22 per cent, in the period 1939 to 1956, and that, at the same time, the cost of the fruit content of that same tin has declined from 6 per cent, to 4 per cent, fills me with inexpressible sorrow. Surely, the most casual recital of those figures prompts a consciousness that these two great primary industries are being hit to the wall when compared with other sections of the community that are absorbing transport costs, labour costs and capital costs; but they by no means answer the case that vis-a-vis the fruit industry, out of the sugar realizations, the benefits should be commensurate with the improved price being received by the sugar industry.
I put it to the Minister that, on reflection, sound judgment would lead one immediately to say that his own figures demonstrate that in a 24-oz. tin of jam, in the cost ratio, the content of sugar is about five times that of fruit, and. that, therefore, if one is considering the factor of cost, the increase in sugar cost is five times that of the increase in the price of fruit. So, on analysis, these figures lead to nonsense. The argument that the domestic sugar rebate which, in 1932, in the depth of the depression, was reduced to £2 4s. a ton when the «”8ar price was £36 a ton should be lifted to make the present sugar rebate correspond to a relative price of £80 per ton of sugar is unanswerable. I do not want that from the sugar produced; I want it from the general realization within the Commonwealth on the Australian price of the sugar product. I listened to Senator Paltridge with great attention, and I argue in answer to him only out of respect to his submissions. But when he advances the argument that our claim would necessarily require an increased price for sugar, is it understood - I repeat, is it understood - that the sum of £120,000 a year that is being made available for the domestic sugar rebate represents about one-tenth of one penny per lb in the Australian price of sugar? If the figure is increased to £500,000 a year, we would be requiring four-tenths of a penny out of the sugar price of lOd. per lb. to be made available for the fruit industry. I put those figures on the basis that I believe that a penny per lb. of sugar means about £1,000,000.
– If that is so, my figures should be divided by four. I urge those honorable senators who have a responsibility towards the fruit industry in their various States unhesitatingly to support the amendment that I have moved.
.- There is not one word that Senator Wright has spoken that is not true if placed in its right perspective. As I see the position, Senator Wright should be directing his representations on behalf of the Tasmanian fruit-growing industry and the Tasmanian fruit processors to his own colleagues in the Parliament and to the Government. The case that has been submitted repeatedly on behalf of the fruit-growers to the sugar industry has had its answer in the fact that the sugar industry has placed the whole situation before the Parliament. The sugar industry’s position has been considered very carefully, and these price rises are the result of that careful consideration. I think Senator Wright has taken up the case for the Tasmanian fruit industry very well, but he has directed it to the wrong quarter.
The Queensland sugar industry has not only justified its existence and proved that it is a great asset to our country, but, as Senator Courtice stated at the secondreading stage, it is the only industry in
Australia that is working on a fixed price. Of all industries, it is contributing least towards the inflationary spiral. The Government has allowed other industries to increase prices indiscriminately without being answerable to the Government or the consumer, and without any investigation into their activities. The Queensland sugar industry has certainly justified its approach to the Government on this occasion. I feel that the powerful argument that Senator Wright has advanced to-night, as to why the sugar industry should assist the Tasmanian fruit industry, was misdirected. Instead of attacking the Queensland sugar industry, I hope that he, along with other Tasmanian senators, will try to get the Government to realize the plight in which the Tasmanian fruit industry finds itself due to the increased cost of production and the loss of overseas markets, and endeavour to obtain justice for the Tasmanian fruit industry. On previous occasions, when this subject has been before the Senate, I thought that the strength of the arguments advanced would result in assistance being provided for the Tasmanian fruit industry. I realize that the sugar industry is unable to make any further concessions, and therefore I believe that the amendment that has been moved by Senator Wright cannot be sustained. I hope that he will redirect the powerful argument thar he has advanced to-night to his own Government in an effort to obtain justice for the Tasmanian fruit industry.
I oppose the amendment, and I am speaking in favour of the bill that is before the committee. I hope that the sugar industry will continue to develop the northern part of Australia, and that it will continue to plough back its profits. I hope that it will continue to pay its employees good wages and provide them with good working conditions, as it has done down the years. By so doing, it rebuts the contention that we should bring coloured labour into Australia to compete with our white labour.
I believe that the intention of the amendment is good, but that it would have been better had Senator Wright directed his arguments to his own Government. I do not like speaking against the interests of the Tasmanian people. In this instance, I believe that the interests of the Tasmanian people would be best served by Tasmanian senators on the Government side endeavouring to persuade the Government to pay a subsidy to the Tasmanian fruit industry out of general revenue, allowing the great and prosperous Queensland sugar industry to get on with its job. By continuing to develop and increase production, that industry will assist our overseas trading position. I. oppose the amendment.
– I am not clear whether the intention of Senator Wright’s amendment is that the increased rebate shall be borne by the Queensland sugar industry or by the Commonwealth. As I believe that other honorable senators are likewise not clear about what is intended, perhaps Senator Wright could clarify the position.
– I want to make clear the stand-point of the Opposition in relation to the amendment. The Opposition cannot support it. These propositions are before the Opposition: That we reject the agreement; that we approve the agreement; or that we postpone the matter, as Senator Wright’s motion proposes. In the first place, this agreement, so far as it relates to the price of sugar has, I understand, been in operation from 14th May. I take it that, in determining pursuant to this agreement to increase the total contribution from the sugar industry from £216,000 a year to approximately £370,000 a year, that element of cost was taken into account. I should imagine that if the grant to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee were to be increased, then unquestionably the sugar industry would ask for a corresponding increase in the price.
I think that Senator O’Byrne has put the Opposition’s position quite clearly and accurately. All of Tasmania’s parliamentary representatives in all parties combined to make representations to the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen), and meet his officers and pursue the matter with them. Finally, we met the chairman of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee, and we, en masse, reached the conclusion that the total contribution to be made available to the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee under this agreement should be increased very substantially. We stressed that if £2 4s. was appropriate by way of a domestic sugar rebate in the ‘thirties, when the price of sugar was £32 a ton, or thereabouts, it should, on the very face of that fact, be greatly increased now, when the price of sugar is in the neighbourhood of £80 a ton.
Supplemental to that are the facts that have been placed before honorable senators this evening. I shall not review them in any detail, but I propose to bring out certain points in order to put the jam-making processes generally into their correct perspective. I shall deal with the ten-year period from 1945-46 to 1954-55. In that period, the Tasmanian berry fruit acreage fell from 4,797 acres to 2,458 acres - a decrease of 48 per cent. The Tasmanian berry fruit crop fell from 5,904 tons to 3,806 tons - a fall of 35 per cent. The production of jam in Australia dropped from 148,323,000 lb. to 78,721,000 lb.- a decline of 47 per cent. The position in relation to Australian jam exports was startling. The total amount of jam exported has fallen from 41.182,000 lb. in 1945-46 to 6,853,000 lb. in 1954-55- a decline of 83 per cent. Exports of jam to the United Kingdom fell during the same ten-year period by 91 per cent.
To express those figures in terms of Tasmania’s economy, it means that less fruit is required when jam is not being manufactured and exported, fewer pickers are required, plant is lying idle, processors are not required, land is thrown out of use, and the general effect upon the Tasmanian fruit industry - I am speaking of that in particular at the moment - is calamitous. I am not saying that the burden of restoring it falls immediately on the sugar industry. If the cost of restoring in total were to be accepted by the sugar industry, we of the Opposition concede at once that the sugar industry is entitled to pass that on to the community. The argument comes down to one of two simple propositions: It is a question of whether the consumers of sugar in Australia should bear the cost or whether the nation at large, composed of the general body of taxpayers should bear it. As between the two propositions, the Opposition, after giving very full consideration to the matter, chooses the latter alternative.
