2nd Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
-Has the attention of the Prime Minister been called to an article in Wednesday’s Herald, describing the prejudice against Australians existing in South Africa, and fostered by the South African press? Has he any means of ascertaining how far the South African press is still owned and controlled by the Rand mining ring, and has he any means of correcting the calumnies circulated in South Africa with regard to Australia, its public policy, and its administration?
– I have read the article in question. It appeared to give a very reasonable and temperate account of some very unfortunate experiences. As to the proprietorship of the South African press, I have only the same sources of information as are possessed by other honorable members; but the Agent-General for New South Wales has, within the last few days, officially reported to his Government that the influence of the mine-owners referred to, and others, in the London money market is distinctly hostile to Australia-.
– Thank God!
– I feel disposed to offer thanks neither for the existence of that body nor for its operation against Australia. I am not in a position to say whether the current statement that the same influences control the press of South Africa is correct, though it appears quite likely that it may be so. It is very hard to say what means we possess of defending ourselves in another part of the Empire against the attacks of privately interested parties.We can neither treat them as official nor afford to entirely ignore them.
– Why not?
– South Africa is part of the Empire to which we belong, and we cherish towards its people the friendliest feelings. We havenone but the best wishes for its development, and if it were in our power to take action here to assist it, we should do so most gladly. If we heard that country slandered by any one in Australia or outside, we should defend it.
– But why should we not look after our people abroad ?
– We have a right to expect similar treatment from the people of South Africa, and if We do hot receive it, I should not disdain to avail myself of any opportunities to represent to them the real course of events in Australia, and the nature of its legislation-.
– Has the
Prime Minister had his attention drawn to the following report , in the Age of a speech by Mr. Graham, M.L.A. ? -
He believed that if a pollon Federation were taken in Victoria to-morrow there would be a greater majority for secession than there was at the referendum taken for Federation. He was hoping that something would come along to make the Federal Parliament mend its way. If not, he felt certain that something would arrive to dissolve the union. Already there were cries for secession in Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania. If the extravagance now going on in the Federal Parliament were not stopped he believed the public would rise and demand either a dissolution or an amendment of the. Constitution.
Will the honorable and learned gentleman bring this honorable member to the bar of of the House to prove his statement about our extravagance? It seems to me that something should be done to make him prove it.
– Any one who set out to prove such a statement wouldfind that he had undertaken a very large contract indeed. Another report: of the honorable member’s speech contains a passage which perhaps explains the comments which the honorable member for Darwin has read. In it he says that he had always been opposed to Federation, and did his best to prevent the passing of the Constitution Bill. Apparently he now seeks to justify that action.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed, in the Launceston Daily Telegraph of the 13th September, the statement of the Treasurer of Tasmania, that £1,500,000 has been spent by the Federation on non-productiveworks, which showed how money had been wasted ? After having got off a lot of oratorical tripe, he is reported to have said -
A million and a half had been spent on nonreproductive works, which showed how money had been wasted. He felt, as Treasurer, that he was justified, to a certain extent, in. using the language he did. It was time that leading statesmen should express themselves in strong terms.
Has the Prime Minister any reply to make to those statements?
– The allusion, to unproductive expenditure can refer only to expenditure on defence works, which have been carried out by the Commonwealth from revenue instead of with loan money. Technically, such works may be described as unproductive, but I think the people of Australia will justify the expenditure which has already taken place - I do not recollect the exact amount- and more if necessary. In reply to such comments as have just’ been read, I would refer our critics to the remarks of a most capable and disinterested judge, the right honorable memberfor Balaclava, who, in leaving Australia, gave it as his testimony that the most unreasonable and carping criticism to which he had been exposed wasthat of the Stale Treasurers.
Immigration Restriction Act.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Parramatta that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz., The necessity for amending section 3, sub-section g, of the Immigration’ Restriction Act.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places -
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).I wish to assure the Prime Minister that the action which I take this morning is taken in no captious or party spirit, but with a view to elicit from him, if possible, a definite statement of the intentions of the Government in regard to the amendment of the section known as the “six hatters” section. Nowadays we are all coming to recognise more and more our vulnerability to attack from the Eastern nations. The results of the recent RussoJapanese war and the tremendous developments which have taken place of late years in Eastern countries show us that the possession of an empty continent, instead of being a source of unalloyed happiness, to us is a menace, and that unless we do something to fill Australia with a happy and prosperous people, our position in the eyes of the world will become more and more insecure as years go by. This is the first time during the five years that I have occupied a seat in this Chamber that I have moved the adjournment to discuss a matter of public policy, and I take this somewhat unusual course now in the performance of what I regard as an obligation to do all I can to elicit a definite statement from the Prime Minister on the important matter to which I wish to refer. Another consideration which has prompted me to this action is the very evident desire of the States to remedy the condition of affairs to which I have referred. The Governments of New South Wales and Victoria, in particular, are doing all they can to attract to these shores persons whom it is hoped will build up a prosperous and contented yeomanry here, but it is necessary that they shall have the support, both tacit and active, of the Commonwealth Government and Parliament. Unless we aid and buttress their efforts, I am afraid that all they can do will be of little avail. It is with a view to getting the Prime Minister to say whether his Government are definitely in harmony with the Governments of the States in this desire to populate Australia, and are ready to remove the harassing restrictions which now prevent the free ingress of free people of our own race, kith, and kin, that I have moved the adjournment. «
– Will the honorable member say what he thinks would be the proper thing to do?
– I am in accord with the honorable member’s leader in this matter, and before arguing in support of. my position, I will quote what the honorable member for Bland has said. The late Minister of Trade and Customs, in speaking in this Chamber the other day, said that something should be done to amend the Immigration Restriction Act by removing needless restrictions, and at the same time safeguarding and securing the objects which were sought to be attained when the measure was under the consideration of Parliament., The honorable member for Bland replied that he thought they, the Labour Party, could1 meet the honorable member. The position of the honorable member for Gippsland was that to prevent men coming here under contract in a proper way was to prohibit all immigration, and the honorable member for Bland, in an interview published in a newspaper a little later, stated in reply to this criticism -
I would like to know exactly what Mr. McLean’s ideas are. Of course, he did not go into details, and was not able to do so, but, so far as I am concerned, ft seems to me that the position taken up by the Labour Party can be met if men are prevented from coming in under agreement to take the place of men who may be on strike, or from coming in at rates of wages- below the standard ruling in Australia, or after having been deceived respecting the conditions obtaining in the Commonwealth.
I am prepared to go the full length which’ the honorable member would go. That, I take it, was the original intention of Par, liament when the measure was under consideration. But paragraph g has been so framed that all persons who come here under contract, no matter what its terms, are shut out. Only lately, we had an instance of how the provision operates to the detriment and -disadvantage of Australia, in the case of a groom, who came out here in charge of some horses. I do not ask for the repeal of this section, but for its amendment in the direction indicated. I think that we should recast it in such a way as to make it express exactly what we mean.
– The honorable member wants to put a glove on the iron hand.
– I want the public to understand exactly what we mean, and to 0 away with a drag-net provision, which has effects far beyond the intentions of this Parliament. As it now stands, the Act prohibits the introduction of all contract labour, no matter how legitimate, or how desirable it may be. and I am calling attention to this fact, in the hope that the defect may be speedily remedied. The original object of the provision was to deal justly with the matter of contract labour, with a view to preserving our present conditions of Australian life. I hope there is no man in this Chamber who wishes to degrade, them. No man associated with me wishes to do so. I would not be any party to interfering with the high standard of civilized life, and industrial comfort which we have already established in Australia. At the same time, we need not put a bar sinister upon any man who takes the precaution before he comes here, to insure that he shall have work awaiting him upon his arrival. It is impossible to administer the Act as it ought to be administered, and consequently it is continually landing us in serious trouble. J do not think that all the difficulty has been due to the faulty construction of the Act. A great deal of it has been attributable to foolish administration. I would refer, by way of illustration, to the case of the six hatters. Any man who had desired to carry out the Act smoothly would have been able to obviate all the difficulties that arose in connexion with the introduction of the six hatters. All the arrangements that had to be made after the men arrived in Australia should have been provided for prior to their reaching their destination. For instance, the administrator for the time being ought to have known when these men reached their first point of contact with Australia, and if he had had any desire to work smoothly, he would have communicated with the employer concerned, instead of sitting supinely in his office and allowing matters to take their course. Events proved that there was no need for any interference with these men, and all trouble might have been avoided if the slightest common sense had been brought to bear. It was one of the boasts of Sir Edmund Barton, when the Bill was before the House, that it would be administered with common sense, But very little of that quality has been displayed. When the Bill was passing through the House, attention was directed to the harshness of some of its provisions, and it was pointed out that it might operate disadvantageous^. Sir Edmund Baton’s reply to these criticisms was : -
Governments must be credited with commonsense, or it is no use committing to them the administration of such measures at all. This amount of common-sense and discretion must be credited to the present Government and its successors, that they will discriminate between those cases in which desirable civilized immigrants are seeking admission, and cases in which those seek admission whose presence is baneful to us.
The Act is being so administered as to keep out desirable civilized immigrants - men of the very class that we most need in Australia. It is being so construed as to prevent these people from coming here except by evading the law. Take the’ case of the groom who recently came from England in charge of some horses. He had to get what has been described as a “ ticketofleave.”
– He had not.
– I venture to say that he had.
– He was not under the necessity to obtain a certificate.
– As a fact, he had a certificate with him. The certificate was delivered to him by the AgentGeneral of New South Wales, who was acting for the Federal Government. The Prime Minister has declared that there was no reason why the groom should obtain an exemption certificate, but when the honorable and learned member for Wannon asked him subsequently whether it was necessary that such certificates should ‘be granted, he said “ Yes, but they were not generally given to British people.”
– That is not what was said; I will explain the matter- presently.
– The groom referred to, after having arrived here, had a letter addressed to him by the Prime Minister, under date 28th August,- as follows : -
With reference to your visit to the Commonwealth with horses for a resident of New South Wales, in connexion with which a certificate of exemption was issued to you by the Acting AgentGeneral for New South Wales, I am directed to inform you that that document was issued under a misconception by Mr. Coghlan, who was informed on the 14th July last that there was no necessity for the issue of a certificate of exemption to you. There is, therefore, no restriction on your remaining in the Commonwealth should you desire to do so.
The groom makes this very sapient comment on the matter:-
If I made a mistake about my horses, I’d get the sack ; why doesn’t your Agent-General get the sack?
I venture to say that the Prime Minister has improperly blamed Mr. Coghlan, because this groom undoubtedly came within the restrictions imposed by the Act. He contracted in England to bring out certain horses, and he worked under that contract in Australia right up to the point of the delivery of the horses on the station. He is still under contract, and he will remain so until he returns to England. If that case does not come within the restrictive provisions of the Act, I do not understand them. This groom contracted in England to perform manual labour, he was to work in Australia under that contract, and therefore Mr. Coghlan did right in issuing a certificate to him.
– The honorable member has not stated that point correctly. I said that the Agent-Generals were wrong, because they had already been told that the certificates they were to give were not to be issued under the section referred to.
– That is an entirely new point. If the Prime Minister can make that clear, he will go far towards explaining the matter. Nothing appears in his letter with regard to that. He merely said that the exemption certificate was not necessary, and that the AgentGeneral for New South Wales had acted under a misapprehension. I contend that the groom, in coming out here under contract to deliver certain horses at a station in New South Wales, would have violated the Act unless he had obtained an exemption certificate. I would point out that if a man bring horses here, and turn them out free, we welcome the horses, but we will not have the man.
