22nd Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether it is a fact that new Australians have to apply for special permits to enter New Zealand. If so, what is the reason for this discrimination as between Australian citizens? Will the Government investigate the matter with a view to placing all Australians on an equal footing?
– I was not previously aware of this matter, but 1 shall inquire of my colleague and obtain a reply for the honorable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. As the quantity of wheat which Australia will be able to export in the coming year will be severely restricted because of the adverse season now being experienced, will the Minister urge his colleague to consider seriously, when deciding to which countries this limited quantity of wheat should be exported, the advisability of giving preference to those countries in which our wheat trade in the future would be most seriously jeopardized by our inability to export in normal quantities? Will he also suggest to his colleague that it would be of value to our Australian milling industry, which has experienced considerable difficulty in the past, if as much as possible of this limited quantity of wheat could be exported in the form of flour, thereby not only retaining this overseas market as far as possible, but also providing as much mill offal as possible for local consumers?
– I shall be pleased to bring this matter before the notice of the Minister for Primary Industry as soon as possible. I am aware, of course, that he is at this moment giving close and continuing consideration to the problem, and I know that one of the matters to which he is especially directing his attention is the maintenance of Australia’s export markets.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Repatriation with the observation that the last day in this year for payment of service pensions will be 26th December. As this day will be a holiday, will the Minister consider making the payment of pensions before Christmas Day?
– I am aware that 26th December is the day on which repatriation pension payments would normally be made. It will be necessary to obtain Treasury approval to make the payments earlier, but I am quite sure that the Treasury will agree to paying the pensions on the day before Christmas Day instead of the day after.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Social Services aware that the Director of Social Services, Queensland, stated publicly on Thursday, 24th October, 1957, that some destitute persons in Brisbane were professional beggars? Will the Minister define the term “ professional beggars “, which does not appear in the Social Services Act? Is the Minister also aware that the director said that he would make official information available to certain members of the public from the files of his office? If the Director of Social Services, Queensland, is permitted to make available to the public official information from his records, will the Minister arrange for the Deputy Commissioners of Taxation and officers of the Department of Trade to disclose to the public information from the files in their custody?
– I shall bring the question raised by the honorable senator before my colleague, the Minister for Social Services. If he considers the circumstances warrant it, I am quite sure that he will make an appropriate statement on the matters raised by the honorable senator.
– I preface my question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, by asking him whether he has seen the report in a leading daily newspaper that a group of businessmen in Wolverhampton, England, consequent on an increase in postage rates, is planning to set up a private post office for the purpose of delivering and taking delivery of local letters and secondclass mail, considering that this will result in appreciable economies. Following the recent rise in postage rates in Australia, many business houses in Tasmania have made a practice of delivering by hand monthly statements and letters at certain periods. Will the Minister consider a lower rate of postage on local letters and secondclass mail matter and will he also express an opinion as to whether similar action to that suggested in England, if carried out in Australia, would be infringing post office rights?
– I have seen the statement in the press to which the honorable senator has referred. Naturally, until the scheme has been tried out for some time, it is difficult to say just how a private post office will work. However, I will bring the question under the notice of my colleague, the Postmaster-General, and request that a reply be given as early as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. I preface my question by pointing out that the Minister recently, while abroad, spoke in quarters which were most interested in cloud-seeding and claimed that Australia was progressing very favorably in this direction and that our experiments were on a high level. Is the Minister aware that during the past week ideal cloud conditions prevailed over parts of Queensland and New South Wales and would have given the C.S.I.R.O. a wonderful opportunity to further its rain-making experiments? Is he aware also that, during this favorable period, the one aircraft available to the C.S.I.R.O. for cloud-seeding experiments was grounded and was unable to take advantage of the favorable conditions, much to the disappointment of those concerned? Will the Minister give his closest attention to equipping part of a transport squadron of the Royal Australian Air Force with the necessary scientific equipment for rain-making purposes and make it available to the C.S.I.R.O. so that those who are so eagerly awaiting the help of science during the severe drought will not be disappointed when favorable cloud conditions next prevail?
– I am not aware of the precise circumstances that have been referred to by the honorable senator. 1 should like to assure him that this matter must be approached with a certain amount of care, thought and discretion. The Commonwealth Government is not in the rainmaking business.
– It should be.
– That is a matter of opinion. The Commonwealth’s constitutional powers do not enable it to place itself in that position. The Commonwealth, through the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, has spent a considerable sum of money on, and conducted a great deal of research into, rainmaking. It has achieved remarkably encouraging results. But rain-making is still in the laboratory stages of experimentation. The Commonwealth can fly over its own territory, so to speak, with complete impunity, but would incur a certain amount of liability if it were to fly over the States and the property of State citizens without their authority. I repeat that rain-making experiments are still in the laboratory stage, The results of the Commonwealth’s intensive experimentation will, of course, be made available for the benefit of the people and the States of Australia.
– I invite the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior to the statement of Senator O’Byrne, who is vice-chairman of the Public Works Committee, that the committee at present has no work referred to it by the Minister for the Interior. Will the Minister discuss with his colleague in another place the importance and urgency of instructing the Public Works Committee to investigate the need to provide Adelaide with adequate public buildings on one or more of the numerous sites that the Commonwealth already has in that city?
– I shall pass the message to my colleague, the Minister for the Interior. I point out that the Public Works Committee has done a remarkably good job over the last two or three years in relation to the projects that have been submitted to it. I understand that almost immediately another project will be referred to it. I am satisfied that the members of the committee are quite competent to keep before the Minister the fact that they are prepared to consider any project that he submits to them. If the honorable senator places his question on the notice-paper, 1 shall refer it to my colleague.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise, by referring to the statement of the New South Wales fire chief that some imported Japanese dolls are highly inflammable and as a consequence are very dangerous to children.
– What kind of dolls?
– Japanese dolls.
– Highly inflammable!
– I note also that, as a result of a press statement, the Japanese authorities state that the United States of America has objected to these inflammable dolls being brought into America-
Honorable senators interjecting,
– With all due respect to the humorists on the Government side, I think this is quite serious.
– What about honorable senators on your side?
– I shall start that sentence again. I note also that, as a result of a press statement, the Japanese authorities have stated that the United States of America had objected to these inflammable toys and that Japanese traders had then exported dolls to the United States which were reasonably lire-proof. My question is: Will the Minister for Customs and Excise take steps to protect Australian children by prohibiting the import of such dangerous toys?
– I have not seen the press statement to which the honorable senator has referred, but I assure him that if there is any substance at all in the matter that he has raised - as I imagine there well could be - and there is danger to children, the department will have a look at it to see what can be done.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, is based on a recent report in the Sydney “ Sun-Herald “, which stated -
An oral drug for the treatment of diabetes was released for public prescription this week. Doctors said the drug may mean that a percentage of diabetes sufferers could abandon their present insulin injections. A Macquarie Street specialist said the drug, tolbutamide, was the first antidiabetic substance that had proved to be effective when taken by mouth. Australian doctors have tried the drug in research units and clinics over the past two years. A diabetes specialist said the drug could be used only in certain cases. “ It is effective mainly with older people and those suffering a milder form of the disease “, he said.
That is a very important announcement for people who suffer from diabetes. Will the Minister consider, if he has not already done so, placing this drug on the free list of drugs, so that it may be issued on the same basis as insulin is at present issued?
– I have not seen the press statement, but I am sure that it has been noted in the Department of Health, which has a section that watches closely the development of new drugs and other forms of treatment. As for the second part of the honorable senator’s question, I shall ask the Minister for Health to give me a report so that we can see what has been done in the matter.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Territories seen a leading article in to-day’s “ Sydney Morning Herald “, which suggests that the reason that hospital treatment for native patients in some areas of the Territory of Papua and New Guinea is not available, is that the Government is economizing on medical services in the Territory? Is there an adequate number of trained medical and nursing staff available at present for existing hospitals? How many fully trained doctors and nurses are already working in these hospitals, and are they being drawn from Australian sources? How many native hospitals are there, and what is their bed capacity? How many semi-trained native personnel are there, and are they satisfactory? Finally, are natives being trained in universities or hospitals in Australia to be medical practitioners or nurses?
– In answer to the first part of the honorable senator’s ^question, 1 think I can say that the ‘Government definitely is not trying to economize on medical services in Papua and New Guinea. As a matter of fact, the Treasurer .is in the Territory at the present time, .and I .think it .w.as only yesterday that he opened the largest .hospital that has been established there. -It is the intention of the Government to go ahead, in co-operation with the health authorities of the Territory, and to continue to improve these services. In regard to the second part of the honorable senator’s question, I shall have to obtain the necessary details from .the Minister for Health. I shall get a report from him and let the honorable senator have it.
– Is the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware of the comparatively recent practice in the Commonwealth Railways of taking heavy interstate road transport vehicles and goods on rail at Port Pirie and off-loading them at Parkeston? Is the Minister also aware that this practice, which is commonly known as pick-a-backing, is causing grave concern to Western Australian railway administrators and railway workers alike? Is it a fact that previously the railway systems had always co-operated in protecting each other’s interests, and had agreed that back-loading, and loading from rail to rail, should be maintained wherever possible? If the present procedure is a departure from practice, will the Minister investigate it, and endeavour as far as possible to protect the State railways systems when goods are being taken to and from the Commonwealth railways?
– The practice of pick-a-backing between Port Pirie and Kalgoorlie has been in operation for some time, and 1 am not aware that its incidence has increased substantially of late. It was introduced in order to provide a cheaper service than was otherwise possible. If transport costs are thereby reduced I think that the practice is to be commended. Senator Cooke implies that there has been some breach of an agreement between the Commonwealth Railways and the Western Australian Government Railways.
– I referred to a departure from the previous practice.
– As a railway administrator, the honorable senator knows that these matters are thoroughly tied up at the commissioners’ conference. The honorable senator also refers to a need to protect the Western Australian railway system. On more than one occasion the Commonwealth Railways has ta’ken action to that end. Quite recently it suffered financial loss in order to assist the Western Australian Government Railways. Indeed, I could hardly imagine that the Commonwealth Railways could ever be charged with failing to assist Western Australia. I shall be only too happy to see whether the incidence of pick-a-backing has increased, but I know of no reason for believing that it has. I repeat, it has been in operation for quite some time.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization whether he has seen a statement by a Mr. Shervey, of Bundarra, in northern New South Wales, indicating that after a C.S.I.R.O. plane operated over his property rain and light hail fell, that the fall lasted for about two hours, and that the average fall on his property was 115 points. Could a full report of the work being done by the C.S.I.R.O. in this field be made available to the Parliament, with particular reference to liaison with the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology? Obviously, suitable cloud is the first ingredient in rain-making. Also, it would be of great interest to members of the Parliament, and indeed to the nation, to know the stage that these experiments have reached. If they are to prove as efficacious as the press report indicates, the work should be enlarged in the way suggested by Senator O’Byrne.
– I think that the honorable senator’s idea is a very good one. I shall ascertain from my colleague, the Minister in charge of the C.S.I.R.O., whether any printed matter on the subject is available. If it is, I shall either table it, or have it displayed in the Library and let honorable senators know that it is available for perusal.
– I wish to ask the Leader of the Government a question relating to the recent meeting between President Eisenhower and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Mr. Macmillan. It concerns the very significant agreement reached between the United States of America and the United Kingdom for closer scientific co-operation, following the launching of the Soviet satellite. Is the Government giving any consideration to an approach to the United States of America and Great Britain in order to effect similar reciprocal arrangements to those recently agreed upon between those two nations in regard to research and planning in the various fields of higher scientific endeavour and nuclear science?
– I am nol aware what steps, if any, have been taken by the responsible Ministers along the lines indicated by the honorable senator. I shall have inquiries made and, if it be deemed appropriate, request the Minister concerned to make a paper available for the information of the Senate.
– I address the following question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry: - Bearing in mind the fact that many barleygrowers in Western Australia have grown Beecher six-row barley to meet a demand in overseas markets, will the Minister make such provision as may be necessary to ensure that at least token shipments of such barley are exported so as to keep faith with overseas buyers and to preserve overseas markets for our barley growers.?
– I understand that, under the recent arrangement, applications for the export of barley will be received and considered on their merits. 1 have no doubt that when each application is received, the important aspect of barley export mentioned by Senator Seward, the preservation of overseas markets, will receive the full consideration of the Minister for Primary Industry or the Minister for Customs and Excise.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Civil Aviation a question con cerning the announcement made in this morning’s press of the probable dismissal of some 500 employees by Ansett-A.N.A. Has the Minister any information that he can give to the Senate about classes of personnel involved? Has he any information about likely work opportunities available to these people?
– I understand that so far about 100 employees have been dismissed from the Ansett-A.N.A. organization, and that the dismissals will progressively increase within the next few weeks to a figure not yet specified. The dismissals have been restricted, 1 understand, to persons of an age at which they are eligible for a pension, to married women and to unskilled labourers. I am informed that, in making the dismissals, the company is keeping in the closest contact with the unions concerned, and also that in a number of cases the persons dismissed have been entitled to superannuation payments or to payment in lieu of leave. In some instances, both benefits are applicable. I have already taken up with the Minister for Labour and National Service the question of employment opportunities. Every effort will be made to find new positions for the people displaced.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Is there any foundation for a recent press statement that it costs more to transport wheat from Western Australia to the eastern States than from Canada to those States? If that statement is true, can the Minister say whether, in view of the probable serious consequences of the drought now threatening the eastern States, the Government has in mind any scheme for avoiding, at least temporarily, the incurring of such fantastic costs for the transport of wheat to the eastern States?
– Last Friday, during the discussion of the Estimates, I gave a rather lengthy reply to a question similar to that just asked by Senator Vincent. Briefly, the position which now emerges is a further indication of the higher costs involved in Australian ship construction and operation, compared with the costs of overseas countries. The effect of those higher costs is seen in the cargo rate which is struck. From a short-term point of view, I do not think anything can be done to remedy the position. The comparative rates quoted, however, do not give an accurate picture of the difference between the two rates. The rate quoted for the transport of wheat from Fremantle to the eastern States is a coastal cargo rate, whereas the rate quoted for the transport of wheat from Canada to Australia is a charter rate.
At the moment, it so happens that charter rates have reached a particularly low level, but they could rise quite suddenly. Indeed, if there is any substantial demand for charter vessels for the movement of wheat or for the movement of other goods, the charter rates certainly will rise and so reduce the difference between these two rates. The action to be taken to meet the situation will not be decided until we know how much wheat, if any, will be imported and how much will be moved from Western Australia to the eastern States, but I can assure the honorable senator that if it is found necessary to equip two ships of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission to move wheat in a hurry, the commission will be prepared to fit out ships at once in order to meet the demand.
– The question which I direct to the Minister for Civil Aviation refers to the annual accounts of Qantas Empire Airways Limited which are dealt with in the Auditor-General’s report. Has the Minister noticed that in last year’s accounts no debit has been made corresponding to the item in the previous year’s accounts of £70,000 for provision of pension funds? Can the Minister say whether that is an indication of an alteration in the pension system for the staff of Qantas?
– I understand that no basic alteration of the system has been made. I had a look at this matter some weeks ago, but at the moment the details escape my mind. I will ascertain them and let the honorable senator know.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry: In view of the fact that Western Australian wheat may be sent to the eastern
States for supplementary feeding during the current drought, can the Minister advise whether wheat-growers in Western Australia will receive the 3d. a bushel premium which they normally expect to receive in respect of wheat exported overseas?
– I have to say to Senator Scott, as I have said to other honorable senators who have asked similar questions on this matter, that the whole question is now being considered. The 3d. premium received by Western Australian growers on wheat exported overseas and its applicability to wheat shipped to the eastern States is one of the many matters under consideration.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization whether he has noticed a press report to the effect that on Saturday a C.S.I.R.O. rain-making plane produced more than an inch of rain over a wide area at Bundarra in northern New South Wales by injecting silver iodide into the clouds. Is it a fact that experiments already carried out have proved that areas seeded with silver iodide will produce in a year approximately 20 per cent, more rain than the average rainfall? Will the Minister give an assurance that the Government will continue these experiments while the drought lasts?
– I am not aware that the C.S.I.R.O. has been very specific in making claims with respect to these experiments, but I understand that the results from them have been highly encouraging. To what extent they have produced rain is a matter of opinion. The honorable senator may rest assured that the experiments will be continued.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry by pointing out that during previous droughts, particularly the drought of 1914, wheat imported into Australia introduced quite a number of new noxious weeds to this country which have been very troublesome ever since. If it is deemed advisable to import wheat during the present drought emergency, will the Government ensure that such wheat shall be used for milling purposes only and not for seed, and thus obviate the risk of introducing new noxious weeds?
– I will refer the question to my colleague, the Minister for Primary Industry.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Wedgwood be granted leave of absence for two months to attend the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference at New Delhi.
Motions (by Senator Kennelly) - by leave - agreed to -
That Senator Hendrickson be granted leave of absence for two months to attend the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference at New Delhi.
That Senator Ryan be granted leave of absence for two months on account of absence overseas.
That Senator Critchley be granted leave of absence for one month on account of ill health.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 25th October (vide page 892).
Department of Primary Industry.
Proposed Vote, £1,584,000.
– It is rather interesting to examine how this department was constituted. One might say that it is becoming a common practice of this Government to form departments overnight, irrespective of the cos’: to the Australian taxpayers. I mentioned the other day how the Department of Trade was created, and I propose now to give the committee information showing how the Department of Primary Industry came to be established.
The first step towards its establishment was to take from the Department of Commerce and Agriculture all agricultural functions, including the Division of Agricultural Economics, the control and administration of the various marketing boards for primary products, export inspection services, and the administration of fisheries and fisheries development, and the whaling industry. It was found, after the transference of these functions from the Department of Commerce and Agriculture, that there was still not sufficient lo justify the creation of a department, so the authorities looked round for a wider field and took from the Department of the Interior the administration of war service land settlement because they found that this would add appreciably to the responsibilities of the proposed new department. Then, evidently, some lord high executioner had an examination made of the mass of bits and pieces and decided that there were still insufficient for the creation of a government department with a Minister at the head, so it was decided to take from the Department of Trade and Customs functions relating to the sugar agreement, cotton, sulphuric acid, flax, and so on as well as responsibilities relating to the payment of bounties. When this mass of bits and pieces had been collected from various departments, a Minister was appointed.
But the interesting feature is that when it was decided to establish the Department of Trade and the Department of Primary Industry we were told that the cost to the people of Australia would be no more than it was previously; as a matter of fact, we were told that by the division of the administration in this way, an actual saving would be effected. What do we find? There was an all-round increase immediately after the formation of these two extra departments, and I do not think any one can claim that the people of Australia are getting better service as a result of the changes that have been made. As a matter of fact, I feel that the people are more confused about things generally that they were before the departments were broken up in this way.
If we read the press, we notice that many people in Australia are confused about the export of stud merino rams. It is common knowledge that only a few years ago four stud merino rams were exported to South Africa for experimental purposes. When the matter was raised in Australia at the time by those who were most anxious to preserve wool-growing as one of Australia’s principal industries, we were placated to some extent by being told that the rams would not be used for commercial purposes, and that they were being exported merely to assist the South African Government to experiment in the solution of the wool industry problems of that country, we accepted that explanation because we looked upon the giving of practical assistance of that nature to another country as being a worthy objective at any time.
But we were greatly alarmed only last “week when he read in the press that the ^progeny of some of these stud rams had been sold. We know that if an agricultural college sells the progeny of any rams in South Africa those progeny will be used for the production of wool. Every one knows that merino rams are used not for mutton production but for the purpose of producing the fine merino wool used by the textile industry. Honorable senators will remember that years ago the Labour government put an embargo upon the export of flocks - not only rams but also ewes - and Australia looked upon that embargo as being just as great a protection of the industry as a tariff would be.
There is indeed good reason for alarm about what is going on when we read that already the progeny are being sold to the graziers of South Africa. Honorable senators know, without my telling them, the history of the wool industry in Australia. They know as well as I do that it extends back for 100 years. They know that Australia is producing fine merino wool to-day only because she has concentrated upon that problem for the last 100 years. We say, perhaps boastfully, that we produce the finest merino wool in the world, and the good effect the high prices we have obtained for this wool have had upon the economy of Australia force us to protect the industry as much as we possibly can.
Perhaps, if the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) intends to reply to my statements, he will be so kind as to tell me all about the progeny of the merino rams which were sold in South Africa recently. Perhaps he will tell me why they were sold, who the purchasers were, the purpose for which the progeny will be used, and so forth. That information will be helpful not only to me and other honorable senators but also to the people of Australia who do require some definite advice on the matter.
