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Friday, 5 April 1946

Mr FROST (Franklin) (Minister for Repatriation) . - I support these three bills. It is essential that greater power be conferred on the Commonwealth. I agree with the honorable member for "Wimmera (Mr. Turnbull) that we cannot live in the past, and I trust that none of us desires to do so. The honorable member said that he would not oppose the maternity allowance, child endowment, and widows' pensions, and ho predicted that the validity of these enactments would never be challenged. But it might be challenged; and should the challenge succeed, we would revert to past conditions. The rearing of a family imposes great hardship on the parents. 1 hope to see the child endowment much higher than it is now. I admit that it was introduced by the parties that now sit in Opposition, and I give credit to them on that account ; but the amount was raised by the present Government from 5s. to 7s. 6d. a week, and it must go higher. I was reared in a district where there were large families, and am familiar with the conditions against which they had to struggle. When I was being reared, my parents had to struggle hard, and a child endowment would have been most acceptable to them. During the rearing of my family, my wife and I, having put the children to bed, had to pack apples until late at night, in order to make sufficient to pay the interest on the mortgage on our farm. Our economic position ought to have been sufficiently secure to obviate our having* to do that. Child endowment provides a measure of security for the women by whom it is drawn. A man who was chairman of a meeting in my electorate during the las; election campaign admitted to having a family of twenty. It cannot be contended that large families are not of great benefit to the country; but whereas they were the order of the day at one time, they are now practically non-existent. If women lose the fear of economic iri? security they will again produce large families. Always in the back of their ininds is the fear that something might happen to the breadwinner - unemployment, accident, or death - in which event the family would be left without provision for their future. If the powers now being sought are conferred on the Commonwealth, it will be able to provide a measure of security. The honorable member for Wimmera said that the Government, under extended powers, might nationalize the medical profession. It is not necessary to do that. In Tasmania, members of the medical profession are subsidized to attend to people in outback districts, and the system has proved most successful. About eighteen years ago, in a milling district in the lower part of my electorate, a man told me that when his wife was ill the doctor whom he summoned had to leave his car 3 miles distant from the home, and before examining the woman wanted to be paid £15 for his visit. He was taken inside the home and shown that the larder was practically empty. Two children were in bed, with a covering of only one blanket The father told the doctor that he was not in a position to pay the fee that had been asked, and the doctor insisted that his wife should be removed to hospital in order that she might receive the medical attention that she needed. Steps to this end were taken, but she died before entering the institution. Happenings of that kind convinced the Government of Tasmania of the necessity to provide medical attention for those who were pioneering the outlying districts of the State. I heard one honorable member say that if a free medical service were provided for everybody, the use- of it would be twice as great as the calls that are now made on the medical profession. I was reared in a district in which medical aid could not be obtained free of charge, and because of the poor circumstances of most families, a person had to be on the verge of death before' a doctor would be summoned to attend to him. Under the Tasmania n scheme, medical men visit the- schools, and also conduct periodica] examinations of families in outlying districts. We should provide better conditions for all our people than were provided for our predecessors. That is why the Government desires to be empowered to legislate in respect of social services. If a succeeding government set out to reduce taxation, it might be inclined to discontinue some of the existing services in order to balance its budget. So long as their validity remains doubtful, it would be an easy matter to have the .legislation challenged. If the position were made constitutionally secure, no government would be able to do that. I hope that every elector will give an affirmative vote on the first question, whatever may be done in regard to the other two. The honorable member for Wimmera claimed that the primary producers want to have freedom to market their produce. He has been an auctioneer, and I presume has always endeavoured to get the best prices for .his client. I have been a farmer. I have shipped fruit to England for the last 40 or 45 years, and have had to accept whatever prices were realized. I lost control of the fruit after it had been packed. The aim of the Government is to make the mass of the people contented. In my early days we had to hire labour at the cheapest price possible, at less than a living wage, really, ' because we could not afford to pay more. Living was hard

On the farms then. We are now hoping to make conditions better, but that will be possible only if farm products can be sold at just prices.