– That is nonsense.
– I admit that it is nonsense, but it is a fact. The nonsense consists in such a thing being possible under the Act. In making aliens of those who belong to our own race over the seas, we are cutting right across the grain of our feelings of loyalty to the Empire. Whatever we may do with regard to people of other races - I do not think we need go so far as we are going with regard to many of them - we have no right, by statute, to write down as aliens men who belong to the same race as we do. We have had a man walking about Australia for weeks unable to move a foot from the fear that he. might be cast into gaol. The fact that it is stated that the certificate was issued to the groom by the Agent-General of New South Wales under a misapprehension, shows that it is impossible to satisfactorily administer the Act. and we need not wonder that the mistakes committed are used to our detriment in places where the local circumstances are not known or understood. We know what occurred in connexion with the six hatters case, and what use has been made of the facts. One Australian gentleman, who was recently in England, has stated that what was done in regard to the six hatters, has cost us ^1,000,000 for each of the men concerned.
– The misrepresentation on the subject may have done that.
– There has been no misrepresentation whatever.
– The gentleman referred to by the honorable member is an arch misrepresenter.
– It is amazing to hear the honorable member for Melbourne Ports criticising persons whom he is unable to understand. To hear the honorable member criticising the Rev. Dr. Fitchett is to listen to a pigmy criticising a giant. Before the honorable member indulges in expressions of condemnation and contempt in regard to Dr. Fitchett, he should read what he has said.
– We have read what he said.
– He has grossly libelled Australia.
– Order ! I have hesitated to interrupt the honorable member for Parramatta, because I did not desire to encroach upon the time for which he is permitted to address the House. Honorable members are, however, indulging in so many interjections as to make a considerable inroad upon the time allowed under the Standing Orders to the honorable member addressing the House, and I would ask them not to continue their interruptions.
– I do not propose to take up more than the time allowed under the Standing Orders, because my purpose will have been accomplished if I obtain from the Prime Minister, as I hope to do, a definite statement with regard to the intentions of the Government. No man has made a more valiant defence of Australia than has Dr. Fitchett.
– Recently, but not at first.
– The honorable member cannot regard the statement that was made the other day as anything more than an apology for a gross administrative blunder, which has done more than anything else to damage the reputation of Australia. We ought to alter this section, so as to provide that there shall be no brand of “alien “ upon any man of our own race who comes here under legitimate contract.
The groom and the six hatters, to whom reference has so frequently been made, came from the old country - from the land whence many of us sprang, and to which we are ° proud to belong. The people there acknowledge the same King that we do ; they have the same literature, the same history is behind them, and they believe in the same religion. Racial sympathy is the very essence of loyalty, and therefore I say that we ought to take no action which will make any of our kith and kin from over the sea aliens when they tread upon Australian shores. Recently in this Parliament we have been taking action in the direction of coming into closer relations with the rest of the Empire. What other meaning has the new contract for mail services, as to which we have just increased our subsidy by ,£50,000 a year? Need I remind honorable members that we have also increased our subsidy to the Imperial Navy by more than £60,000 a year, and that the Prime Minister never ceases in his advocacy of preferential trade as a means of drawing the Empire closer together? Only lately we have shown what we think of the Empire as a whole by fighting for it upon distant shores. Surely in an Empire which is good enough to fight for - an Empire which we should do our best to make, more unified and homogeneous, more cohesive, strong, and free - we should do nothing which will brand any citizen of it as an alien when he happens to move from a particular locality to another; that, however, is the effect of section 3 of the Immigration Restriction Act.
– Where does it do that?
– I say that what is known as the contract section does that. Under that provision we regard a man who comes to Australia under contract as an alien, and we say that he must go to prison if he does not clear out.
– We say that the moment he breaks his bond he may enter.
– The more I look at the section the more it seems to me to cut right across the doctrine of personal rights, which has been one of the choicest heritages of the British race for a thousand years past. The sooner we take from it that sinister aspect the better it will be for us. We have here an empty continent, and if we wish Australia to be an outpost of the Empire we can only achieve our object by settling it with people who will be so contented with their con ditions as to cause them to spring to its defence the moment it is menaced from outside. We may build Tariff walls, education walls, and immigration restriction walls; but we shall at last have to deal with the sullen, hungry hordes of people outside. Unless we are able to face them with force at the critical time, all that we can do will be of little avail when our hour of trial comes. I am afraid that in a young country like Australia, isolated as we are from the rest of the world, we are apt to get lulled into a condition of false security, and to allow our views to get out of perspective. Only the other day I read in the Contemporary Review an article upon the act of death. A man who was dying was depicted as saying that if he had a’ pen he would write how pleasant and easy a thing it was to die. I venture to say that it may be just as easy and pleasant a thing for a nation to die as for an individual, and that when we think we are most secure - when we are wrapped up in our self-satisfaction - then it is that our danger becomes the keenest.
– This sounds like a speech which I delivered in 1901.
– I should be very glad to hear the honorable and learned member in 1905. That I have dared to tread in the footsteps of my honorable and learned friend may be regarded by some as a serious charge to make, but I hope that I shall continue to tread in his footsteps when they leave a print which is so plainly visible. We need to recognise in these new countries, at any rate, that there is one law for nations just as there is for individuals - that the guarantee of individual well-being, of individual security, and individual welfare, consists in the observance of the law of self-sacrifice ; nations, as well as individuals, must subscribe to that law. Therefore, we want to so arrange our Statutes as to make it possible for us to exercise the utmost possible self-restraint in our dealings with our own race and kin, so that we may build up a united and consolidated Empire. Upon the present occasion there need be no trouble in accomplishing the object at which we aim. The honorable member for Bland is quite willing that the requisite alterations in the law should be made. So is the honorable and1 learned member for West Sydney. who has stated in a nutshell all that I can say now.
In an interview which recently appeared in the press, he said that -
He had no personal objections to an amending Act confining its operation to instances where it was intended to meet the cases of men brought here during a strike to take the places of other workers. In some instances - and here ismy reply to the statement of the honorable member for Bourke -
In some instances, the Department has administered the Act foolishly, and against the intentions of the framers of the measure.
That is all I wish to say in criticism of the administration of the Act by the Government. I appeal to the Prime Minister to make a clear and definite statement to Australia as to whether the Government will repeal or amend the section to which I have referred, and by “ repealing “ it, I mean so amending it as to substitute a provision upon the lines I have indicated. If he proposes to do that, I trust that he will let us know the intentions of the Government at the earliest possible moment.
– In order that I may not outrun the time allotted to me without omitting essentials, it will be necessary for me to concentrate the remarks which I have to make, so that I trust honorable members will supply for themselves the necessary development of anything I may say. For a moment, I am compelled to hark back to the circumstances under which the Immigration Restriction Act was passed, and to the purposes for which it was enacted. It was one of the first and strongest steps towards the establishment of a White Australia, the common ambition of all parties, and of all persons in the Commonwealth. In order to insure the maintenance of a White Australia, a Bill was submitted for the purpose of enabling us to restrict immigration, the intention being chiefly - I think I may say wholly -to exclude immigration which would not make Australia more white, or leave it as white as it was. In the course of the considerationof that measure, an amendment was introduced for quite another purpose - an industrial purpose - in order to prevent the standard of living in Australia being unduly, or suddenly, or improperly lowered by the influx, even of people with a white skin. So far as I can remember, almost the only objection taken to that proposal at the time, arose from the fact that it was sought to be introduced into a Bill which had been drafted for another purpose, and that this was, however defensible it might be on other grounds, an inconvenient place to insert it. That was my own view, and experience has justified it. To that circumstance a good deal of misconception in respect of the Australian attitude towards immigration is undoubtedly due. But that wasonly one cause of misconstruction. The other cause lay in the fact that we found ourselves unable to put in plain English, upon the face of this Statute, what its direct purpose was. Our obligations to the mother country, to the relations which she had formed with other peoples, together with the very natural and proper desire not to appear to reflect upon other races merely because of a difference in colour - all these considerations moved us to make a fight in order that we should not be compelled to place upon the statute-book a prohibition for colour alone. When my honorable friend, the deputy-leader of the Opposition, speaks of the loyalty which we feel, and ought tofeel in matters of this kind, which have an international significance, let me remind him that it wasmembers upon this side of the House who loyally sacrificed their own personal wishes in order to place upon the statutebook an Immigration Restriction Act which should not contain the objectionable prohibition in regard to colour. From the first, this Act was loaded down by two causes of misconception abroad, one because we were unable to state in so many words what its original purpose was, and the other because an industrial proposal - excellent in its way - was sandwiched into a Bill of quite another character. Theeducation test and the contract labour clause, together, misled critics at Home, especially when they were continually misrepresented here. I had experience of this in 1902 and 1903, and when I returned to office this year, did not wait for any impulse from outside, but decided, with my colleagues, that the time had come when we needed to review parts of this measure. The speech of the honorable member for Parramatta has related chiefly to section 3 of the Act. He confined himself to the discussion of sub-section g, which relates to the admission of immigrants under contract. Apart from that, I had’ become aware that it is not only that sub-section which requires reconsideration, but other portions of the same section, and other sections, partly because, in the actual work of administration, obscurities have been discovered and inconveniences found, and partly because there are some large questions of policy which require to be taken into account. These, however, I do not propose to allude to this morning, because the honorable member for Parramatta has concentrated his criticism upon one subsection. I pass them by merely saying, in passing, that it appears to me that this question of Immigration Restriction can only be reasonably and fully considered in relation to the larger question of which it forms a part, and that is how to obtain desirable immigrants. Those who accept the doctrine of a White Australia, as I have often said, must repudiate the suggestion that it means an empty Australia. It is impossible for Australia to be made or kept white except by means of a white people planted wherever white men can live and work with profit. We believe that is possible in most parts of the Continent - every one believes that it relates to all but a fraction of it - and this Government intends to exhaust every means of extending and multiplying white settlement. By that means only can Australia be kept white. By that means only, as the honorable member for Parramatta has said, can it be made safe from the aggression of those to exclude whom the Immigration Restriction Act was primarily passed. It was passed to restrict anything that would prevent our obtaining a white Australia, andit has to be reconsidered in the light of the great purpose that this exclusion implies - the purpose of obtaining a sufficient immigration to this country to make Australia white to-day and for all time. Honorable members will recognise that the most familiar, and very often the most desirable, class of immigration is that which is drawn thither by the attractions of the country and comes absolutely free. The whole of the immigration to America is of that class, because immigrants under contract are forbidden. Even if they were not prohibited, however, it would still be the fact that 95 per cent., and perhaps more, of the immigration that would be sought for, and would come, would be free. When my honorable friend said in his earlier remarks that we were imposing a restriction upon free immigrants, I thought that he would explain his’ meaning, but probably the short time at his disposal prevented his doing so. The Immigration Restriction Act imposes no restriction upon white people, who are free to make their choice of a new country, and free to enter any occupation when they come to it. I premise that in order to avoid misunderstanding.
– The honorable and learned member had better do so.
– Men who come out under engagement are not bondsmen.
– They are under bond to work for a certain time, and for certain rates of pay.
– So is every man.
