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Thursday, 5 August 1926

Senator GRAHAM (Western Australia) . - Taking up the thread of Senator McLachlan's argument regarding the marketing of Australian products in the Homeland, I remind him that some of the matters mentioned by him have been discussed in. this Chamber during the last three years. We have heard a good deal about the marketing, not true to label and badly packed, of not only fruit, but also cheese, butter, and other commodities. Honorable senators from Tasmania recently complained that 2,000,000 cases of apples exported from that State had not fetched a price sufficient to cover the cost of transport. Comments have been made overseas regarding the effect of the arsenical spray with which apples are treated ; but the fact has been established that the quantity of arsenic in the spray is so small as not to be deleterious. There is a " ring " on the other side of the world known as the Californian Fruit Company, and it has exercised control over the market for canned fruits. Australia is capable of producing canned fruit equal, if not superior to, that of California or any other part of the world, and if fruit not true to label is exported from this country to Great Britain, there must be something wrong with the supervision in the Commonwealth. The exMinister for Markets . and Migration (Sir Victor Wilson), stated that it was impossible prior to the opening of the Wembley Exhibition to buy a pound of Australian butter in London, although thousands of tons of it were annually sent there. It was explained by the exMinister that the best brands of Australian butter had been used to sweeten up butter from other countries. The trade should be properly controlled in order to ensure a fair deal to the Australian exporter. I can understand an occasional mistake in labelling being made in a big factory, but if large quantities of Australian canned goods have been placed on the London market under wrong labels, I venttire to say that a lot of the trouble has been caused by the Californian Fruit Company trying to injure the Australian trade.

Senator Hoare - Are the goods relabelled in Great Britain?

Senator GRAHAM - I do not think so. There must be something wrong with the supervision in Australia.

Senator Grant - Can those statements be verified?

Senator GRAHAM - We were told by Sir Victor Wilson that those things had occurred. He has placed Australia under a debt of gratitude to him for what he has done to improve our methods of marketing in the Old Country. It seems to me that the only way to overcome the difficulty is to have an organization there that will take charge of the fruit on its arrival, and supervise its distribution. The Tasmanian apples which failed to return a price sufficient to cover the cost of transport were wrongly graded, were small, had "black spot," or were damaged by hailstones. One shipment of apples in that condition is sufficient to prejudice the sale of a large number of subsequent consignments.

A great deal could be said for and against the budget, but up to the present time, only one honorable senator on the Government side - Senator

Chapman - has spoken in favour of it. It is impossible to say whether it meets with the approval of the majority of members of this Chamber. Three years ago the Government increased the invalid and old-age pensions from 17s. 6d. to £1 a week, and the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) expressed regret that a larger sum could not be provided, although he admitted at that time that the purchasing power of £1' was equal to only 9s. 3d. in pre-war days. I do not regard the pension as a charity dole; the recipients are entitled to it as a right. Many of them are worthy pioneers who assisted to blaze the track, and were unable in their young days to provide for a rainy day. The pension should be further increased by at least 2s. 6d. a week. The Government has not made sufficient provision for the promotion of public health. The Council of Industrial and Scientific Research should receive sufficient money to enable it to investigate the cause and cure of such diseases as cancer and tuberculosis.

Senator Guthriedeprecated the failure to make more money available for defence, and referred to the damaging statements made by Sir Harry Chauvel, the Inspector-General of Commonwealth Military Forces. In view of the fact that since 1914 successive Nationalist Governments have spent no less thai £36,000,000 on defence, any responsibility for unpreparedness now must unquestionably be placed upon their shoulders.

Senator Guthriealso had something 1o say of the attitude of the Labour party towards migration. His statements were absolutely misleading, because migration is part of the Labour party's platform. "We believe in encouraging the introduction of people of our own kith and kin. Senator Payne quoted a statement that appeared in the newspaper John Bull, to the effect that whilst thousands of young men in Great Britain were being encouraged to come te Australia, there were 11,000,000 acres of arable land lying idle in the Mother Country. Unfortunately, the majority of migrants coming to Australia are not suitable for farm life, with the result that after a little experience in the country, many of them drift to the cities. The Labour party welcomes migrants, but it takes the stand that Australian-born citizens should have an equal chance to ob tain land.

Reference was also made by Senator Guthrie to the contract for the two Australian cruisers. I am a strong protectionist. I believe in an adequate measure of protection for everything that can be produced in Australia, where the working conditions are more favorable than in other countries. The cruisers contract should have been placed in Australia. It has been argued that we would have been compelled to import 60 per cent, of the material. Even if we could produce only 40 per cent, of the materials in this country, I should still favour work of that nature being carried out here. We have ample supplies' of iron for the manufacture of the steel plates, and our mechanics are equal to any in the world. Unfortunately, many thousands of them are out of employment. In the circumstances, the Government was not justified in placing the order for the cruisers, costing between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000, in Scotland for the relief of the unemployed there. We have our own unemployment problem. Yesterday there were no less than 1,500 unemployed people marching in a procession past Parliament House.

Senator Thompson - I doubt if there were more than 150 when I saw them.