I was very pleased to-night to hear the Minister give an assurance that when a case is presented affecting the fruit processors of Australia, and Tasmania in particular, it will be referred immediately for assessment to a competent tribunal. I am certain that the matter needs only to be looked at by a competent tribunal to be instantly and generously met. I restate that the Opposition’s position is that it approves of support being given to the sugar industry. The Opposition acknowledges all that has been said about the industry’s contribution to defence, to the populating of our vulnerable northern coastline, the provision of a completely adequate and plentiful supply of sugar in Australia at all times, and its contribution to our balance of payments position by earning some £25,000,000 per annum from exports. The Opposition acknowledges all those things. It supports the bill and feels that the nation will support it also; but it also considers that a complete duty is cast upon the Commonwealth to give equal consideration to the fruit industry and the fruit processing industry, which are directly related to sugar, as the sugar industry itself acknowledges. Honorable senators on this side feel that the fruit industry should be given the same full generous measure of protection as is given to the sugar industry.
The sugar industry acknowledges its duty and direct obligation to the fruit-growing and fruit-processing industry. Of its own volition, in return for a complete prohibition of the importation of sugar, it has said to the processors, in effect, “ Whatever fruit product you export, so far as the sugar content is concerned it will be supplied to you at world parity “. That contribution is made directly by the sugar industry to ensure that the exporters who need to incorporate sugar in their products will, in effect, get sugar at the world parity price. That is a great and generous contribution; in fact it is a complete contribution to the exporters.
– It is completely fair.
– It is a complete contribution to them. The sugar industry has acknowledged its obligations; or to put it in other words, it has generously wanted to make a contribution to the fruit industry. It is not being altogether altruistic because the more fruit that is processed the more sugar will be consumed; it is a completely two-way traffic. It may be a generous gesture, leaving out quantities altogether. but it is also very much to the interest of the sugar industry to make sure that both the fruit-growing and fruit processing indus- tries survive and are prosperous.
The question that seems to concern the Senate is how that should be effected. It cannot be done by way of the agreement that is now presented to us. We must either accept or reject this agreement; and the Opposition, having faced that proposition is prepared to accept the agreement. We then, as has been suggested by Government, Opposition and other senators in this chamber and also Tasmanian members in another place, must face the next alternative and ask the Government to investigate the fruitgrowing and fruit processing industries in Tasmania and give them the earliest and most sympathetic consideration, having regard to the parlous plight in which they find themselves. They are affected, as was mentioned by Senator Byrne, by rising costs inall directions, not only in the matter of sugar but also in other phases of processing. These increased costs have been caused by t he inflation that has run riot in recent years. The industries have to meet competition from South Africa which employs cheap coloured labour, and has a shorter haul to the United Kingdom and European markets.
The Opposition is content to rest to-night, in relation to this agreement, upon the Minister’s assurance that the fruit-growing industry and the fruit processing industry will be investigated. I invite the Minister to assure us also that, particularly in relation to Tasmania, the matter will be given early and sympathetic consideration by the Government.
Senator ASHLEY (New South Wales) 9.46]. - The discussion to-night has been very interesting. The parish pumps of Queensland and Tasmania have worked overtime. Those who have not been working the handle have been sitting on the fence in silent approval. I know the importance of the sugar industry to Queensland andI appreciate the value of the fruit industry to Tasmania but I should like to know if anybody has given any consideration to the consumers. When the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) said that at a certain period a tin of jam cost 9½d. but to-day the same 24-oz. tin costs 2s.6d.,I asked him by way of interjection whether it was pumpkin jam. tie also made reference to the intensification of the production of strawberry jam.I should like to know where strawberry jam can be bought for 2s. 6d. a tin in Sydney or elsewhere.I know that “ Golden Circle “ jam manufactured in Queensland, is sold at 3s. 6d. a tin, andI understand that “ IXL “ jam from Tasmania is also sold at 3s. 6d. a 24-oz. tin. That price is nearly 4½ times the price of 9½d. referred to by the Minister. I think that the time has arrived when some consideration should be given to the consumer, andI should like the Minister to give the Senate some idea of the brand or quality of jam that can be bought for 2s. 6d. a 24-oz. tin.
Question put -
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Wright’s amendment) be left out.
The committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman - Senator K. M. Anderson.)
Majority .. . . 43
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 24th October (vide page 863), on motion by Senator Henty -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– At the outset, 1 suggest to the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) that this bill and the Excise Tariff Bill (No. 3) 1956, which are cognate bills, be taken together in the second-reading debate as they deal with the same matters. In connexion with these two measures, I charge the Government with bungling. In the first place, it has bungled its approach to the introduction of television into Australia and in the development of engineering techniques in radar frequencies. The cathoderay tube industry is important from a defence point of view, as similar techniques are being used in radar and in proximityfiring devices. In this connexion, the Government has not protected Australian industries because it has imposed an excise duty equal to the customs duty on imported tubes. The Government has forgotten the balance of payments. It has permitted unnecessary imports. I make the charge because cathode ray tubes were being and are still being manufactured in this country. We have heard much in recent months about our adverse trade balance, and although the Government has an excellent opportunity in this instance at least to do something to back up its words by action, it elects to derive extra revenue by way of customs duty payable on tubes which it allows to come into this country despite the fact that such tubes are being made here.
The fourth charge I make is that the import licences were granted without any investigation being made into whether the tubes could be made in this country. I go further and make a fifth charge that none of the manufacturers of cathode ray tubes was even informed that these excise and customs duties were likely to be imposed. I am interested in this measure mainly because, in the suburb in which I live, 1,300 men are engaged in making television sets of which cathode ray tubes are an important component. A further interesting point is that the rates of customs and excise duties are the same irrespective of whether the size, of the tube be 81 inches or 24 inches. I frankly admit that the present Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) is not responsible for this measure. I even doubt if his predecessor was responsible. It seems to me to be a purely departmental job which has been done in this way as being the easy way and without any thought whatever of investigation and certainly without any regard for the industries of this country.
This is a new industry developing in Australia. Only a few months ago we discussed the introduction of television in this country and, knowing that it was to be introduced shortly, I suggest the Government should have given some consideration to the making of components for television sets. Obviously, this move has been taken by departmental heads instead of by responsible people elected to pay some regard to these things. Common courtesy alone should prompt the department to consult the people engaged in the making of these tubes. Seemingly, even courtesy went by the board in the Government’s unseemly haste to- impose a burden upon an industry which is just beginning in Australia. No doubt the Tariff Board will inquire into the matter eventually, but Tariff Board inquiries usually take from eighteen months to two years, and if the usual procedure is to be adopted in this instance there can be no doubt that this new industry will be required to carry a heavy burden. Further, the nation as a whole will shoulder an added burden because of inevitable adverse movements in our trade balances due to this colossal blunder. I am convinced that even responsible, departmental officers could not have given the matter much thought.
I frankly admit that I am interested in this matter because one of the firms engaged in making these tubes is situated in the suburb in which I live. Some of the employees of that firm saw me during the week-end. No doubt they were experiencing, the fear- of unemployment thai is unfortunately permeating the minds of a number of people, in all industries to-day. and they wanted to know if something could be done to ensure that the cathode ray tubes manufactured in this country would not be required to face unfair competition. According to- the information given to mc. the rates of pay in the industry in Australia are on an hourly basis and, because of inflated costs - and here 1 make the old, but nevertheless true, charge that the Government has allowed inflation to run riot - the Australian-produced article is dearer than the imported product. I am informed that the British article can be landed here for £8 10s. whereas, because of inflation in Australia, the locally produced article costs £12 10s. Despite this fact, the Government submits a bill that seeks to impose a tax of £7 on the locally produced article as compared with a duty of only £7 on the British product and a duty of £7 plus 1.2i per cent, ad valorem duty on foreign-produced cathode ray tubes. I regret that Senator Henty has been so unfortunate as to be confronted with this problem so soon after his promotion to ministerial rank, and I shall be. most interested to see how he can support the Government’s action, especially when it must have dire effects on this new Australian industry;
– The honorable senator should save his sympathy; he might want it foi: himself.