– I am not going to object to phrases. I wish, in the first instance, to premise this in order to give due proportion to other conditions. If, in speaking of immigration, and the restriction of immigration, we confined our consideration to paragraph g of section 3, we should fall into the misapprehension that might be formed by those who read the speech delivered by the honorable member for Parramatta, that the only immigration we expect, or can get, is immigration under contract. That is, of course, wholly erroneous. I agree that Australia’s need of population is so great that we ought not to obstruct contract labour any more than free labour, if we can avoid doing so. In other words, paragraphg requires reconsideration. As a matter of fact, it has been under consideration by the Government. I was dealing with the whole question before I had been a month in office, and before it had been mentioned in the House or outside. I entered into a correspondence with the Premiers of the States, which afterwards developed into a special correspondence with the Premier of New South Wales, which involved the reconsideration of this clause. If time permits, the House will be given an opportunity to amend it in a measure that I hope to submit before the prorogation. That, however, will depend on the completeness of our information on certain points relating not merely to matters of administration - with some of which I am already dealing - but to other questions respecting which I am awaiting advices from those who are better informed than myself. When honorable members carefully look at paragraph g, which deals with only a small part of the immigration we are likely to get, and consider the general comments that have been made upon it, they will find - as the Government have found - that its amendment is not so simple as it appears on the surface. When it was originally proposed, it was defended because it was thought undesirable that men employed in Australia should be displaced during industrial disputes by the importation of labour from abroad. That was willingly agreed to. But have honorable members vet considered how they would frame a new clause dealing with the matter, when we already have in operation in New South Wales and Western Australia, Acts whose purpose is to abolish the very strikes which it was originally intended should occasion the exercise of this prohibition.
– They have not been effectual.
– I am not prepared to admitthat. The honorable and learned member is right that the first application of a new law to new circumstances cannot operate with the precision which I trust will yet be secured; but at all events under these laws strikes are prohibited.
– They are not.
– The honorable member is technically right; but I am speaking in a general sense, and am sure the House understands me. We must not overlook the existence of laws dealing with industrial disputes, and designed to prevent strikes. Their existence means the re-shaping of the contract section of the Immigration Restriction Act in a different fashion from that which would have sufficed before we had such laws in force, especially as they exist in some of the States and not in others, and operate under different conditions. Although I have given some attention to the drafting of the necessary amendment of paragraph g, there is this preliminary difficulty which the professional members of the House will recognise as possessing a certain complexity. Then, again, it is said that the objection is to the introduction of men under contract to work for less than the ruling rate of wages. We have to recollect that there is no one ruling Australian rate of wages in respect to any class of skilled or unskilled labour. Take the wages in parts of Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland, and you will find that they are governed largely by the cost of living, the climatic conditions which prevail, and other circumstances. Any’ provision which aims at carrying out the reasonable intention of the House to prevent the introduction of underpaid labour will require careful consideration. The drafting of an amendment to give effect to this desire without discriminating between States will prove a more difficult task than is imagined by those who may not have fully considered the matter. The next point relates simply to the matter of deception, and there no difficulty need be expected. I conclude by saying that it is not a simple matter, even for the Parliamentary draftsman to deal with paragraph g, from the Australian stand-point, and having regard to Australian labour legislation. Time will not permit of my alluding to certain incidents of the past, which I hope are thoroughly understood here. The honorable member who preceded me referred to the incident of the six hatters, and very properly, in the first instance, put the blame where it rested. The employer who made the agreement in question did not give any intimation to the Commonwealth authorities before, or even after, he had made it. He allowed us accidentally to discover the men on a steamer, and about to land under unknown obligations. This called for immediate action. The Minister had no knowledge of the circumstances of the trade, the wages paid, or anything else. That compelled an intervention which should not have been forced upon us by a citizen who was acquainted with the law he had to obey. It was the unfortunate delay in dealing with the men, that arose out of his want of notice, that gave rise to the whole of the misconception associated with that case.
– The time allotted under the Standing Orders to the honorable and learned member has expired. Is it his desire to continue?
– It is, Mr. Speaker.
– Is it the pleasure of the House that the honorable and learned gentleman have leave to continue?
Honorable Members.- Hear, hear.
– I am obliged to honorable members, but shall occupy their attention for only a few minutes, as I do not wish to trespass upon the time at their disposal. The case of the groom was that he came to Australia to deliver horses. My honorable friend insists that this means that he came here under contract to perform manual labour. If it were examined with the “ double-million magnifying glass “ of which Sam Weller speaks, such a contention might be admitted. But it would be unreasonable - foreign, not only to the intention of the House when passing the measure, but to the purpose of the Act itself. Proof that I held this view may be found in the fact that before I knew the groom had left England - before attention had been or could have been called to the case, as he had not arrived in Australia - I found the papers among the first submitted to me on taking office, and at once expressed the opinion that his coming to Australia would not be the entrance of a person into the Commonwealth to perform manual labour under contract within the meaning of paragraph g. I wrote to that effect to the Agent-General for New South Wales before the matter had reached the public ear. So far as I knew, it would never become public. I understood that there would be time for my reply to reach the Agent-General before the groom left England, and informed him that he had no need to issue an exemption certificate.
– Does the honorable and learned gentleman really say that it was not a contract to perform manual labour?
– Not in the circumstances. De minimis nen curat lex. The mere fact that one groom came out in those circumstances could not be said to constitute a breach of the section. The honorable member urged me to take a commonsense view of this law, and to carefully consider its purpose. I did so when, without a moment’s hesitation, I said that the coming of this groom to Australia did not bring him within the scope of the ‘Act. All the AgentsGeneral were informed “some time ago that they could issue certificates of exemption to persons who came within the definition of “ prohibited immigrants “ under the Act.
– That was done by the Reid-McLean Government.
– It was long before the’ Reid-McLean Government came into office.
– It was only notified in the press when that Administration was in office.
– Sir Horace Tozer and his servant came out before then,
– The instruction was given long before the late Government took office, and the exemptions were intended to apply only to persons of colour. When Sir Horace Tozer wrote to the Barton Government - and this proves the correctness of my statement as to the date when the instruction as to exemption certificates was first given-he was informed by Sir Edmund Barton, who wa’s then Minister of External Affairs, that the grant to the Agents-General of the power to issue certificates of exemption was intended to apply only to persons who, on account of their race, would be liable to be made prohibited immigrants under the Act. The Agents-General were never given authority to issue certificates of exemption to persons coming here under contract, and never asked for it. As soon as I learned that they were doing so, they were informed that it was unnecessary.
- Mr. Coghlan was not in London when that instruction was sent, so that he is to be excused.
– When I said that Mr. Coghlan had made a mistake, I did not intend in the least degree to reflect upon him. ‘ He had then taken office for the first time, and was either misinformed by those under him or by his brother Agents-General. But when the honorable and learned member for Wannon put the broad question whether persons coming out under contract needed certificates of exemption, I said that they did under the law. I said that they should forward their contracts beforehand to the Department, in order that they might be examined ; otherwise, if they came out and asked for a certificate of exemption, they would obtain one at any time if it was justified. I do not wish to detain the House further, but trust that I have clearly indicated the intentions of the Government. We are now reconsidering the Act in the light of the experience gained by its administration, especially with regard to paragraph g, and the questions of policy to which I have generally alluded. But we are scanning it mainly with a view to the encouragement of the desirable immigrants we require to make and keep Australia white. The offer received yesterday from General Booth, the head of the Salvation Army, to send here 5.000 reputable families, whose characters are without blemish, and who are not paupers or destitute - which will be about the average number available among those who will find the hardships of the coming winter in Great Britain too bitter - provides a touchstone for ascertaining the opinion of this country on the subject of immigration. The Immigration Restriction Act does not prohibit the introduction of such people. It is not intended that they shall be sent out under contract. They are British subjects, and will be welcome. But what will bring them, and the temptation without which others cannot be got to come, is something which it is not within the Federal power to offer - the opportunity to get land on which to make homes. It is the land laws of Australia that are the real obstacles to immigration. Why is the population of Victoria declining? Because the sons of our farmers Have to hive off to Queensland to find homes there, although they have the first right to call on us to make provision for their future. Why do people drift to Canada and America instead of coming to Australia, if it is not because of our comparatively complicated and out-of-date land laws? It is the land question that provides the key to the immigration question. Queensland and Western Australia are making provision first for their own people, and then for people from abroad. They do well, but if other States are losing men, it is because their land laws have remained practically unamended, some of them for a quarter of a century. In the older States one hears of farmers who are starved out before they can put their families upon the land. If any State continues to lose population, it is because it does not give sufficient encouragement for settlement. I do not pretend that when the States have amended their land laws all that is necessary will have been done. All of them are large enough to carry many hundreds of suitable settlers. When the land has been made freely available,, the Commonwealth must provide employment to keep our people occupied. When Australia provides free land for the people, and protection for all producers, we shall have solved the population question. Only reasonable restrictions will be necessary to prevent the immigration of the unsifted ne’er-do-wells of other countries, against the introduction of whom both Canada and the United States have legislated. The derelicts even of Europe would not add to the health, wealth, or strength of our community. Our population should be multiplied as fast as possible, according to our ability to assimilate desirable immigrants. Only by amending the land laws of the ‘States and by giving protection to enable our raw products to be.. manufactured: into the goods necessary for the use of our people, can we solve this .problem. The magnitude of the subject, and its vital importance to Australia, must justify me for having trespassed so long on the time of the House.
– The heroic tone adopted by the Prime Minister is about as transparent a piece of affectation as I have ever heard in this Chamber.
One would think that he has for years past been clamouring for some great right, or endeavouring to vindicate some great claim, and that now, at length, he has realized his desires. With every wish not to stir up unpleasantness, I am bound to say that I think he is one of the arch-conspirators in regard to the abuses of the Immigration Restriction Act which we have had. He has been in office, and has held the reins of power, for almost four out of the five years during which the States have been federated, without moving a hand to mitigate the abuses which have now become so tremendous that even those who helped him to bring them about are forced to confess the blunder which they have made. The position of this country, as made plain to . the whole world, is a humiliating one. I do not desire to claim credit for having predicted this result when I spoke in 1901, but it seems to me an extraordinary instance of the irony of fate that the honorable and learned member who now almost aggressively asseverates the need of Australia for a white population, during his four years of office failed even to attempt to mitigate the Act. When the measure was before this House, and the honorable member for North Sydney wished to substitute the word “ prescribed “ for the word “dictated,” I pointed out to the Prime Minister of the day, Sir Edmund Barton. that the effect of the wording proposed by the Government would be that a European coming to this country could be required to pass an examination in a language other than his own. I pointed out to him that the clause as framed would enable the Executive of the ,day to require a Frenchman to pass an examination in Russian, and his reply was, “ No Ministry would dare to do such a thing.”
– And no Ministry has asked a Frenchman to pass an examination in Russian.
– Is the Prime Minister going to quibble in that way? Did we not have a case in which a German
– A convicted thief, and a coloured man.
– He was not excluded on those grounds. He offered to pass an examination in three languages.
– What was his nationality ?
– He was an outcast and a thief, but apparently, in the opinion of the honorable and learned member for Parkes, a desirable immigrant.
– He was a German, and offered to pass an examination inGerman, French, or English ; but under the Act, ot which I feel ashamed, he was asked to pass an examination in Greek. Then a Portuguese sailor-
– A Cape Verde Islander, also a coloured man.
– A Portuguese sailor landed at Newcastle, and was prepared to pass an examination in his own language, but instead of being allowed to do so he was examined in English, and on failing to pass was sentenced to six months’ hard labour.
– Did any one ever pretend that a knowledge of languages was what was sought in these cases ?