There is another matter to which I should like to refer because I represent Queensland in this Senate. At the present time, Queensland is experiencing a very severe drought indeed. There has been a growing shortage of fodder. Perhaps the Minister representing the Minister for Primary
Industry will inform me what is being done about it by the Government. I know that there are departments of agriculture in all States, and that it is their function to attend to local fodder requirements, but they should have some guidance from the Commonwealth Government and, as this is the National Parliament, the Government, through the Parliament, should give a lead to the States in these matters.
I should like to know how much fodder there is in Australia? Has research been made into fodder production and conservation? Is it necessary for Australia to look overseas at times like this for fodder supplies? Is New Zealand in a position to supply fodder to Australian stock-owners?
The wheat crop is almost certain to be a failure in all States. None of the States this year will harvest an average wheat crop. A problem will arise from that situation, if it has not already arisen. 1 am sure that Queensland will have to import wheat this season, and other States are prepared to cash in on the situation. An honorable senator from Western Australia asked in this chamber whether Western Australian growers would be paid 3d. a bushel extra for wheat exported to Queensland to cover freight costs. Other States do not miss these opportunities when we are in trouble, although I suppose that they should receive the additional - amount if they are entitled to it.
Queensland is also suffering from a serious shortage of water, not only for stock, but also for domestic consumption in the small towns which have relied upon rivers, creeks and springs. Those sources of water have been drying up and water must be carted for miles. These are problems which confront Australia because this is an undeveloped country. I suggest not that this is a problem which the Commonwealth Government should tackle immediately, but that the Department of Primary Industry should have it under review constantly. The department must know the position. If it has not made inquiries yet, it should start an investigation so that departmental officers will understand the situation.
An economic problem will arise from the drought in Queensland alone. I remember that several years ago that country in which flooding was thought to be impossible was swept by a raging torrent, miles wide, which destroyed many profitable tobacco and dairy farms. The Minister for Primary Industry visited the area and saw the ruin that had been caused by the flood. Perhaps 1 am not asking too much when I suggest that the Minister should visit the areas in Queensland that are affected by drought. He will realize then that these are real problems, and perhaps the Department of Primary Industry will be able to grapple with them.
I direct my attention now to an item in the Auditor-General’s report which might be of interest to some people, lt is published under the heading “ Wheat Industry Stabilization “. The report stated -
There has been no expenditure from the Wheat Industry Stabilization Fund since the year ended 30th June, 1954. The balance of the fund at that date was £293,121 and it remained at that figure.
The amount of £116,629 overpaid to the Australian Wheat Board in respect of the 1946-47 season has been distributed to growers and recovery is now impossible.
The future of the scheme is being reviewed.
Perhaps the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry will inform me why it is impossible to obtain from the growers that amount of £116,629. They were overpaid. Surely that is a debt of honour which must be paid within the law, and some action could be taken to recover it.
I wish to refer now to another matter which has come to my attention. Perhaps this is a year when some payment will be made from the Wheat Prices Stabilization Fund to which the Auditor-General has made reference in his report. The report states -
Mention was made in previous reports of the wheat export charge and the wheat industry stabilization plan provided by the Wheat Export Charge Act 1954 and the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act 1954.
During 1956-57, there were no collections of the wheat export charge. The transactions of the Wheat Prices Stabilization Fund were -
Will the Minister inform me what is to be done with that money? Is it necessary to retain £9,707,898 for the stabilization fund?
Does not there come a time when some payments must be made? Is a maximum amount or a minimum amount provided under the scheme or does the fund build up indefinitely? Who decides when there is to be a distribution from the fund?
– It is laid down in the relevant act.
– Those are matters that I have had in mind. Having delivered, myself of them, 1 shall resume my seat.
Senator PEARSON (South Australia) [3.58J. - I wish to refer to the position that is rapidly developing as a consequence of the bad season that is upon us. Last week, I asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) if he could explain the reason for the difference between shipping freight rates on the Australian coast and those which apply between Australia and Canada. The Minister’s explanation was quite satisfactory. He told me that the costs on the Australian coast were high and that overseas rates were better than ours because they were charter rates which were subject to alteration at any time. I should like to follow up that matter.
It is apparent that some Australian States will be forced to import wheat. New South Wales and, to a lesser extent, Queensland must supplement their current crops with imported wheat. Where are they to get those supplies? The Minister has been helpful in answering questions to-day about this matter. I am glad to know that he was in a position to give an assurance that the Minister for Primary Industry is going to handle this matter, and I shall be interested to see whether, in the light of the needs of the overall position, it will be decided to import wheat, perhaps from Canada, or whether we shall have to rely as far as possible on our own resources. I raised with the Minister this afternoon in a question the point that, by and large, it would be good business for Australia to export as much wheat as possible and make good the deficiencies in the two States to which I have referred by importing wheat. At least, it would seem to be good business while the charter rates are low, as at present. I know that there are other things to be considered. In my question to the Minister this afternoon I put the point that it would be good business not only from that aspect, but also because we have to guard our export markets jealously - both those which we have and those which we are trying to develop. If we were unable to continue to export wheat to those markets they might disappear. Every honorable senator knows that there is terrific pressure on the part of the great wheat-producing countries to sell wheat on international markets. Some of the markets which we already hold, and some which we are in the process of developing, may easily be captured from us. In fact, some are being captured from us. So I feel that, by and large, it would be advisable to have a good look at this matter before taking any action that may he the wrong action, and I am glad that the Minister is doing that. I think he would be very wise to remember that we must consider not only the needs of the moment, and the present position, but also our future in the export of wheat in competition with other wheat-exporting countries. I think it would be a tragedy, over the longer period, if we lost valuable markets open to us for development in the future because of our inability to supply them with wheat this year.
I also feel very strongly on the point that 1 raised with the Minister in my question regarding the advisability of exporting as much of our wheat as possible in the form of flour, because I know that in South Australia, as well as in the other wheat-growing States, the milling trade is suffering for a variety of reasons. It could be said that the milling industry is a depressed industry, and it is rather a shame that a country like ours, which grows wheat and has a large surplus normally to export, is unable to get the benefit of markets overseas for flour, the supplying of which would benefit us in another way as a result of the employment given in the gristing of the wheat. Some of the flour markets which we now enjoy overseas are in danger of being lost to us. I refer particularly to Indonesia, Pakistan and Ceylon. If we are not able to continue to supply those countries with flour at the moment we may very easily lose our markets there to other exporting countries, such as France, which are, in any event, already bidding strongly to take those markets from us. So I am very glad to know that the Minister for Primary Industry will be considering all these points.
I am glad also that the Minister for Primary Industry was able to issue a statement on 24th October which said -
All worth-while proposals recommended to overcome the possibility of effects of drought conditions are being considered by the Commonwealth Government and the Committee approved by the Prime Minister.
That is a broad statement, I know, but it shows that the Government is awake to what could result from the drought conditions which we are now experiencing and which will bear very heavily on us, I am afraid, as the months go by. I have had a talk with the Minister - I am sure he will not mind my referring to it now - and I am aware that he is endeavouring as much as possible to face up to what may transpire in this country as a result of present conditions. So it is good to have the assurance from this live Minister that the position is being closely watched. The Minister for Primary Industry issued a statement on 23rd October announcing that an inter-departmental Rural Outlook Committee had been established by the Commonwealth Government to keep in continuous contact with developments due to dry conditions.
An inter-departmental Rural Outlook Committee! Something new, appointed for the specific purpose of studying the problem on a day-to-day basis, and so enabling the Government, as the need may develop, to make any effective decision quickly and on the right lines. When we in this Parliament realize that these steps are being taken at this early stage, we are entitled to say to the Minister, “ Thanks very much for your interest. We appreciate the work you are doing “. The Minister also stated that the committee was continuously reviewing the situation in all its aspects so that if at any time emergency measures were required all the facts would be available immediately.
I have heard people say, with the best of intentions, that no crisis is likely to happen, and that, in any case, the farmers should be well off at the moment and capable of withstanding any adverse period that may be ahead. I agree. The primary producing industry in the broad is in a better position to withstand adverse seasons than it was in the past. While that can be said of the industry as a whole, there are certain things that will require to be done. While it is a fact that the average primary producer is in much better shape financially than he was 20 or 25 years ago-
– Thanks to Labour governments of the past.
– Thanks nothing! That is just the type of interjection we could expect from Senator Aylett, who, I am sure, has not a clue about wheat or the primaryproducers of Australia. If he listens for a few minutes instead of interjecting I may have a chance to indicate what it may be necessary for the Government of the day to watch. I am suggesting that although the primary producers are in a sound condition, they may require some sort of temporary financial accommodation. The average primary producer, although he may have paid for his farm and have money invested as a result of more prosperous times, may still need ready cash to pay his way and finance improvements in the next twelve months. For instance, I can visualize primary producers requiring cash or credit to purchase superphosphate, which is a very big item in primary production at this time. They also have to pay for fuel in this powerfarming age, and to buy replacements for worn-out plant. All this makes temporary financial accommodation necessary. I think that the Government, and the Minister, will do well to study ways and means whereby this temporary release of credit can be brought about. Even the wealthiest man in the world would find himself in very great difficulty if he were unable to lay his hands on some credit or cash when he needed it. I think we have been going through a time, in the last six months, when it has been very hard to raise money through the normal channels.
– The private banks are letting the primary producers down.
– It is not a question of the private banks letting them down. It is a question of the private banks letting them have the credit they require. I suggest that the Government examine the liquidity of the funds of the private trading banks with a view, possibly, to releasing the banks from their obligations under the special accounts provisions of the banking legislation. That might put the banks in a position to give this increased accommodation as it becomes necessary in the next twelve months.
– They are letting the farmers down.
– Senator O’Byrne can make that statement, if he wishes. 1 am trying to be constructive and helpful in this matter. The Commonwealth Bank, the private trading banks and all other financial institutions dealing with primary producers must be in a position to make available the credit which these men will undoubtedly need. I am sure that the Minister in charge of this department, being the live wire that he is, is giving and will continue to give sympathetic consideration to all such matters. I sincerely hope that if the crisis does develop - I do not think there is much doubt that it will do so - the Government will, from time to time. make decisions that will help the nations to come through the crisis.
– I share the very real fear that has been expressed by Senator Pearson. A great responsibility now rests upon the Department of Primary Industry, because our primary producers generally are faced with iwo very serious threats. One is drought, which now is fairly general throughout Australia, although the position in Western Australia is fair, some areas being badly affected, but cropping in others being really good. The second threat, which is causing concern to everybody connected with primary industry, is a combination of drought, low prices and bank credit restrictions.
I share with Senator Pearson the fear that restriction of bank credit will spell a much more serious disaster for primary industry than has ever resulted from natural conditions, and I ask for the provision of more than temporary accommodation for the primary producer, who will have a tough time keeping in the field. When the 1945 banking legislation was being debated, one of the biggest issues on which we fought was the necessity to ensure that never again would the farmer have to rely on short-term credits, mortgaging his crop for the coming year in order to continue operations in the current year. That is undoubtedly what Senator Pearson fears will happen again, and it is quite likely that it will happen again if the Government does not take quick action. I should like an assurance that the Government is aware of this challenge. The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) cannot alone take the necessary action, lt must be taken by the Government as a whole. lt is argued that our primary producers are in a stable financial position. They are handling a lot of money, but they are spending a lot of money. Their net returns are not good, even when the crops are of fair average quality. They are just getting through. They want, not short-term accommodation, but accommodation for a reasonably long term, in order to withstand the challenge facing them.
There is another matter in which I am interested. I refer to Division No. 109, “ Payments to Australian Wheat Board for services in connexion with inspection of flour mills, £7,500”. The flour-milling industry has been discussed here from time to time. Honorable senators from both sides have expressed alarm - not only recently, but for years - that we in Australia have been losing our flour export market. That market has undoubtedly deteriorated, and our flour-milling industry is very small in comparison with what it should be, and even with what it was some years ago. The effect of losing an export market for flour is bad enough, but the effect of losing” supplies of mill offal, which is so essential to many of our primary industries, is very serious. In the production of eggs, pigs and -cattle, mill offal plays a prominent part, and it is particularly important at this stage. Therefore, I ask the Minister to concentrate now, even though he will be starting from behind scratch, on boosting our flour-milling industry, first, to enable the export of flour, and, secondly, but more importantly, to ensure that mills operate to such an extent that mill offal will be available, where required, to primary producers. It is expensive and hard to obtain now, and- a very serious position is arising.
I do not know exactly what is covered by .the item which refers to “ inspections of flour mills “. I presume that the inspections, are concerned not with the promotion of flour milling, but with the quality of the product.
– The board is concerned with, improving the quality. -Senator COOKE. - Yes. I should like the Minister to bring under the notice of the Minister for Primary Industry the urgent necessity for the expansion of flourmilling. There are throughout Australia competent millers who are unemployed. Experienced men are leaving the trade and probably, in the ordinary course of events, will not be brought back to it. I ask the Minister to ensure that the Government will give immediate attention to this matter.
– I refer to Division No. 110, Division of Agricultural Economics. At page 191, some details of the staff are given. There is one director as well as two assistant directors, three project officers, 79 research officers and other officers. I invite the Minister’s attention to the desirability of getting down to some research on certain economic aspects of the fishing industry. I should like to know what the Minister and his research officers - they are competent men - have achived in persuading the Government to regard fishing as a primary industry. It has been amazing to me that in Australia fishing has never been regarded as a primary industry.
If the fiishing industry is not a primary industry, what is? As we are now well aware, the seas surrounding our island continent are teeming with fish. From the seas between Australia and the continent of Antarctica, the Russians, the Japanese and the Norwegians are drawing much profit. The Government could assist our fishing industry by regarding it as a primary industry. If it did so, economic benefits would flow to the industry. Some of those benefits I cite in passing. The first is in relation to income tax. The farmer, the grazier, and even the doctor who has farming land, are entitled to average their incomes for taxation purposes. The Government permits primary producers to pay income tax at a rate attributable to their average incomes over a number of years. In this way, .the effects of differences in seasonal and climatic conditions are spread. The producers are able to take the thick with the thin, because an average rate is struck. But. this concession is not granted to the fisherman, who is possibly more affected by seasonal and climatic variations. Some real research should be undertaken to see whether there would be some economic advantage to the fishing industry if fishermen were allowed to average their income in the same way that farmers, graziers and others do.
Take the question, of depreciation allowances. In the fishing industry there are no allowances similar to. those available to farmers and graziers. There is no 20 per cent, per annum special depreciation- allowance for five years available to fishermen. Now, take sales tax. lt has been an unwritten rule that implements used by primary producers are free of sales tax, or most of the components are, but such is not so with fishermen. I understand that the Commonwealth Bank and other banks are encouraged to allow a lower rate on overdrafts to primary producers,, possibly onehalf of 1 per cent, lower, but I am informed that this lower rate is not available to fishermen. Fishermen have to pay very heavy insurance premiums on their boats. They appear to be suffering unnecessarily, and they could be relieved of some of these economic impedimenta- if the Government were to take an imaginative view of the economic problems of the fishing industry. I ask that the Division of Agricultural Economics give particular attention to the economics of the fishing industry, and I ask the Government to do what it can to relieve and rationalize the fishing industry, particularly with regard to taxation matters.
– The Department of Primary Industry is possibly the most important of all the departments that are discussed under these Estimates. Primary industry to-day is faced with an unusual situation. Instead of enjoying the good seasonal conditions that prevailed during the past ten years, primary producers find themselves struggling against adverse seasons,, falling prices-
– And controls.
– Yes, and controls. There is also the matter which was raised by Senator Cooke, namely, credit restriction. In a country that relies so much on its primary industries, this is a matter which should be given the closest consideration by the Senate, not only with a view to finding ways and means to help the primary industries over this difficult period, but also to planning development in the future.
Last week, I heard Mr. Clark, the honorable member for Darling in the House of Representatives, cite some very disturbing figures about the development of primary industries in this country. I was astonished to discover - as I did from the official statistics - that, although in 1949, when. the. population was 7,900,000, there were 247,000 holdings throughout the Commonwealth, in 1956, the last year for which figures are available, when the population had increased by over 1,500,000 to 9,500,000, there were only 247,800 holdings. Thus, in that period of seven years, there had been an increase of only 800 holdings, throughout the whole of the Commonwealth-. That is a deplorable state of affairs. In this vast continent with its varying rainfall,, ranging from- 140 inches to 150 inches on the north; coast of Queensland to a very low average in- the arid centre of the country, there has been an increase of only 800 holdings. But that is not all. During that period, over 8,000- ex-sen icemen went on to the land under closer settlement schemes. Over 8,000 ex-servicemen have gone on to the land and have been, successfully settled. This emphasizes what I am. stressing, that closer settlement should be a most important feature of our development policy. Despite the fact that those 8,000 exservicemen have been settled where land subdivision, has taken place’, there has been, an increase of only 80.0 holdings.
When on& thinks- of- it, the primary industries are the main attraction that this country has to offer to prospective- immigrants. They are told that this- is a land of opportunity. Australia’s main opportunity lies in the development of our land resource*. Practically all of the European immigrants who are coming to this country understand the soil. They have Lived close to the soil. The Dutch and Italians-, for example, are excellent farmers, as are most of the Europeans who are coming to this country. Yet, during the last seven years, there has been a decrease of 1,200 males employed on the land, despite the fact that our population has increased, by 1,500,000. An examination of those figures reveals, I believe, that we are overlooking the tremendous importance of primary industry.
– What years are you comparing?
– 1 949 and 1956.
– Why do you select those years?
– 1 949 was the year our immigration programme really got into operation. Our population was then a little more than 5,000,000. To-day it is over 9,500,000.
– Was that the year you were kicked out?
– The honorable senator is now dealing with irrelevancies. The Department of Primary Industry is, perhaps, unfortunately saddled with the sins of honorable senators on the Government side who campaigned all over the country against our proposal that the Commonwealth should have power over organized marketing. If ever there was a thimble and pea trick put over the people of Australia it was the political approach that was made by the Liberal party of that time, which was then in opposition, in an endeavour to tell the people of Australia that organized marketing was no good, that it was socialistic. If ever there was a time when some co-ordination and rationalization was needed in our primary industries, now is the time. Yet, unfortunately, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) is not trying to get the Government to see the folly of its ways, to let the past bury its dead and say: “ Now we realize what the people want. For their own advancement they need organized marketing, and we will give the people a further opportunity to alter the Constitution in order to provide for organized marketing “.
– There is organized marketing now.
– We cannot have organized marketing because the States have authority to fix prices within their own areas, and the Commonwealth has no authority to override them. Another matter to which 1 referred recently was the difference in seasons in Australia. At the present time, the northern part of Australia and New South Wales are experiencing a very dry pinch. Victoria has had spasmodic rain, but the position in the western district of that State, I understand, is quite good. Tasmania is experiencing a bountiful season. The State has had regular falls of rain and the countryside at present is lush and green and beautiful. The cattle can be seen grazing on pastures knee-deep. On every hand, one sees the abundance of nature. Yet a proper picture has not been presented to the Tasmanian farmers of what is expected of them by the rest of Australia, and they are producing, as usual, in the hope of getting sufficient return from the chance markets that come their way. There is no organization on a federal basis to see that the fertile acres of Tasmania are fully developed. They could be producing oats and barley for the starving stock elsewhere.
– What is the extension service of the Department of Agriculture doing?
– It is restricted by the inability of the Federal Government to exercise any authority whatever in rationalization or organization in a State.
– What authority would the honorable senator exercise to control profits?
– I have already told the Minister what 1 would do. But in this matter, 1 would say first of all to the Tasmanian Government, “ Tell your farmers to produce all the marketable fodder crops they can. We will finance them in the purchase of seed and superphosphate. Grow these crops now because next summer, if we miss the monsoonal rains in November and December, things will be very bad in New South Wales and Queensland. We will give a guaranteed cost of production and make certain that markets are available for your crops “. What proposition could be more sensible than that? Yet the Minister for Primary Industry says that he has no authority whatever to organize our markets on that level.
– Do you think that Tasmania would appreciate the Commonwealth invading its particular domain?
– As I have said, Tasmania is enjoying regular rainfall arid an abundant season. It is capable of producing from ten to twenty times as much as the present crops.
– What crops?
– All grains and fodder crops. We could even produce wheat for that matter, but our particular variety is .a soft wheat suitable only for biscuit making. Nevertheless, it could be used by the poultry-farmers. We are considering assistance for egg pulp and poultryfarming industries, but half the poultry- farmers of Australia in some States will go out of business this year because of the cost of importing wheat from overseas and Western Australia. With respect to production this year - I am not saying next year or some time or never - this Government is showing a complete lack of foresight in not taking advantage of the bountiful conditions that exist in Tasmania to increase production of barley, peas, potatoes and other commodities to fill the gap caused by the adverse seasons in other States.