– I do not mind that. There are three or four manufacturers of cathode ray tubes in Australia. I am concerned not only for the manufacturers, but also for the 1,300 or 1,400 workers whom1 they employ. The three manufacturers have- made an application to the; Tariff Board, but, as I intimated earlier, it takes considerable time to deal with applications. I said further, and I repeat, that the excise and customs duties on cathode tubes were imposed without any consultation with the people concerned. My information, obtained from those who work in the industry and who were told by responsible executives of the factory, is that the manufacturers protested immediately they heard of this impost. One would have thought that this Government would at least have had some concern for the manufacturers in this industry, and have told them about its intention to impose the duties, but it did not. Perhaps the first the manufacturers knew about it was when the bill was introduced in another place.
This Government instituted import licensing and. from all appearances, although it is not the first time that that has been done, it will not be the last. Every one knows that the restrictions have been on and off for years. Further, import licences have been granted to people who have never been interested in the electronic industries. That calls for a convincing answer. Government senators have made a considerable number of speeches on the need for Australia to balance its overseas payments, but it seems to me that although the words are loud there is extremely little action.
We are dealing with a new industry and I doubt whether, in Melbourne, television has properly begun. There have been many preliminary screenings, but I doubt whether the two stations in Victoria are fully in operation. Would it not have been wise for this Government and its responsible officers to have left the Department of Customs and Excise out of the picture for the time being, and for the Postmaster-General to have said, “ This is a new industry, let us get together with the manufacturers and decide on the proper size for a tube “. 1 ask honorable senators to consider the expense that manufacturers of tubes in this new industry will’ have to incur. They will have to tool up to produce not only a tube of 8i inches, but also one of 24 inches. If this were part of an old-established industry the expense would not be so great, but the fact is that television is the newest industry in Australia. After reading the reports of the debate in the other House concerning imported television sets, is it any wonder that both employees and employers in this industry should have expected some of the business acumen, which the Government senators are so proud to. claim that they possess, to have been applied? If this measure is a sample of that business acumen, all I say, with great respect to Government senators, is, “ Keep it over on your side “.
It would have been far better if the Government had used some common sense, and decided that either a 17-in. tube or a 24-in. tube only would be produced. Instead of that, six different sizes of tubes are to be manufactured,, whereas those in the industry expected that the 17-in. tube would have been the standard size because that is most generally used in ‘both British and American receivers.. They candidly admit, of course, that bigger and smaller tubes are made also, lt is not surprising to find that the price of television receivers is exorbitant. Earlier this year, the Government brought down its “ little “ budget, lt was certainly not little as regards the imposts that it applied. This measure will increase the cost of television sets and it will be some time before people can purchase them at a price they expected to pay, according to information advertised long before television was actually in operation here.
If these tubes were not, in the main, wholly manufactured in Australia, the Government might have had a case, but they are, or can be, wholly manufactured here. lt is true that the internal parts of the tube known as . the “ gun “ are being assembled in Australia, and complete tubes are being manufactured here also. Manufacturers also assemble three glass pieces in the making of these tubes. The glass pieces are the only imported parts of the tubes, and yet the customs and excise duties to be imposed by the Government under this bill will affect tubes so assembled in the same way as they will affect imported tubes. 1 point out that the Department of Customs and Excise gave import licences in April, 1953, for the machines required to make these tubes in Australia. No doubt the correspondence relating to those import licences was pigeon-holed and forgotten by the department. Possibly the officer who dealt with that matter was not available at the time these customs and excise duties were being considered, or possibly some other officer was sitting on the box seat.
I have been informed that nobody in the industry concerned with making these tubes was aware that an excise duty was to be imposed on cathode tubes. Representatives of the industry have informed me that if they had known that, they would have made representations to the Government about the proposed duty. This is certainly a piece of bungling - it does not matter whether it is bungling by officials or Ministers. That being so, it does not matter who did the bungling; the Government must take full responsibility for it. I suggest to the Government that the industry making these tubes should be protected, but this is a glaring instance of an industry that is not being protected. I ask whether this is the beginning of a new policy by the
Government - a policy of not protecting Australian industries - or is this a matter that just slipped through. If the Government follows this line of procedure with other industries, then a Minister will not be able to stand up in another place and tell the country how few people are unemployed in Australia.
If this is to be the policy in the future, then before any new industry commences in this country I advise it not to take anything for granted, but to make sure that it will get what it is entitled to before it establishes itself here. Ever since 1910, government policy in Australia has been to protect local industry. Indeed, in 1910, a big general election was fought on the issue of protection; but while this Government gives lip service to protecting our industries generally, by imposing customs and excise duties on cathode tubes it has shown that it is certainly not protecting this particular industry. That is so because the customs and excise duties are the same at £7 for the five or six tubes used in television sets. The Government has not differentiated between the 8i-in. tube and the 24-in. tube, and there has been no differentiation between those that are imported and those that are made in this country. There is in addition the ad valorem duty of 12i per cent, on all imported goods other than British.
If ever there, was a case in which an industry has been let down, this is such a case. The television industry was introduced into Australia, as it was introduced into other countries, not only for its entertainment value, but also for its great defence value. I sincerely hope that the Government and the Department of Customs and Excise will perceive the mistake that they have made, and will rectify it. When the bills reach the committee stage, I propose to make two requests. I will ask that the 24-in. tube should carry an excise duty of £7, the 21-in. tube a duty of £6, the 17-in. tube a duty of £5, the 14-in. tube a duty of £4, the 10-in. tube a duty of £3 and the 8i-in. tube a duty of £2. With regard to customs duty on cathode tubes, I propose that the duty on the 24-in. tube should be £12, on the 21-in. tube £10, on the 17-in. tube £9, on the 14-in. tube £8, on the 10-in. tube £7, and on the 8i-in. tube £6. Those charges would be in addition to the 12i per cent, ad valorem duty on goods imported from foreign countries.
Of course, 1 recognize the difficulty of getting the Government to accept these requests, irrespective of their merits, because the Government has the numbers to reject them. . My main object in putting up a case, which will take some knocking over, is to induce the Minister to ask the department to reconsider this matter at the first opportunity. If that is done I shall have achieved the object that the employees of this particular industry wished me to achieve. I wish to see a new industry protected, and also to help, as far as 1 am able, to retain in their present positions the 1,200 or 1,300 men who work in this industry. If, as has been stated, it costs £8 10s. to land a British tube as against £12 ls. to make them locally, I cannot see very many being made here.
I hope the Minister will consider the suggestion 1 have made, because it is worthy of consideration. The answer cannot be that the Government must raise money, because the total amount proposed to be raised is only £210,000. I reiterate that I propose to move an amendment to both measures when they are being considered in committee.
.- I was wondering whether any honorable senator opposite would rise to support the Government in the imposition of this duty, but I noticed that the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty) was the only one who was about to rise. I support the contention that has been advanced by Senator Kennelly. I feel that we have rightly directed attention to the Government’s lack of interest in the development of this new industry in Australia. Not very much money is involved, but the principle is at stake, and it is the principle with which the Opposition is concerning itself.
The introduction of television to Australia has been heralded by much propaganda and advertising. It is suggested that a large percentage of the population will enjoy the benefits of television, but that assertion is made mostly by those who are interested in advancing television. As we all know, initially only persons living within a 30-mile radius of a television station will be able to enjoy this new form of entertainment. The cathode ray tube plays an important part in the construction of a television receiving set; indeed, it is the heart, as it were, of the set. It was hoped that, with the introduction of this new form of entertainment in Australia, we would be able to manufacture the various components locally. Tubes can be manufactured in Australia that are as good as those that are imported. Certainly manufacturers in the United Kingdom and America, where television has been in operation for some time, might have a little more know-how than we have at present, but I feel sure that within a short period of time the Australian worker will be able to produce a tube equal to that of any other country.
For a considerable time, it has been the policy of governments to afford protection to new Australian industries; but this Government, as has been pointed out by Senator Kennelly, apparently gave no consideration to the matter on this occasion. It decided, in a rough and ready manner, that there should be a duty of £7 on each tube and that there should be an excise duty on the Australian article, the one cancelling out the other and local manufacturers being given no protection whatever. Can the Government, therefore, lay claim to being truly solicitous of the welfare of the Australian community or Australian industries? I repeat that there may not be a great sum involved, but the principle is at stake. We talk about the adverse trade balance, but here the Government had an opportunity to do what it has done in relation to other industries. To use the words of Senator Kennelly, it stands condemned for its bungling and mismanagement.
