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Thursday, 4 April 1946

Mr ADERMANN (Maranoa) . - I was interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Hume " (Mr. Fuller). He made almost exactly the same speech in 1944, and the people gave him his answer. His statement that the Opposition opposes every referendum proposal of the Labour party, calls to my mind the 1937 marketing referendum. At that time I travelled through country districts of Queensland for six weeks, organizing in support of the prop'osals, which the Queensland Labour party had decided to support. The then. Premier, Mr. Forgan Smith, .spoke in the Brisbane Town Hall in support of an affirmative vote, but his audience practically howled him down. That was the end of the campaign. Labour members df the Queensland Parliament who had agreed to assist in the campaign, and for whom I was organizing, pulled out without even the courtesy of saying why. Democracy as we know it gives to the people the right to choose the government they will have, to determine the laws under which they shall live, and to amend the charter which dennes the limits within which the Parliament shall legislate. However imperfect that system of government may be, I still prefer it to any other that has been tried elsewhere. Accordingly, in principle, I do not object to proposals for the alteration of the Constitution being submitted to the people for their decision, so long as the Parliament has first agreed as to their nature. It is unfortunate when they bear the imprint of party politics. In 1944, the people were asked to vote for or against seventeen proposals as a whole. The Opposition sought to amend the legislation then introduced, so as to provide for their submission under three sections - those on which there was agreement between parties; those that were open to argument; and those that . were contentious - but the Government declined to accept that amendment, with the result that the people rejected all the proposals. On the present occasion, proposals for the rehabilitation of ex-servicemen, the care of aborigines, and others which at that time were regarded as urgent, have been discarded. The intention evidently is to provide matter that may help the Government to win the next general elections.

I.   propose to deal principally with the second proposal. .Before doing so, however, I \vant to make a passing reference to the first proposal. Undoubtedly, the provision of social services has been supported in principle by all parties in the past, and is unanimously endorsed to-day; but there may be some difference of opinion in regard to the method of giving effect to them. I have advocated more reasonableness in social service activity. There- are some anomalies' which ought to be removed. Even if the powers which the Government seeks to have conferred on the Commonwealth are not granted, the anomalies that I have in mind may be removed. Greater consideration should be shown to those persons who are drawing invalid and old-age pensions. It is universally accepted that it is particularly difficult, in view of the high cost of living, for a nian on the basic wage to make ends meet. When one considers that the oldage pensioner has to live on 32s. 6d. a week, one wonders how he even exists. In principle, I am in favour of abolishing the means test, so that any man who can earn a few shillings may have that much extra on which to live. To-day, the Commonwealth is committed to an expenditure of approximately £'70,000,000 a year in respect of its social service activities. A press report attributed to a government spokesman the statement, that, if the means test were abolished, the expenditure would be increased by £40,000,000 per annum. If that be correct, the receipts' from taxation would be insufficient to meet the cost of the existing social services and those that are in prospect. .Therefore, the matter should be reconsidered, with a view to bringing all social services under one comprehensive scheme that would provide for at least a portion of the cost of living to be met by insurance and superannuation payments. I recognize that both the Commonwealth and the States have some responsibility for the maintenance of public health. It has been suggested that health matters should be controlled exclusively by. the Commonwealth. 1 differ from that view, in relation to hospital administration. In this connexion much good work is being done in the various States. In Queensland, the administration is most sympathetic, and ni.any new hospital buildings have been erected. Compare that with the administration of a Commonwealth public utility such as the post office. With remote control from Canberra, administration becomes too much a matter of form and is not so sympathetic as is desirable in the interests of public health. Local administration is much preferable in connexion with hospital patients.

I come now to the second proposal, for the organized marketing of primary products. I am directly interested in this, because of the decision to submit the matter to the electors as a separate question. I do not regret having supported the principle underlying this proposal in 1937. I believe that I can claim to have been a direct participant in the administration of organized marketing. This system operates in Queensland under the