The other night I referred also to the Australian wool industry. I am very pleased indeed to see that this Government during the past year has made provision for getting the wool industry on to a satisfactory level by adopting a scientific approach in the presentation of our wool on the markets of the world. The establishment of an organization to standardize weights of clean scoured wool is, I think, a great advance. For years and years the people who have been exploiting our great commodity - merino wool - have been able to buy it here and transport it to England clean-scoured and the increased weight due to absorption of moisture yielded sufficient return to pay the freight. That means that the Australian producers who had weathered all the hazards of drought and pests and diseases gave to the wool buyers from overseas a great advantage. When the bill to establish that organization was before this chamber, I stressed the importance of adopting a scientific approach to the wool industry. I believe the time is more than ripe for us to have a look at the standards of the rams that are used generally in our flocks throughout Australia. I believe that if an arrangement were made whereby the Commonwealth Government advanced money to the small growers to enable them to obtain the best possible rams from the very fine studs throughout Australia, the cut per head would be increased considerably. At the present time, the average merino cut, depending on districts and seasons, varies between 73- lb. and Si lb., but growers who have had the good fortune over the year to obtain good rams and culled deeply and improved standards have averaged from 1 1 lb. to 12 lb. If that can be done on some places by the application of intelligent husbandry, I believe that with a little encouragement and education the average cut could be increased tremendously throughout the Commonwealth. I should like more attention to be given to this aspect of wool growing and wool promotion. It should be developed along those lines.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- I had no intention of entering this debate, but I have been inspired to do so by the sudden and intense interest of honorable senators opposite in primary production.
– That is more than the supporters of the Australian Country partyare showing. They are only using it to gain an advantage.
– I remind Senator O’Byrne that when a certain trade agreement of immense value to Australia was recently before this chamber, honorable senators opposite were just as loquacious in their interjections as they are to-day. I say that it is very interesting and almost inspiring to the people to find that to-day we have a Parliament not divided on the value of primary industry to Australia. I only hope that that attitude is maintained, because there is not the slightest doubt that the responsibility for the prosperity of Australia does lie very heavily with the primary producer. There has been a great deal of loose talk about the chaos that will be caused if the present drought continues. I think that sort of talk is extravagant and is doing both the primary and the secondary industries a disservice.
– You are pretty fat on it.
– During the two years I have been in this chamber I have listened to Senator O’Byrne on many occasions, but I have never become personal in my remarks about him.
– I withdraw and apologise.
– Thank you. I repeat that this extravagant talk is doing a disservice to our primary and secondary industries. Honorable senators have mentioned every State in the Commonwealth and each has made some admissions. One such admission is that primary production in Western Australia is in quite a healthy position this year, and almost average crops will be obtained. South Australian and Tasmanian senators have painted a very gloomy picture of the Victorian position, but that is one State I know something about. There is no drought in Victoria to-day. It is a lean year, but that can have a very sobering effect on the primary producers because, as a people, we tend to become apathetic and lose our will and zeal to produce to the utmost if year after year we experience prosperity and high prices. It is not good for any country to be in that position. This lean season will make people realize that good seasons cannot continue indefinitely, and that they must make provision for lean seasons. That must be to the good of the community. It is admitted that this season Victoria will produce sufficient wheat to meet its own needs and have a limited surplus.
– How would the crop this year compare with that of last year?
– For the last ten years we have had extraordinarily good crops, so much so that the Mallee, which for years was regarded as the Cinderella wheatgrowing area, has produced a higher average than that obtained on the rich Wimmera plains. That state of affairs was previously unheard of in Victoria. New South Wales, unfortunately, is suffering a very lean time as far as wheat production is concerned, but that State does not depend on wheat to the same extent as it did some ten or fifteen years ago, because the flocks and herds have increased tremendously. To-day the average wheat-grower has a side-line - if he is principally a wheat-grower - of flocks and herds, and the price of wool has eliminated the financial embarrassment that would have well nigh broken him ten years ago. The emphasis that has been placed on chaos and drought does not present a true picture of our present position, and honorable senators who make such an approach do not render any service to this country. I admit that this is a lean year; but that is a sobering fact which must have a good effect upon those who have a responsibility to do more than grow fat and apathetic.
There has been a lot of talk, too, about credit restrictions. I have no brief for the banks. 1 do not approve of the hirepurchase activities into which most of them are delving to-day; but let us be fair.
Talking to clients of the banks I have found that rarely, if ever, has a client or a primary producer been refused the credit necessary to carry on his normal operations.
– You are quite wrong. I can give you a number of instances.
– That is the sort of interjection I welcome. The Treasurer (Sir Arthur Fadden) has declared that if any honorable senator or honorable member can bring to him a genuine case of a primary producer being refused credit to carry on his normal production, he will be pleased to have a look at it. When honorable senators talk about matters of that kind they should be factual.. It is prefectly true that the banks have restricted credit to the man who comes along and says, “I have 1,000 acres free of debt. I want to buy an adjoining 1,000 acres for £30 an acre. Will you finance me? “ Possibly there have been several reasons why credit has been refused. One reason could be that the banks can put the money to better use through other channels. Certain investors, trustee companies and executors are limited to what we know as gilt-edged securities. That is a field into which the Government - I suggest wisely - has been endeavouring to divert investment.
– Does the honorable senator say there is no real restriction of credit to the primary producers?
– I do not say that. I can give the honorable senator information, but I cannot add to his powers of comprehension. I have made a study of this matter and have ascertained that the policy of the banks has been to meet continuously the legitimate requirements of the primary producer to maintain his normal practices. If cases to the contrary can be produced, then they will be investigated promptly.
– You will be inundated with letters.
– I shall be very happy to receive them because I and my colleagues have been looking for such a case but have not as yet had one placed before us. It is an easy matter for honorable senators to say that we should increase flour production. Who would disagree with that? Of course, we would like to increase flour production. But why should we increase flour production if the flour cannot be sold in competition with countries such as France which are subsidizing their flour industry very heavily? lt would be necessary for the Government to subsidize the manufacturer, and that in turn would mean increased taxes. Is that what honorable senators opposite want? They cannot have it both ways. These assertions by honorable senators sound very attractive to the listener, but when one gets- down to the economics involved, these things are just not possible.
Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- A study of primary production and its importance to Australia over the last twenty years shows that when the primary producers are doing well the economy of the country is fairly stable and everybody else in the community enjoys substantial prosperity. I have always noticed that when primary producers are hit by low prices, famine, depression or war, the results have been felt throughout the whole community. This is why I contend that primary industries are most important. I was a primary producer before I entered this Senate, and I did not blow in here to pick up my knowledge of the industry, as some honorable senators have done, when the industry was enjoying a boom period. I happen to know something more about primary production than what I have learned in this chamber. I know what the industry went through during depression years, when primary producers were pushed off their properties because of low prices and lack of markets, and were being made bankrupt throughout the country.
– The banks were foreclosing.
– That is so, and the Labour government of the day instituted stabilization plans for the wheat industry. You, Mr. Chairman, may have heard of those plans since you have been in this Senate. That government also stabilized the dairying industry, by providing the first monetary subsidy for that industry ever provided by a Commonwealth government. The Labour government knew something about the difficulties of primary producers. It realized that something had to be done for the dairy-farmers, who were going off their farms and whose herds were being sent to the slaughter yards and the bone mills to be ground up for fertilizer, lt was a Labour government that came to the rescue and instituted plans for subsidies and orderly marketing. I could read to honorable senators various comments made by secretaries of wheat-growers’ organizations, expressing thanks to the Labour government for what it did at that time. Honorable senators opposite may read those comments any time they wish, although apparently some of them, including Senator Pearson, have never bothered to read them.
After experiencing those difficult times, primary producers then began to enjoy a series of bountiful seasons, with an abundance of markets. In such times there is very little that a government need do for primary industry. It has merely to try to maintain markets and preserve the stability of the industry. For years we have had plentiful production, no droughts and high prices. This Government has been in office while those conditions have prevailed. It cannot be suggested that the Government has not done a good job. It could not do anything but a good job, because the circumstances were quite different from those of the 1930’s, when a government of the same political colour as the present one was in office, and when producers were being forced off their farms.
I have shown the two extremes of conditions experienced by the industry. Nature plays a far greater part in primary production than any government can ever play. I remind honorable senators of the time when an earlier Liberal government thought it was doing a wonderful thing when it guaranteed wheat-growers 2s. 6d. a bushel. During the regime of this present Government we have seen the price of wheat rise to £1 a bushel. This is simply because times have changed.
Primary production is very important to Australia, and, as our population increases, it must be stepped up. That is the problem that this Government must tackle. Unless we increase primary production in accordance with the increase of our population, we will find ourselves in the position, as was suggested a few moments ago by an honorable senator on the Government side, of having to import wheat. If we do not increase production, we will have to import many other commodities besides wheat before another ten years elapse. The
Government must give a lead if we are to succeed in increasing our primary production.
I come now to the suggestion that we may have to import wheat. I would not mind exporting our own wheat and importing wheat from other countries if it can be done profitably, but I do not agree that we should import wheat from hard currency countries in which we would have to borrow dollars to pay for the wheat. That would not be a sound policy. All of us heard the honorable senator on the other side make this suggestion. If it can be shown that we can import wheat from soft currency countries and export our own wheat so as to show a profit, I would agree that that would be good business. It appears that the plentiful supply of wheat, which the Government suggested it could export to Japan, is simply not available for export to that country. That is the plain fact. Let honorable senators not delude themselves on that point. That is why we have heard talk of importing wheat into Australia.
– You cannot export it if you do not grow it.
– If we are not growing it in good times, how much worse off will we be when a drought hits us and nature plays its part. This Government has had a wonderful run during its term of office, so far as seasonal conditions are concerned. Now, however, nature is playing its part, and some parts of Australia are experiencing a drought. The Government will now have to show that it can step in and meet the situation as it arises. I know that the adverse seasonal conditions are not of the Government’s making. Nevertheless the Government must meet the situation, and if it is necessary to import wheat in order to feed our own people, the Government will be compelled to import it. But, for heaven’s sake, do not import it from hard currency countries and borrow dollars to pay for it if there is any possible alternative. That was the course suggested by an honorable senator earlier in this debate.
I come now to another industry which may experience considerable difficulty in years to come if the Government does not protect it. I refer to the dairying industry, which was practically bankrupt when the previous Labour government came to office. The industry was first put on its feet by a Commonwealth Labour government, which was the first government to come to the rescue of the dairy-farmers. I am pleased to be able to say that this Government saw fit to continue subsidies to the dairying industry, even if not to the same extent as those that were granted by the Labour government. Dairy farming is a most important industry, and we cannot afford to have people enter the industry and then be persecuted and pushed off their farms. This is what has been done to one dairyfarmer by the present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon), who has been in office during a succession of such bountiful seasons that he can now afford to persecute primary producers and push them off their land, for purely party political motives. We find that ex-servicemen are being pushed off their properties to-day. Let me tell honorable senators what has happened since one of these ex-servicemen has been persecuted in this fashion. The debt that he owed was not all attributable to the ex-serviceman himself. Most of it was incurred because of the actions of officers of the department.
– Is the honorable senator discussing the Department of Primary Industry or is he discussing war service land settlement?
– I am discussing primary industry, under the heading of production. It is just as important to discuss this matter as it is to discuss wheat production. This man was producing butter. If we can discuss exports and imports of wheat, I claim that we can discuss the production of butter from land that comes under the control of the Minister for Primary Industry.
Order! Is the honorable senator discussing production generally or production relating to one individual?
– I am discussing the administration of this department.
– Is the honorable senator referring to production in a general way or as it applies to one individual?
– I am referring to it in a general way. When the previous Labour government took office, we found that hundreds, and even thousands, of dairy-farmers were being pushed off their farms owing to the maladministration of the Government and the responsible Minister of that day. When I comment upon the fact that similar conditions are arising, in a time of plenty, you, Mr. Chairman, call me to order and ask me whether my remarks are general. If I may continue, my remarks will all be general. A situation similar to that which I mentioned existed before. Then only ona or two farmers were affected at first, but it snowballed. To-day only one or two are affected, but it will snowball again. Though we need primary production, this farmer has been pushed off the land. He has offered to pay a weekly amount off the debt, which he did not incur himself, but the department has refused to accept his offer and has threatened to garnishee his wages. That attitude does not encourage others to go on to the land!
Order! I strongly suspect that the Department of Primary Industry is not responsible.
– I am dealing with the Department of Primary Industry.
– I do not think you are.
– Some other honorable senators have been able to make good second-reading speeches and I am trying to do the same. I shall refer now to the vote for temporary and casual employees engaged in the administration of the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act. Last year, the vote for this item was £327,000, but expenditure was £331,433. This year, the vote is £340,000. That amount in one financial year is a large sum to spend for casual and temporary employees, but approximately the same amount is expended each year. Is there any reason why the work done by these employees could not be done by permanent employees? If these employees were permanently employed, they would have security and would enjoy superannuation benefits, just as other permanent public servants do. An amount of £340,000 is not a small sum of money to be thrown around each year.
– What is it used for?
– That is what I am asking. What does the £340,000 represent?
What class of work do these temporary employees do? Would it be possible to put them on the permanent staff? I know that some very able and highly qualified men are on the permanent staff of the Department of Primary Industry. Some very capable men who were trained in Tasmania have been employed by the Commonwealth. I am very proud of that fact. The Minister may be able to tell me what the £340,000 represents. I shall refer now to bounties and subsidies. This item is really related to the Department of Primary Industry.
Order! We are not dealing with that item.
– Then I shall forget that side of it. An item of £100 for the purchase of agricultural machinery appears in the votes for miscellaneous services for the Department of Primary Industry. In a big department such as this, what machinery would be purchased for £100? I spoke earlier about the dairying industry. This surely must come under the Department of Primary Industry.
Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– My remarks are related generally to the Department of Primary Industry and I shall comment on some of the most extraordinary statements made by Senator O’Byrne. Senator O’Byrne attacked the Government for its failure to encourage closer settlement. This problem has many facets, and the honorable senator has entirely overlooked vital factors in Australia’s primary production. This is a vast country with, in the main, a small rainfall and from time to time we have had to adjust ourselves to the changed conditions. An inspection of the various States will show how wrong Senator O’Byrne was in saying that the Government had failed to encourage closer settlement.
Admittedly, not many more people have been placed on the land in some areas during the past twenty years, but we must realize that we have had to change our policy in the drier areas. Due to the use of land for wrong purposes and the effects of problems such as soil erosion many bankruptcies occurred and such lands are of course quite unsuitable for closer settlement.
However, in the higher rainfall areas, the situation is entirely different. I invite Senator O’Byrne to visit South Australia and see some of the closer settlement that has taken place there in the higher rainfall areas in the past twenty years. It has been nothing short of spectacular. From reports I have received from time to time, I have concluded that development in the higher rainfall areas in Tasmania has also been spectacular. The honorable senator gives a completely wrong picture when he says that the Government has failed to encourage closer settlement.
I agree with the honorable senator on one point, and that is the importance of primary industry. I am sure we all recognize its importance in this country. We export more than £1,000,000,000 worth of goods, most of which are primary products. I do not want to make invidious comparisons with the secondary industries; I realize how important they are. However, the secondary industries are dependent on imported raw materials which are paid for by the export of our primary products. The two work hand in hand and I am glad to say that this Government has achieved a very good balance between the development of primary industries and the development of secondary industries.
I join issue with Senator O’Byrne on some of the points he made. He mentioned Tasmania’s role in the present emergency and told us what that very small State could do to relieve the present unfortunate circumstances on the mainland. The honorable senator should realize that farmers cannot chop and change every year. There has to be a long-term policy and it is ridiculous for him to say .that we should rationalize production and encourage the primary producers in Tasmania to grow certain products to relieve the present shortage on the mainland. He said that we should develop pastures. Pasture conservation is, of course,, a very important factor in primary production, but this presents certain difficulties. First, fodder must be grown and conserved, but then the problem of transport to the mainland arises. Tasmania is a fairly well stocked island and the surplus of pastures would not be large. The honorable senator’s suggestion does not bear examination.
Senator O’Byrne also suggested that the production of potatoes should be increased.
What good purpose would that serve? Potatoes are mainly used for human consumption. I am not saying that they could not be used for stock feed; in an emergency, they could be so used. Because of current prices, the growing of potatoes is uneconomic. In making these remarks, I am fortified by my colleague, Senator Mattner, who knows something about potato production. Potatoes are almost unsalable in South Australia.
– It is criminal waste.
– There is no criminal waste associated with it. Cannot the producer be allowed to assess these things for himself?
– Would you be in favour of some form of rationalization and control of the industry, as you always have been in relation to industry generally? There speaks the perfect socialist! Senator O’Byrne has never pretended to be anything else.
– Hear, hear!
– He is in favour of the rationalization of all these things. What does rationalization mean? It means, in essence, control. That is one of the things that the primary producer, who is essentially an individualist, will fight to the very death knock to prevent.
Senator O’Byrne has also spoken about Tasmania’s wheat production. I suggest that he does not know very much about that subject. On the mainland, some of the finest areas for wheat production are not in a high rainfall belt but in a medium rainfall belt, and they grow not a soft wheat, which would be suitable only for biscuit making, but a rather harder wheat. To encourage uneconomic production of wheat by the payment of subsidies to the wheat-growers of Tasmania would not meet the situation with which we are confronted at the present time. Senator O’Byrne’s remarks were quite wide of the mark; as a matter of fact, I thought they were a lot of arrant nonsense, and that his proposals would not meet the emergency that exists as a result of the dry seasons we have experienced.
I agree with, the statement of Senator Wade that we should not talk too much about the present drought, because we will still have very great production throughout the Commonwealth. There may be shortages of some commodities, but a large part of the continent is still enjoying reasonably good seasonal conditions. I do not think that all the talk we are hearing about the present position being an emergency will help to establish the confidence of the people generally.
Now I wish to make one or two comments on Division No. 110 - Division of Agricultural Economics. The division is one of the most important branches of the Department of Primary Industry. I was very interested to note that a wheat quality survey is to be made soon.
At this stage, I wish to refer particularly to the functions of the Division of Agricultural Economics. It does valuable work in assessing the cost of production. The present wheat stabilization scheme will expire next year. To assess cost of production is not easy, because throughout a great country like Australia conditions vary considerably. They vary as between States. As I mentioned earlier, there are high rainfall areas, low rainfall areas and medium rainfall areas. In addition, wheat is grown in areas of varying fertility and with different climatic conditions. One of the functions of the Division of Agricultural Economics is to take into consideration all those factors and to arrive at a cost of production figure. Before a stabilization scheme can be put into operation, it is necessary to arrive at a cost of production figure which is as near as possible to the actual cost of production. Generally speaking, all stabilization schemes are based on the cost of production.
The Division of Agricultural Economics performs an extremely valuable function on behalf, not only of the wheat-producer, but also the dried fruits grower. Unfortunately, the work that it did in assessing the cost of production of dried fruits was largely lost, because, when a ballot was taken recently for a stabilization scheme, so much apathy was displayed by the growers that the required majority was not obtained.
– That is nonsense.
– Of those who voted, there was an actual majority in favour of stabilization, but the total number of growers who voted was insufficient to have the scheme put into operation.
– They did not want the scheme.
– That is not correct.
– It is correct.
– We have only to read the journal that is issued by the Australian Dried Fruits Association to note that the association deplored the apathy of the growers and their failure to interest themselves sufficiently to exercise their right to vote. I believe that the proposed stabilization scheme, which was based on a cost of production figure that had been assessed by the Division of Agricultural economics, was a good one.
– You do not know anything about it.
– I think I know just as much about growing primary products, including dried fruits as does Senator Toohey. I am sure of my facts. I regret very much that the apathy that was displayed by the growers of dried fruits prevented the immediate implementation of that stabilization scheme.
I return now to the wheat quality survey that is being conducted by the Department of Primary Industry. This is an extremely important matter, because we in Australia have to produce wheat that is suitable, not only for home consumption, but also for export. I was glad to see recently a statement by the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) regarding the appointment of a- technical committee to inquire into quality of wheat. The committee consists of the principal wheat specialists of the State Departments of Agriculture, the chief of the Division of Plant Industry of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, the president of the Australian Wheat-growers Federation, and the director of the Division of Agricultural Economics. The committee is about to present- a report based on its appraisement of the wheat quality situation in Australia. It is recognized that certain regions are suitable for the production of certain classes Of wheat. We know that Queensland produces an excellent hard wheat which is in good demand in Japan and other overseas markets.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- The Department of Primary Industry has a very important function to perform particularly, as I mentioned earlier, in view of the fact that Australia is now experiencing a set of climatic conditions which is affecting primary industry. Senator Wade said that Victoria was experiencing not a drought but only dry conditions. I should like the farmers of that State to be the final arbiters on that matter.