Senator GRAHAM - There was . a large number; and I am informed that about 3,000 people are out of employment in Melbourne. I have already stated that many of the migrants, having had no experience of farm work, are like square pegs fitted into round holes. They have to apprentice themselves to farmers at low rates of wages in order to gain a knowledge of farming conditions in this country.

Senator Guthriealso criticized the altered conditions for the training of lads intended for the Australian Navy, stating that they 'are not being taken now until they reach the age of seventeen years. We have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on our naval training establishments, but even when our lads finish their course they are not given any of the higher appointments. With one recent exception, all the more remunerative posts are filled bv officers from the British Navy. Australians, provided they are efficiently trained, should be given an opportunity to fill the higher commands in the Navy. 1 am opposed to the Government's proposal to withdraw the -per capita payments. This course will very seriously affect the finances of Western Australia. If the payments are withheld, the State Government will be obliged to impose additional taxation to make good the loss in revenue. No State has lost more through coming into the federation than Western Australia.

I turn now to the Government's proposals for the encouragement of the goldmining industry. The sum of £40,000 is set aside for this purpose, but as £15,000 of that amount is to be expended in the Northern Territory, only £25,000 will bo available for the. several States. Western Australia could very well do with the whole of the amount. As a matter of fact, it could all be spent with advantage in Kalgoorlie and Boulder. The Government has not dealt fairly with the goldmining industry. During the war the embargo on the export of the gold deprived the industry of a legitimate profit of between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000, and, strange to say, it is about the only industry in the Commonwealth that has not received a bounty. If it had not been interfered with during the war period, many mines that have now closed down would be working full-handed. At the beginning of the war a number of mines were working profitably on an average of 8 dwt., and were employing nearly 2,000 more hands then they are employing to-day. Although in 1914 it was possible to continue on the basis of 8 dwt. to the ton, the mines have since got deeper, and costs have increased, so that it now requires ore containing 11 dwt. to the ton to make them pay. To obtain ore of that quality only the best portions of the lode are dealt with. The Ivanhoe mine, which at one time employed over 1,000 men, has closed down, with the result that probably 5,000 or 6,000 people have been affected. Other mines could not employ the men thrown out of work. Recently, the Golden Horseshoe mine also was shut down, adding another 2,000 miners to those already unemployed. The Commonwealth Government is to blame for these things. In all mines it is the custom to mix a proportion of the better- grade ore with ore of a lower grade; but now that only the better-grade ore is being worked, the mines will soon become worthless. In all probability, the Great Boulder mine will shut down in a year or two. I urge the Government to do something to assist this industry.

When the Government sold its woollen mills, I. understood that the reason given was that it did not intend to compete against private enterprise ; but I was surprised to find, only a day or two ago, that the Government still has a clothing factory. The Geelong mills were disposed of for £155,000. I cannot call it a sale - it was a gift.

Senator Andrew - Was it not sold in the market on public tender?

Senator GRAHAM - I understand that the purchasers of the mill, twelve months after they had acquired it, said that it was worth £112,000 more than they gave for it.

I ask the Government to do something for those public servants who, after many years' service, will be called upon to transfer to Canberra almost at the end of their term of service. Should they not see their way clear to break up their homes in Melbourne in order to fulfil the remaining two years of their term, I trust that the Minister will agree to their pensions commencing forthwith. This matter is agitating the minds of a number of public servants.

I desire to urge the Government to do something to increase the remuneration paid to its lower-paid officers. Many of the attendants in this building are receiving salaries which are altogether inadequate for the services which they render. Some of them receive only £4 17s. 6d. a week, which is not a large salary for men who have to dress well and maintain their families. I hope that in the Supplementary Estimates something will be done to relieve them.

Senator Pearce - That is a matter for the President of the Senate.

Senator GRAHAM - Then I hope that you, sir,. as President of this' Senate, will do something for these men. They should be paid a salary commensurate with the services which they render. One man, after 26 years' service, is receiving only £5 17s. 6d. a week. That is insufficient remuneration for a capable officer.

I agree with the remarks of Senator McLachlan regarding the Government's roads policy. Outside the metropolitan districts, most of the roads in Australia are in a deplorable condition. In Western Australia, there are thousands of miles of roads that require attention; but, because of the limited means at the disposal of the State Government, it is impossible to keep them in a satisfactory state of repair. The Government's proposals are a step in the right direction.

During the debate Senator Duncau referred in somewhat caustic terms to certain statements made by the present Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) when a private member. It is true that, when the present Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) was Treasurer, Dr. Earle Page, in urging the exercise of economy in public expenditure, severely criticized the National Government of that day. On one occasion he said -

Is the slovenliness of the budget a reflection of the irresponsibility and general methods of the administration of tbe Leader of the Government? .... I urge them to give up shuffling and deceiving the public...... I urge the Government to withdraw the budget, to grasp the nettle firmly, and to do what every business house is doing, namely, try tosquare the ledger and prepare for lean years.

In those days the present Treasurer strongly advocated economy, but in the last budget which he presented thereis no indication of any attempt on his part to reduce expenditure, and he and the ex-Treasurer, whose budget he so strongly criticized, are now sharing the same political bed. I trust that the Government will give further attention to health matters, and also to the mining industry, which, in Western Australia particularly, has been declining for some time.

Debate (on motion by Senator Thompson) adjourned.

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