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Tuesday, 9 April 1946

Mr POLLARD (BALLAARAT, VICTORIA) -- And " Old . Man Merchant ".

Mr HAYLEN - That is so. "Old Man Mortgage" absorbed ' from one-fifth to three-fifths of the income of the farmers. During the war when it became necessary to have orderly marketing, this figure became wraith-like by comparison with what it was in pre-war years, for £60,000,000 of the farmers' debts has been paid off. During the four years of war the farmer was able' to ease that stranglehold on his throat. The farmer, particularly the poor farmer who has not had much opportunity to establish himself, has looked upon orderly marketing as his salvation. In my view, members of the Australian Country party have a "hill-billy" philosophy, 50 years behind the times, when they dare to interpret the' farmer as they do in this House. The Minister for Post-war Reconstruction (Mr. Dedman) recently showed us that the number of farmer taxpayers in every group of income, from £250 to £5,000, had at least doubled since the introduction of orderly marketing of primary products that wasbrought into being during the war. Many specious arguments have been advanced about this problem of orderly marketing; it has been tossed about in the political cockpit and has been fought over by various interests. I am sure that the only farmers who conscientiously oppose it are those from O'Connell-street, Sydney. There is. logically no argument against the unassailable fact that it is better to have orderly marketing under which the farmer has some knowledge of what is going to happen to him and where he will stand than a system of free marketing. When members of the Australian Country party discuss this question they get tremendously technical and avoid the simple issue of whether it is good or bad for the farmers. Their arguments as to what the term " orderly" actually means and their question, " What is a rural product?" remind me of the query in Punch, "What is a policeman?" Of course, to such questions there are no answers ; they are just funny and just " phoney ".

The third bill, which deals with the future of the worker, to my mind is the most important under discussion. First of all 'we have social benefits, next the welfare of the farmer, and, finally, the welfare of the worker. Not so long ago there was an implied contract that industry would bring about a new order for the workers, but little is said about it by those controlling industry today. However, we have to pay the first instalment of that new order by approaching the question of the future of the worker from the point of view of the future of this country. It is one of hours, of additional wages to provide the escape from rising price levels, and of the workers' leisure. We have heard much of the "horse and buggy " constitution. Are we not endeavouring to run industry to-day by horseandbuggy standards? Notwithstanding the tremendous strides that have, been made in the means of production, and the fact that to-day we are living in the age of the atomic bomb, we still talk of conditions of labour that operated in 1910. What treaty or agreement have we to make with the machine if man is to survive? There have been a thousand tomes written about the machine age and its impact on the worker. We still have to deal with that situation and the only way is to acknowledge the ability of the machine to do the work, and then consider what hours a man should work each week, and what wage should be paid to him, having regard to 'he cost of living. Quoting Henry Wallace the other day, 'the Prime Minister said, " This is the age of the common man ". This is undoubtedly the age when the common nian will demand his rights, and those are' the things he is seeking - and getting - in other parts of the world. The common man seeks co-operation of the world in the solution of his problems, and only when he gets reasonable conditions, hours- and pay he wants you to slough off for all time the idea that the worker is only a tired animal. The leisure of the common man should be assured to him. If he fails to get these things undoubtedly there will be all sorts' of industrial disturbances, and eventually we mav get a new order in reverse instead of the dramatic objective we envisage.

In my view the three bills represent the irreducible minimum which any government could submit to a referendum of the people because they will permit the country to proceed with a progressive policy. The Government has wisely selected the three salient questions which are in the minds of the people to-day. They deal with social security, our great primary products and the vexed problem of wages and hours. These questions must be solved, and if they are approached in an honest way they will be solved. I commend the Government and ' the- Minister for External Affairs (Dr. Evatt) for their courage in incorporating them in the bills now before us in the simplest possible terms for the people of this country to understand and appreciate.

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