– The honorable senator should have a look at the agricultural shows.
– I suggest that if Senator Wade had had any experience of the land he would not make such an interjection. We all know that the cattle that are exhibited at agricultural shows are stall-fed on a special diet, housed and brushed. The sheep that are exhibited are left with a certain amount of wool after shearing, and the poultry that is exhibited also is fed on a special diet. To say that it is possible to judge the climatic conditions of a State by the exhibits at agricultural shows is to indicate either a lack of knowledge of the subject or an attempt to counter my argument by a weak interjection.
During the debate this afternoon, honorable senators opposite have endeavoured to make out that conditions in the primary industries are not as bad as honorable senators from this side of the House have contended, but I think that the financial position of many persons engaged in primary industry is a lot worse than the supporters of the Government will admit. Senator Wade referred to the obtaining of credit from the banks. The position is that, during the last twelve months at least, credit has been extremely difficult to obtain, particularly from the private banks, although the various financial houses have done their best to satisfy the demands of farmers for advances to re-stock and to do other things that are of great importance to them, lt is quite wrong to state that the banks are treating primary producers generously in the matter of advances. As honorable senators know, the amount of security that is needed before the banks will advance an overdraft is extortionately high. I remember that, during the 1930’s, a man for whom I was working had to take to his bank lists showing the rations that he required. If he put down “ apricot jam “, the item was crossed out and “ plum jam “ substituted. If he included “ butter “, the item was crossed out altogether. He was obliged to eat dripping. That was how the banks treated the farmers in those days, and I am sure that Senator Maher will bear me out.
As we all know, before the advent of myxomatosis, farmers spent a great deal of their time trying to eradicate rabbits. They adopted various means, such as ploughing the warrens, setting traps and using cyanide. To-day, that work has been largely eliminated by the application of science and the use of myxomatosis. Science also has been responsible for the development of superphosphate and trace elements, which have done so much to improve the fertility and productive capacity of the soil. Nevertheless, there are vast areas of land in Australia that would lend themselves to pasture improvement. This work, however, calls for the use of mechanical equipment. Bulldozers, graders and modern ploughing equipment are necessary for keyline ploughing, water conservation and other pasture improvement work. Large capital expenditure is involved, and it would be an advantage if such equipment could be made available, at an economic rate, by an organization established for the purpose. As I have said, primary producers very often find that the banks are not prepared to finance the -purchase of such equipment, although the benefits to be derived from pasture improvement are obvious. When clover is planted, nodules form on the roots, with an enriching effect on the soil. When pasture is stocked heavily, there is a heavy return of humus, which also improves soil fertility.
I believe that our wool industry, including the fat lamb industry, is in very competent hands. Nevertheless, the continued improvement of the industry, which is the objective of most of our sheep-breeders, should not be retarded because of lack of capital. In this connexion, I wish to discuss agricultural extension services. The various State governments are finding that they have reached the limit of expenditure, both from their own resources and from the grants that are made available by the Federal Government, for the development of extension services. I have seen in Tasmania a wonderful advance, which might well be emulated by other States, in the improvement of the standard of both beef and dairy cattle. This has been made possible by subsidizing the purchase of culls, with a resultant improvement in both the weight of beef cattle and butter fat production. During the last fifteen or twenty years, we have had in Tasmania a terrible scourge known as brucillosis or contagious abortion, which has reduced the number of our dairy cattle. However, the State government has been active in the matter. Infected herds have been destroyed and replaced by disease-free stock. The result has been a wonderful improvement in the production of butter fat and the quality of our cattle generally. I believe that it should be a federal responsibility to ensure that the great advance that has been made in Tasmania in this respect is extended throughout the Commonwealth.
Recently, when I was in the Northern Territory, I saw something of the export of cattle to the Philippines. This is a very important development, not only from the point of view of primary production, but also from that of the Australian economy. Of course, there is a ready market in the various parts of the world for the bestquality cattle from the Territory, but it is often necessary for the cattle to travel long distances after they have been mustered. Sometimes they are on the road for so long that by the time they arrive at their destination they have walked off their prime condition and have to be rested in order to regain it. Tn the Northern Territory, and north Queensland, scrub, or poorly conditioned, cattle have always been written off as unexportable. The Philippines offers a ready market for the sale of cattle of this type, and I hope that the Department of Primary Industry will cultivate this aspect of our export trade. There is also an opportunity to export particular types, such as store cattle of the dairy type. There is a ready market in some Asian countries whose people, though unable to afford the best quality, nevertheless have a hunger for meat. I would like to see this section of our beef industry developed greatly.
It is also very important that we should cultivate markets for our primary products close to home. I refer to the markets offered by such countries as Indonesia, Malaya and China. Wheat production has been discussed, and Senator Cooke has referred to the development of flour-milling. Although this is a bad wheat season, and adjustments will have to be made as between the States, we should do our utmost to get our primary produce on to the Asian market. Countless thousands there are receiving far less food than they require to continue to exist. This opens a fertile ground for the discontent that follows hunger. The great issues - those in respect of which we should try to build up goodwill - are all breadandbutter issues. The Asian people may not be thinking very much about butter, but they are certainly thinking about bread and wheat, or meal. Insufficient is being done, either by the Department of Trade or the Department of Primary Industry, to impress upon the other departments concerned with external affairs the necessity to make trade agreements which will open up new avenues for the disposal of our primary produce. Recently, quite a number of Australians have returned from various parts of Asia, including the important area of continental China. It would seem that in that country, at any rate, people are being given more organized work to do, but they still need more food than they are getting.
– What would they use for money?
– Perhaps they could use what you and I use if we get a little short - credit. Perhaps we could give loans to these countries - just as we receive them from the International Bank - so that they can purchase our primary products. We can, at the same time, build up our financial credit there and foster the friendship that we so badly need. There is no better way to build up goodwill than to satisfy the cravings of the stomach.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– This debate has covered a good many subjects and, like Senator Cooke, I wish to refer to Division No. 109 - Administration of the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act, General Expenses, Item 4- “ Payments to Australian Wheat Board for services in connexion with inspections of flour mills - £7,500 “. This item will be of interest to people who have shown such a keen appreciation of the importance of flour-milling operations. We should, of course, try to step up flour exports, but in the last few years customers have complained that our flour and flour products have deteriorated in transit. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization detailed experts to get to the bottom of it all, and I am delighted to say that the Government’s expenditure of £7,500, together with the amount expended by the milling industries, has produced excellent dividends. Many of the minor faults which were adversely affecting our flour sales have been removed by the adoption of this scientific approach. As a result, our flour is now selling well overseas, and is highly regarded in the trade.
The supposedly dry period through which we are passing has worsened during the last two months. However, when such a situation was prophesied by some of us months ago, we were subjected to ridicule. I joined issue with people who advocated the restriction of wheat acreage, because I believed that, in view of the level of home consumption, 90,000,000 bushels was not a great quantity of wheat to store. That has been borne out by the. fact that we now have a temporary shortage. This Government- not recently, but years ago - did much to alleviate the present shortage. What did it do for the primary producer?
– Nothing? I hope that I shall have an opportunity to show the honorable senator that, as usual, he is wrong. The Government’s long-range plan envisaged helping as much as possible the man engaged in agriculture or pastoral pursuits. It offered liberal income tax concessions in respect of outgoings on water conservation, dam-sinking, piping, fencing, homes for employees and so on. A generous depreciation allowance was also made on machinery. This Government enabled farmers to buy machinery and plant most suitable to their needs, but which the Labour Government could not get overseas.
Senator O’Byrne spoke of closer settlement, and of the cutting-up of properties into small holdings. In this age of mechanization smaller properties tend to become over-capitalized - it is very hard to draw the line. In spite of what honorable senators opposite may say, the Minister is doing a great deal to assist the farmer by obtaining for him rural credit.
Fodder conservation has been referred to, but this is largely a question of economics. It is easy to go round the country and say, “You ought to have this and that “, but the plain fact is that for more than twelve months Australia’s fodder reserves have been drawn upon to a most unusual degree. Of course, when 1 speak of fodder I refer not to wheat but to barley, oats and hay. There is a limit to the length of time one can keep such reserves. It is all very well for Senator O’Byrne to say what he can grow in Tasmania, but crops cannot be grown in a month or two. Wheat could not be planted until next April or May, and could not be harvested until the following November or December. It would all take about fourteen months, and in the meantime the stock would be starving - no doubt hoping ultimately to receive a little relief from Tasmania! What of the cost - of hay fodder especially? Is it economical to save your stock? In many cases it is not an economic proposition to go on feeding stock to try to save it. But every day brings us nearer to good rain.
Again, I say that it is wrong to restrict the acreage under wheat and other cereals. The farmer knows reasonably well what he can grow. It is true that the growing of pasture has saved many wheat areas from erosion, particularly in South Australia. One of the factors that has improved some of our mallee country, and particularly the west coast, in the last few years, has been the amount of pasture that has been grown in place of the old style of farming. That has been to the benefit of Australia. When we talk about the restriction of acreage under crops it also reminds me that during the war, when we had all the controls, and when Labour was going to show us how to run Australia, the Labour government paid 12s. an acre to the wheat-growers not to grow wheat. When it was told that we might have to import wheat it replied that that would never happen. But in 1944 we imported wheat from Argentina in order to feed ourselves. That points a moral as to what we should do.
I remember also the time when, although the price of wheat was about 17s. 6d. a bushel, a generous government sold Australian wheat to New Zealand for five years at 5s. 9d. a bushel. Of course, it was playing with somebody else’s money.
– It was not our
– No. It was a
Labour government which played with the other chap’s produce. On the subject of the use of potatoes for fodder, I remind Senator O’Byrne that a potato board is operating in every State. I am not blaming those boards for the present position in the potato industry. We have had a bountiful harvest. Unfortunately, when potatoes are cheap, people think that they should not eat them. Less potatoes are eaten now at £16 a ton than were eaten last year at £80 a ton.
– How much did the honorable senator get for his potatoes?
– I did not receive more than £67 a ton last year. I had never received anything like that price in my life before and I was happy to sell at that price; but when the price falls to £16 10s. a ton, delivered, and they are accepted on a strict quota basis, because they cannot be sold, I do not hear Opposition senators saying that the basic wage ought to go down. However, that is beside the point.
There are one or two other things that 1 want to mention concerning reserves of fodder. I am happy to know that, on both sides of the chamber, we are beginning to come to an understanding that the economic and financial welfare of Australia is greatly dependent on primary production. One thing that may affect our secondary industries is this: There is no question but that the primary producer has received good returns from his produce and is better oft than he has ever been. But when he received those good returns he ploughed much of his increased capital into secondary industry. It is interesting to note the amount of capital that has gone into secondary industries by way of investment from the primary industries. If the income of the primary producer is curtailed in the near future, as it must be, then that money will not continue to be forthcoming for the development of secondary industry.
There is one other matter about which I want to ask the Minister, It was mentioned by Senator Aylett. I refer to casual employees. Honorable senators will notice that sometimes the amount of salary paid to. casual employees approaches the amount paid to permanent officers. The Estimates show how the permanent men are employed and the amount of their salaries but nothing is said about the rate of salary paid to casual employees. It will be interesting to know the number of casual employees and their rates of pay. In Division No. 108. - Administrative, salaries are shown at £250,000, which I presume is for permanent employees, and salaries for temporary and casual employees are shown at £50,000. Under Division No. 109, Administration of the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act, the amounts are £500,000 and £340,000, respectively. I think that that is the item that Senator Aylett mentioned. In Division No. 1 10. - Division of Agricultural Economics, the amounts are £110,000 and £24,000 respectively. Those items are typical of the Estimates generally. Information is given as to what the permanent employees are paid but not a word is said as to how much the casuals are paid. Perhaps the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) will answer that question in his reply.
– This might be an appropriate time for me to answer some of the queries that have been put to me during the consideration of the proposed vote for the Department of Primary Industry. Senator Benn spoke first and asked me a number of direct questions. The first of them related to the position arising from the export of rams to South Africa and the recent report that the progeny of those rams had been sold.
In 1955, the South African Government made strong representations for rams to be sent to South Africa and permission was given for the exportation of four stud rams, only, to that country. A condition of the arrangement was that those rams would be retained on the South African Government’s Grootfontein research station and that they and their semen would be used only for breeding experiments relating to improvement of the government stud. They were not to be available for commercial breeding. The South African authorities were later reminded of this requirement.
Reports indicate that one of the Australian rams has already died, one has deteriorated considerably in South African conditions, and the third has proved unsatisfactory for breeding purposes. The remaining ram is stated to show promise. The Government has received a report that fourteen ram lambs of the first progeny of the Australian-bred rams were sold by the Grootfontein research station at auction recently. The lambs sold of course, are not of pure Australian blood, being a cross between the Australian rams and South African ewes. The matter is being investigated with a view to its being taken up, if necessary with the South African Government. I am advised that this matter is now being pursued actively but until we hear from our High Commissioner in South Africa it will be impossible to reach any decision in the matter. Several honorable senators, including Senator Benn, asked -questions arising out of the AuditorGeneral’s comment in paragraph 80 of his report concerning an amount of £116,629, which was overpaid to the Australian Wheat Board in respect of assistance to the wheat industry in the 1946-47 season. Action has not been taken to recover that amount because of a number of practical difficulties involved, particularly the fact that very small amounts would be recoverable from a large number of individual growers. However, that money has not been lost to the industry, because even if it were recovered the whole amount would ultimately be used by the board for the benefit of the industry in some way or other. The matter was bandied by the Treasury. That is as much as I am in a position to tell honorable senators. If Senator Benn requires further information I will be pleased to inquire of the Treasury and obtain details of those payments which were made some ten or eleven years ago.
asked also why the sum of £9,760,000 was being retained in the “Wheat Prices Stabilization Fund. I am informed that a proportion of that amount will be transferred to pools in the current five-year scheme which will end in 1957-58. The disposal of the balance will be a matter for negotiation and decision when details of the scheme which follows the present one are under discussion with the industry. It is of interest to note that the Wheat Industry Stabilization Act 1954 provides the authority to hold a balance of as. much as- £20,000,000. There is now £9,760,000- held in the fund.
Several questions of a general nature were posed to me. Some of them expressedapprehension as to what was being, done by the Government in view of the drought conditions prevailing in many parts of the country. 1 am very grateful to ray colleague, Senator Pearson, who put the position much more adequately than I could, have when he explained what had. been done with a view to putting the department in a position to take quick and decisive action where necessary. As he explained, an inter-departmental committee has been set up, and all the problems which are now arising as a result of the conditions prevailing are receiving its close consideration, as well as that of the Minister, the department and, indeed, the Government.
Senators Pearson, Wade and Cooke made very useful contributions to this debate. Their comments in respect of wheat imports and exports were thoughtful, knowledgable and helpful, and I assure them that 1 will bring to the notice of the Minister the comments which they made against a background of practical knowledge of the industry and the problems which confront it. Senator Cooke mentioned a payment of £7,500 to the Australian Wheat Board in connexion with flour mills. This matter was referred to also by my colleague, Senator Mattner. That payment is made in connexion with the inspection of flour mills under the flour export regulations enacted under the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act and the Customs Act. The inspections are carried out on behalf of the department by the Australian Wheat Board. At present, there are 145 registered flour mills in Australia.
asked for information concerning the activities and the interests of the department in respect of fisheries. To my knowledge, honorable senators have referred to this matter during the debate on the Estimates in each of the last three years. The Senate will be interested to know that there is now in existence an interdepartmental committee on fisheries. The fisheries section of the department is being strengthened continually and research accelerated. A survey vessel is under negotiation for purchase, and vessels have been chartered to survey for prawns, the sale of which has shown very good results in the American market.
Senator Aylett and Senator Mattner showed some interest in the number of casual employees as distinct from permanent employees in the department. The temporary employees, whose wages amounted to £340,000, are inspectors of goods for export under the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act. Their work is seasonal and it is the policy of the department to employ inspectors on a permanent basis to the highest number possible having regard to the continuing requirements of this section. During this year there will be an increase of 31 inspectors, who will be recruited in most instances from the temporary staff. Temporary inspectors are also engaged to enable permanent officers to take leave particularly when increases of exports place a heavy demand on the inspection services.
I think I have answered the direct queries that have been raised so far during the debate. However, I wish to reply to the general comment made by Senator Aylett in respect of war service land settlement. He said that this Government had been responsible for pushing men off their land. I take this opportunity to give a categorical denial to that assertion. Nothing could be further from the truth. The war service land settlement scheme which is of great magnitude has operated with outstanding success in all the States except Queensland where there was a pathetic lack of cooperation from the late lamented Labour government. Both the Parliament and the Government can point to this scheme with considerable pride. The Government has shown considerable sympathy and understanding in seeing that ex-service personnel desirous of taking up war service settlement blocks are treated with the utmost consideration. I reject entirely the honorable senator’s suggestion that this Government, in any instance, has pushed men off the land. Where, unfortunately, that has occurred, there have been good reasons for it.
I have been given a note in respect of a query raised by Senator Mattner. Provision has been made for 176 permanent and 57 temporary officers for the year 1957-58. The temporary employees are typists, assistants and general clerical officers who fill temporary positions, or permanent positions on the lower ranges pending the appointment or promotion of permanent officers. In Division No. 109, which covers the administration of the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act, provision has been made for 399 permanent and 292 temporary officers. It will be noted that the temporary officers are inspectors of exports under the act, on an average salary of £1,200 per annum. . In Division No. 1 10, which covers the Division of Agricultural Economics, provision has been made for 83 permanent and 24 temporary employees. In the Division of Agricultural Economics it is necessary to supplement the permanent officers on field surveys to ensure that the surveys will be quickly completed, so that the information obtained will be quickly available for examination.
Sitting suspended from 6.1 to 8 p.m.
– I should like to refer to one matter mentioned by Senator O’Byrne. He spoke of organized marketing. We had a very interesting experience in Queensland with this so-called organizing of markets in connexion with our Fish Board. The Queensland Fish Board was established for the organized marketing of fish for the fishermen, and so organized that marketing that it levied a charge of 17£ per cent, on all fish handled by it. If that is the sort of marketing that Senator O’Byrne recommends for this country, I must say that I entirely disagree with him.
I commend Senator Laught upon his remarks in connexion with the various disabilities that have been suffered by the fishermen of this country. For very many years, the fishermen were nobody’s babies at all. They could turn to no department for help or advice. They just got along aswell as they could. As yet we have not been successful in having fishing proclaimed a primary industry, but we have at least got the fishing industry administered by the Department of Primary Industry. Here I should like to pay great tribute to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon> for the sympathetic way in which he hashandled the fishing industry and the understanding he has shown of the great potential of the industry for export purposes at a time when we need exports so badly.
Fishing could be one of the big export industries of this country. Recently, I did notice that applications have been made to import a lot more fish into Australia. That brings me to something that I have been advocating for the last four years. Almost every time I have spoken on supply bills or during a Budget debate, I have mentioned this matter, and at long last it does appear that the Government is agreeing with some of the things I have said in the past. I have pointed out what other countries do for their fishing industries. I have mentioned, for example, that Canada spends 10,000,000 dollars every year on fisheries research and that Great Britain has fourteen survey ships. In Australia we have had nothing over the years.
Senator Laught also pointed out other disabilities from which the fishermen of this country suffer. Because their industry has not been proclaimed a primary industry, fishermen have not been able to claim for depreciation, averaging, or other taxation concessions enjoyed by other primary producers. Further, they have been paying what, in effect, is a road tax on the petrol they have used. It is obvious that fishermen use all their petrol at sea and I have been endeavouring to have this point sympathetically examined for a number of years. So I do agree with what my colleague, Senator Laught, said in his opening remarks.
As to survey ships, I have been extremely pleased to find that the Australian Government is buying a 400-ton trawler in Great Britain, to be fitted out as a complete survey ship to begin survey work in the Great Australian Bight to ascertain exactly what fish we have there and what we can do with them. The “ Challenge “ provided a good example some months ago of the splendid results that can accrue from the use of such vessels. It was a chartered vessel that was fitted out for survey work. She was responsible for the tremendous new beds of prawns which were found in Hervey Bay and up the Queensland coast. That experience was clear proof of my previous statements that we do not know what we have got. We do not know what is in the Coral Sea, for example, and, as I have said many times, until we have survey ships at work, as some other countries have, we shall never know what is there. The Japanese come 4,500 miles to the Coral Sea to take what our fishermen should be getting. They take their catcher to Samoa and send them to the United States market. We could be doing that and so build up a tremendous export trade not merely from Queensland but from the whole of Australia. Of course, I am particularly interested in Queensland, because I know the potentialities there, and I usually speak of Queensland’s potentialities, but in this instance I must speak nationally and of Australia rather than of Queensland.