The Government talks about the Tariff Board reviewing the case, but we have been here long enough to know that the board takes a considerable time to conduct its investigations. Quite a number of matters are submitted to it, and only recently it was necessary to increase its size to enable it to overtake the requests that had been made to it by Australian manufacturers. High pressure advertisements have appeared in the press to-day and yesterday and licences will be available very soon, and the Australian manufacturer should be in on the ground floor. I am hopeful that, by the time the committee stage is reached, the suggestion made by Senator Kennelly will have been accepted. If, to prevent Australia from becoming insolvent, it is necessary to raise £210,000 on cathode ray tubes used in television sets, the Opposition is willing to agree to its being raised by increasing the duty on the imported article and reducing the excise duty collected on the Australian article. To do that would allow the Australian manufacturer to develop the industry. I hope the Minister will seriously consider the request that has been submitted to him by the Opposition.
– Senator Kennelly and Senator Sheehan have advanced a number of arguments that have been very interesting to listen to but which, as I shall point out to them, have been based on entirely wrong premises. As both speakers from the other side directed their remarks principally towards the protection of Australian industries, I shall deal with that matter first. At the time that Australian manufacturers commenced the production of cathode-ray tubes, no duty was being imposed on imported tubes. Consequently, they commenced production in the full knowledge that their industry was not protected. Ironically enough, but for parliamentary obligations, I should next Friday be opening a new factory in Melbourne for the manufacture of cathode-ray tubes. It is absurd for honorable senators opposite to say that the manufacturers of television sets did not know, until this bill was presented, that the Government intended to impose a duty on imported cathode-ray tubes. Why, the Government’s intention in this respect was announced two months ago when the budget was brought down! As I have said, certain persons commenced the manufacture of these tubes in Australia in the full knowledge that their industry was not protected by tariff duties.
– It is too late now to tell them.
– They knew that when they established their factories. They also knew something that apparently honorable senators opposite have completely overlooked. I refer to the fact that, under the Ottawa Agreement, no new protective tariffs can be imposed by Commonwealth countries unless recommended by the Tariff Board. Therefore, the arguments that have been advanced by honorable senators opposite fall to the ground. I remind them that the Ottawa Agreement has been honoured by Australian governments of different political colours. The present Government followed the normal procedure by referring this matter to the Tariff Board.
– Then the Minister admits that there is a weakness in his contention?
– I do not admit a weakness. As I have said, the factories were started in the knowledge that no tariff protection could be afforded to the industry unless recommended by the Tariff Board, in accordance with the Ottawa Agreement. Senator Kennelly stated that unemployment is likely to occur in the industry. Yet another new factory will commence on Friday. Apparently, the honorable senator is completely uninformed on this subject.
– Is not that amusing?
– Senator Kennelly stated that industries in this country have been protected since 1910. Of course they have! Successive Australian governments have supported the protection of Australian industries.
– Labour was more active in that field than the present Government has been.
– Why is Senator Sheehan interjecting when I am replying? I did not interject when he was making his submissions, because I knew that I could, in due course, rebut the rotten argument that he was advancing. Since 1910, it has been the policy of successive governments to protect Australian industries but, as I have said, this Government, in conformity with the requirements of the Ottawa Agreement, referred this matter to the Tariff Board.
Let me remind honorable senators of what the Tariff Board really is. It is an independent body, which has enjoyed the respect of all political parties for a considerable number of years. It makes recommendations to the government of the day after hearing evidence by witnesses representing all branches of industry. Indeed, I believe that the Tariff Board obtains more information in one inquiry than some honorable senators could gain in .twenty years. That is why all parties have always recognized the Tariff Board, and have been prepared to accept any recommendations it makes for protection to be afforded to certain Australian industries. The Tariff Board has always tested the efficiency of an industry before making a recommendation in its favour.
Senator Kennelly complains that the Australian manufacturers have not made a standard tube. I should think that the imposition of a flat rate duty of £7 on each cathode-ray tube manufactured in Australia will be more likely to bring about the condition of affairs that Senator Kennelly wants, than the amendment that he has foreshadowed and which, as he well knows, the Government cannot accept. I believe that there is more likelihood of a standard set being manufactured if a fiat rate duty of £7 is imposed than if varying rates of duty were imposed. If the contention that has been advanced by the Opposition is not a “ Mandrake “, I do not know what it is. The real reason why the assessment suggested by the Opposition cannot be made is that nobody yet knows how many tubes of various sizes will be required. Therefore, it is impossible to assess the amount of revenue that would be derived if the Opposition’s suggestion were adopted. The capital cost of the two national television stations now operating was about £1,000,000, and next year an operational expenditure of almost £1,500,000 will be involved. As a government, we feel that the people who will have the privilege of viewing television in the two largest capital cities of Australia should contribute something towards the cost of providing this facility; that the whole body of taxpayers should not be called on to defray all the expense.
– It would have been better had the Government given that money to the age pensioners.
– Nothing to that effect appears in the amendment. The Government expects to derive £210,000 from customs and excise duties on tubes, and a further £150,000 from television licencefees. Therefore, in effect, we are asking those who will have the privilege of viewing television in Sydney and Melbourne to contribute £360000 a year towards the cost of providing the television services, for which the taxpayers as a whole will have to provide £2,500,000 next year. I think it is a very fair and equitable proposition.
– It represents interest on the capital.
– Yes, it represents interest on the capital. I think I have dealt with all the matters that have been raised by honorable senators during this debate. I noted nothing else of a worthwhile character that was put forward by either Senator Kennelly or Senator Sheehan. The only other thing I would like to say is that it was very unfair to suggest that this was a departmental measure and that the officers of the department were responsible for it.
– I am pretty certain that is so.
– I am certain that the honorable senator is wrong and does not know what he is talking about. This matter was contained in the budget. It has been before the Parliament for two months having been introduced in this chamber by the Minister representing the Treasurer, and it is a measure for which the Government takes full responsibility. It seeks to raise an amount of money to assist in meeting the cost of television. The Government having made that decision, the item was included in the budget, and the officers of the Department of Customs and Excise were given the green light to say how this amount of money should be raised.
– That is exactly what I said; they were given the green light.
– The; Government agrees, that this is definitely the best way of raising the necessary money. The Government cannot accept the amendment because no honorable senator opposite can say that the provision sought to be introduced will produce the amount of revenue the Government thinks is necessary under this measure. Senator Kennelly has not the foggiest notion of the amount that will be raised, although I admit that Senator Sheehan suggested an amount which, incidentally the Government has in mind, namely, £210,000. The Opposition has put forward a case based entirely on wrong premises. A protective duty cannot be imposed at this stage because under the Ottawa Agreement the matter has first to be referred to the Tariff Board. If Senator Kennelly can jump that hurdle I should like to know how he intends to do so. I think I have answered the case put forward by the Opposition.
Question put -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. A. M. McMullin.)
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to item 181 of the Schedule, which
and I move -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 181 to read as follows: -
I do not wish to review the statements that have been made by the Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Henty). I cannot remember whether the budget contained proposals for an excise duty of £7 and a customs duty of £7 on cathode-ray tubes.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– I accept the Minister’s statement, but that procedure is not usual in relation to the imposition of duties. Certainly it was an unusual procedure to adopt in connexion with a new industry. It is true that, at the request of the manufacturers, the matter is to be heard before the Tariff Board. Although the Government probably will not accept the request I have made to-night, I shall be surprised if something similar is not adopted when the Tariff Board has presented its report.
– I should like to know why it is necessary to distribute, in Australia, television sets fitted with cathode ray tubes. I made an investigation of this matter at the request of the former Prime Minister, Mr. Chifley, and visited the head-quarters of the British Broadcasting Corporation, in England, and the National Broadcasting Corporation, in the United States of America. I saw small television sets in operation in places bigger than the Senate chamber and under more brilliant light, and the images could be seen quite plainly. The best television set I saw was the Philco set, which was as big as a butter box. When the lid was lifted, it acted as a screen.