– The honorable and learned gentleman has heard of this case on two former occasions, but the only reply he could make was that the man was a Cape Verde Islander, and not a Portuguese. I have already pointed out to him that the Cape Verde Islands are a dependency of Portugal, and that the people of those islands are of the Portuguese race. The fact which I wish to again place before the House, and of which the country should be ashamed, is that this Portuguese colonist was not allowed to enter Australia, as he could not pass an examination in a language other than his own. But I will pass away from the application of the law to European immigrants to the manner in which it has been administered in regard to the admission of persons of our own race. That is sufficiently exemplified by the attitude which the Prime Minister has adopted towards the British immigrants proposed to be introduced by General Booth. That gentleman has had to come from England to consult the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth and the Premiers of the States to ascertain if he could bring English families into what are English Colonies. Now we find that the Prime Minister did not settle the question during his interview with General Booth. He has within the last two or three days received a communication from General Booth on the subject ; but, instead of sending back a cablegram saying that we should welcome these people, because they are our countrymen - a course which Australia would have hailed with satisfaction - he enters into communication with the Governments of the
States to learn if we can accommodate them.
– Because the Commonwealth Government has no control over the public lands of Australia.
– The Prime Mihister very much overrates the difficulties of the situation. When at the end of his somewhat lengthy speech, he said that he hoped that he had made clear to the House what he intends to do, I was forced to admit to myself, although I had listened, as the Americans say, with my ears buttoned back, that I did not know what his intention is. If those who sit here and patiently and carefully listen to what the honorable and learned member says, cannot clearly understand his intentions, or the nature of the amendment of the law which he proposes, the people outside will not understand his attitude. The difficulties from both the legislative and legal point of view have been very much exaggerated. Honorable members may have forgotten the exact wording of the Immigration Restriction Act. Honorable members who look at the Act will see that the section has a number of sub-heads, defining “prohibited immigrants. There is also a provision which reads as follows: -
But the following are excepted -
Then at the end of the Act the form of certificate is given as follows: -
This is to certify that….. of aged years, a [insert trade, calling, or other description], is exempted for a period of from the date hereof, from the provisions of the Immigration Restriction Act1901.
It will be seen that under this certificate it will be competent for the Minister, or any one here or abroad authorized by him, to issue a certificate for 999 years. The Prime. Minister has exaggerated unnecessarily the alterations of the law required with regard to British immigrants. The Act contains a category of the different kinds of prohibited immigrants, andthen there is an addendum by which all the restrictive provisions may be overcome by the Minister, or some one authorized by him, issuing a certificate of exemption at any time, under any circumstances, and for whatever period he chooses. There is nothing in the Act to show, as the Prime Min- ister has stated, that it was intended to apply to coloured persons only. It applies to everybody, but it would be possible under the Act to authorize the High Commissioner for the Commonwealth, or the Agents-General of the States, or any stranger, to issue certificates which would permit any persons to come to Australia. We do not want to introduce feeling into a discussion of this kind, and I object very much to indulgence in heroics, particularly on the part of the man who has done all the harm. It is very satisfactory to think that, after four years’ experience, Australiahas begun to see that her somewhat hysterical policy is likely to prove so injurious that an entire change is necessary. Instead of prohibiting people from coming here, it is now considered necessary to offer them inducements to come. I think there is a general feeling among honorable members that it is not desirable to hark back and say who was right or’ who was wrong ; and we certainly do not want any forensic tricks in this House. We do not want the man who has been doing wrong for four years to come forward and assume the part of one who has been injured, and by inference condemn others who are in no way responsible for the trouble which has been brought about.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat- Minister of External Affairs). - By way of personal explanation, let me say that I was a private member of Parliament at the time of General Booth’s visit to Australia. I had the pleasure of meeting him several times, and am in a position to say that his visit to Australia had no reference to Commonwealth legislation. He came here to obtain land for the people whom he desired to introduce, and he saw the States Premiers with reference to that matter.
– The Minister did not show him how he could introduce his people here.
– There was no need, because they could, and can, come in without any question. When General Booth cabled to me yesterday I, with a full knowledge of his wishes, sent on the message to those who have the control of the land required, namely, the Premiers of the States. The message had nothing whatever to do with the Commonwealth Restriction Act in any way.
– It seems to me that, in view of the statements we have so frequently heard in this House and in other parts of the .Commonwealth, it is necessary to look into this question. It is a curious fact, as has been noted recently by Mr. Coghlan, that we in Australia seem to suffer from a form of political disease that is absent in practically every other British community. Whilst Canada has stringent laws in operation as to the admission of immigrants, and enforces them with a severity that has never been attempted in Australia-
– -£I per head is being paid for immigrants.
– The honorable and learned member knows perfectly well that that has no reference to immigrants under contract. His statement is only on a par with his usual misrepresentations. Whilst the exclusion laws in Canada are administered with a severity that has never been imitated here, not one word of calumny has been circulated in England, because the people of the Dominion, while they may have their differences with regard to political issues, are united in their efforts to put the best side of Canadian politics and actions before the world. Here, on the other hand, there seems to have been a concerted movement on the part of honorable members in Opposition, and their press supporters outside, to misrepresent every action of the Federal Parliament or of the Federal administrators. This has been done purely for party purposes, and has unfortunately created in “the motherland an utterly wrong impression regarding Australia.
– If there had not been any Labour members in this House we should not Have heard anything about it.
– As it happens, an immigration restriction law would have been passed even if there had been no Labour Party in Federal politics. No objection to the Bill was raised by any section of the House.
– On the ground that we should trust the Minister.
– Speaking generally, the administration of the Act has not been bad. In regard to the case of tEe six hatters, the right honorable member for East Sydney recently repeated the ridiculous assertion of Dr. Fitchett, who has done his utmost to vilify Australian legislation, to the effect that each of these six hatters had cost the Commonwealth £1,000,000. A more ridiculous statement it would be difficult to conceive. With regard to the” case of the six hatters, the blame rested solely on the shoulders of Mr. Anderson, the manufacturer who was responsible for their introduction to Australia. As soon as Mr. Anderson adopted the course prescribed by law, and the administrator of the Act had an. opportunity to investigate the contract under which it was sought to introduce the men, the hatters were allowed to land.. Surely no one here proposes to allow people to come into Australia under contract without reserving to some responsible person, on behalf of the Commonwealth, the right to investigate the terms and conditions of their contract. I am sure that such a proposal would not meet with the approval of this House, or of the people of Australia. Mr. Anderson, by refraining from making an application as required by the Act, would have prevented the Minister from even going the length’ of inquiring as to the terms and conditions under which the men were being introduced.
Mr.Joseph Cook. - My contention is that the Minister might have avoided all the trouble.
– I have no doubt that the honorable member, when he takes his seat upon the Treasury benches, will prove to be a Heaven-sent administrator. Personally, I do not see that anything else could have been done. Mr. Anderson, although he was made fully acquainted with’ the requirements of the law, refused to make any application until a week had elapsed ; and I do not see how the Minister could have allowed the men to land whilst the employer declined to comply with the law.
– The honorable member knows very well that Mr. Anderson got his back up when he found that the men were blocked.
– He ought to have adopted the course which was prescribed by the law, and fully explained to him at an early stage of the trouble. He thus had an opportunity to correct a pardonable error bv applying to the Minister for permission to land the men. The misrepresentation and vilification of the Commonwealth has been going on for the last three or four years. Men in responsible positions have deliberately, or at any rate, with every appearance of deliberation, misrepresented the actual facts. Only the other day, the honorable member for Oxley stated unblushingly that he had written to a certain man in Wales - a Welshman - stating that if he came to Australia he would be subjected to an examination, probably in some language other than his own. Surely there is nothing in the Act to justify - to put it at its best - ignorance of that character. We cannot wonder that people outside of Australia misunderstand the object of our legislation, when a gentleman who has been a member of this Parliament from its inception, and who voted in favour of the Bill, makes a statement of that character, with the chance that it will be published broadcast over the authoritative name of a member of this Parliament. Then we have the honorable and learned member for Parkes, who says that he takes no credit for the change of attitude that has been brought about. I think he speaks with too much modesty, because he has persistently vilified and misrepresented the actions of the Administration.
– Every one is a vilifier who differs from the honorable member.
– The honorable member will not contend that Mr. Coghlan had any political purpose to serve when he directed attention to the absolute vilification and misrepresentation of Australia that had been going on. We had an instance to-day, in the reference tq General Booth which was made by the honorable and learned member for Parkes, of the insidious misrepresentation which has been going on in this connexion for years past. Surely the honorable and learned member knows well the conditions under which General Booth came to Australia. He came primarily to attend to the affairs of his religious organization. We all know what he said when he was here recently. He came to Australia primarily to attend to the affairs of the Salvation Army, and incidentally he desired to know whether land could be obtained for respectable families whom he might be able to send here. Nobody knows better than a constitutional student like the honorable and learned member for Parkes, that the question of affording facilities to people to get upon the land has nothing whatever to do with the Commonwealth Government or with the Immigration Restriction Act. Yet he declared that the fact that General Booth had to come to Australia to consult the Prime Minister before he could introduce British subjects into a British possession, was proof of the effect of our legislation. I say that his statement constitutes a most damnable misrepresentation, and if the honorable and learned member did not intend that it should be repeated outside as evidence of what the Act compels, he should at once withdraw it. .
– Unfortunately, we have no record of the conversations which took place between the Prime Minister and General Booth.
– That is a very lame excuse. The honorable and learned member knows well that there is not one section in the Commonwealth law which would prevent a family sent out by General Booth from taking up any land in Australia with which the States Governments might be able to supply them.
– If they were under contract they would be denied admission. 1
– Surely the honorable and learned member knows that General Booth made no suggestion as to sending men out under contract. His whole scheme was intended to assist people of good character to make homes for themselves in a new land, and was not designed to make a profit out of them.
– Suppose that some of these men were to bring employes with them under contract.
– General Booth never raised such a point.
– The honorable member for Parramatta makes valiant efforts to come to the assistance of his newly-found lieutenant.
– I am pointing out some of the considerations that the honorable member skips all the time.
– The consideration suggested by the honorable member is one which, for the sake of his intelligence, he might skip with advantage. I say that the remarks of the honorable and learned member for Parkes are only an example of what Australia has suffered, from for years past in connexion with this kind of legislation. For mere party purposes, a number of gentlemen, both inside and outside of this Parliament, have indulged in absolute misrepresentation as to the intention and effect of our legislation. I have a greater regard for what I believe to be the interests of Australia than, I have for any mere appearance of political consistency on my part, and consequently I am prepared to join with all sections of the House in an effort to make the terms of the Immigration Restriction Act so clear that he who runs may read, and in order that there may be no further excuse for misrepresentation or misunderstanding.
– The meaning of its provisions is already clear enough. The honorable member would like to go back upon some of his previous actions.
– That remark is not a generous one.
– It is quite as generous as is the speech of the honorable member for Bland.
– I do not expect generosity in this connexion. A little wholesome truth is not altogether astray in a matter of this sort.
– Not if it is truth.
– I have already pointed out this morning that it is distinctly unfair for honorable members by interjection to take up the time of the honorable member who is in possession of the Chair, and I am sure that no honorable member wishes to be unfair. I do hope, therefore, that these interjections will cease.
– It has been insinuated that my statements are not justified by any misrepresentation which has been indulged in. I contend that the continued references to Stelling - a half-caste and a convicted thief, who attempted to enter the Commonwealth - as an instance of a European who was subjected to a test in a language other than his own, are distinctly misrepresentations. The man was an undesirable immigrant, who had been convicted of the paltriest and meanest kind of theft. There is no backing down on my part so far as any essential in the contract provision of the Immigration Restriction Act is concerned. When I submitted it in 1902, I stated that its object was to insure that we should not subject our own people to the competition of those who came to Australia bound and shackled, or to the competition of those from abroad who have been utterly deceived as to the conditions obtaining here.