I should be interested if the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) could tell me whether his department is having any say in the type of vessel that is being bought; whether the vessel is to be bought second-hand or whether she is to be built; approximately what her tonnage will be; whether the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization will have on board proper facilities for the scientists to carry out their research; and whether facilities will be provided for tagging and all the other things necessary to be done while the vessel is at sea.
I should like to ask the Minister a question relating to another matter. I know one cannot always believe what one reads in the newspapers, but I did read in the press recently of the number of prawns that are coming down from Hong Kong. My information is that these prawns are coming not from Hong Kong, but through Hong Kong from Japan and are, in truth, rejects from the tremendous American market that Japan supplies. The Americans, naturally, take only the best and for the best they pay very good money, something of the order of 6s. 7d. per lb. in Australian currency. There is a big export market there.
On the subject of fish, one naturally thinks - I do at any rate - of mother of pearl. Here I should like to congratulate the Queensland Government on the steps it took in interviewing the Commonwealth Government and asking permission to bring in Japanese divers. I know this matter has been mentioned in the Senate over the last few days, but I should like to reiterate that until about five years ago there was a 3,000,000 dollar market in New York for our mother of pearl. At that time, the Japanese were allowed to fish in the waters north of Australia under an agreement that allowed them to take out 900 tons of shell a year. This was not enough by a long way to fill the New York market.
When this was going on about three years ago, I wrote to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) and suggested that the amount allowed to the Japanese should be increased to 1,200 tons of pearl-shell. Senator Scott supported me in this; in fact, I think he signed the letter with me. Our object was to keep the New York market open. The position is that when there is no pearlshell, or when there is a shortage of pearlshell, the big companies that make buttons and things like that in the United States turn to the use of plastics. I know of one company which has turned to the use of plastics and which, by so doing, is saving 200,000 dollars a year. Plastics have now become so good that it is possible to make buttons which shine just as much as the buttons made from mother-of-pearl. In addition, the plastic buttons can stand hot water and can be put through wringers and laundry machines without injury.
My fear is that once we lose orders from these people we shall never get them back, and it is for that reason that I was very pleased when the Queensland Government asked for permission to bring in Japanese divers. The Japanese are the only divers who can go to the depths necessary now to clear these beds which have been filling up and filling up over the years. The Opposition might argue that this is one industry in which private enterprise could not do the job, but that it not the case. The position is that the Queensland Government set up, under the jurisdiction of its Department of Native Affairs, what was, in fact, a company. It was the Island Industries Cooperatives, which was run by the Queensland Government. ‘ As honorable senators know, the then Queensland Government did not give two hoots whether the taxpayers’ money was lost or not.
– That is the reason why it was thrown out quite recently. This company was allowed, through the Director of Native Affairs in Thursday Island, to take the pick of the divers; that is, divers who were able to dive to greater depths than the average Thursday Island and St. Paul’s Island natives, but not as deeply as the Japanese divers. In addition, the State
Government made it almost impossible for private pearlers to do any good because it insisted that the men who manned the luggers had to be paid two months’ wages and be provided with stores before they set off to get pearl-shell. The crews might do a week’s fishing and then take the lugger, which would belong to H. O. and R. N. Hockings, Burns Philp and Company Limited, or one of the other companies, ro Friday Island, Tuesday Island or St. Paul’s to visit their friends and relatives. After two months, they would return with practically no shell on board. That is why the pearlers were unable to continue the export of pearl-shell which was returning 2,000,000 dollars to Australia. They were hindered by the Queensland government of the day. I am pleased that the Commonwealth Government has assisted the new Queensland Government to bring Japanese divers to Australia. I have no doubt that they will clear up the difficulty.
– Were not some Greek divers brought to Australia?
– Yes, I was pardy responsible for bringing Greek sponge divers to Australia about eighteen months ago. It was a long-drawn-out effort on my part. I had to approach three departments, including the Department of Immigration and the Department of Territories, because they were going to land on a territory under our control. The Greeks dived a few times, but they would not continue diving because of sharks. One of them was killed. Until we get the Japanese divers the pearl-shell trade will languish. The new Queensland Government is doing all that it can to restore the trade to its proper potential.
Mention has been made of sales of merino rams to South Africa. I was astounded to read about a month ago a statement by Mr. Falkiner, who was the owner of the famous Haddon Rig merino stud. He made the extraordinary statement that it would not matter if we sold merino rams to South Africa because we would not feel the impact in Australia for 25 years. In other words, he did not care two hoots what happened in this connexion because he would be gone in 25 years. He forgot the new generation - your sons, my sons and the sons of other persons who might be affected. I have never heard a less responsible statement from a responsible man. I hope that the developments that were predicted by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) before the sitting was suspended will come to pass, and that we will shut down on the export of a product upon which we have, so to speak, the trade mark.
Senator O’Byrne might be interested in some comments 1 have to make about the current drought. We have heard much about it in this chamber to-night. It is pleasing to note that in Queensland we have not only had enough rain in the Bundaberg district to save all our sugar, but that we have received up to one and a half inches of rain in the south and south-west districts of Queensland. That will not help our wheal crop, but it will make a tremendous difference in those districts where the graziers will be able to carry on until we get the normal rains in January and February.
I wish to refer again to the Minister for Primary Industry and to thank him for what he has done on behalf of the Queensland fisheries and for his sympathetic handling of the fisheries problem.
.- It is a remarkable fact that some of our tory friends from Queensland are always decrying that State. They say that the Queensland Government has done nothing and has ignored this or that problem. That is the wrong attitude. I like Senator Hannaford’s outlook. He said, in effect, that he did not wish to indulge in recriminations. He had some thoughts to place before the committee and he stated them in a very interesting way. I recommend his approach to other honorable senators. Senator Wade is a great barracker for the country districts and for the men on the land. So are we all. He gave us quite a panegyric on the banks and how they never refused anybody any money. I shall go along to the banks myself to-morrow to see whether I can get a few pounds.
I mentioned in this chamber only recently that a big banker named McKerihan said that the businessman or the farmer could not get any money from the bank for his legitimate business, but if he went to the other end of the counter, he could get tons of money for hire purchase at 20 per cent. That statement was published in the press. We all know that honorable senators on the Government side try to pull their own legs. The fact is that to-day there is a move in the direction of time payment and hire purchase. Why? Because there is more profit and interest to be made out of that sort of business. Thousands of persons throughout Australia resent that fact and they are blaming the present Government for permitting it.
– What has that to do with the business that is before the committee?
– Nothing. I mentioned it only because Senator Wade made the statement to which I have referred while the proceedings of the committee were being broadcast. He might have convinced some people, and I am trying to drag them back to a proper understanding of the situation if they are still listening. We decry one another in this chamber. I remember years ago reading a statement that was made in better phrases than 1 could use to the effect that no government is as good as its supporters say it is, and no government is as bad as its opponents contend. However, sometimes the tories are hard to take. It is difficult at times to sit here and listen to the wordy banalities that emanate from some honorable senators on the Government side regarding the economic situation in Australia. Listening to them, one would think that we on the Opposition side were utterly careless of and indifferent to the welfare of Australia. As a matter of fact, despite what Senator Wade has said, no political party has watched over the welfare of the working farmers - not those who farm the farmers - better than the Australian Labour party has done. If time permitted, I could tell honorable senators what was done for the farmers in Queensland by the Forgan Smith Government.
Every reasonable and sensible man recognizes that primary production is vital to the welfare of Australia, but if we had taken notice of the many leaders of the Australian Country party, we would have been in a parlous position indeed because they were bitterly and completely opposed to the development of secondary industry. The Australian Labour party believes in a balanced economy. We must recognize the need for primary production. We also recognize that if Australia is to win out in the great struggle against communism we have to develop our secondary industries, and in that respect time is running against us. Although primary production is greater than it was a few years ago, fewer people are employed in primary industry than previously. Australia cannot hope to defend itself against the encroachments of communism if we rely merely on primary production.
Senator Wade said that the farmers desire freedom. So do we all! Anybody who studies the economic development of Australia since federation must recognize that government, whether it be under the Australian Country party-Liberal party coalition or under Labour, has become involved in the economic activities of the farmers as well as of every other producer. I know that in the old days the tories were indifferent to the interests of the farmers, and I well remember reading of a deputation of fruit-growers that waited on our old friend, Billy Hughes. They told him of the parlous economical position they were in as the result of lack of markets, with farms being abandoned because the farmers could not meet their commitments. Billy Hughes told that delegation, “ Pull up the fruit trees and burn them “. Later, however, governments were forced to recognize that something had to be done to help fruit-growers and farmers generally, and they began to introduce legislation to pay subsidies and to establish boards to control certain industries. No industry is more subject to legislative control than primary industry, so what is the use of saying that the farmer does not want government interference? How ridiculous! Look at those Tasmanians! Senator Henty, for instance, has spoken on the floor of the Senate about the need for competition, yet we have heard him also speak of the need for prompt government action in the provision of £137,000 to subsidize a tramp steamer running between Melbourne and Launceston.
Everybody knows that the tories believe in competition. They believe in economic freedom. They hate socialism. But as soon as they are in want or in trouble they become capitalist socialists. There is nobody more active, more insistent on being helped, than the capitalists of this country when they find their interests jeopardized by competition. The Labour party stands for the highest and most economical production. I was sorry when the move for a beef airlift scheme failed. I took an interest in the matter because I recognized, as all Labour men recognize, that it was a development in the best interests of Australia. The Labour party stands for the best form of economic development, but we recognize that that is hard to achieve because of the antagonism of vested interests.
Under the heading “ Miscellaneous Services “ there are several items relating to the Department of Primary Industry which I wish to discuss.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! The honorable senator may not deal with that section of the Estimates at this stage.
– Well, as I am not able now, because of your ruling, Mr. Chairman, to tell the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) what I want him to do, I shall whisper it in his shell-like ear later on. However, I should like to point out, Mr. Chairman, that most of the speeches made in this committee on these Estimates, instead of dealing with matters in detail, have been of a general nature. 1 wanted to direct the attention of the Senate to the proposal for an air beef scheme.
– Order! The honorable senator may not discuss that at this stage. He may discuss it under the proposed vote for miscellaneous services when it is reached.
– My dear Chairman, you have been in the chair for an hour or two and I do not wish to run contrary to your ruling in any way. I remind you, however, that nine out of ten of the quarterhour speeches made in committee on these Estimates have been of a general character. I contend that we could deal with the air beef scheme at this stage.
We, as a Labour movement, support all economic advances because we recognize that if we are to win out in the competitive struggle in the world we must, forsooth, support all forward movements to develop our economy and to make possible greater production by less labour. The only difference between our side in politics and the side represented by honorable senators opposite is that we want to give to the workers more of the fruits of their labour whilst the anti-Labour parties want to increase production only so as to produce greater profits for the interest-mongers and others who exploit the people. That is why I say that the air beef scheme would have been a splendid thing had it developed to the extent to which we hoped it would. The committee concerned with that matter did its work well and issued a brochure which, unfortunately, we did not receive for a long time after the sittings of the committee had concluded. I am indebted to the Minister for National Development (Senator Spooner) for my copy of it, for which I thank him.
– Order! If the honorable senator is dealing with the air beef scheme, I point out that I have already ruled that he is not in order in doing so, but that he may discuss it later when the proposed vote for the air beef subsidy is before us.
– Very well, Mr. Chairman. I recognize you as a charming chairman and do not want to go against you, so I shall desist from further talk of the air beef scheme and turn my attention to the subject of wheat. We are told that, now we are running short of wheat, we should import wheat from America. Senator Pearson made that suggestion and Senator Aylett pointed out that it would be a bad thing to buy wheat from America because we would have to pay for it in hard currency.
– I said that we should consider it.
– I would not like to do it myself, and I am not advocating it. America gave millions of bushels of grain to India, but, unfortunately, the sacred monkeys of India ate more wheat and grain than America could supply India with. We all know of those sacred monkeys whose depredations are such a burden for the Indian people.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
.- I wish to direct the attention of the committee briefly to the apple export trade. The annual report of the Australian Apple and Pear Board reveals the difficulty with which the trade has been confronted in respect of overseas freights, which increased recently by 14 per cent., and confirms that after an examination of shipowners’ costs by an eminent firm of chartered accountants in the United Kingdom, the Australian shippers’ representatives were satisfied of the justification for the .claim for that increase. The importance of that lies in the fact that the freight on a case of apples increased from 9s. 8d. in 1956 to 10s. 9d. this year, despite the fact that the shipowners felt obliged to make an allowance of 3d. a case for improved methods of shipping.
I bring those facts briefly before the committee, and particularly before the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge), because previously I have pressed the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) to make sure that the committee of the Australian Overseas Transport Association is comprised of persons representative of producers of this industry, as distinct from persons who have, possibly, other interests. I should like the Minister to let us have some information about the constitution of that committee, the firms that are represented, and the degree to which those firms are directly representative of the apple export industry.
The question of the freight on wheat carried by coastal shipping has been highlighted in the debate this afternoon. Here we are meeting an increase in oversea freights. I remind the Minister that there has been a great increase in fruit production in South Africa, which has a regular, reliable shipping service to United Kingdom and European ports, with a cost advantage over Australia. With a view to preserving our export fruit trade, it is important that we look at the machinery for fixing freight rates to ensure that it is adequate to enable exporters to negotiate with the shipowners the minimum rates possible.
Sentor COLE (Tasmania - Leader of the Australian Democratic Labour party) [8.32]. - As fishing is a primary industry, I should like to raise the matter of shark-fishing in Bass Strait. Quite an uproar has been caused amongst shark-fishermen by the imposition, for, I think, the first time in history, of a seasonal embargo on shark-fishing in Bass Strait and the waters round the southern part of Australia. Shark-fishing is a very important industry. I think it supplies most of the fish requirements of Melbourne especially. In fact, when you go into a -fish shop in ‘Melbourne and ask for Murray cod, you can bet any ‘money you like that you will get flake which as the name under which s*hark ‘is sold ‘Boats ‘for sharkfishing have ‘to ‘be ‘Specially prepared. The gear that ‘is used is quite different :from that which is used -in-other fishing boats, and it ‘is not easy ‘to -convert from shark-fishing to, say, cray-fis’hing.
– Are .these Tasmanian boats?
– Tasmanian land Victorian. I -am particularly ‘concerned with those operating from Stanley and Smithton, the owners :of which are very ‘perturbed at the action nhat has :been (taken. Can the Minister say .why the ‘embargo should be imposed -now, ‘for the first ,time tin *he history of shark-fishing? It -may be that the Fisheries Division has found evidence that sharks are becoming less numerous, but I point out that .that happened in the case oi barracuda. The run of barracuda through the strait -declined -for several seasons, but they have once again been found in various parts of the strait. The barracuda -has come -back into its own amongst .the fish in -that region.
Would the Minister give a full explanation of ‘the embargo to enlighten the fishermen concerned? Their practical experience seems to suggest that an ‘embargo - which I think is for the ‘breeding season - does not affect the run of fish at ali. The matter is very important, ‘because the boats have to be laid up for several -months. In -many instances ‘fishing -is -the sole -livelihood of these men. Incidentally, it was suggested this -afternoon that fishing >gear be made an allowable -deduction for income tax purposes. That argument has particular relevance to these people.
Senator Hannaford referred to the suggestion that Tasmania could do much to alleviate the fodder shortage in droughtstricken States, and he rather pooh-poohed the idea, because Tasmania is so small. The north-west coastal region of Tasmania is very fertile. With intensive cultivation, it could easily feed the population of Australia.
– This is not skiting?
– I arn not exaggerating. The honorable senator seems to forget that along the north-west ‘coast there is a strip, about 100 miles long and from <16 to 20 miles, wide, of very fertile soil. If -Senator Hannaford and other honorable senators do not believe what I am saying, they should come across to Tasmania. If they do, 1 shall be quite willing to take them through the country to ‘which I refer. The grass to feed Australia’s starving -sheep is there. All that is needed is for the Government to step in and help with ‘its export ‘to ‘the mainland. ‘It could quite easily be cut, and then shipped by the ‘hundreds of thousands o’f bales. There is no reason why that should “not ‘be done. All that is needed is organization and the assurance of markets. However, “this afternoon I heard the good news that the drought lias broken. I suppose the result will be that all the fine ‘fodder on the north-west coast df Tasmania will be allowed to go to waste.
.-4 should -like to comment on one or two points which have emerged from this debate. First >1 want to say how pleased I was to hea’t”-! :think for the -first time since 1 have been in the Senate- such a tribute paid to the ‘Government -as we :heard ^earlier to-day from Senator O’Byrne of Tasmania. It was very pleasant for me to hear him congratulating the ((Government on opening up a market in the (Philippines for Australian meat. As the honorable senator said, this market should be exploited even more than it has been, as it has provided a valuable outlet for meat from -the Northern Territory and from north Queensland. J believe .that there will be an expanding ^market for our meat in the Philippines, owing perhaps to the destruction of ‘the indigenous cattle in that area. That -position has been turned to >our advantage by ‘the Board of Trade, through its commissioner in Manila; and, in a way, by the Department of External Affairs through its representatives in Manila. This is one example of -the successful drive to find more export markets for Australia. While I agree with Senator O’Byrne on this matter, it is the only point on which I agree with him and with the other speakers on the opposite side of the chamber.
As Senator Wade is not here, I should like to say that, in my belief, he was most unfairly attacked when he said that Victoria was not in the grip of a terrible, old-man drought. ‘Victoria as a Whole is not in the grip of a drought at all. The northern part of Victoria is now only partially affected by drought.
– He was talking about Australia.
– Senator Wade was talking about Victoria, and he was taken to task and told that he was wrong. He suggested that the shows in Victoria should be looked at by those who thought that we were seriously endangered by drought in that State, and on that statement he was again taken to task by Senator O’Byrne, who demonstrated that completely metropolitan outlook which is so typical of the Opposition when he implied that there was only one show in the State of Victoria, namely, the show in Melbourne. Honorable senators will remember the nonsense he spoke about the Melbourne show, how animals were specially prepared and specially fed and so on. In point of fact, Senator Wade quite clearly urged that all the shows in Victoria be looked at, and anybody who did not have a completely metropolitan point of view would know that all the country centres throughout Victoria have their own agricultural shows. I have in mind such towns as Swan Hill, Birchip, Kerang and Mildura. For such shows the animals are not specially prepared, and the visitor can judge the state of prosperity and productivity of the area surrounding the centre in which a show is held. It is quite clear, as anybody who has seen those shows recently can testify, that although parts of the Mallee were at one stage threatened by drought, that danger has now happily passed. I am sure that honorable senators opposite who are interjecting will also be very happy that the danger of drought in Victoria has passed.
I move now to a topic that has been raised on more than one occasion in this debate - wheat. Senator O’Byrne had a great deal to say about wheat, and, on this subject, he attacked Senator Wade, who has been growing wheat all his life. 1 am willing to lay a shade of odds that if Senator O’Byrne ever grew any wheat at all it is because a few grains got mixed up in his lawn seed. Clearly, the type of wheat on which Australia mainly relies is grown in the low-rainfall areas of the Mallee, northern Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. The point I want to make is that if we on this side of the House had taken the steps that we were urged by the Opposition to take last year and the year before, this country would now be in a most serious position with regard to the supply of wheat. In the last two years that this subject has been debated in this chamber, I have heard Senator Kennelly, backed by other Opposition senators, say that we must cut down the acreage of wheat. When we brought in a bill last year to allocate money to increase storage facilities for wheat in Victoria, because the existing stores were full, we were attacked. We were told that we must not waste this money providing extra storage for wheat, and we were told that we must heed the advice then given by Sir John Teasdale, and cut down the acreage under wheat.
I remember this distinctly, because at the time, together with other Government supporters, I rose and pointed out that a drought would seriously impair our ability to supply our overseas market with wheat and to keep our home market going. Fortunately, the Government accepted those views and rejected proposals to reduce the wheat acreage. That decision, which was taken in the face of heavy opposition, was one of the wisest decisions ever taken. ‘ If that decision had not been taken, not only would we be talking of possibly importing wheat in order to fulfil our overseas commitments, but we would have little chance of holding our overseas market with the wheat we have here to-day.