Primary Products Pools. Act and the' Cooperative Associations Act. Before a commodity board can be established under the Primary Products Pools Act, 60 per cent, of the growers must have declared themselves in favour of it. The voluntary principle is observed under the Cooperative Associations Act, unless the' growers commit themselves by way of contracts. 1 can recall some of 'the conditions that existed in connexion with marketing under the operation of the law of supply and demand. I have never known that system to cause an industry to expand or lo achieve stability. The conditions were more chaotic in the days of our fathers, when the growers had to accept whatever price was . offered for their product. The day has long since passed when primary producers were expected to. approach buyers and say, " What are you prepared to give me for my product? " After all, the product belongs to- the man who grows it, and he has an unchallengable right, to state the price at which he will sell it, just as the. manufacturer or the retailer has the right lo say at what price he will sell his goods. The 'old conditions prompted our fathers, and even some of us, to organize in order to achieve stability in primary industry." I have been engaged in the cause of organization over since I left school. I have had ups and downs, as has everybody else who has worked in that cause. The Queensland legislation covering grower control organizations is about as good as can be found anywhere. T believe that the Government of that State is now prepared to remove whatever anomalies have been revealed. Alterations have been made from time to time to meet changing conditions. A commodity board is established in the most democratic way - by the votes of the people who are directly .interested. I am a supporter of grower-control hoards, and a in not -averse to government representation on them so long as it is in the minority. I say that, because T believe that when a grower's crop is being sold hia views should be given the greatest weight. I am aware of the deficiencies of grower-control boards. A commodity board, when elected, is expected to combine the knowledge and experience of a business man, a banker, a grower, and an adviser to growers. Every elected representative does not possess all of those qualifications. As he is handling money belonging to ether growers, he cannot disburse it at random, but must do his utmost to ensure the success of the organization. If one commodity board, were to fail, it would be a reflection on the entire system. I am pleased that not ohe commodity board in Queensland has failed, and that all of them have done a. good job of work. Of the original seventeen, fifteen are still operating. When, a crop is acquired, the responsibility for itssale rests with the board, which must endeavour to obtain a price that will bepayable to the growers. If a crop will not return a price that is satisfactory to the producers, obviously its production -must be uneconomic, and the industrymust go out of existence unless it receives some assistance. Further, the board must sell the crop at a price at which it can be purchased. If the attempt were made to obtain too high a price, sales would immediately decline. By supplying a crop direct to the consumer from the grower, eliminating unnecessary intermediaries, a lower price prevails than would otherwise be the case. The commodity board is responsible for putting a crop on the market, and must, pay due regard to its quality. In some instances, boards have been slightly careless, but complaints from the public have soon remedied the fault. The small industry of peanutgrowing, with which I 'have been closely associated, has been built up on the quality of the product, and at present it is worth about £750,000 a year to the growers.

The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Chambers) stated that growers everywhere are asking honorable members for a continuation of the present system of control for the orderly marketing of primary products. I asked him what he meant by " orderly marketing " and. he replied, " The present system of control ". I do not know whether he meant the present system of governmental control that has operated during the war period, or whether hefavours grower-controlled boards. I am definitely opposed to the former kind of boards. Such success as was achieved! during the war years by controlled marketing, as it is termed, was brought about because of the foundational work done by the commodity boards prior to the war, and by the co-operative organizations concerned. I say that the wheat scheme has been a failure, but it could not have achieved even as much success as it has, were it not for the fact that the organizations concerned had provided necessary storage for wheat before the war.

Mr Russell - Does ' the honorable member consider that the scheme should be controlled by the merchants?

Mr ADERMANN - I am not interested in them. I would get rid of them, lock,- stock and barrel, because their only purpose is to make profits. The producer, the manufacturer and the retailer are essential to any industry, but if any section associated with it is engaged solely in profiteering, the result is merely to increase unnecessarily the price which the consumers are. called upon to pay.

The peanut industry came under the control of the Commonwealth authorities, but there would have been no such industry had not the growers' marketing board been established in the first instance, and in the second, instance imposed levies on the growers up to 12 per cent, of the net income for the purpose of providing necessary storage. One of the functions of such a board is to prevent a glutted market by storing the surplus; therefore it is essential to provide storage facilities. The result of that action is to stabilize the price of the product, and the quantity held in storage can be used to compensate for any shortage in the supply which may, bp due to drought conditions. Had no storage been provided for peanuts there would have been no peanut industry, because the conditions prevailing prior to board control were such that the merchants held the nuts and sold them at a price about ten times as great as that received by the growers. The accommodation required for the storage of wheat was not provided by the Government but the growers paid for it.

Mr Lemmon - No, the Government paid for it.

Mr ADERMANN - In. Queensland every penny of the cost of storage was met by the growers. Honorable members opposite contend that the Commonwealth wheat scheme has been a success, but for the- nineteen years up to 1939 the average price to the growers under Queensland Wheat Board conditions was 4s. od. a bushel.

Mr Lemmon - Queensland cannot grow enough wheat to feed its own people.

Mr ADERMANN - It never will if no farmer is to be permitted to produce more than 3.000 bushels. Wheatgrowers in Western Australia were paid not, to grow wheat, whereas in Queensland no grower could produce more than 3,000 bushels, and the price paid was less than that received when the Queensland Wheat Board was in operation. Yet an average of seventeen truck loads of wheat was brought into Queensland daily from the southern States. Although, on the statement of the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture (Mr. Scully), wheat imported, did not cost less than as. 7d. a bushel, the growers were not paid more than the fixed, price of 3s. a bushel for any surplus. Honorable members opposite talk of the success of the Government's controlled marketing scheme, and say that the prices received by the producers now are better than they were previously, but consider the prices received by dairymen before the war. I shall exclude the high prices ruling during the World War I., but the average price for butter in the twenty years prior to the war was 16.39d. per lb. That period included the depression years. Eoi- the period from 1939 to 1944 inclusive the average price was 14.85d. per lb. What we require is growercontrolled boards, and- not governmentcontrolled boards such as the Australian Wheat Board, which remains in office only at the pleasure of the Minister. With the permission of the House I shall incorporate in Ilansard the yearly average prices paid by the South Burnett Dairy Company for the twenty years between the two world wars and also for the six years of war just concluded.

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