The sets that are being built in Australia do not conform with the sets in any other country, and we might experience problems similar to those that arose in England. When television was introduced there, sets were sold for £200 each, and about 5,000,000 were sold. Because of buyer resistance, the price was reduced to £20, and 20,000,000 sets were sold. I could have bought a console model with three channels for £114. In the United States of America, the Philco set was sold for 14 dollars, and we received 40 dollars for a £10 English traveller’s cheque.
In Australia, sets will cost £200, and they will be equipped with unnecessary tubes upon which the Government will collect £7 each. If the Government made investigations abroad, it would discover that an attempt is being made to exploit the Australian public. A firm of distributors in Sydney wants to charge 30s. a week for the servicing of a television set, in addition to other payments. The tubes are not necessary and the Government should investigate this matter.
Request for amendment negatived.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 24th October (vide page 863) on motion by Senator Henty -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I refer to item 21 of the schedule, which reads -
That the House of Representatives be requested to amend item 21 to read as follows: -
The bill provides for an overall excise duty of £7. My request seeks to reduce that duty on all tubes of less than 24 inches.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 23rd October (vide page 797), on motion by Senator Cooper -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill represents another step in social advancement for the people of this nation, but I should have much preferred to see it submitted in the normal way without the tremendous amount of padding that it contains. When one gives some thought to the bill, one is amazed at just how little it means; but when any government desires to do something, however small, in the interests of any section of the people, it should be able to submit a bill without unnecessary padding. If that had been done in this instance it would have been possible to read the Minister’s second-reading speech in about one-fifth of the time it took to read this one.
The bill relates to home nursing. In Victoria, the main district nursing organization has been in existence for about 50 years and employs about 150 nurses. The bill provides that the Commonwealth Government will pay the salaries of all additional nurses employed by existing organizations and that if new organizations are established it will pay half the salaries of the nurses attached to them. That sounds very good until one reads a further clause setting out that the Commonwealth Government will not be responsible for the payment of a sum greater than that paid by the States. In those circumstances, and as the Victorian Government is spending in the vicinity of £40,000 annually on district nursing, the most the Commonwealth will pay annually to that State will be £40,000. Every one is familiar with the financial positions of the various States. I think last year the majority of them showed deficits, some of them fairly large. If I remember correctly, the deficit in Victoria was over £3,000,000, and that State could afford only £40,000 for district nursing. I do not know whether the Victorian Premier, Mr. Bolte, will be prepared to go further into the red in order to obtain more money from the Commonwealth Government for district nursing.
The Minister for Health (Dr. Donald Cameron) said in another place that in one year the district nursing service would be quadrupled. On that basis, even if the Government of Victoria could find the money - and I think all Victorians, irrespective of party, will agree that would not be easy - the most this bill could mean to the State would be £160,000 for the year. That is not a magnificent sum, especially when we realize that we have just dealt with a budget of £1,100,000,000. Although I am pleased that something is being done, I should have been much happier if the Government had taken a much greater step than it proposes and so avoided our having to come back in a year or two to delete, I hope, the provision restricting the payment by the Commonwealth to an amount equi valent to that paid by the States. I was pleased to hear the Minister say that as this nursing service grows the bed accommodation in hospitals will improve. That may be true, but I cannot see that the improvement will be as great as one might be led to believe from the Minister’s remarks. The hospitals may be enabled to discharge patients quicker, although hardly much quicker than at the present time because one does not remain long in any hospital in Victoria now. I think the time for maternity cases has dropped to as low as six or seven days there.
– It is five days in some cases.
– I thank the honorable senator for that interjection. Under present conditions, an ordinary operation case is transferred from the hospital to a nursing home very quickly; and I challenge any one in Victoria who is not an urgent surgical case to obtain a bed in any public hospital without a long wait. I think that position obtains in all States with the possible exception of one. With all respect to Victoria, I understand that Queensland, over the years, has developed a much better hospital system than Victoria can claim to have. The Minister discussed the hospital position, and it is interesting to examine the figures. The hospitals of Australia in 1954-55 cost the States £44,680,000. That amount was spent in maintaining public and mental hospitals in the various States, and averages £4 a head of the Australian population. In view of the present purchasing power of money I am not hopeful that such a sum will provide many beds for the sick - certainly not as many as I would desire.
I can speak with some knowledge of one of the large hospitals in Victoria, the Prince Henry. The cost of building is £3,000,000 and it will provide 486 beds. That is a fantastic situation. I have the greatest respect and admiration for nurses, and consider that nursing is a wonderful calling for a girl, but it seems illogical that sick persons cannot be accommodated with beds in hospitals because in the dim and distant past hospital authorities laid down that nurses should live at the hospital where they are training. Surely they could be treated as other young ladies in industry and be allowed to return to their homes each day. This would be one way of making more beds available for the sick. I admit that some girls come from the country to train in large city hospitals, but in Victoria there is hardly a decent-size town without a hospital in which a girl can train. I hope that the States will be wise enough to hand over the care of the health of the nation to the Commonwealth. They will then be able to provide a much greater number of hospital beds to accommodate the sick.
The bill provides that the money for this work will be taken out of the National Welfare Fund. That fund was established by a Labour government. At that time, taxes were divided into social service tax and ordinary income tax, and the revenue from the social service tax was paid into the welfare fund. When the Labour government left office, the funds stood at £137,000,000. This Government continued to operate that fund for two years, and it built up to £184,000,000. Then, for reasons best known to itself, the Government disbursed out of that fund only social service payments. As a consequence, apart from the interest it earns, the fund is now stagnant, and I regret that fact.
– Does not the honorable senator think that it is in a satisfactory condition?
– No. Under the Labour administration, the fund amounted to £137,000,000, and after two years of anti-Labour government control it rose to £184,000,000. In round figures, this Government added about £47,000,000 in two years.
I want to know from what sources- the increased number of nurses will be recruited.
The Minister suggested that some nurses who have married will go back to this work. If they are so unfortunate as not to have children I suppose they will be able, to spend the time required in this work, but if they have children I hope that they will stop at home and rear them, because that is their first duty. Why is it so hard to obtain sufficient nurses? Nursing is a noble profession - I can think of only one other that 1 would class as more noble. But is it any wonder that there is a shortage of nurses when we consider the pay that they receive? They wish to buy the nice things that any girl desires, but no matter how much they desire to be nurses they cannot buy the frocks and other things that mean so much to a girl unless they receive a decent wage. The figures show that a certificated nurse, in her first year, receives £13 4s. 6d. a week; in the second year, £13 14s. 6d. a week; in the third year, £13 19s. 6d.; and in the fourth year, £14 9s. 6d. A nurse has to undergo three years of intensive study and pass her examination, and she cannot leave school at fourteen years of age. Only one large hospital in Victoria will take trainees under eighteen years of age. An applicant for nursing must have passed the intermediate examination, and the Alfred Hospital will train only those who have gained the leaving certificate. The salary paid to a nurse after a course of intensive training is disproportionately low compared to that paid to an average office girl. Although girls wishing to train for nursing do not think only of the salary they will be paid, they certainly need to be paid enough to buy the normal requirements of life.
I should much prefer the Government to subsidize home help, as it is known in Victoria. What will these district nurses do? They will visit a person once or twice a week and will be able to dress wounds, and generally do a great amount of good, but a tremendous number of elderly people live alone and need some assistance in their homes when they are ill.
Victoria has instituted a home help service which is conducted by local government authorities and subsidized by the State. The Victorian Government pays £43,000 a year and various local government bodies £1 1,000 a year in respect of home help services. Last year those services received 3,986 applications for assistance, and of that number 3,068 people were assisted. At present, 51 out of 205 municipalities conduct home help services. In the city in which I live the very noble women who work in these services go into homes, particularly where people are living by themselves, and work in the home. They do not render any medical or nursing service, but they assist to get meals and clean up the home generally. By so doing they help the patients along the road to recovery. In Victoria, 141 persons are employed full-time on this work, 93 part-time and 49 casually.