From that statement of fact I want to draw a general conclusion. That is, that the attitude of mind evinced in this debate towards farmers, and voiced by Senator O’Byrne - that the Government should interfere with the freedom of farmers to grow what they think their land will grow and in the quantity that they think it will grow - can only lead ultimately to disaster for this country. If a wheat farmer is to be prevented from growing the amount of wheat he believes his land will grow, and which he believes he can economically grow before the market conditions stop him, then the time must come when we shall be faced with a grave shortage of wheat, as would have been the case had the Government not taken the decision it did. If farmers are to be regulated, told by the Government what they can grow, when they can grow it, and in what quantity, they can grow it, then they will not be masters in their own houses, and they will not be able to produce for this country the things on which this country depends far more than-
– I rise to order. 1 direct your attention, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to a statement made by Senator Gorton. 1 ‘should like Senator Gorton’s words to be taken down. He said that 1 had advocated that farmers be prevented from growing wheat. I should like those words to be recorded so that, at the conclusion of his speech, I may offer an explanation, as I have been misrepresented.
– What I have said will appear in “ Hansard “, and I suggest that the “ Hansard “ record is likely to be more accurate than what Senator O’Byrne thinks I said. I am not prepared to accept Senator O’Byrne’s interpretation of what I said.
– Order! Does the honorable senator wish to speak to the point of order?
– No. What is the point of order, anyhow?
– There is a standing order that a senator is entitled to ask that words be especially taken down when they are needed for record purposes. I have already asked for the words that were used by Senator Gorton when he said I had advocated that farmers be prevented from putting in certain crops - a statement which was quite untrue - to be taken down. I then indicated that, at the end of Senator Gorton’s speech, I would make a personal explanation, because I have been misrepresented.
– No point of order is involved at this stage. If an honorable senator objects to words used by another honorable senator, he can request that they be taken down.
– The words used by Senator Gorton are objectionable to me, and T ask that they be taken down.
– I do not think I can uphold the point of order. I do not think that what Senator Gorton said was objectionable; he made no reflection on Senator O’Byrne. Nor do I consider that what Senator Gorton said was offensive. If Senator O’Byrne thinks otherwise, he may make a personal explanation at the appropriate time.
– I direct your attention, Mr. Temporary Chairman, to Standing Order 271, which reads -
The Chairman shall direct words objected to to be taken down, in order that the same may be reported to the Senate.
First, I should say that the word “ shall “ makes it mandatory for you to instruct that the words shall be taken down. I suggest further that the words “ shall direct words objected to “ provide no latitude as to whether the words that are objected to are, in fact, objectionable. Clearly, Senator O’Byrne objected to certain words.
Standing Order 423 is the comparable standing order which applies when we are in the Senate. Standing Order 271, which Senator Willesee has cited, refers, of course, to discussions in committee. There has been a ruling by a former President that the purpose of Standing Order 423 is to protect honorable senators from objectionable, offensive and disorderly expressions, and should be applied for that purpose only. I suggest that the words to which Senator O’Byrne has taken exception were not objectionable, offensive or disorderly. Senator O’Byrne has already stated that he will make a personal explanation at the conclusion of Senator Gorton’s speech.
– With very great respect, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I point out that the Standing Orders provide for the taking down of words that are objected to, and I submit that this should be done before you allude to previous rulings.
Order! I have given my ruling. Senator O’Byrne may, if he disagrees with it, move that it be dissented from.
– On the point of order, Mr. Temporary Chairman, I suggest that if Senator O’Byrne waits for a few moments, I shall say something which I am sure he will object to, and he can take down the words.
– 1 have ruled that no point of order is involved. ‘
– You have given your ruling., Mr. Temporary Chairman, on the point of order that I raised. I now wish to take a further point of order. Standing Order 423 reads -
When any Senator objects to words used in Debate, and desires them to be taken down, the President shall direct them, to be taken down by the Clerk accordingly.
It is mandatory-
– The honorable senator should also read Standing Order 424.
Order! I stand by the previous ruling to which I have referred.
– Do you feel yourself bound by that precedent?
– I formally indicate my objection to the ruling of the Temporary Chairman.
Senator O’Byrne having submitted in writing his objection to the Temporary Chairman’s ruling,
In the Senate:
I have to report, Mr. President, that during the debate in committee. Senator O’Byrne raised a point of order which I disallowed. He requested that certain words be taken down. I considered, that as the words to which Senator O’Byrne took exception were not objectionable, offensive or disorderly, the position was covered by the ruling of a former President that Standing Order 423 did not apply. Senator O’Byrne has indicated his objection to my ruling, because I did not direct that the words be taken down. One reason for not doing so was that exception to them was not taken at the time.
The PRESIDENT (Senator The Honorable Sir Alister McMullin). - I will hear argument on the matter.
– I respectfully want to put before you, Mr. President, the point of order that I raised earlier. In referring to my speech before the suspension of the sitting this evening, in which I made numerous suggestions concerning the Department of Primary Industry, Senator Gorton, whether deliberately or by acci dent, gave the impression that I had advocated that farmers should be prevented from growing certain crops on their land. I should not like the impression to go> abroad that I advocated any such thing. I feel that I have been very badly misrepresented. In order to make certain that justice was done, I asked Senator Pearson, who was the Temporary Chaiman at the time, to direct that the words be taken down so that there could be no mistake, because I want the people of Australia, particularly the farmers, to know that I want to protect their interests in this Senate and that I have no intention whatever of advocating that they be forced to do anything or prevented from doing anything. In my opinion Senator Gorton deliberately set out to create that impression, and therefore I have a right under the Standing Orders to ask that his words be taken down. A ruling was given on Standing Order 271, which reads -
The Chairman shall direct words objected to to be taken down, in order that the same may be reported to the Senate.
Standing Order 423 reads -
When any Senator objects to words used in Debate, and desires them to be taken down, the President shall direct them to be taken down by the Clerk accordingly.
I think reference to “ Hansard “ would show that I did not delay making my objection longer than it took me to refer to the Standing Orders and to understand the significance of what Senator Gorton had been putting. During that interval Senator Gorton uttered only a few sentences. I submit that for the protection of a. senator the Standing Orders must be observed, and if he wishes important words to be taken down, on request to either the Chairman or the President, that request can be simply met so that at the conclusion of the debate the exact words objected to will have been recorded as the subject of a personal explanation. I submit that the ruling of the Temporary Chairman is not conducive to the proper conduct of proceedings in committee, and that you, Mr. President, should disallow the ruling under Standing Orders 271 and 423.
– I think Senator 0,’Byrne has completely answered the very poor case he put up. He had to refer to Standing Orders before he realized he had any basis for objection to the words used.
Quite apart from the merits of the matter, Senator O’Byrne is dealing with the procedure of the Senate. I heard the words which Senator Gorton used; they were not, in fact, objectionable. They might, have been difficult or uncomfortable for Senator O’Byrne and posed a problem for him, but they were not objectionable in any context. Senator O’Byrne advanced two reasons for his objection. Standing Order 272 which relates to proceedings in committee, reads -
Every such objection must be taken at the time when such words are used, and will not be afterwards entertained.
He did not at the time, as prescribed, avail himself of that provision. Standing Order 423 relates to proceedings in the Senate and must be read in context and in conjunction with Standing Order 272. It states -
When any Senator objects to words used in Debate, and desires them to be taken down, the President shall direct them to be taken down by the Clerk accordingly.
Standing Order 424 is in these terms -
Every such objection must be taken at the time when such words are used, and will not be afterwards entertained. 1 was not in the chamber at the time, but I was listening in and I know that some minutes elapsed between the time Senator Gorton uttered the words objected to and the time Senator O’Byrne realized that they were objectionable. Apart from the fact, therefore, that the words themselves were not objectionable, Senator O’Byrne can claim no protection in view of Standing Orders 272 and 424. He did not, at the time the words were used, ask that they be taken down.
– It is important from the point of view of the conduct of proceedings of the Senate that the meaning of the words “ objected to “ as distinct from the word “ objectionable “ should be determined. In laying down a canon of conduct I realize it would be difficult to regard disagreements between honorable senators as a ground for objection. Nevertheless, I submit that the Attorney-General (Senator O’sullivan) is not correct when he identifies the words “ objected to “ with the word “ objectionable “. He apparently advanced that as oneof the grounds on which to resist the point of order.
– And “ not taken, at: the time “.
– Exactly. In Standing Order 270 the word “ objection “ is used in another context. The Standing Order reads -
If any objection is taken to a decision of the Chairman of Committees . . .
Obviously the word “ objection “ could in no sense be synonymous with the word “ objectionable “. In other words, if. a decision were taken by the Chairman of Committees with which an honorable senator disagreed on some substantial ground - that it was not a valid determination or that it was inaccurate - it would be a ground for his personal objection. It would in no way be objectionable in the sense in which the word “ objectionable “ is used. Therefore, when one looks at Chapter XX. of the Standing Orders, is one not entitled to give the word “ objection “ the same meaning wherever it appears in Standing Orders within that chapter? If that is so, the words “ objected to “ in Standing Order 271 and the word “ objection “ in Standing Order 272 must be given a meaning if not identical with, at least not at tremendous variance with the word “ objection “ appearing in* other standing orders in that chapter, and more particularly Standing Order 270.
The second point raised by the AttorneyGeneral was whether an objection must be taken at the time. Undoubtedly, it must be so taken. What is the meaning to be given to the words, “ at the time “? I cannot believe that it must be almost simultaneously with the utterance of the words objected to. Sometimes that is not altogether practicable. The Standing Order obviously contemplates that no great period shall elapse in which the objector can develop a sensitivity of conscience or resentment and, after a period of time, find some ground for objection. I do not think it could be held that Senator O’Byrne unduly delayed. Naturally, a senator is entitled to find the basis on which to object and I think Senator O’Byrne took the just precaution of establishing that basis in the Standing. Orders before rising. Having the words written down at that stage wouldindicate that objection had been taken simultaneously with the utterance of the words. He then took his point of order, and therefore I cannot conceive that there has been such a. delay in time as to make the words relied upon by the Attorney-Genera!, “ shall be taken at the time “, applicable in order to disallow the point of order.
On those grounds it is important that the Senate determine the meaning to be given in future to the words “ objected to “ or “ objection “ as distinct from the word “ objectionable “. I submit that the point of order should be sustained. Although there is precedent for interpreting the words “ objected to “ or “ objection “ as being synonymous with the word “ objectionable “ in the ruling of a previous President, this is a case in which you, Sir, might feel disposed to overrule that precedent.
– When was the precedent established?
– I do not know. It has been mentioned rather casually.
– It was 1942.
– The precedent might now be overruled and a new precedent established which, I think, would be more appealing in logic and more compelling in operation.
– Should the words be objectionable to the argument or to the person?
– I do not care which way it is considered. After all, an honorable senator might find the use of a personally abusive term much less objectionable than the attributing to him of some statement which was completely foreign to a point of view that he had publicly espoused all his life. An expression is not objectionable merely because it is personally insulting. An expression may be very objectionable because it misrepresents the attitude a person is likely to take at any time on a particular question that lies very close to his heart.
– And it need not be personal?
– That is so. It seems to me that in the previous determination regarding the word “ objectionable “ there was an implication that the words used must be generally and publicly recognized as constituting an objectionable expression. I think the determination of the President, cited by the Temporary Chairman of Committees when he gave this ruling, allied the word “ objectionable “ with one or two other words, so that it might be suggested that he used the ejusdem generis point of view, as if he were gathering all those insulting terms and otherwise objectionable terms into one category. The point I am making is that an expression might be objected to, and might even be objectionable, even though it was neither insulting nor offensive.
– But it must have some foundation.
– It must have some general foundation. It is very important that the Senate should determine on this occasion what meaning is to be given to the words “ objectionable “ or “ objected to”, and I submit that the point of order taken by Senator O’Byrne is validly taken and that the Senate should uphold his submission.
– I direct attention to Standing Order 272, and to Standing Order 272 only, because I have no quarrel with the submission of Senator Byrne that a statement may be objected to although it is not, in terms, objectionable. Standing Order 272 says -
Every such objection must be taken at the time when such words are used, and will not be afterwards entertained.
I submit that at the time when Senator O’Byrne lodged his objection, the matter to which he purported to object was a considerable time in the past. In substantiation of his point of order, he purported to repeat what I had said some time previously. At the time he did this, the words to which he raised objection had been uttered - if they were uttered at all - some minutes previously. After looking at the clock, I should say that any objectionable words were uttered some twenty minutes ago.
Who is able to take down now something that I am purported to have said 20 minutes ago? Obviously there must be different interpretations of what was said. In fact, my interpretation of it - and I was making the speech - is different from that of Senator O’Byrne. I had been speaking of the Australian Labour party, as such, seeking to make us cut down wheat acreages, and suggesting that it had done that very thing in times past. I had not at that stage, in my opinion, specifically sheeted that policy home to an individual such as Senator O’Byrne. How can any one take down what I am supposed to have said, when there are differences of opinion as to what was in fact said, because it was said so long ago? After making the alleged comment, 1 had moved on and had expressed my opinion - and it is my opinion - not that Senator O’Byrne wants us to stop growing wheat without interference, but that he wants the farmers to stop growing anything without government interference - which goes a good deal further. But no one can now remember the words used. Senator O’Byrne waited too long to make his objection. It is now 20 or 25 minutes since I am alleged to have used these words, and no one can remember what was said as long ago as that.
– It appears that Government supporters are basing their case on the suggestion that objection was not taken in sufficient time to justify the use of the standing order under which the point of order was taken. Standing Order 423 says -
When any Senator objects to words used in Debate, and desires them to be taken down, the President shall direct them to be taken down by the Clerk accordingly.
I submit that Senator O’Byrne raised his point as early as he possibly could have done. He took advantage of the provision of Standing Order 422, which says -
No Senator shall interrupt another Senator whilst speaking, unless (1) to request that his words be taken down; (2) to call attention to a Point of Order or Privilege suddenly arising; or (3) to call attention to the want of a Quorum.
Senator Gorton was still speaking when Senator O’Byrne, in accordance with the Standing Orders, interrupted his speech and raised the point of order. He did so as soon as was possible, while Senator Gorton was still pursuing the objectionable course - not using the particular words objected to, but explaining his use of them. Senator O’Byrne interrupted Senator Gorton for the purpose of obtaining the protection that he should have under the Standing Orders. I submit that Senator O’Byrne acted as soon as he reasonably could, while Senator Gorton was still pursuing an objectionable course. If Senator O’Byrne had waited until Senator Gorton had completed his speech, I would have said that he did not raise his point in time. However, he interrupted Senator Gorton within a reasonable time. Even Senator Gorton conceded this by suggesting that we should find out what “ Hansard “ had taken down, although the Standing Orders require that the words shall be taken down by the Clerk. Having in mind the provisions of Standing Order No. 422, Senator O’Byrne made his point of order at the earliest possible moment.
– Might 1 say, first, that had Senator O’sullivan been in the chamber when the issue arose, before the Temporary Chairman-
– I told you I heard it.
– If you will allow me to make my point, I suggest that had Senator O’sullivan been here, with his legal knowledge, the defence of the Temporary Chairman would have been vastly different. Senator O’sullivan has directed attention to Standing Order 272, which deals with the question of time, but the defence pui up by the Temporary Chairman of Committees was not along those lines. Senator O’sullivan was not here when I tried to assist the Temporary Chairman by directing his attention to Standing Order 271. At this point I should like to submit that there is no room for legal dissertation on the meaning of the words objected to. Standing Order 271 says -
The Chairman shall direct words objected to to be taken down, in order that the same may be reported to the Senate.
I suggest that there is no room for argument as to whether the words are objectionable or not. The Standing Order says, “ words objected to “. That can rest only with the person who raises the point. The Temporary Chairman referred the Senate to Standing Order 423 and used it as an argument to contradict Standing Order 271. I suggest that Standing Order 423 is a corollary of Standing Order 271 and not a contradiction of it. Standing Order 423 reads -
Again, there is no quarrel between Standing Orders 423 and 271 in deciding what are the words objected to. I should like you, Sir, to rule that there is no doubt at all about those very clear words.
– What about the rest of the Estimates? Are you going to get on with them to-night?
– That rests with the Government. There is a general feeling, which is dealt with very fully in a book from which I have quoted before. That book says -
If doubt exists as to whether or not a statement declared by any Senator to be personally offensive to him should be withdrawn, the Chair leans towards the Senator who considers himself aggrieved. i suggest, Sir, that it would be in accordance with the tradition of this Parliament if you were to lean towards the person who was -aggrieved. Senator Gorton and Senator O’sullivan have dealt with the question of the lapse of time. Nobody knows, of course, what is meant by the expression “ at the time “. I suggest that the standing order means that objection must be taken during the debate in which the words are used. Clearly, an honorable senator -could not raise, the matter during the following week or after a week’s recess. If we did not have such a standing order, objection could be taken at any time until Parliament was prorogued, when all business is removed from the notice-paper. I .do not think that there is a precedent of a chairman of committees ruling on such a question as this. There may be a precedent that I have not had time to look up, but I suggest that you, Sir, will not be .able to find one. Senator Gorton has taken a most amazing stand in defending his position. His stand is that we cannot remember what was said. He stretched the time that has elapsed. He made it twenty minutes; if he had continued, it would have been twenty years. The position is that, in his original speech, he kept repeating what we on this side considered .to be a deliberate mis-statement of the facts. He then pointed to Senator O’Byrne and said that he had used the general statements that the Australian Labour party had been using over the years. He repeated that several times. Senator O’Byrne was completely tolerant and, in my view, only the repetition by Senator Gorton forced Senator O’Byrne to take objection.
– Then .it was not objectionable the first time?
– No, I do not mean that ait all. Do not put words into my mouth.
– You said that he was tolerant.
– We can be tolerant. Senator Gorton repeated his statement. He is not a very clear speaker, but when what he was saying became obvious, Senator O’Byrne was forced to take objection to it. I want to make two points: On the question of lapsed time, I suggest that the arguments used by honorable senators opposite are not valid. Further, the lapse of time was not the defence on which the Temporary Chairman rested his case. I want to emphasize, also, that the Standing Orders I have mentioned do not leave room for debate on whether the words are objectionable to the Senate or whether they are objectionable in the sense ordinarily used in every day affairs. The Standing Orders refer to “ words objected to “ by a senator. The position is as clear as a pike-staff. Senator O’Byrne objected to the words used and toe objected within the time allowed by the Standing Orders. Therefore, I suggest that only one ruling can be given.
– As the person entrusted with the Chair at the time in question, I wish to give my recollection of the events. My recollection is that Senator Gorton had made a statement. Some time elapsed before Senator O’Byrne objected.
– That was not your defence!
– ‘Order! Senator Pearson is making a statement.
– I was trying to assist.
– Thank you very much. When Senator O’Byrne rose, I looked through the Standing Orders while discussion ensued. My attention was drawn to a ruling given by a previous President of the Senate some years ago. That ruling really interpreted the standing order which provides for the taking down of words as it applied in the Senate.
– Who was the President?
– The Senate may be interested to know that that was in 1942. Whoever the President was, I felt obliged to accept the precedent established by that ruling. Though it was given in the Senate, I felt it had .equal force in committee. My ruling finally was to disallow Senator O’Byrne’s point of .order because of that precedent. I followed the precedent established by a President in the Senate because I felt it was equally applicable in committee. I have not the ruling before me now, but it was that before words .could be taken down they must be considered to be offensive, disorderly, ,or the like. I heard Senator Gorton’s -statement. I did not regard the words .he used as being in any way disorderly .or personally offensive and J .felt that I -was .on safe -ground in abiding by the precedent established by the previous President. 1 submit, with due respect, that that is the position and that the precedent should be upheld by you, Sir.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. Apparently I am not a very good judge of time. I was listening to the debate in my room and in my remarks 1 said that I thought some minutes had elapsed between the remarks made by Senator Gorton and the time Senator O’Byrne objected to them. I have asked “ Hansard “ to check and I find that only about a minute elapsed. But, in the circumstances, even a minute was far too long.
– I had no wish to engage in this debate, but I feel that a grave injustice may be done if you, Sir, are influenced by the precedent mentioned tonight. I have looked at the precedent and I feel that there is no analogy between the previous incident and the situation on which you have to rule, lt is perfectly clear from the Standing Orders that Senator O’Byrne rose in reasonable time to take an objection. Our code of debate clearly lays down that he had a perfect right to take that objection and to ask that the words be taken down. There can be no question of any lapse of time. The Minister has now said that only about a minute elapsed. That is rather quick, because a senator would need a good knowledge of the Standing Orders or an opportunity to refer to them before he could take the point that Senator O’Byrne. took. The Standing Orders do not require that the words shall be objectionable. That is a decision that the senator himself must make and the Standing Orders clearly give him that right. No grounds exist for the Temporary Chairman to rule as he did. I suggest to you, Sir, that you should lay down a precedent on this occasion so that the Senate in future can have wise guidance on a problem that may arise at any time. I feel that, with your good judgment, you will decide that Senator O’Byrne had a perfect right to take the point of order.