– Under the Act a contract! would not be binding under those circumstances. It would be made void by another section.
– The honorable and learned member should know from his experience of industrial matters that it is not a- good thing to have a number of destitute men suddenly dumped down a.t a port in Australia, even thm,eh t the contracts into which they originally entered have been rendered void. It is riot sufficient to nullify a contract, ,and to leave men stranded, and at the mercy of those with whom they had originally entered into an agreement. In view of the urgent need that there is in Australia for immigration, and the fact that the satisfaction of that need depends in my opinion - as in> that of the Prime Minister - upon land being made available for settlement by the various States Governments, I have been impressed with the degree to which these slanders have permeated the press of Great Britain. Within the last year I have taken up newspaper after newspaper, in which I have found the statement repeated under big headings, with a view to showing the exclusive policy upon which Australia is said to have entered.
– They were Conservative newspapers.
– Not all of them. I am speaking of journals which have1 been honestly misled as to the condition of affairs existing here. In view of these facts, I am quite prepared to assist in putting the law upon such a footing that there can be no excuse for anybody not understanding our aims, andi how far we desire to encourage people to come here
– The honorable member for Bland has taken the extraordinary course of complaining about vilification, and yet has himself become ai vilifier. He charged members of the Opposition with having engaged in a crusade for the vilification of Australia, and declared that thev were responsible for the criticisms, whether fair or unfair - and some of them, I admit, are unfair - which have appeared in the British press concerning our conditions and the administration of our laws.
– I certainly made that charge in respect of some members of the Opposition.
– I say that the honorable member’s statement is absolutely inaccurate.
– t have already twice called attention to the fact that honorable members by interjection ,are taking up the time allotted to the honorable member who is addressing the House. As honorable members have not yet recognised my request that fair play should be extended to the various speakers. I shall be obliged to take stronger action if interjections are persisted in.
– I repeat that the statement of the honorable member for Bland is absolutely inaccurate, and I would use a stronger word in regard to it if the rules of Parliament allowed me to do so. In the very vague and uncertain statement which the Prime Minister made in. reply to the deputy leader of the Opposition, he only indicated definitely that he intended to improve the condition of the British people - so far as Australia was concerned - by adding to the exclusion of British citizens, the exclusion of British goods by means of an increased measure of protection. In this connexion I would ask the honorable member for Bland to recollect the circumstances under which the Immigration Restriction Act was passed. He knows that it was an Act under which we had to trust the Administration, when we gave them power to examine in any language they chose, not merely coloured immigrants, but white immigrants.
– We have never yet examined a white man.
– I am not saying that the Government have done so. Under the Act we have to repose absolute trust in the Administration. We conferred upon the Government of the day the power to which I have alluded, and if it be properly exercised the aim of Parliament will be attained. If, on the contrary, advantage were taken of that power to subject British immigrants to an examination in language of which they knew nothing, it would be an undoubted straining of the intention of Parliament, and would very properly call for animadversion, both from members of. this House, and from the people and press of Great Britain. It was the honorable member for Bland who proposed the amendment to which our attention has been especially directed to-day. He gave us the assurance that it was intended to be used only to prohibit the introduction of labour in’ quantity when industrial disputes were in progress, and to prevent contracts being made in ignorance’ of the conditions obtaining in Australia, and the signatures to which might have been secured by actual deception. Upon those representations he secured the support of a large majority of the House. There was no serious discussion of the proposal, and it was understood that the provisions of the section would be enforced only under the conditions to which I have referred. But we have seen for some time - and I arn glad that honorable members are beginning to recognise it - that the effect of the law is that, even in connexion with’ the engagement of one man for a special purpose, and for a’ short period, applications have to be made for an exemption certificate. The people of Great Britain have come to the conclusion that so many dangers beset those who would come to Australia under engagement that it is better not to come at all than to incur the liabilities attaching to immigration under our laws. The Prime Minister stated that the contract laws were rigidly enforced in the United States pf America. That is doubtless the case, but they are not enforced against American citizens. America has never enforced, and has never proposed to enforce, a contract law against its own citizens, or those of its dependencies. Such persons may enter the United States of America, even under contract, without any interference on the part of the law. And yet Australia - a British community - is enforcing the contract provisions in this Act against Britishers, even in circumstances in which it was said when the Bill was before us that there would be no necessity to do so. To describe men who come here under contract as undesirable immigrants or bondsmen is to make the most improper use of those terms.
– It depends on the circumstances.
– I am referring to cases in which men come here under contract to receive the ordinary rates of wages - men who, when entering into that contract, knew what they were doing - and are not imported to interfere in- industrial disputes. Surely some of the best men obtainable from Great Britain are those who would come out only under engagement - men who are able to command constant employment in Great Britain. Surely they would be a desirable class to have in Australia. They naturally say, “ We can obtain work in Great Britain, and why should we come .to Australia unless employment is assured to us?” It is undesirable that men should arrive in Australia in destitute circumstances, but some honorable members lose sight of the fact that a man who has scraped up every shilling to pay for his passage to Australia, and whose chances of employment on arrival here depend solely on the condition of the labour market, runs a risk of becoming destitute. I am not saying for one moment that the honorable member for Bland, or those who agree with him, are backing down from the position they originally took up.
– On the honorable member’s own statement I am not.
– I am not going to pursue the tactics of the honorable member, who this morling delivered a speech that was not in his usual style. I shall not attribute wrong motives to him, or say that he is abandoning his principles. I am simply pointing out that he has seen fit to form a different view of the effect of the contract labour section from that which he first took. I am pleased that he and the Prime Minister now see their way to reconsider it. I recognise that there are some difficulties in the way of amending the provision in question, but those difficulties are not insuperable. If we know what we want, surely it should not be im- r possible for us tor express that desire in an amendment of the section. I hope that the Prime Minister will not delay dealing with the matter, but will recognise that, even though the drafting of an amendment to the section may involve some difficulty, there are still greater difficulties and objections in the retention, of the section as it stands. I do not recognise one difficulty which the Prime Minister suggests. He says that the creation of the Arbitration Courts in several of the States has given rise to new difficulties in the way of amending this provision. To my mind they have simply eased the situation. If an industrial dispute were brought before an Arbitration Court the wages and hours of labour to be observed in the trade in question would be determined, and the-rates and hours fixed bv the Court would be regarded as those which were to rule in the industry. A new arrival would consequently have to comply with that decision.
– That is not my difficulty.
– Then I do not know what difficulty the honorable and learned gentleman has in mind. Our experience of late years shows that there is so little danger to be expected from this source that the section might be wholly repealed. If the case put forward by the honorable member for Bland - that there should be no interference with industrial disputes by the importation of cheap labour, and that there should be no misconception as to the rates of wages and conditions of labour in Australia on the part of those entering into a contract to labour here - needs consideration, it can be met. The sooner we remove from the minds of the people of Great Britain the impression which has been supported by incidents that have actually occurred - the impression that we wish to restrict the immigration of men seeking honest employment - the better. The sooner we remove the impression that a community of British people, which is indebted to Great Britain for the great gift of the Continent of Australia, and many of the liberties it enjoys, places restrictions in the way of honest citizens of the Empire coming to Australia to accept honest employment, and not with the intention of forcing down wages, or of interfering with an industrial dispute, the better for the Commonwealth. In some cases the coming of these men to Australia may lead to the creation of new industries, and it is most undesirable that their admission to the Continent should be restricted, or that they should be subjected to any humiliation at our hands. The sooner we so amend our law as - to clearly show the people of Great Britain what we intend and what we do not intend, the better for Australia. As there seems to be a consensus of opinion that an amendment of the Act is necessary,’ I hope that action in that direction will be taken by the Government at as early a date as possible. Before the Ministerial announcement was made, it was my intention to test the opinion of the House on the question ; but I willingly give way to the Government, as I recognise that its assistance is probably necessary in connexion with such an amendment of our law. I trust that at an early date we shall see the worst features of section 3 of the Immigration Restriction Act removed from our statute-book, and a different opinion created throughout the British Empire from that which at present exists in regard to our immigration laws.
– No truer words ever fell from the lips of a ‘Minister than those which were uttered by the Prime Minister as to the reason for Victoria’s loss of population. Thirty years ago I endeavoured to settle on the land, but the difficulties which beset me were such that the area I. obtained has up to the present been nothing but a burden to me. The honorable member for North Sydney inquired whether the United States of America ever applied the contract labour laws against one of its own citizens. I would inform him that, if a citizen of the United States left England under contract to work -in the States, he would not be allowed to land unless he was able to answer a very severe set of questions that would be put to him. That is the information which I obtained first hand at Manila. I was informed that men from Hongkong have been refused permission to land in AmericaAn immigrant is questioned even as to his opinions on the marriage question before he is permitted to land. The honorable member for Bland, spoke of the stringent immigration regulations which prevailed in the United States, and the honorable member for North Sydney, on inquiry at the office of the Consul for the United States, will learn for himself how severe they are. I am in a position to show that a Crown Colony of Great Britain has a law directed really against its own citizens. I have endeavoured to obtain an original document relating to this matter, and if it be forthcoming from the office of the Minister of External Affairs, I hope that I shall have permission to print it. No Australian regulation is so stringent as the one in operation in the Crown Colony of Hongkong. It was issued1 while I was there. Under it if an Englishman, Irishman, Scotchman, Australian, German, or Russian took ship at Macao, one and a half hour’s sail, from Hongkong - or even from a nearer port - and became destitute on landing at Hongkong, the agents or owners of the ship would be answerable for any cost incurred by the Government in respect of the man. Further than that, the Government may require the ship-owners to return all such individuals to their place of birth.
– That is the law practically all over the world-
– That is an absurd statement for the honorable and learned member to make. I was informed that the captain and owners of every vessel entering the English port of Hongkong were answerable, for any man who left that ship and had to earn his living. Compared with such a regulation, those in force in the Commonwealth are trifling. The sooner Australia awakens to a knowledge of the party that slanders and degrades the country which feeds and clothes its members, the better. I have no doubt that it is the desire of every honorable member that we should have a happy and a prosperous people, and I am asto-
Commerce [15 September, 1905.]
Bill (No. 2).
nished that some honorable members of the Opposition, who possess liberal and democratic tendencies, should be led into paths which I am sure their conscience must bid them to avoid. The majority of the newspapers supporting the Opposition are those guilty of vilifying Australia.
Debate interrupted. Orders of the Day called on under standing order ug.
Debate resumed from 14th September (vide page 2344), on motion by Mr. Knox -
That the Bill be referred to a Select Committee, consisting of the following members : - Sir W.