I acknowledge the good that district nurses do, but, as their name implies, they are nurses, and the proper place for a person who is ill is a hospital. It is the responsibility of the Commonwealth and all the States to obtain sufficient hospital beds for all those who are ill. This measure will help in the general situation, but I do not believe that it will help to the degree suggested by the Minister who introduced the bill in another place. He stated that the bill will be instrumental in making a great number of hospital beds available which otherwise would not be available. Possibly it will free some beds, but not as many as the Minister seemed to think. I do not oppose the bill, but 1 should have preferred the Minister’s second-reading speech to have been delivered free from all the padding that it contained. All honorable senators wish to do what they can to help the sick and needy, and if this measure is even 25 per cent, as successful at the Minister believes it will be, it will help in some small measure to enlarge the scope of our social services.
– I support the bill, and congratulate the Government on establishing the principle of Commonwealth financial assistance to approved organizations conducting home nursing services. This principle, I am sure, must be approved by all honorable senators. It is not - and Senator Kennelly has admitted it - a party matter, and therefore we should regard it in the light of being a measure which is designed to find a solution to the problems of hospital accommodation and hospital finance. Senator Kennelly said that when a person is ill the proper place for him is in a hospital, and that may be so; but I believe that all honorable senators are aware of the value to the patient, and to the community, of domiciliary nursing, and of the calls that are made on the magnificent women who render service through district nursing associations and bush nursing associations and bush nursing societies.
A district or bush nursing sister must possess very special attributes of character and personality, in addition to a very high standard of nursing ability. She is constantly called upon to expend herself and her personality in order that she will be able to alleviate some of the sadness and despair which is the common lot of both the sick and the aged. The Minister for Health (Dr. Cameron) has stated that many people are happier when they are nursed in their own homes. The Minister has had vast experience of medicine and is a medical practitioner of great distinction. Therefore he knows the value to the patient of nursing treatment in the patient’s own home. But I also say that he knows that a great number of patients could not exist at all were it not for the services of the efficient, trained visiting sister, because, as Senator Kennelly himself has admitted, in most States there are not enough hospitals and institutions to care for those persons who really need to make use of them. The Minister showed his appreciation of this problem in his second-reading speech when he said -
Since the war it has been impossible to maintain hospital construction at a rate anywhere commensurate with the growth of the population, and because of the shortage of hospital beds the need for adequate, properly equipped nursing services has greatly increased in recent years.
In each State we find increased population, a lengthening of the expectation of life and an enormous capital and maintenance cost with regard to hospitals, all combining to place our public and our community hospitals in a desperate condition and condemning many people to an early death because they are unable to secure proper attention. The Minister stated that the bed cost of hospitals recently completed was £7,000 a bed, but only last Sunday Dr. John Lindell, the chairman of the Hospital and Charities Commission in Victoria stated that in a small hospital, a bed costs £5,000 to £8,000 and that the costs in larger hospitals are greater than that. Senator Kennelly mentioned that it cost £3,000,000 to Build Prince Henry Hospital. At first glance the figures of the Minister, Dr. Lindell and Senator Kennelly may appear to be stupendous. They are certainly very large, but I do not think that we should overlook the fact that included in those costs is the cost of the training services which are available to student doctors and student nurses. In Victoria, we need £30,000,000 to rebuild our major training hospitals in order to train sufficient doctors to care for our own sick people and, as we have done in the past, to supply doctors to States which have no medical training schools.
The States are called upon to carry, in addition to this enormous capital cost, a very high burden of maintenance. At the present time, the Victorian Government is attempting to find an additional £2,000,000 to cover the cost of its enormous migrant intake. A recent article states that at the moment one out of every three or four beds in the maternity hospitals of Victoria is occupied by a migrant woman. So I believe that it is against that background of pressure on hospital accommodation and the cost of building and maintaining hospitals that we come to consider how the best use can be made of the home nursing service and the way in which the Commonwealth Government can best assist in its development.
Clause 5 defines the eligibility for the subsidy that is to be provided. Clause 6 sets out how the subsidy is to be granted, but it omits precise terms and conditions under which the Commonwealth’s financial assistance will be granted. The Minister’s speech indicates that the Government proposes to subsidize the cost of any additional nurses employed by the existing nursing societies and to provide half the cost of salaries for new services. I now repeat the following statement by the Minister: -
Because of the shortage of hospital beds, the need for adequate properly equipped-
And I emphasize the words “ properly equipped “ - nursing services has greatly increased in recent years.
What do we mean when we talk about a properly equipped nursing service? We mean a mobile nursing service in which the nurses are able to travel to their patients, one that is served by dispensary facilities and which of necessity must have certain administrative costs if it is to function properly.
Senator Kennelly said that the main district nursing service in Victoria had been in existence for more than 50 years. It has been in existence for precisely 72 years, lt now employs from 50 to 52 nurses so that, if the Minister’s figure of 150 district nurses for the Commonwealth is correct, Victoria has one-third of the entire district nursing service. Last year, the society to which I refer- I have quoted these figures before, but I should like to quote them again - attended 9,401 patients. The nurses made 27 1 , 1 1 8 visits at an average cost of 5s. 8d. for each visit and an average cost to the patient of 2s. 6d. a week. Because Senator Kennelly inferred that the nurses might visit a patient once or twice a week, it is important to note that the visits paid by each sister worked out at 4,343 for the year, 84 for each week, and twelve for each day. As any one knows, if a sister visits twelve patients a day, her work is very heavy indeed. They travelled more than 300,000 miles in the year. Another very important feature of their work is that medical students from the leading training hospitals, student nurses, and nurses undergoing post-graduate courses, visit homes with them to gain experience in treating people in their own home environment.
From what I have already said, 1 believe it will be easy to understand why a nurse’s salary is only part of the total cost of keeping her in circulation. The organization about which I am speaking discovered that, last year, it cost £23 12s. a week to keep a nurse. That does not give a true indication of the cost, because the society is served by a voluntary auxiliary of 60 people who pay all their own costs and who travel constantly, transporting nurses to their patients. The total expenditure of the society was more than £61,000. Senator Kennelly said that the Victorian Government subsidized this service to the extent of £40,000 a year, but the figure is about £38,000 a year. The point I want to make is that of the £61,000 that it cost to maintain the organization, approximately £44,000 was spent in wages. That left a balance of £17,000 to pay for travelling expenses, dispensing and administrative costs. No one is denied attention if he or she is under the care of a doctor. No fixed charge is made for the services of the nurse, but patients are expected to pay according to their means, and pensioners are exempt from all payment. 1 repeat that the State subsidy was between £38,000 and £40,000. Charitable organizations found about £1,700. It is of particular significance that, although the patients are not well off, they provided more than £16,000 towards the support of the society. Yet, the society had a deficit of between £5,000 and £6,000. It was sufficiently large to cause the greatest concern to the committee of management. The Minister stated that, “up to the present, finance for the district nursing associations has come mainly from State government subsidies, collections from patients, and donations by the public. This Government thinks it right that money should continue to be supplied to the associations from these sources “. I am sure that no one would quarrel with that sentiment.
I have just given to this Senate the breakup of the expenses, and described how a certain society attempts to cover its own costs, and the deficit it has to carry. If the service is to be extended it would, as Senator Kennelly very rightly said, need an extension of ancillary services such as home help, the cost of which, if provided through the societies, would add still more to their financial difficulties. Therefore, on this point, I am unable to share the optimism of the Government that services will be expanded in the way that it hopes.
Having dealt very fully with a metropolitan service, I shall now deal briefly with the Bush Nursing Society, which operates in country districts. This society was established to relieve the suffering of women and children in the remote parts of Australia. In 1911, one nurse was sent to a little place in Victoria called Beech Forest. From that one nurse has been developed the magnificent Bush Nursing Society, which at present has 44 bush nursing hospitals and fourteen nursing centres. It is from these centres in the country that the bush nurses operate providing care and attention to women and their families in the isolated parts of Victoria - and there still are some isolated parts! It costs £1,000 a year to run a centre. The Victorian Government subsidizes each centre to the extent of £400. Here again, the voluntary organizations are attempting to provide the £600 that is necessary to cover their costs.