– I wish to make a personal) explanation. The objection that was taken by the Attorney-General to my point of- order related to the lapse of time between. Senator Gorton’s having created the impression or having spoken the words to which- I objected and my rising to the point of order. I should like to say, by way of explanation, that I had to refer to Senator Armstrong’s copy of the Standing Orders because 1 could not find mine, I had to check on my right to interrupt another honorable senator’s speech, and I then had to write down the word “ misrepresented “ and record the fact that Senator Gorton had said that I advocated farmers being prevented from planting specific crops. I had to do all that. It took me a minute. So I think that I was really moving pretty fast.
– Order ! The point of order is not upheld. I support the ruling that was given by the Temporary Chairman, Senator Pearson.
– Mr. President, are you prepared to state your reasons for giving that ruling?
– Order! I am not called upon to give reasons for my ruling.
– Quite so, but you see, Mr. President-
– Order! The honorable senator is out of order.
– You are not prepared to state the reasons for your ruling?
– If the honorable senator wishes to object to my ruling, he must state his objection in writing.
– Does not the honorable senator want the Estimates to be considered?
– I want to have the Senate conducted in a proper manner.
– It is being conducted properly.
– I shall state my objection in writing.
Senator Arnold proceeding to state his objection in writing,
– My leader desires that no objection be taken. I therefore withdraw it.
In committee: Consideration resumed (vide page 927).
– I do not wish to speak at length om the items contained in the estimates: for the Department of Primary Industry, but, I shall refer particularly to two, matters, one of which was raised earlier in the day by Senator Hannaford. I refer to the dried fruits stabilization plan. Senator Hannaford suggested that the plan was sabotaged to some extent because of the apathy of the growers. I admit that there was a degree of apathy, but it was not so much a question of apathy as it was the fact that the plan was completely unacceptable to the Australian Dried Fruits Association and the people it represented.
– Well, why did they not exercise their right to vote against it?
– The reason is perfectly clear. Approximately 40 per cent, of the growers were hostile to the plan and would not have anything to do with it. It will be recalled by Senator Hannaford and other Government supporters who have shown perhaps a passing interest in the dried fruits industry that, when the framework of the plan was first made known, I told honorable senators that it would not be acceptable to the growers of dried fruits. Time has proved my contention to have been perfectly correct. If Senator Hannaford were to acquaint himself with the views of the federal council of the A.D.F.A., he would discover that it was critical of the plan from the very time when the circumstances surrounding its formulation first became known to those who were engaged in the industry. He would discover also that the council repeatedly approached the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) and asked that certain conditions that had been proposed by the Government should be altered. As the president of the association stated in one of his addresses as recorded in a recent issue of its journal, those repeated requests met with little or no success. The Minister was prepared, in some minor ways, to meet the requirements of those who, at that administrative level, were looking after the welfare of the industry. But all the basic things that would have made the plan acceptable to the growers were rejected by the Government. Consequently, the plan that was put before the growers was regarded as being unworkable, and was unacceptable. It seems that the industry will continue to languish for some considerable time.
I suggest to Senator Hannaford that, if he wants to do something practical to assist the growers of dried fruits, he should try to persuade some of his colleagues, in particular members of the Cabinet, to ensure that relief is given in regard to the imposition of sales tax on foodstuffs that have a dried fruit content. It will be recalled that from time to time in this chamber 1 have raised this question of a 12£ per cent, impost on foodstuffs containing dried fruits. It is one of the greatest anomalies associated with the imposition of sales tax.
The Australian dried fruits industry is suffering as a result of the grabbing attitude of this Government. The sales of foodstuffs with a dried fruit content have declined considerably because of the stupid imposition of a 12i per cent. tax. I feel that no honorable senator opposite who has any knowledge of the dried fruits industry and of the importance of having dried fruits more widely accepted on the Australian market would have the courage to rise to-night and say that the Government should retain this impost. Although practically the whole of the federal council of the A.D.F.A. and perhaps all the dried fruits growers of Australia are clamouring for the removal of the impost, the Government, which claims from time to time that it has the interests of the growers at heart, retains it year after year without rhyme or reason. I was hopeful that in this year’s Budget, after what had been said in this chamber by myself and other honorable senators on previous occasions, we would see this stupidity removed. Instead, we find that the Government is intent on extracting the last ounce from an industry that it ought to be protecting. I am sure that if, at this time next year, the Government has not had the foresight and decency to remove this impost and assist the dried fruit growers in a more practical way, I shall be raising this matter again.
.- The debate on the estimates for this department concerns a total proposed vote of £1,584,000. Honorable senators will see that, in the breakdown of that figure, £382,000 is proposed for the administrative section of the department. The debate has proceeded on all aspects of primary production, the responsibility for which, so far as it is assumed by the Commonwealth, is borne by the administrative section, for which, as I have said, it is proposed to provide £382,000. Yet, of the total cost of the department, significantly enough the charge for head office administration is the minor part. The major part of the vote is that covered by Division No. 109 - Administration of the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act - for which the proposed vote is £1,059,000; that is, £1,059,000 of a total vote of a little more than £1,500,000, as against a vote last year of slightly more than £1,000,000 and expenditure of slightly less than £1,000,000.
The point that I am making is that the administration of the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act seems to be the major responsibility of the Department of Primary Industry. The administration of the act formerly was the function of the Department of Trade and Customs. My first point is whether the administration of this act is correctly attributed to the Department of Primary Industry. When we look again at the breakdown of the vote for the administration of the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act, we find that £380,447 of the total of £500,000 is for salaries and allowances payable in respect of the employment of 304 meat inspectors, while the sum of £123,151 is to cover the employment of 88 fruit inspection officers, dairy produce inspectors, veterinary officers, dried fruits supervisors, clerks and assistants. It would seem, therefore, that having regard to the allocation of money within the department and the breakdown of the vote for the administration of this act, the act is concerned with primary production and has no other import or implication.
I do not know whether I have misconceived the purport of the statute, and whether, on further study, I may be able to see it in its true light and significance, but my reading of the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act 1905-1950, and its purport so far as Australian exports are concerned, is that it is more or less designed to ensure that our export commodities shall go out attributed to sources, with a standard of purity which meets the requirements of the department, and to prevent fraud to be perpetrated on the customers by whom those goods ultimately are purchased. Section 11 provides -
The words “ trade description “ are defined in section 3, as follows: - “ Trade description,” in relation to any goods, means any description, statement, indication, or suggestion, direct or indirect -
In other words, the operative sections of the act, together with the interpretation sections, obviously imply an application to manufactured goods. Therefore, to find the whole administration of this act vested in a department whose main concern is the stimulation and oversight of primary production seems to me not merely to be a wrong application of the intention of the act, but also to give a slant to its administration without which it would be very much more effective.
We all know that, from time to time. Australian exports, whether they are packed primary products or manufactured articles, come under very severe criticism and stricture in the consumer markets of the world, because their packing is not up to standard, because they are incorrectly described, or because they are not commercially attractive. Although we may discuss, as honorable senators have done here to-day, in an honest and intelligent way the methods of improving the standard of our wheat, dried fruits and other primary commodities, I suggest that the marketing of those commodities is of equal importance, and that a great deal of our physical effort, as well as of our scientific and technical effort, will go to waste unless it is matched by a correspondingly efficient system of marketing.
This act obviously is negative in the sense that it is essentially a policing act. It is an act to prevent wrong descriptions and fraudulent descriptions from being perpetrated on consumers. I asume that, in relation to goods marked for export, there is ample constitutional power in the Commonwealth not merely to insist on inspection and regulation, such as by the” issue of certificates, but also to insist that goods shall be what they purport to be according to their labels and descriptions. I think that it would be worth while for this section of the department, which is costing two-thirds of the total expenditure of the Department of Primary Industry, to be given the positive function of ensuring a great .and necessary improvement in the standard of our preparation of goods for export.
– Does the honorable senator think that, as a practical matter, the legislation could do all that?
– I know that if a manufacturer says, “ I am going to pack my goods in a certain way and I think they will satisfy the market,” it is not easy for a government department to come in and say, “ We do not like that method of packing “.
– The honorable senator appreciates the difficulty?
– I appreciate the difficulty completely, but the alternative thought that crosses my mind is whether it would be possible, in terms .of this .act and in this department, to .establish an .advisory section which might, as does the Bureau of Mineral Resources for the Department of National Development, advise exporters of the way in which ‘they might best act and .of the things that they might do to improve the standard of packaging and the reception of Australian goods on the markets of the world.
I have often heard honorable senators complain in this respect. Only recently I saw a press report to the effect that a person who had just returned from the East had spoken of the unattractiveness of the packaging of Australian goods and their consequent poor reception overseas. The efforts of our primary producers, and the work of our scientists in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization and our technologists generally, are wasted if we fall down at the marketing end. While it is very good to have an act to police trade descriptions from the point of view of fraud and commercial honesty, I do mot think that the act is being given the proper administrative slant by confining the whole of its application within the Department of Primary Industry. The administration of the act seems to me to be as much the responsibility of a department interested in secondary industry as it is that of the Department of Primary Industry. It is extraordinary that such a large proportion of the allocation of wages, salaries and allowances should go towards the employment of 304 inspectors whose only function, apparently, is to supervise the standard of meat and to mark carcases going to export markets. I do not know whether it was wise to take the administration of the act from the Department of Trade and Customs - and from the new Department of Trade - and place it in the hands of the Department of Primary Industry. The Minister is always generous in reply, and I should be grateful if he could devote a little of the time still remaining to indicate whether there is substantial validity in my suggestion that the Government should consider expanding the ambit of the act and giving it a new administrative -home where it can be implemented fully instead of in its present specific and slightly limited way, especially in regard to the field of intensive and specialized primary production.
– I wish to direct my remarks to the vote for the Department of Primary Industry, which this year is to be -increased to £1,584,000, or £11.8,000 more than last year’s actual expenditure of £1,466,000. First, I should like to congratulate the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) upon the important work which he is doing for the nation. As honorable senators know, after the last election, the Department of Primary Industry was set up by the Government to take over some of the functions of the Department of Commerce and Agriculture. I think it can be fairly said that since the recent war primary industry has gone ahead by leaps and bounds. I am amazed at the suggestion of honorable senators opposite, and especially of Senator Brown, that it is the Australian Labour party which looks after the working farmer. I should like to know the definition of a non-working farmer.
– You are an example-
– If the honorable senator wishes to become personal I must explain that I was born on a farm and later became a farmer myself. Every farmer of my acquaintance who has ever been successful has had to work. Australia’s sheep population is at least 50 per cent, greater than it was eight or nine years ago though, as an honorable senator mentioned earlier, the number of persons employed on farms has not greatly increased. The important new factor is mechanisation. I propose for a moment to evaluate the contribution that it has made to increased production. The number of tractors on rural holdings iri June, 1956, was 201,849 - an increase of 381 per cent, on the 1943 figure. As a result of mechanization a farmer can put thousands of acres under crop in a very short time. In the old days of the horse-drawn plough the work took him much longer and involved a great deal more labour. [Quorum formed]. Then, two or three teams of horses and several men would have taken six or eight weeks to do what can now be done by a couple of tractors in two or three weeks.
We are entering upon a new era of farming. More and more land is cleared each year. This is especially apparent as one travels throughout Australia, in the southwest of Western Australia, and the southeast of South Australia, the use of tractors and bull dozers has enabled areas of 10,000 or 15,000 acres to be cleared and put under pasture in a way that would not have been possible years ago. The members of the Australian Labour party, before criticizing the Government, should go a little more deeply into “what has been done during the last eight or “nine years to tackle production problems in Australia. They have drawn attention to the present drought. It is interesting to note that ‘we have a surplus of wheat which, if necessary, can be used to offset the effects of the drought. As Senator Gorton has said, when the Wheat Storage Bill was introduced a few years ago, honorable senators opposite protested loudly and asked the. Government to control acreage.
– The protest came from your own colleagues,,
– Those who protested were supported by honorable senators opposite, t want how to direct attention to the number of flax mills in operation, and the losses being sustained as the result of the continuance of the control Of pro1duction by the present Flax Production Commission. In 1939, when war broke out, the Flax Production Committee was set up by the then government to ensure that flax fibre was produced in quantities adequate for defence needs. When the war ended it was intended to carry on the industry. An endeavour has been made in the last three or four years to help the industry with bounties and assistance of that nature totalling £50,000 or £60,000 a year.
During the war about 70,000 acres were being planted. Now the acreage has declined consider ably and the Flax Production Commission is losing, including the bounty about S ISO,000 a year. The Government in its desire to dispose of its ‘flax mills actually called tenders for them throughout Australia. Only one of them was sold, and that was sold in Western Australia to Blackwood Flax Co-operative Ltd. That company “has had a little trouble inasmuch as a severe flood came a couple of years ago and caused a considerable amount of damage. But the company believes that it can produce flax at a profit. I suggest to the Government that it call tenders for the remaining flax mills which ate scattered throughout the various States with a view to Selling them to private enterprise. Failing that, it should close them down.
– The ‘Government has been trying to do that for years.
– I know. If the Government cannot sell them, my theory is that they should be closed down. They were started in the interests of defence. I do not believe that they have the same defence value ta-day. I know that the spinners require in the vicinity of 1,600 ton’s to 2,500 tons of flax fibre a year. 1 think that the mills in Australia are capable of producing that. But, somehow or other, because they have been placed under the Government, they are losing an excessive amount of money. Therefore I suggest that they should be sold at a very reasonable figure in order to let the people interested in flax production have the opportunity of carrying on the industry. I am informed that if the flax mill at Boyupbrook receives a bounty in the vicinity of £65 a ton it can, with reasonable seasons, show a profit to its shareholders. If that can be done in Western Australia, there is no reason why it cannot be done in the other States by the efforts of private enterprise.
– How many mills are there altogether?
– There are eight or nine operating at the present time. None of them is in Queensland. Most of them are in Victoria and I think that one of them is in South Australia.
During the war I had occasion to visit some of the. flax mills. They played an important part in the war-time economy. Prior to the war, as we all know, Britain procured most of its flax fibre from Russia and Germany. It could not get it from those sources during the war. Therefore Australia was required to grow flax. But the war has now been over for a considerable number of years and I do not believe it is in the interests of the Australian economy for the Government to go on losing the taxpayers’ money to the extent of £150,000 a year in order to keep an uneconomic industry afloat. Therefore, we can sell our mills to the private people who are interested. We can still pay a bounty to keep the flax mills going. I feel quite confident that there are people in Australia who are prepared to invest in these mills if they are sold cheaply enough. This would eliminate the necessity to find this amount of money that we have to provide every year to keep our flax mills operating. Getting back to the subject of production, I have looked at some of the figures concerning the sugar industry of Australia.
– Order! The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– The Senate has not very much more time to waste on this proposed vote of £1,500.000. We have already spent about four hours on it and by 1 1 o’clock we have to decide on the expenditure of over £100,000.000 so what I have to say will be very brief. I want to remove the impression that the Government constantly seems to desire to create, and that is that we on this side of the chamber are not sympathetic to those who are engaged in primary industry. Senator Wade, at the beginning of his remarks, sarcastically referred to the Australian Labour party by saying that it was refreshing to realize that we on this side of the chamber were showing some interest in the condition of the farmer and of primary industry generally. I want to tell Senator Wade and other honorable senators opposite that it was really the Labour party that lifted the Australian farmer out of bondage, and put him on a businesslike footing.
If time permitted I could give ample evidence to confirm what I say. The Queensland Government was the first in the world to deal with orderly marketing and the creation of commodity boards which enabled the farmer to control the marketing of his own product. From that day onwards the conditions of the man on the land have gradually improved. In the early days the farmers owed the banks nearly £500,000,000 and their conditions were deplorable. I invite honorable senators opposite to mention one thing that this Government or any Liberal-Australian Country party Government has done that has been of great benefit to the man on the land.
– The Paterson butter scheme.
– That was not the idea of a Liberal-Australian Country party government. It emanated from Mr. Paterson himself and had the support of the Labour party and of governments throughout the length and breadth of Australia. I do not want to go back to those old days of drudgery. I have been a farmer all my life and I know the conditions of the man on the land. We used to work long hours for very little. When people in secondary industry in Victoria were working a 44-hour week the farmers were working nearly double that time. So, the conditions of the man on the land in the early days were deplorable. In my day, those who engaged in primary pursuits were mostly nomads. Few married men worked on the farms. There were no married men working in the industry. At that time in Queensland, you would be reluctant to let anybody know that you were engaged in the farming industry, because conditions were so bad. However, the Labour party realized that if the conditions of the people who worked in primary industry were to be any good at all, the farmers would have to get decent prices for their products. The prices the farmers were receiving were so low that they were unable to pay a decent wage to anybody employed in the industry. To-day that has all changed, because the economy of the farming industry was stabilized by Labour governments, particularly the Queensland Labour government.
I can remember when conditions in the sugar industry were as bad as those in any country where black labour was employed. When black labour was abolished in Queensland and white men were employed in the industry, the white men at first worked under black conditions. The Labour party realized that if people engaged in the industry were to get anything like a decent spin, then the men who were growing sugar cane had to receive a reasonable price for their product. The Labour party has adopted that policy ever since. It has never varied it for 40 years. That policy was brought into existence by a Labour government in the Federal Parliament and a Labour government in the Queensland Parliament. A similar policy has been applied to other primary industries. It was the Labour party which really took up the cudgels on behalf of the man on the land.
Senator Cooper interjects, but he knows that what I am saying is quite correct. When the Country party first came into existence, I said to myself, “ Here is a party which will do something for the man on the land “, but before very long it was swallowed by the big interests in this country. There is no question at all about that. How can a party which represents the farming community or the primary producers be closely associated with profiteering importers? How can the members of the Country party, if they have the interests of the farming community at heart, sit side by side with those who represent the large importing companies which have done so very little for primary industry?
There is one other matter to which 1 desire to make reference. We hear a lot from the Government about the great agricultural potential of Australia, but I am alarmed because there is no future in this country for a great number of the young students who are taking courses in agricultural science at our universities. They, too, are becoming alarmed. I know of a man who is one of the most prominent agricultural scientists in Australia. He was sent to
Colombo for five years, on an important mission, at a very high salary. Although he is a doctor of agriculture and a pathologist with the highest credentials, he was unable to obtain a position in Australia on his return. If we want Australia to be a great agricultural country, men like that should be able to find suitable employment with the Government or with some organization or institution associated with agriculture. Not enough young men are entering the universities for the purpose of studying agriculture and rural sciences simply because, in this country, there is nothing offering for such people when they graduate.
The Government has no policy in regard to agriculture. I ask honorable senators opposite to tell me one thing the Government has done directly to assist the industries about which I have been speaking. There is no doubt that our primary industries have been strengthened indirectly by the expansion and establishment of secondary industries in this country, because that process has provided our primary producers with larger markets for their products. The greater number of employees of secondary industry and the continually growing population have helped to strengthen the economy of the rural industries, but I say in all seriousness that this Government has no real policy with regard to agriculture, or indeed with regard to anything else. All that it has done has been to trust to providence and a policy of improvization from day to day. Its policy has been to make a stab at controlling imports every now and again, which has merely disturbed the business and industrial life of the country.
– That is absolute rot.
– It is fact. The most important duty of a government is to focus the minds of the people engaged in industry on their responsibilities. This Government is nothing but a rabble. It has not encouraged a better effort by any section of the people. That is one of the reasons why we are in our present position. We are dependent on the elements. I am sorry that Senator Wade is not in the chamber because I do not like to speak about a man when he is absent. He ridiculed the idea of a drought causing adversity in this country, but only last week I travelled oven thousands of, miles of drought-stricken country, where thousands of sheep and cattle are dying. Senator Wade- knows only his little, cabbage patch of Victoria. We could, put seven Victorias into Queensland and still not find them. He- assesses the general- situation by reference to his bright little spot in Victoria, but this is a large, country. Let me tell him.- that the drought in Australia is very serious indeed.
If the Government is wise, it will pray for rain, although I doubt whether its prayers will be heard. It is only the disunity of the Labour party that has kept the Government in office. The Government’s policy of improvisation and its constant interruption of business and industrial activities, coupled with- high direct and indirect taxation, have- led to- such high- pro*duction costs in this- country that it is difficult- for our primary, industries to compete with primary industries in other parts of, the world. This sort of thing has been going on for the past eight or nine years.