– I do not propose to speak at any length upon this question. To my mind, any inquiries that might be made by a Committee would simply tend to show the urgency of passing a measure of this kind: I see no need, therefore, for the appointment of a Select Committee. Honorable members have sufficient acquaintance with commercial affairs to justify them in considering and passing a measure of this kind without referring it to the investigation of such a body; though, of course, if it can be shown that any of the clauses of the Bill would operate ‘unfairly towards honest trader’s, they should be amended. This sudden desire for the appointment of a Select Committee seems strange to me, seeing that some of those who support the motion of the honorable member for Kooyong have expressed strong opinions against the appointment of Select Committees, because of the cost, and for other reasons. But when delay is wished for, or other motives actuate them, they seem to put aside these opinions. I am not sure whether the honorable and learned member for Parkes last night charged me with possessing class bias because I had shown round the Chamber samples of adulterated goods, or because I had discovered the adulteration. If to feel strongly against all kinds of fraud, and against the deliberate deception by vendors of those with whom they do business, is to be biased, I confess that I am so biased. The need for legislation of this kind must be recognised, and the only point for consideration is whether the Bill as framed may, or may not, be detrimental to trade. It is claimed that one of its clauses will require, the grading of exports by Commonwealth officials; but I fail to see that that is so. As I understand the clause in question, it means that such goods shall be stamped to show their quality, and that provision will naturally lead to the grading of produce bv exporters or manufacturers ; and recognised qualities will come to be established in various trades. But to protect the honest trader, penalties must be imposed for the dishonest description of goods, and1 the Customs-house officials must be the judges in the first instance of whether goods are or are not properly stamped. Surely no objection will be taken to a provision requiring the marking of the weight on every package. The sale of light-weight goods seems to be increasing under the present system. A buyer asks for a packet of candles, believing that he will receive 1 lb., and gets 12 ounces; or for a tin of jam, believing that it will contain 1 lb., and receives 14 ounces. Of course, in such cases he could protect himself if he were allowed to weigh the contents of the tin or package ; but the vendor would never permit that. I cannot understand the opposition to the measure which has been exhibited by some honorable members who supported the late Government, since the Bill was framed by that Government. They seem to think that the present Government would administer its provisions unfairly. I do not think that that is a fair position to take, because I feel sure that the departmental officials will administer the law in the same way under this Government as under any other Government. The honorable and learned member for Parkes last night gave us one of his usual lectures upon the common law of England, and told us that it was recognised by the Courts that when two persons entered into a contract they had to abide by it, even though’ one’ might afterwards find out that he did not get exactly what he bargained’ for. But if a person sells me a pair of boots as made of leather, while some material portion of them is cardboard, I have a remedy against him, even at common law, because it is impossible for the buyer in such a case to discover by an ordinary examination the nature of the material used. I was surprised to hear, too, in this connexion, the apparent approval of the honorable member for Parramatta of the English system of dealing only with imports. The fact that the legislation of England has not prevented the exportation of goods which are not what they purport to be, has had a good deal to do with the large importations of shoddy to Australia, especially, in the old days, when anything was considered good enough for the Colonies. Apparently the honorable member wishes us to follow the same policy. I think that the measure should not be made too narrow, and I urge the Minister not to accept the suggestion to confine its application to articles of food and such things as patent medicines. I would extend it to apparel, and make it apply to Inter-State trade, as I am given to understand by those who pretend to legal knowledge that we can make it so apply. I have here, for the edification of honorable members, a number of samples which show the nature of some of the goods which are now being manufactured in Melbourne and sold locally or sent to the other States. My first sample is a piece of paper made to represent leather, and used as a kind of inner sole for men’s boots. Then I have an in-sole of a child’s boot, stamped out of a cardboard hat-box. I have another sample of paper which so closely imitates leather that it would be impossible for almost any one but an expert to discover that it is not leather. Another exhibit is a child’s shoe, the only leather in which is a very thin piece, of inferior quality, on the sole, the rest of the shoe being made of cardboard, so far as the sole is concerned, and cotton for the tipper. I have also a sample of leather made up of shavings and waste pieces, which have been pressed together and rolled. This composition is used for boot heels. There are about eight layers of thin shavings, but directly the material is put into water, it becomes soft.
– Would the Bill prevent the sale of such articles ?
– We have no power to deal with the sale of goods which are manufactured in and not exported, from any of the States ; but the Governments of the States have already done something to prevent adulteration in those circumstances, and we can prevent the exportation from one State to another of adulterated goods. We can prevent, for instance, the exportation of boots made from materials such as I have shown to Sydney, where free-traders, who think the imported article is always better than the locally-made article, are being victimized by buying as leather what is really paper.
– Is the honorable member sure that these things are Australian’ made ?
– A great deal of the cardboard is imported.
– These materials are used all over the world at the present time.
– Yes. The making of sole leather out of waste pieces is quite a feature of the American trade, I believe. The point I wish to emphasize is that these materials are being used in Melbourne factories for the manufacture of boots worn in Victoria, or exported to other States. I wish to check the exportation of such goods, to protect the consumers of the other States. As a rule the free-traders of this House are very ready to champion the cause of the consumers ; but in discussing this Bill they seem to have forgotten the consumers, and to be considering only the manufacturers.
– The Bill does not provide for the protection of the consumers.
– I think that it does. In any case, we should make it provide for. their protection. The Bill compels producers to stamp their goods according to weight, quality, and grade. This, I think, will compel the various trades to grade their goods.
– Then the Bill provides for grading.
– The contention of the honorable member, that the effect of the Bill will be to create a system of Government grading, deserves consideration, but as I read .the measure that will not be its effect. What I believe to be the intention is that the exporter of goods shall state whether they are of first, second, or third grade. If an article of number 3 grade is marked as of number 1 grade, the error should be corrected by the Customs authorities. Tt appears to me that the Bill would insure that..
– An article may be introduced under a perfectly true description, and although it may not be a genuine product, may yet pass into consumption. We have no control over it after it has once been imported.
– If a purchaser buy an article with a full knowledge of its quality and character, well and good ; but what we should seek to prevent is the deception that takes the form of representing articles to be other than they are. All we can do is to insure that the goods shall be properly described. If the Bill were made to apply to the Inter-State trade, it would have a salutary effect upon our local manufacturers. We should endeavour fo bring about a high standard of manufacture for Australian goods, which we wish our own people to purchase. Honorable members will find, on reference to the last report of the City Health Officer of Sydney,- what lias been done by means of legislation against the adulteration of foods. Owing to the activity of the health authorities in regard to the adulteration of milk the mortality amongst young children has been very largely reduced. Last year the deaths were 48 per cent, less than in 1903, and 46 per cent, lower than the average for the previous three years. The percentage of cases of adulteration of milk fell from 71 in 1903 to 19 in 1904. The sale of water at 4d. per gallon is a very profitable industry, but the authorities have shown that they can effectively check that form of fraud. The Chambers of Commerce of Australia are making an appeal which is quite characteristic of such bodies. They say that they are in sympathy with the object of the Bill, namely, the prevention of fraud, but they denounce the measure without indicating their real grounds of objection. They adopt this course in regard to every measure that is brought forward with the object of purifying our business methods, and protecting the public against deception. I would not suggest that they desire to encourage dishonest traders, but the methods they adopt certainly lay them open to grave suspicion. I should like them to declare definitely in what respects the Bill is likely to fail in achieving its objects. I think that its scope should be extended to apparel. Serious .frauds are perpetrated in connexion with the manufacture of clothing, and I think we should endeavour to protect the public as far as we can by placing under supervision all transfers of apparel from one State to another. I believe that this would have a salutary effect upon our clothing manufactures. I have indicated’ the extent to which spurious substances are used for manufacturing purposes. I have Here a piece of paper which is made up to resemble leather, and is used in the manufacture of cheap furniture,. We should do all we can to put a stop to such frauds upon the public. When we have done so we can fairly appeal to the States Governments to co-operate with us in regard to matters which are “beyond our control. It may be more difficult for us than for the States to regulate the conditions of manufacture, but if the States fail to take the necessary action we must do all within our power to make good the deficiency, despite the extra cost that may be involved. A number of inferior articles are now in common use, and we can, by means of legislation such as that now proposed, do a great deal towards checking trade frauds. We have heard that barium chloride is used in the manufacture of sole leather in order to add to the weight of the article. It must be extremely profitable to use barium chloride at id. per lb., and to sell it at iod. per lb. Leather thus treated is highly injurious to the health of the people who have to handle it, and upon that ground alone something should be done to put a stop to a highly improper and immoral practice. The impositions upon the public by manufacturers and producers frequently react upon themselves. Honorable members will recollect the case of the butter which was sent from Australia to South Africa during the time of the Boer war. The butter was put up in tins which were supposed to contain 1 lb. each, but on examination the contents were found to foe 4 ozs. short of the declared weight. The consignment was rejected by the Imperial authorities, and the butter was afterwards sold in Johannesburg at 5s. 3d. per dozen tins. That transaction practically ruined the Australian butter trade in South Africa. It has been argued by some honorable members that we cannot exercise any control over our produce after it leaves our ports, but it is extremely unlikely that any goods would be repacked on arrival at London, or elsewhere, with a view to imposing on the public. In regard to soap, for instance, it is very necessary that the exact weight of each bar should be stamped upon it, so that the purchasers may know exactly what they are buying. Soap is made up in the form of 28, 32, 36, and 40 bars to the cwt., butmany people are under the impression that one bar of soap is the same as another, so far as the weight is concerned, and, in consequence, are frequently imposed upon. Then again, we have been, informed that from 20 to 70 per cent, of cotton has been used .in the manufacture of Colonial flannels. We cannot control the manufacture of these goods, but we can at least exercise supervision over those which are transferred from State to State. I have directed the attention of honorable members to the rubbish that is used in the manufacture of children’s shoes. The paper, which is substituted for leather, immediately soaks up water like a sponge, and instead of protecting the child against damp and cold is likely to visit upon it the most serious consequences. It is desirable that we should regulate the sale of patent medicines, but it is still more important that we should exercise supervision over the manufacture of articles of food and clothing. The object of the Bill is to insure that all articles exported from Australia, shall be described according to their quality. The Victorian Government have accomplished much good by means of their system’ of grading exports, and I regard the Bill as another step in the direction of securing a good name for Australian products in the markets of the world and of protecting the home consumer.
– Honorable members know from the remarks which I made yesterday upon the motion submitted by the honorable and learned member for Corio, that I sincerely deprecate adding to the Select’ Committees which are already in existence. I have previously stated my opinion that it is the Government alone who should accept the initial responsibility for all legislation submitted to this Chamber. That legislation, I contend, should be the finished product of the combined intelligence of the Cabinet ; and it is only when I am satisfied that the necessary amount of forethought and consideration has not been devoted to Bills introduced into this House that I will consent to the appointment of a Select Committee to perform the work which properly attaches to Ministers.
– The honorable member objected to the appointment of a Select Committee only yesterday.
– If the honorable member had been ‘ present a- few minutes ago he would have ‘heard me reiterate my objections to the unnecessary appointment of Select Committees. The creation of such a body is only justified when the Cabinet have not given to measures submitter) to the House that concerted consideration which they should bestow upon them. I think it must be very clear to honorable members that Ministers have not collectively considered this Bill. We have merely to look at. that portion of if which relates to grading in order to discover that. Up to date three Ministers have expressed themselves upon the measure, so far as the question of grading is con cerned. In the first place the AttorneyGeneral scarcely seemed to know what the Bill intended. When the honorable member for North Sydney asked him, “ What about grading “ ? he found the question so awkward and unexpected that the best reply he could give was, “ Am I not to have the opportunity to put together a few connected sentences”? Later on the honorable and learned! gentleman, having had time to turn over in his mind the possibilities of this measure, made the following declaration : -
We are not taking the power to create qualities, grades, sizes, weights, and ingredients.
At a subsequent stage the honorable member for North Sydney inquired -
Has the Attorney-General -finished what he had to say in regard to grading?
To which the Attorney-General replied -
I am trying to answer the honorable member’s questions. We do not intend to create grades.
The’ honorable member for North Sydney thereupon asked -
The Government do not intend to grade? and the Attorney-General answered - this time a little bit staggered, because he scented, danger in the insistence of the honorable member’s question -
It all depends upon what the honorable member means by grading.
In view of this remarkable change of front on the part of the Attorney-General, it is obvious not only that the honorable and learned gentleman has not considered the Bill concertedly with the Cabinet, but that he himself has not considered it upon its merits. The bulk of his statements were to the effect that it does not contemplate dealing with grading. But the Minister who is in charge of the Bill tells another tale. He says -
There is to be sufficient grading to enable us to distinguish bad goods from good goods.