In connexion with the scheme that we are now considering, what assurance has the Commonwealth Government that the State governments will be able to increase substantially their present grants? Senator Kennelly referred to the desperate position in which the Victorian hospitals now find themselves. Those of us who have worked in voluntary organizations know that down through the years they have played a major part in supporting the statutory authorities in the field of health and public benevolence, but it is becoming more difficult every day to raise money and, unfortunately, this work falls on too few people. If proof pf this statement is needed, we have only to remind ourselves of a very sobering and saddening state of affairs. Whilst the 1955-56 budget made provision for a grant of £1,500,000 towards the magnificent scheme that was instituted by this Government for the assistance of organizations engaged in the building of homes for aged persons, what do we find? In that year, only £398,000 was expended for that purpose, and this year £700,000 has been voted under this heading, which is £800,000 less than the vote for last year. No one would suggest that the need to provide homes for the aged has diminished materially, but these figures prove that the voluntary organizations have experienced great difficulty in raising money for this purpose.
In conclusion, I should like to commend the Minister for the thought that he has given to the subject of health, and particularly to the matter of domiciliary nursing. I would, however, respectfully suggest that if home nursing is to play the part we think it can, then the whole question of the allocation of subsidies should be reviewed. I do not suggest for a moment that subsidies should be granted indiscriminately, because that would result in duplication and waste. But surely the Commonwealth and the States could collaborate in devising a scheme whereby the subsidy will be paid, at least in part, to the existing organizations, and in part for any extension of the services. If this were done, despite what Senator Kennelly has said, I believe that both the Commonwealth and the State governments would relieve themselves of the need to provide many millions of pounds for capital expenditure on, and the maintenance of hospitals. At the same time, a positive contribution would be made to the care of the sick and the aged in this country. I support the bill.
– In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Cooper) said -
The national health service is based on certain principles. One of the most important is the idea of a partnership - of co-operation between patient and doctor . . . Much is said nowadays about medical and hospital benefits, and all sorts of claims are made that these should be higher or more extensive.
In the light of those statements, I presume that it is in order for me to discuss the matter of hospital and medical benefits.
Recently, I brought to the notice of the Senate the fact that a person who had been a contributor to both the Medical Benefits Fund of Australia Limited and the Hospital Contribution Fund of New South Wales since 1953 had been refused benefits in respect of hospital treatment for a condition that existed at the time he joined the latter fund. I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cooper) read a first time.
Thursday, 1 November 1956
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is closely related to three other bills which I shall introduce subsequently, and my second-reading speech on this bill will cover the subject-matter of the four bills. In those circumstances I suggest that the second-reading debate also cover all four bills. I ask leave to deal with the four bills together.
The bills are the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1956, the Public Service Arbitration Bill 1956, the Australian National Airlines Bill 1956 and the Aluminium Industry Bill 1956. All of these bills are interrelated. Two of them are in some respects complementary the one to the other, and their provisions can best be understood if I explain them at the one time. I refer, first, to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. Much of the content of this bill can be dealt with quite quickly, for there is nothing contentious about it. Clauses 7 to 13 simply make the intentions of the legislation passed last session more abundantly clear. They put beyond all doubt that the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission can, by one instrument, assign to individual presidential members the general responsibility for dealing with industrial disputes in the Maritime, Snowy Mountains and Stevedoring Industries. Clauses 17 to 21 are designed to clear up a few drafting points revealed when the act passed last session was finally printed. There is nothing of any substance here. Clauses 23 and 24 are designed to fill a few deficiencies in the transitional provisions of last session’s legislation.
Clauses 15 and 16 of the bill deal with the matter of audience before the new Commonwealth Industrial Court and the old Conciliation and Arbitration Court. Section 63 of the present Conciliation and Arbitration Act makes provision tor audience in proceedings before the Arbitration Commission. It allows, for example, officials to appear for their organizations. No special provision, however, is made in relation to proceedings before the new Industrial Court. Section 46 of the 1947 act contained provisions relating to proceedings before the old Arbitration Court, not dissimilar from those appearing in the present section 63. Section 46, however, was expressed not to apply to judicial proceedings and consequently, strictly, the provisions of the Judiciary Act applied, so as to limit representation to properly qualified barristers or solicitors. Nevertheless, even in relation to some judicial proceedings the Arbitration Court appears to have followed the practice of allowing officials to represent their organizations.
The Government has considered what special provision should be made in respect of proceedings before the Industrial Court, and has come to the conclusion that the arrangements to operate in future should, generally speaking, conform with the practice of the past. Accordingly, except in relation to proceedings which, put broadly, involve questions of law or involve offences against the act, clause 16 of the bill enables parties to elect whether to appear personally, to be represented by lawyers, or to be represented by officials. The bill also provides that even in respect of proceedings which involve questions of law, except appeals from other courts to the Industrial Court, the parties may, if they wish and the court grants leave, be represented by officials. The Government regards this as a practical way of approaching this problem. The solution is, as I have said, by and large to apply the practice of the past. Clause 15 of the bill applies the rule 1 have stated to analogous proceedings before the old Arbitration Court.
A second matter of substance is dealt with in clause 14. In recent years, the Commonwealth or its instrumentalities have undertaken a number of major projects. The Snowy Mountains scheme, Woomera, Maralinga. St. Mary’s and the Menai reactor come quickly to mind. There is no reason for thinking the Commonwealth will not in future years undertake other great national projects, and the Government considers that it is entirely right and proper that the industrial conditions governing them should be determined by the federal tribunals and not by the tribunals of each individual State. The Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is the appropriate tribunal to develop codes of conditions applicable to large-scale construction jobs undertaken by the Commonwealth Government and its instrumentalities wherever they may be located. What clause 14 does is to empower the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to deal with industrial disputes or industrial matters affecting such projects as are declared to be Commonwealth projects by the Minister. The commission will have jurisdiction whether the work is actually undertaken by the Commonwealth or one of its instrumentalities or by contractors or sub-contractors for or on behalf of the Commonwealth or its instrumentality, and irrespective of whether the project is located in one State or spreads across a border.
By and large, the industrial problems that will arise in the case of major Commonwealth projects will concern conditions of employment on the site, but it may be desirable, in some cases, that the power of the commission should extend to people who are working in connexion with the project and not necessarily on the site.
The Parliament may not have unlimited power- to confer jurisdiction on the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in respect of all persons who may be connected with a Commonwealth project. For example, persons driving trucks moving earth to or from the site of the project would appear to be within this power. At the other extreme, people working in a factory supplying equipment for the project, may not be. In any case, it might be quite undesirable that they should be so regarded. Therefore, power is given to the Minister, in the proposed new section 88B (4) to define who are to be regarded as working in connexion with a Commonwealth project, and it will be in relation to such persons that the commission will have jurisdiction.
It may even be that there will be some persons working on the site of a project in respect of whom it would be undesirable that the commission should have jurisdiction under this new proposed division. Such persons may be Commonwealth public servants, directing operations, who are covered by the Public Service Arbitrator’s decisions or decisions of the Public Service Board. Yet other persons may be officers or employees of a State public service or State instrumentality. To meet this situation, provision is made in the proposed section 88B (3) to permit the Minister to exclude from the jurisdiction of the commission, in respect of a Commonwealth project, such persons as he designates. Industrial matters affecting any such project will be dealt with by the commission in the normal way, that is to say, by commissioners assigned by the president for the purpose. Other provisions of the present act will enable the president himself to deal with, or to assign a presidential member to deal with a particular industrial dispute affecting a project.
I now, turn to clauses 4 and 5 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and would like at the same time to deal with clauses 4, 5, 7, 9 and 11 of the Public Service, Arbitration Bill. The need for these provisions really stems from a recent decision of the Public Service Arbitrator who found deficiencies in amendments to the Public Service Arbitration Act passed in 1955. That decision also led to an examination of the basis upon which the old Arbitration Court and the conciliation commissioners have over many years been making awards in respect of Crown employees, for example, in Canberra and the Northern Territory.