Mr TURNBULL (WIMMERA, VICTORIA) - Is the present price of 5s. 2d. a bushel for wheat f.o.b. a fair indication of what is likely to happen under the new system?

Mr FROST - If the wheat brings more than 5s. 2d. on the open market the farmers will get more. I can remember when the Scullin Government's proposal to guarantee 4s. a bushel for wheat was defeated in the Senate on the vote of two Country party members. Afterwards, in 1931, I saw wheat sold in the Riverina at ls. lOd. a bushel. In fact, there was practically no- market at all for wheat.

Mr TURNBULL (WIMMERA, VICTORIA) - Does not the Minister think that the minimum- stable price should be the co3t of production, plus a reasonable margin of profit?

Mr FROST - I do, and that is what we are trying to get. It must be understood that, if the workers are to be paid decent wages* the producers' must be guaranteed reasonable prices for their' commodities. With organized marketing, that is possible. So far as I have ever been able to learn, the world has never overproduced primary products. I was- in

England in 1935, and saw wheat being sold at 2s. 6d. and 2s. 7d. a bushel. 1 was. told that the price was low because there was a huge- surplus of wheat. I asked whether the surplus was in England, and was told that there was not much wheat in England, but that there was a huge surplus in Canada and in Russia. A little later I spent two months in Russia, where I learned that the season had been unduly wet and the harvest poor. There was no surplus of wheat there. When I returned to England I said to a merchant, "You said that there was a big surplus of wheat in Russia. Well, there is not". He replied, " It doesn't matter. There is a big surplus in Canada ". I travelled back to Australia via Canada, and there I learned that, because of the drought in the United- States of America,. Canadian wheat was being sent to that country, and prices were rising. In 1936, I spoke to the right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) just before he left for Great Britain, and said to him, "Before you return the price of wheat will be 4s. a bushel ". He laughed, and said, " Neither you nor I will ever again see wheat selling at 4s. a bushel " ; and he talked of the huge surplus of wheat .throughout the world. All the storied about surpluses were invented just to put something over the people. When I was in England, the surplus was supposed to be in Russia. Then it was supposed to be in Canada, and so on. I was never able to catch up with that surplus. Before the right honorable member for Cowper returned to Australia, wheat was selling at 5s. a bushel.

Mr Archie Cameron - Russia has not been in the wheat export market for over twenty years.

Mr FROST - I am relating what the merchants told1 me when I was in England.

Mr Archie Cameron - The CornTrade Review has been published every week for the last 100 years, and it gives figures regarding stocks of wheat held in every country.

Mr FROST - Perhaps, but are' the figures correct? I do not believe that they always are. I have had experience of the alleged surplus of hops in Tasmania. In 19'3i, the buyers said that there was a surplus of8,000 bales. We made a contract with Guinness, in Dublin, to take our entire surplus, and when we went to make the shipment we had difficulty in assembling 3,000 bales.

Mr Archie Cameron - The honorable member will admit that there was a surplus of apples in Tasmania in 1940.

Mr FROST - Yes, but there was no surplus on the mainland, or throughout the world. At the present time, there is in Tasmania a surplus of apples and potatoes, but that is because we cannot get ships to take them away. Last year, millions of bushels of apples were ploughed in in Tasmania. On my own -orchard alone I ploughed in 5,000 bushels.

Mr Archie Cameron - Are the growers paid for what is ploughed in?

Mr FROST - Yes; under the Apple and Pear Acquisition Act, they are paid a small amount for fruit which is not harvested. I hope that the Commonwealth will be given the power which it needs to legislate in regard to employment. If the Commonwealth is able to legislate directly on such matters that power will make for much greater contentment among the workers. The Government is asking for definite powers for the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate in respect of employment, organized marketing and social services. Surely no one can question the right of the Commonwealth to deal with, such matters.

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