If there is to be that amount of grading, it is perfectly clear that the Bill makes provision’ for grading. It will thus be seen that two responsible Ministers, who should have jointly considered this measure before it was submitted to the House, directly contradict each other as to one of the most important phases of.it. The Vice-President of the Executive Council is even more emphatic than is the Attorney-General. He declared that no one with any sense would think that this bill meant grading. Thus we find that three Ministers entertain different views of the measure, clearly proving that they have not concertedly considered it, although the far-reaching character of its provisions in itself should have rendered such consideration imperative. It behoves the House, in defence of the trade which we have already built up, and in protection of the interests which Australia possesses, to refer the Bill to a Select Committee, since the Government have proved so recreant to their duty. The honorable member for Darling attempted to make a great point this morning by exhibiting certain articles which had been sold under the false pretence that they were made of leather. The material, which he exhibited as leather, consisted either of paper or leather shavings, and shows that a miserable fraud has been practised upon the poor people who purchased it in the belief that it was the genuine article. But in urging that view, the honorable member for Darling providedme with the very best argument that can be employed against the Bill. The measure will not protect the local consumer at all. Under its operation the same materials can be imported, so long as they are correctly described. They may be brought into the Commonwealth as “ fancy paper “ and afterwards sold to the local boot manufacturer, who may convert them into boots purporting to be “ leather “ for the children of the poorer class of people. The Bill deals only with imports and exports. Even in regard to these matters it does not go far enough, if there be anything in the benefits which, it is predicted, will accrue from its, operation. I repeat that under the Bill any goods may be imported, so long as they are properly described. For instance, materials may be imported as “ imitation leather,” and after they have been admitted they may be converted into any article that the manufacturer chooses.
– Does not the honorable member think that the States could deal with that matter?
– Most certainly I do. The States alone can deal with the practice of defrauding the consumer. In the first place, we have to consider the class of goods to which this measure is intended to apply. The Minister of Trade and Customs, in introducing it, submitted a long list of articles which were likely to be affected by its operation. These included all foodstuffs, Loots and shoes, furniture, and apparel, and a number of other articles rang ing through all branches of commerce. Shortly afterwards, however, the honorable gentleman, who ought in all reason to have been thoroughly satisfied, before introducing the Bill, as to the particular articles which should be affected by it, received a deputation from the commercial bodies of the Commonwealth in respect of its provisions. In reply to that deputation, he said that he would introduce an amendment which would confine the operation of the Bill to patent medicines and food products.
– If I have done wrong in endeavouring to meet honorable members opposite, I will make the Bill apply to all the articles to which I previously referred.
– The Minister may endeavour to lead me into a false position, but I am not quite so young as he always describes me. Immediately after submitting the measure to this House, the Minister assured a deputation that it would not cover more than half the scope which it was originally intended to cover. Now he is prepared if he meets with any further opposition to see that the original scope of the Bill is maintained. He has no particular responsibility in regard to the matter, and is quite prepared to see the Bill passed in whatever form the House chooses.
– This is a deliberative assembly, and he wishes to know what proposals the honorable member hastomake.
– It is a deliberative assembly, which used to be presided over by a responsible Government; but if any Government is prepared to allow the Opposition or any other party in the House to take upon itself the responsibility for Bills, and to deal with the genera] trend of legislation, it is a sorry event for the Commonwealth.
– Are they not to listen to proposals from all sides of the House?
– Three Ministers have expressed largely conflicting views in regard to the measure, and now we have a fourth coming forward. My honorable and learned friend urges that it is only right that the Government should consider proposals from all sections of the House. I entirely agree with him; but I think he will see that the Ministry should not accede to a proposal unless they are satisfied that it is a right one. The Minister first said the Bill should deal with a wide range of articles ; therefore he thought it beneficial that it should deal with those articles. He afterwards agreed to restrict the operations of the measure ; therefore he then thought that it would not be beneficial to include articles formerly included. Now we find him prepared, if he meets any opposition to that proposition, to deliberately agree to the Bill being passed in a form which he has admitted would not be in the interests of Australia. Here we have a picture of responsible government which is not likely -to encourage any belief in the future usefulness of this House.
– Is there not a responsible Parliament, as1 well as responsible Government?
– Certainly there is; and that is why this Parliament, as a responsible body, should see that the Government which direct its deliberations, submit to it the product of their combined intelligence, or at all events take the responsibility for the recommendations they make. The present Government can apparently accept no responsibility for anything they may do. It seems strange that they should be so prepared to jump backward and forward in relation to their proposals.
– But what is the particular principle of legislation that the honorable member wishes to emphasize?
– The particular principle I am laying down is that all proposed legislation should be considered by the Government, and that it is only when it is obvious that a Bill has not been so considered that the House should take the extreme step of appointing a Select Committee to inquire first of all whether there is any necessity and call for the proposed measure, and secondly whether it is designed in the interests it is intended to conserve. Honorable members, from whatever side they have spoken, have shown that they really believe, in view of all the different attitudes adopted by the Ministry, that the Bill has not been properly considered. Such being the fact, I fail to see why the Government should object to the appointment of this Select Committee. The Committee proposed will be an expert one. All legislation of this kind in the House of Commons is first submitted to Select Committees specially qualified to deal with it. In the limited States the same procedure is adopted. But our House is obviously too small to permit of the formation of a number of standing committees of that kind ; and for that reason we should be all the more careful to see that the Government properly consider all measures before submitting them to us. It would be utterly useless for us to attempt in Committee to frame a Bill of such a far-reaching character as this is. We could not bring it into anything like reasonable proportions. Let me give one, instance of the difficulties in the way. We know that if one wants to retain posesssion of a market, one must consider the demands of that market. It has been strongly urged in Australia, as well as in other markets of English manufacturers, that the reason the latter are not keeping, abreast of foreign manufacturers is mainly because they make an article to suit themselves, and not to suit the market for which it is intended. What are we proposing to do in this Bill, but to make all goods conform to certain grades and standards of quality? Is it not proposed to provide that all the goods that we send to different markets of the world shall be on exactly7 the same plan? It is very clear that in so doing we are falling into the same mistake that the people of the mother country, according to our view, have committed, in trying to treat all markets, not from the point of view of the consumer, but from the stand-point of the manufacturer. The honorable member for Parramatta touched on one interesting phase of this very wide question. He dealt with the difficulties which must arise in our markets in the East as the result of the passing of this measure. What the honorable gentleman said in that regard has been the subject of some criticism on the part of certain honorable members in this House; but I do say that the > gist of his remarks is borne out by what little knowledge I have of the character of the Eastern markets. We all know that those markets are intensely conservative in their tendency. It is only as the result of persistent hard work that a firm is able to establish a market for its products in the East. It is common knowledge in the East, even if it is not in this House, that new traders to that part of the world endeavour, by imitating articles that have already gained a foothold there, to secure some sort of spurious footing for their wares. I give this as an instance in support of my contention. I know of an article which, after gaining a large market in the East, was suddenly confronted with the competition of another. The merchant introducing the latter article was careful to see that it was wrapped up in a package which bore a name that, while different from that of the vendors of the original article, contained exactly the same number of letters. The package was the same both in colour and shape, although the contents were different. The ‘ company first in the field endeavoured to obtain an injunction to prevent the sale of this colorable imitation of their own product ; but, as their efforts in that direction failed, they took the unfortunate step of printing their own name in broad bold letters across the label on their packages. The result of this was that they lost the market. Their manufacture was never asked for again. It was not the article, but the covering, that these Eastern people wanted. This is only one of many instances that might be given of the extreme conservatism of the Eastern market; and I urge that the House should take it into serious consideration before passing legislation that will inevitably render it necessary for exporters to put certain brands and marks on the labels of goods sent abroad, and thus possibly destroy the markets in the East that have been built up by Australian enterprise.
– Does not that argument cut both ways?
– I. do not think it does. Trade in the East is built up as the result of much laborious effort ; and, once secured, it may be held for all time, if our traders are not guilty of the folly which the House, by passing this Bill, would have them commit. As honorable members know, goods are sent out in large parcels; and say, for the sake of argument, that we provided that each parcel, instead of each unit, should be marked in a certain way before being exported to China. Only an expert committee could decide whether articles could not be sent under such conditions to the East, and afterwards reshipped to other markets, where this system might or might not be advantageous. It is obvious that all these different phases of trade must be very seriously considered before the House is asked to embark on such sweeping legislation as that with which we are now asked to deal.
– Does not the honorable member believe that commercial honesty is the best policy ?
– I certainly do.
– If a Chinaman had a i6-oz. stomach, would the honorable member give him only 14 ozs. of Australian butter with which to fill it?
– As to their being any ullage in tinned goods sent to China, I may say at once that the Chinese are by no means the innocent people that the House appears to imagine. On the contrary, they are very shrewd in some ways. When it is once found in China that there is an ullage - I am dealing now solely with the Eastern trade, as showing that this measure cannot be assimilated to every export trade we have - in an article, that article in a very short time is run off the market. The Chinese, as a trading people, are very honest.
– That is not characteristic of the Chinese we know in Australia!.
– If my honorable friend would inquire he would find that the Chinese merchant has as good a reputation for honesty as has the merchant of any other country. I am by no means opposed to the White Australia idea, but ‘I always desire to give credit where it is due. If I have repeated anything which the honorable member for Parramatta has said, it has been unconsciously, because I was not present when he made his speech. I put this fact before the House to show the care which we should exercise in regard to any measure regulating commerce. This Bill does not protect the local consumer. If it did, that would be a solid reason for pressing for its consideration in this Chamber without delay.
– It protects the consumer so far as imports are concerned.
– No; because the local merchant may deal as he likes with the goods which he has imported, once they have passed through the Customs barrier.
– Does the honorable member think that the local merchant would be so dishonest as to alter labels?
– Tha’t would not be necessary. The paper made to imitate leather for use in the manufacture of boots and shoes, which the honorable member for Darling exhibited here this morning, could be imported as paper or imitation leather.
– But it would not pay to re-make imported boots made partly of imitation leather.
– If articles manufactured of shoddy cannot be imported, the shoddy will be imported, and made up locally. Surely honorable members do not wish to encourage so miserable and deceitful an industry as that?
– The States could put an end to that.
– Will the honorable member assist to make it as effective as possible?
– If the Commonwealth had the power to act for the protection of the people of Australia in these matters, I would be with the honorable member, because I am certainly not an advocate of false trading. I say, however, that the Bill will not have the effect of preventing the sale of goods under false trade descriptions, and for that and the other reasons which I have given I urge the adoption of the motion of the honorable member for Kooyong, so that a thorough investigation may be made in regard to it.
– I have listened very patiently to this debate, so far as I could, because one cannot remain in the Chamber for more than a couple of hours without suffering physical inconvenience.
– The physical inconvenience I speak of is not such as mightresult from having to listen to the honorable member’s utterances but is due to theimpure condition of the atmosphere caused* by defective ventilation. So far as my health has permitted, I have attended inthe Chamber to hear the speeches made inconnexion with the Commerce Bill, and I cannot help being impressed with the similarity of the. utterances of the members of the Opposition. The last speaker is a great imitator of others in the composition of hisspeeches. Almost every argument which heused just now, except such as were drawnby spoon-feeding interjections, had been used by other members of his party whohad preceded him. He generally commences his discourses by quoting from the
Hansard reports of previous speeches, and* dwells on them tod nauseam, adding nothing novel or original to the debate. Thisresurrection pie style of speaking; is very tiring to those who have to listen to it.