The problems thrown up are complicated but, at the risk of oversimplification, I will try to explain them briefly. I think it is fair to say that the clauses in the two bills I am now dealing with introduce no new principle or concept. In the past, the industrial problems of Crown employees under the Commonwealth and its instrumentalities have been dealt with by both the Public Service Arbitrator and the old Arbitration Court and the conciliation commissioners. The reasons are no doubt explained by history. Originally, public servants had no access to the Arbitration Court. Only those Crown employees who were engaged in an industry had this right. Of course, in the early days of federation, there were few such. In 1911, however, all Crown employees, including normal public servants, were given access to the court. In 1920, a separate Public Service Arbitrator was established. The idea was apparently that the Arbitrator, exclusively, would deal with claims by organizations which were confined to Crown employees. Provision to that effect was made by section 1 1 of the 1920 act.
Some Crown employees, however - and they have grown in numbers over the years - belong to organizations whose membership is not limited to Crown employees. Some of these organizations continued to go to the Arbitration Court and, later, to conciliation commissioners. Others have gone to the arbitrator.
This division of responsibility led to all sorts of problems, principally in respect of what I might call Commonwealth industrial type employees. For example, there was a tendency for organizations to go to the arbitrator or to the court or commissioners, depending on their assessment of their chances of getting most. Different conditions governing the same type of employees awarded by the arbitrator or the court or commissioners led to dissatisfaction. Those concerned with the functioning of the Arbitration Act and the arbitrator have commented adversely on the position. The High Council of the Public Service organizations has also been dissatisfied with the position. So have the Public Service Board and the departments.
How to go about dealing with these problems has received much attention over the years. For example, an interdepartmental committee was set up by the late Mr. Chifley, when Prime Minister, in 1949 to examine the question. The amendments made in 1952 dealing with appeals and references to the court alleviated some of the problems.
In 1955, the Parliament went further. It then empowered the Public Service Arbitrator to refrain from dealing with a claim in certain circumstances. Put broadly, he was enabled so to refrain where he thought it was more appropriate that the claim should be dealt with by another tribunal. This provision, like those contained in the present bills, was really directed to claims in relation to industrial type employees of the Commonwealth, engaged on work comparable with that performed in outside industry.
It was with this provision that the arbitrator found difficulty. He found himself unable to refrain from dealing with one claim on the ground that it would be more appropriate for the Arbitration Commission to deal with it. First, because section 1 1 of the Public Service Arbitration Act, as it now stands, prevented the claimant organization taking its claim to the commission; and. second, because, in his view, the commission was not empowered to do what the arbitrator was permitted to do, namely, make an award inconsistent with alaw of the Commonwealth affecting the wages and conditions of the employees concerned. The fact is that the old Arbitration Court and the conciliation commissioners, in the past, seem to have been doing just this; whether with or without authority is beside the point, for the bills now before the House make the position clear.
So much for the background. What the bills do is -
I just want to deal briefly with this last point. Ever since provision was made for arbitral tribunals to deal with Crown employees - the Arbitration Court from 1911 to 1920 and the arbitrator since - the legislation has provided that an award or determination may be made inconsistent with a law of the Commonwealth relating to salaries, wages, rates of pay or terms and conditions of service or employment, but that any such award or determination may be disallowed by the Parliament. The reason is clear. Employment under the Crown is usually governed by statute. Thus, the Public Service Act deals with the great run of public servants and ancillary employees, and statutes providing for the creation of statutory authorities dealt with the conditions of employment of their employees. Sometimes these statutes lay down in detail many of the conditions of employment, e.g., as to appointments, promotions, discipline, &c. Sometimes the authority is given power to determine conditions of employment generally or subject to specific legislative provision.
Therefore, unless power were given to the Arbitrator to make a determination inconsistent with a law of the Commonwealth, his function would be very limited. By the same token, however, since a power to make an inconsistent determination virtually gives power to override an act of Parliament, it is necessary that Parliament should have the right to disallow such a determination.
When public servants were first admitted to the arbitration tribunals, Public Service employment was almost all, if not entirely, governed by trie Public Service Act. As time has gone on, legislation applicable to all Crown employees has been passed. The Superannuation Act, the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act and the Commonwealth Employees Furlough Act are instances. These acts govern the terms and conditions of employment of Crown employees generally but, as the Public Service Arbitration Act now stands, the Public
Service Arbitrator could make a determination inconsistent with them. lt would appear to be entirely at odds with principle to permit the Arbitrator to override an act of general application and to rest on the Parliament’s power to disallow a determination that did infringe such an act.
Inevitably, disallowance proceedings lend themselves to political disputation. Similarly, it would seem entirely at odds with principle to permit the arbitrator to make an award at variance with provisions specifically included by the Parliament in the Public Service Act and other acts constituting services for statutory authorities and dealing with what I might broadly describe as the structure and organization of the various services, appointments, promotions, discipline and the like.
Fortunately, the arbitrator has recognized this. While it may well be that the arbitrator working in a background of public service tradition, would in future continue to follow this course, it is considered that the matter should not be left to chance. There is, however, a stronger reason; for now we need to put in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act the same provisions about awards inconsistent with laws of the Com,monwealth as are in the Public Service Arbitration Act. Therefore, we have provided, in both the Conciliation and Arbitration and Public Service Arbitration Bills, that determinations or wards shall not be made which are inconsistent with the acts I have named. We have also made provision enabling the prescription of other acts or of the provisions of other acts in respect of which inconsistent determinations or awards may not be made. At the same time, we are carrying into the Conciliation and Arbitration Act the provisions for dis-! allowance that have always applied under the Public Service Arbitration Act.
It has been said that, under this power to prescribe acts or provisions of acts, the whole of the Public Service Act could be prescribed. Theoretically, that is perfectly true. Theoretically, all the other acts, deal-, ing with employment under the Commonwealth, could be prescribed. The fact is that nobody can sensibly believe that any of these things would be done, unless, of course, the Parliament wished to abolish the Public Service Arbitrator and all the arbitralprovisions for dealing with Commonwealth employees. In any case, my colleague, the Minister for Labour and National Service, has assured the High Council of the Public Service organizations that they will be consulted in relation to any proposed prescriptions.
The remaining clauses of the Public Service Arbitration Bill require no particular explanation. Clauses 3 and 6 are mere matters of drafting change. Clause 8 removes a doubt that previously existed as to the time at which the arbitrator should send a determination to the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General. Clause 10 cures a technical defect which had not previously been noticed. Clause 12 fills a deficiency in the transitional provisions of the last session’s legislation.
I now turn to the Australian National Airlines Bill and the Aluminium Industry Bill. The only purpose of these bills is to exclude the activities of the Australian National Airlines and Australian Aluminium Production Commissions from the jurisdiction of the Public Service Arbitrator. In view of what I have already said, the particular reasons for these bills need little additional explanation.
Trans-Australia Airlines is engaged in a highly competitive industry. The Government believes that Trans-Australia Airlines should, so far as its industrial conditions are concerned, be dealt with by the same tribunal as deals with its competitors, that is, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Both the Public Service Arbitrator and the old Conciliation and Arbitration Court have commented on the problems thrown up when two tribunals deal with employees in this one highly competitive airlines industry. So, as with the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission Act passed during last session, the Government proposes that Trans-Australia Airlines industrial matters should come under the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
The Australian Aluminium Production Commission is in much the same position. It is engaged in a normal industrial undertaking run on purely commercial lines. It is entirely right and proper that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which deals extensively with those in commercial and manufacturing activities, should deal with the industrial problems of the Aluminium Commission. The amendments now proposed to the Conciliation and
Arbitration Act, which I have already described, will, of course, enable the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to deal with industrial problems of both the Airlines Commission and the Aluminium Commission.I commend the bills to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cooper) read a first time..
Motion (by Senator Cooper) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cooper) read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Cooper) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cooper) read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Cooper) proposed -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Senator McKenna) adjourned.
The Senate adjourned at 12.27 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 31 October 1956, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1956/19561031_senate_22_s9/>.