Senator Gorton has said that the Labour party wants to regiment people and tell them -what to do. It wants to do nothing of the. kind. The Labour party was in office during a period when there had to be some regimentation in order to make the few things that we had go round: That was the right attitude to adopt at that time. But this Government has Been in office during a long run of good seasons. As far as action is concerned, I know of no action on the part of the Government that has had the effect of strengthening the economy of the country or of encouraging the people to understand their obligations and responsibilities. That is what is needed to make this country what it should be, but I do not see any chance of such a thing happening while the country is controlled by the present Government. 1 say that in all sincerity.
– At this late hour I shall not speak at any great length, but I should like to deal with one or two aspects of the subject’ under discussion. The remarks of Senator Courtice were ridiculous in the extreme. His contention that this Government has no continuing policy, in regard to primary industrywill not stand examination. The record of; the Government speaks for itself. I do not think that- the record of any previous’ government’ is better- than’ the- record of this-
Government since it came into power’ in 1-949.- The. less said about the part theQueensland Labour government played’ in. the: development of: primary industry in- that State- the better. The honorable senator referred to the Queensland Marketing Act.
– It is a pity the Commonwealth did not have one.
– If ever there was a blot on a government, that act is an outstanding example. It gives the State Government the right of confiscation. Would that. Government use it? If legislation similar to that were enacted and’ put into operation in other States, there would be a revolution. I- should like to take this opportunity to remark on the complete change of heart on the part of honorable senators opposite in their approach to1 primary producers- and rural production generally. Several of those honorable senators, including Senators G’-Byrne-and Brown; have advocated that we should extend- our markets overseas, particularly in the East and Far East, for meat, butter, wheat, and’ so on: I- cannot understand- the point. of> view expressed by those honorable senatorsbecause, only recently, when the Parliament was dealing with the trade agreement with Japan - one of the most important agreements that we have entered into during, the-, present Government’s term of office,, and one. which, I. think, will be a pronounced success - they advanced arguments, against it. They said that it would ruin secondary industry and be responsible for throwing, tens of thousands of . Australian workers out of employment. They stressed the. very. . bad effect- it would have on Australia.
– We are not- out of the wood yet.
– Because those, honorable senators made such statements, I cannot understand their changed attitude to-night. They have just expressed themselves -in favour’ of extending markets in the East, whereas, a few weeks ago, they argued that the trade agreement with Japan’ would do an immense amount of harm. The Labour government, in 1945, issued ‘a WhitePaper’ dealing with the subject of- full employment. In that document that government laid emphasis on the Labour party’s.policy in regard to secondary- industry-, and’: only in an offhand way referred’ to war service-land settlement: There was not much?.’ in that White. Paper with respect to the expansion of. primary industries. I have always held the opinion that the Labour party is not particularly sympathetic towards the primary producers or towards, rural production generally.
I pay tribute to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) and his very able and efficient staff for. the work they have done in the development of. primary industry. I appreciate the attention they have given- tb’ marketing, and’ to production generally. Markets abroad- have received’ their- close attention and since, the present Minister) took over that, department the development- of marketing and the expansion of; production in rural industry have received the greatest, possible . attention. In passing, I wish to say something, about wool. It. is important that. Australia should not. only maintain . its market for. wool in the United Kingdom, but also- seek, out and develop new markets. The raising, of. the bank rate, in England, recently from 5 per. cent, to 7 per. cent, will bring, new problems for. the wool industry in the coming- season. The financing of stocks will become much. more, difficult. World patterns are changing in many respects and government, policies will, have an effect on primary industry. All our rural industries should pull together and. maintain exports of primary products to the fullest possible extent. That can be done only if primary production, is maintained at the highest level. We all know the value- of wool to our economy and’ the high standard of living- that it makes possible. In addition,, it helps considerably to maintain, our secondary industries. In fact, secondary industry to-day is depending on the export of wool and other primary products. We literally ride on the sheep’s back.
.- Senator Scott, in his contribution to this debate, referred to the flax industry. No doubt he is well acquainted with the flax industry to-day.
– He used to grow flax.
– I do not doubt that for one moment. He may have been acquainted with the flax industry in past years just as he may have been acquainted with the manufacture of munitions and aeroplanes in past years. If. we find., it. necessary to-day to manufacture aeroplanes and munitions for the defence of. this country, we should find it just as- essential to grow flax and process it for defence purposes, particularly when we. are unable to get it from any other part of the world. Likewise, if it is necessary to manufacture munitions and develop the aluminium in-r dustry as part of our defence preparations, it is just as much a defence necessity, that, the flax-growing industry should be, con:tinued and developed.- If. Senator Scott, or any other senator- on. the Government side,, argues that we should dispose of the flax industry and close down the processing factories, he must, show that the flax industry, is not essential from. a. defence point of view.
– But there is not a war in progress now.
– That is so. But why does the honorable senator support the continuation and development of the aluminium industry for tha purpose of manufacturing aeroplanes and other- war requirements? The1 Government, is spending up. to £200,000,000 a year on defence. The Labour government considered that flax was. just as essential as munitions in a time of war. Unless it can be shown to the contrary, flax- is still: just as essential, to defence as> the’ manufacture of munitions and aeroplanes and other war equipment, for. which the. aluminium industry supplies materials. lt the honorable senator claims that because’ we are not now at war we should abandon the flax- industry, it is just as logical, te suggest that the aluminium industry, the- manufacture of rocket planes, and the’ development of missiles at Maralinga and: other forms of defence production should be closed down. Huge sums of money are being spent on other items as well. The flax industry is an important factor in defence preparation. It would be very unwise to wipe it out.
I happen to know how long it took to establish the flax industry, and the teething troubles which it experienced. The Labour government had to go to considerable trouble and expense to help the Miller and Kennear organizations ia Victoria; it had to take over their property and plant and help to put them on a proper working basis. Do honorable senators opposite suggest that all the experience gained in flaxgrowing and production should now be scrapped? If another war comes we will be short of various materials essential for defence. We will not be able to import flax. If we manufacture other items which we cannot import, it is just as logical to process flax, because in the event of war we will not be able to import it. I say that, in another war, flax would be just as essential as the aluminium that is being produced in Tasmania to-day. The aluminium industry was established in that State as a defence project to serve the country should a crisis occur again, because we should never be caught again with our pants down as we were at the outbreak of the last war. It is for that reason that I say to Senator Scott that before he suggests closing down an industry which costs probably £100,000 a year-
– The amount is £150,000 a year.
– The expenditure on the flax industry is £150,000 and the defence allocation is £200,000,000. Senator Scott should think of the money spent on other defence projects before he recommends that the flax industry be abandoned.
I do not say that the Labour government did an immensely better job for, or took a great deal more interest in, primary production than other governments have done, but I do say that no one should attempt to take any credit from the Labour government for what it has done for primary producers. It is quite true that a Liberal government fostered the Paterson butter scheme, as suggested earlier by Senator Cooper by way of interjection. Under that plan, butter was sold in Tasmania and other States at twice the price for which it was sold overseas, and the return to the grower represented an equalization of export price and home consumption price. The scheme was calculated to help the dairying industry, but I emphasize that the Liberal Government did not contribute one penny piece to the industry by way of bounty or in any other way. It was left to a Labour government to provide urgently needed assistance. But I do not want to praise the Labour government. Let us see what a Tory newspaper said about a Labour government.
The following passage, taken from the Victorian “ Wheat Grower “ of 23rd December, 1948, was the Christmas message of the president of the Wheat Growers Federation to that newspaper: -
We have laid at long last the foundation for a degree of stability and future security hitherto unknown to the industry and we have established the principle of the grower’s right to receive his costs of production plus a profit on the basis of a cost index. This, I claim, is a very appropriate Christmas gift for 1948.
Can anybody say that the Victorian “ Wheat Grower “ is a Labour publication? It certainly is not, yet that was its comment after the Labour Government had introduced its wheat stabilization plan which gave to wheat-growers, for the first time in a quarter of a century, some measure of security.
I am pleased to be able to say that the present Government, which followed us, has done nothing to jeopardize the foundation for security that was laid by its predecessor, the Labour government. I give it all credit fr that, but at the same time, honorable senators opposite must not seek to take credit from the Labour party by asserting that Labour is prejudiced against primary industry. Primary industry was down and out prior to our attaining office. We put it on its feet and the present Government had the good sense to continue the policy laid down by Labour, thereby keeping this industry on its feet.
– However much we may differ on a variety of subjects, it is perfectly obvious that we can all agree on the importance of primary industry to the Australian economy. For the last five and a half hours we have been discussing the Department of Primary Industry which is one of a group of important departments. Our consideration of the Department of Primary Industry will probably prevent the discussion of the proposed votes for a number of other departments, because their estimates are to be adopted by 1 1 o’clock to-night.
I do not wish to delay the committee but there are one or two things upon which I think I should comment. In presenting his yearly plea on behalf of the fishing industry, Senator Kendall referred to the incidence of the petrol tax and suggested that it caused some hardship to those members of the fishing industry who used petrol. I think he overlooked the fact that under the provisions of the relevant act fishermen are not denied benefit from that. tax. It is within the province of State governments to spend money on boat harbours and other works of that nature from which the fishing industry could benefit considerably. Indeed, 1 remember that only one or two years ago the Victorian Government came in for severe criticism on the score, not that it was not spending money on boat harbours, but that it was spending too much on those works to the disadvantage of road users.
Senator Kendall referred also to the fishing trawler which the Department of Primary Industry is considering purchasing for research purposes. I can assure him that the vessel purchased will be most suitable and most adequate for the purpose.
– Where is it to be based?
– I believe it is to bc based at Port Adelaide. It is a British trawler. It will be purchased in the United Kingdom, and the decision has been made after consultations lasting for some months between the United Kingdom fisheries authorities and our fisheries officers. All the advice I have received leads me to believe that the vessel will be suitable and adequate in every way.
– Can you say that the research work and the exploratory work done with this vessel will extend westward to enable Western Australian fishermen to participate in the benefits derived from the work of the vessel?
– I understand it will operate in the Great Australian Bight, and I assume that much of the information gained will be of value to Western Australian fishermen. I repeat that the vessel is to be based at Port Adelaide.
asked whether applegrowers were directly represented on the committee of the Australian Shippers Association. I regret that I am not in a position to give him that information. The matter comes under the administration of my colleague, the Minister for Trade (Mr. McEwen) and I am not sure of the representation on that committee. Primary producers, of course, are represented, but I am not sure whether apple-growers are directly represented. I do know that Mr. McEwen has directed his attention to the composition of this committee and to the question of seeing that primary producers who use ships do receive adequate representation on it.
asked me why an embargo had been placed on shark-fishing in Bass Strait in recent days. I am informed that a halt was called to shark-fishing during the month of November, as a conservation measure, on the recommendation of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. This action was taken only after consultation with the Governments of New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia, so that il would appear that there was a fairly general aceptance of the view that this was a necessary measure to take at this time.
I know Senator Brown will not mind my saying that he made a speech which amused me, as his speeches always do. He happened, by sheer mischance, I thought, to refer to primary production on one or two occasions. On one of those occasions I was amused and surprised at his condemnation of the air-beef project.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator the Hon. A. D. Reid). - Order! Discussion of that matter was ruled out of order.
– It escaped my attention that you were in the chair at the time, Mr. Chairman. Senator Toohey referred to the poll that was taken recently of Australian dried fruits growers. He made the rather surprising statement that the poll indicated a disinclination on the part of the growers to accept the plan that was submitted by the Commonwealth Government. I am completely at a loss to understand how that conclusion could be drawn from the result of the poll. Only 61 per cent, of those who were entitled to vote actually recorded a vote. If we exclude informal votes, there was a total formal vote of 56 per cent. The total vote in favour of the scheme represented not less than 45 per cent, of those entitled to vote. Although the formal votes cast represented only 56 per cent, of qualified voters, there was almost a majority of those eligible to vote who favoured the scheme. Therefore, Senator
Toohey’s suggestion that there was a disinclination on the part of the growers to accept the scheme suggests at least that he was guilty of a premature and ill-considered opinion.
Senator Byrne posed an interesting proposition upon which I would be reluctant to express a personal view. Nevertheless, what was said in connexion with the operations of the Department of Primary Industry and its administration of the Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Act might well be examined. I assure the honorable senator that I shall ensure that it is referred to the Minister for Primary Industry.
I have been informed by officers of the Department of Primary Industry that it concerns itself, under this act, with marketing boards. In that connexion, it is concerned particularly with the quality of exportable goods, but the Department of Trade, which also has a very great interest in the act, is the agency which looks after such matters as trade demonstrations, publicity and the like. There is, of course, a close connexion between ‘the two activities, and that is immediately apparent. I have been advised that close liaison is maintained between the two departments, and that there is an arrangement which works satisfactorily. Notwithstanding that, the honorable senator made one or two statements which might be examined again. I shall take pleasure in referring them to the Minister.
Senator Courtice, Senator Aylett and my friend, Senator Brown, took the opportunity afforded by the debate to criticize this Government for its general attitude towards primary industry.
– I criticized the Government only on the King Island case to which I have referred before.
– Was that the only matter?
– Yes, that was all.
– Well, I will exclude the honorable senator. I do not know how Senator Courtice and Senator Brown could justify the conclusions that they have reached.
– What did I say?
– I took down the words of the honorable senator. He said that if he had time, he could tell honorable senators what the Labour party had done for the farmers. I suppose that the best answer to such a statement is that the farmers could also tell the Labour party what had happened. I say that because, if anything has been apparent, in recent years at least, it has been the steady and continuing resistance of the farming community to the policies that have been advanced by the Labour party.
– That is due to the Government’s false propaganda about communism.
– Not at all. In 1949, when the Australian Labour party was swept from office, one of the reasons for its defeat was to be found in its agricultural and rural policies. They were completely rejected by the rural community. For eight years since then, the Labour party has been wandering on the Night’s Plutonian shore and saying, “ We are still the party of the farmers “. If the honorable senators opposite want to discover how much the Labour party is the party Of the farmers, they should examine the country representation of the party in this Parliament. How many representatives of the Labour party are returned to this Parliament from the farming community?
Let me be frank and say that the policy df this Government has irritated the farming community at times. I -suppose that sometimes that irritation has been substantially justifiable. However, we should also take into account ‘the fact that the farming community, as a community, takes a lot of pleasing. I cannot remember any time in my life when the farming community has been universally happy about everything, but regardless of the irritation that might have been caused by this Government, the fact remains that the farming community far prefers the policies applied by this Government to the .policies advanced by the Labour party. The .policies of honorable senators opposite are actively feared by the farming community.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Miscellaneous Services - Department of
Proposed Vote, £676,000.
.-^! wish to direct attention to an item of expenditure for last year under Division No. 224. It is shown as “ Legal expenses of Commonwealth intervention - O’sullivan v. Noarlunga Meat Ltd, £3,169 I cannot understand, in the first place, why the Commonwealth Government poked its nose into some fight in South Australia with Noarlunga Meat Limited. Apparently, the fight occurred over some local government matter. I should like the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) to tell me, if he can, for what purpose the money was expended, and I should like to have details.
If the money was paid for legal expenses, did some legal firm receive £3, 1 69 for poking its nose into some court case in South Australia on behalf of the Commonwealth Government? If the money was for travelling expenses, I should like to know how much was actually paid for travelling and other expenses, and what was the result of the Government’s intervention.
– I wish to refer to Division No. 224, Item 1, “Australian Agricultural Council and Standing Committee on Agrisulture - contribution and expenses, £2,000 “. I have mentioned this matter before. Will the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) persuade the Australian Agricultural Council or the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) to release to members of Parliament, at least, the resolutions, minutes and conclusions of the Australian Agricultural Council. I take it that this body, which is composed of the State Ministers for Agriculture and their Directors of Agriculture and the corresponding Commonwealth Minister and his officials, draws up agriculture policy, so that information on its proceedings should be available to the members of this Parliament at all events. I ask the Minister to take up with the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) the question of whether it is possible for us to get that report so that we can see what the Government’s policy is to be before it actually comes into operation.
.- I refer to the proposed vote “ Dairy Industry -Drought relief, £200 “. The vote for this item last year was £1,000 and the actual expenditure was £352. I should say that, in view of the present drought conditions in Queensland, the provision for this purpose should be at least £200,000. Many dairymen have lost a high percentage of their dairy herds already, and I feel sure that before they get any relief rains more of their herds will have died. I shall not make a request that the proposed vote be increased. I shall leave it to members of the Australian Country party on the Government side to do so. To increase it now would avoid the necessity to make a demand on the Treasurer’s Advance later, or to prepare additional estimates to provide for it. Drought conditions in Queensland are appalling, and for the last two months at least stock have been dying. With stock, particularly dairy stock, at its present value, £200 would not buy more than four dairy cows.
– I wish to make a brief reference to the wheat shortage in the eastern States consequent on the poor season now being experienced. We have the rather terrifying spectacle of the eastern States being so short of wheat this season that it will be necessary to import supplies from either Western Australia or Canada. As the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Senator Paltridge) said in the Senate this afternoon in answer to a question of mine it is possible that we may import wheat from Canada for consumption in New South Wales and Queensland. It may be cheaper to bring wheat from Canada to the eastern States than to bring it from Western Australia. Every one has been apprehensive about the high cost of freights on commodities in Australia, which is the biggest adverse factor affecting expansion in this country. The thought that it would cost more to bring wheat from Fremantle to Sydney than from Vancouver to Sydney should make every honorable senator pause and contemplate the future with some alarm. This disparity in freights affects commodities other than wheat. It costs more to bring timber from Bunbury or Fremantle to Melbourne than from Portland, Oregon, to Melbourne.
If we wanted any further demonstration of how serious the situation is we have it to-night, with drought emphasizing just how high freights are throttling the prosperity of this country. It is essential that we solve the problem of high transport costs in a country in which, quite obviously, transport is of the very essence of our prosperity.
I am well aware, although 1 may not speak directly on this subject during this debate, that the very competent Minister for Shipping and Transport has taken up the matter of rail gauges in an attempt to solve the transport problem. In the last 50 years, shipping freights have generally been cheaper than rail freights or any other freights. Now we find that they are at least as expensive as, and probably more expensive than, other freights. I cannot understand why rail freights are so high, and I feel that there is a solemn obligation on every honorable senator to look at this question and to assist in averting the calamity that threatens us, because it is perfectly obvious that if freights continue to rise our progress as a nation will be in jeopardy. I have raised this question because I think it is of great importance to us.
– Senator O’Flaherty asked me a question regarding the provision for legal expenses of Commonwealth intervention in the case of O’sullivan v. Noarlunga Meat Limited. The amount voted for this purpose last year was £3,922 which was for costs of intervention by the Commonwealth in a test case on the sale of meat from South Australia. A constitutional issue was involved and it was the preservation of the constitution which led to Commonwealth intervention, and not just a meddlesome desire on the part of the Commonwealth to poke its nose into somebody else’s business. I understand that the amount was paid to the Crown Solicitor for the employment of counsel.
I shall be pleased to refer again to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr. McMahon) the matter raised by Senator Seward regarding the making available of the report of the proceeds of the Australian Agricultural Council to members of Parliament.
asked a question about drought relief for the dairy industry. The provision shown against this item is the Commonwealth’s share of the past losses sustained by dairy farmers in Queensland during droughts. The cost of half of these losses is being met by the Commonwealth. As assistance was given by means of loans the payments will be spread over a number of years. For 1956-57 the payments totalled £19,293. I point out to Senator Benn that if it is desired, as a matter of government policy, to extend further relief for drought that can be done. This item refers to payments made in respect of past droughts.
I appreciate Senator Vincent’s concern about wheat supplies and freights. I do not think I can add anything now to what 1 said in answer to a number of questions on this matter earlier to-day. However, the honorable senator may be interested to know that, as I have said before, the whole position is now under consideration by the Government and recommendations will be put to the next meeting of Cabinet.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote - Bounties and Subsidies, £13,500,000 - agreed to.
Department of Air.
Proposed Vote, £58,021,000.
.- Mr. Chairman-
– Order! The time allotted for the consideration of the proposed vote, and proposed votes for Department of Supply, £15,318,000; Department of Defence Production, £12,372,000; and Commonwealth Railways, £4,207,000, has expired.
Proposed votes agreed to.
Motion (by Senator O’sullivan) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till to-morrow at 11 a.m.
Senate adjourned at 11.1 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 October 1957, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1957/19571029_senate_22_s11/>.