– Will the honorablemember discuss the Bill?
– I claim the right toreply to the remarks of the honorable member in regard to the measure, and his attempts to humiliate the Minister and otherswho support the Bill.
– It is to the Bill, and2 not to the conduct of any honorable member, that the honorable gentleman must address himself.
– I cannot understand’ the opposition to the Bill, since it is known that its object is to do all that the Commonwealth authorities can do to purify our export and import trades. The honorableand learned member for Parkes last night assumed, as he usually does, that in hispersonality is summed up all the reasonableness and logic of the .Chamber, and” pretended to be unable to discover, evenwith a microscope, the presence here of any other level-headed man. Then, in hisgrandiloquent manner, he proceeded to deal* with the arguments of previous speakers, though he could not at the outset refrainfrom having a quiet dig at the LabourParty, who, he says, in their attitude towards this measure are influenced by sentiment and strong bias. I think that that remark could more fairly be- applied to those who are opposing the Bill. I maintain that the honorable and learned (member for Parkes was wrong in his premises and, therefore, arrived at entirely erroneous conclusions. He said that if the Government had adopted the Bill which’ was framed by their predecessors, they would have had the support of honorable members generally. He asserted further that the present Government had eliminated from the measure the principal clause in the draft Bill, and had thereby robbed the measure of its usefulness. That statement is utterly misleading. So far from the present Government having eliminated any provision that would have made the measure more effective, they dropped a clause of a far more stringent character than any now embodied in the Bill. That clause read -
The Governor-General may by ‘proclamation prohibit the importation or introduction into Australia of any goods which do not comply with the standard prescribed by regulation or proclamation.
Instead of proposing to take power to prohibit the importation of goods, the Government seek authority which will enable them to insure that goods shall be truly described. Honorable members of the Opposition have devoted hour after, hour to the -expression of their objections to grading, and yet they would readily have supported a measure containing a provision such as I have quoted. ‘ In that clause, it was proposed to set up a standard under which every article would have to be graded. Honorable members, who are opposing the Bill, have urged that the Government have entirely forgotten the consumers, but they “know full well that the powers of the Commonwealth are limited by the Constitution. The Constitution permits the Commonwealth to deal only with imports and exports, and since the advent of Inter-State free-trade no means are available to us of exercising supervision over goods which may !be transferred from one State to another. Honorable members have urged that because we cannot go beyond the Customs House, we should not do anything - that be- cause we cannot legislate within the State domain, we must not exercise such powers as are conferred upon us by the Constitution. Such arguments are a hollow mockery, and should stand to the eternal discredit -of those honorable members who have used them. I am becoming convinced that there iis very little sincerity in many of the arguments that are used on the floor of this
House, and in other Parliaments of which I have had experience. Honorable members employ just such arguments as maysuit their party purposes, and frequently take up an attitude contrary to that which would be dictated by their own convictions.
– The honorable member is not discussing the Bill.
– I am now dealing with the arguments used and the methods adopted by the opponents of the measure.
– The honorable member would be perfectly in order in replying to any arguments used by opponents of the Bill ; but he is not in order in saying that in general the arguments used in this and other Parliaments are not sincere. That is an abstract question that has no bearing on the Bill.
– My remarks may be unparliamentary, and if so, I shall have to refrain from continuing them. I regret it very much.
– I was not questioning the accuracy of the honorable member’s statements, but was pointing out that a general discussion upon parliamentary sincerity is beside the question now before us.
– My remarks may be unparliamentary, but they may be freely expressed in another place, and I shall take care that they are so expressed. The duty of protecting the consumer rests upon the States, and it is to be hoped that when the Commonwealth has done all that lies in its power, the States authorities will follow its example. In view of the provisions contained in the Bill prepared by the Reid Government, it is absurd for honorable members opposite to object to what they call grading.
– What is the difference between grading and standardization?
– I can see no difference whatever, except in the terms, and, therefore, I cannot understand why honorable members should so strongly argue against the provision contained in the Bill. Honorable members opposite have admitted that some supervision is required to prevent the community -from being imposed upon bv manufacturers and others, and yet they object to legislation framed with that object. T do not think that they have any real objection to the Bill, but I believe that they regard it as necessary for party purposes to oppose every proposal brought forward by the Government. The measure is intended to put down nefarious practices on the part of commercial men, and to guard our people against having foisted upon them adulterated foods and other articles. Surely theseareworthy objects. This Bill is also necessaryin order to preserve the reputation of our exports in the markets of the world. Time will not permit me to enlarge upon the extent to which those markets have been affected, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, by placing upon them inferior articles labelled as Australian, to the manifest detriment of our producers. It behoves us to do what we can to restrict the operations of unscrupulous importers and exporters, who have hitherto disgraced the calling to which they belong, and to teach wrongdoers that they cannot with impunity undermine the reputation of our commerce. That is a duty whichclearly attaches to this Parliament. Some honorable members, for ‘whom I entertain the greatest admiration as men, make me feel -when I hear the arguments which they adduce upon matters of this kind - that they must have a dual existence. Unfortunately, I cannot separate the politician from the man. We owe it to our constituents that we should preserve them from imposition, fraud, and deception. That should be our first consideration. This Bill seeks to apply to good’s, imported and exported, such restrictive laws as our Constitution will permit. Beyond that we cannot go. I am glad that the honorable member for NorthSydney has just entered the Chamber, because he must know that the Bill which the late Government had prepared for submission to this House contained a clause, the effect of which would have been to overthrow all the arguments advancedby members of the Opposition in respect of grading. If the honorable member had been upon this side of the Chamber, he would have been as tenacious in his support of that provision as he is in his opposition to this measure.
– The honorable member should not say that, because the Bill to which he refers was never approved by the late Cabinet.
– I have no knowledge of that matter. I can only speak of the provisions of the Bill in the form in which it was drafted. I contend that the clauses of the measure now under consideration are both liberal and necessary. I disagree with the action of the ‘Minister of Trade and Customs if he has given a promise - and I believe that he has - to limit the operation of the Bill to food products and patent medicines. I claim that if it is necessary to exercise control over food products, it is equally necessary to do so in respect of wearing apparel. A child who is compelled to wear boots made from brown paper is much morein need of protection than is the child who suffers as the result of taking too many doses of Mother Seigel’s Syrup.
– This Bill does not touch that.
– The honorable member knows that we cannot go beyond the powers conferred upon us by the Constitution.
– The honorable member is implying that we can.
– I am doing no such thing. I say that as far as we can constitutionally exercise control over these goods, we should do so. When we hear the honorable and learned member for Parkes speak upon questions of this kind, we begin to wonder whether we are men of common sense. It is his constant endeavour to impress upon us the inferiority of those whom he is addressing. He adopts an exalted tone that is absolutely unapproachable by any other member of the House. When we talk about legislation that is pending, he begins to quote common law, and all sorts of law, with a view to confounding us. I am sure that when professing last night to be so intensely interested in the welfare of the consumer, he must have known that our sole desire was to afford that individual protection. In passing this Bill, we shall be making a determined effort to protect the community from dishonest importersand exporters.
Question - That the Bill be referred to a Select Committee - put. The House divided -
Ayes … … … 12
Noes … … … 27
Majority … … 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
In Committee :
Clause 1 -
This Act may be cited as the Commerce Act 1905, and shall commence on a day to be fixed by proclamation.
– One of the strongest objections I have to the Bill is that it leaves everything to be done by the Minister. It is not even to come into operation except on a day to be fixed by proclamation. I would ask the Minister if he can see his way to have some definite date fixed when the measure will come into operation, so that the trading community will be able to make sufficient preparation to meet the disabilities to which it will subject them.
-I propose to move an amendment providing that the measure shall be known as “ The Adulteration and Fraudulent Representation Act, 1905.” Much of the misconception in regard to this Bill has arisen from the fact that it is wrongly named. The Minister has been assured that it isthe desire of the Opposition to assist the Government in preventing adulteration and fraud, but we object to the Bill being placed on the statutebook as one dealing with the trade and commerce of the whole Commonwealth. When the proper time arrives, we shall ask the Government to consent to the title being altered, so that it will read, “ A Bill” for an Act to prevent adulteration and fraudulent representation.” If that amendment be made, the object of the Bill will at once be clear and definite. But the use of the general title “A Bill for an Act relating to Commerce “ will lead the outside world to believe that it has a distinctly different intention. So far as the Bill is designed to prevent adulteration and fraudulent representation in regard to goods, it has the approval of the commercial community ; but I would point out that the “departmental measure which the honorable member for Gippsland had not time to thoroughly consider during his administration bore a different title. The very fact that the Bill is described as the “ Commerce Bill “ has given rise to much of the opposition to it, and has caused many people to attribute to it a scope and intention that are not inherent to the Bill itself.
– Before the honorable member submits his amendment I should like to make a short statement to the Committee. I promise him that if one or two clauses in the Bill be amended - as they probably will be - with the result that the Bill resolves itself into such a measure as he has described, I shall have no objection to the recommittal of clause 1, with a view to insert a fitting title.
Mr.Knox. - I am satisfied with the Minister’s offer.
– I move -
That the following words be added - “ not being earlier than the 1st July, 1906.”
Much of the trouble that arose in connexion with the Sea Carriage of Goods Act was due to the fact that it was brought into force without sufficient notice. It is still more important that this measure should not be proclaimed until traders have had an opportunity to instruct their agents and correspondents abroad to comply with all the conditions - and in some respects they are onerous - which is impossible if the Act should be brought into operation at once. I think that the date I have named is the earliest thatshould be fixed ; but it is rather an open question whether it would not be wise to determine that the Act shall not commence until 1st September. The Ministry might consider the expediency of extending the date if the session should not terminate before the end of the year. The amendment is a simple one, and does not at all affect the principles of the Bill. As a matter of fact, I favour some of its principles, although I think that it goes too far in certain directions. The amendment should be passed, in justice to those who will have to accommodate themselves to a new set of conditions.
– I trust that I shall be in order in explaining shortly the reasons that induced me to have the first Bill relating to these matters drafted, because it appears to me that the original intention has been departed from. Honorable members will remember that a resolution was carried last session, on the motion of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, in favour of the establishment of a Federal Agricultural Bureau. The matter was left in my hands by the Government of which I was a member, and, after a thorough investigation, I found that it would be undesirable to duplicate any service at present being performed by the Agricultural Departments of the States. It appeared to me, after an exhaustive inquiry, that the functions which pertained more particularly to a Federal Department, acting on behalf of all the States, were those of controlling all imports and exports relating to agricultural matters, and of collecting and disseminating all information that would be of value to the agriculturists of the Commonwealth. Furthermore, it seemed to me that we should provide for the collection of information regarding the soils and climatic conditions of the various parts of Australia, and the different products for the cultivation of which each part was suited. I mentioned the matter to Dr. Wollaston, the ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, and he pointed out that the only legislative powers that were necessary in that direction’ related to imports and exports - that any other function which- it was desirable to perform in the way of collecting useful information, either here or abroad, of opening up markets in other countries, and of ascertaining all the conditions under which our products should enter those markets, could be carried out simply by making the necessary appointments and voting the salaries on the Estimates. He pointed out that it would only “be necessary - and this opinion was confirmed by the Attorney-General, whom I consulted on the matter - to take legislative powers in regard to the control of imports and exports. I also went ‘carefully into the matter with one of the experts of the Victorian Department of Agriculture, a gentleman who, I regret to say, is no longer connected with it. I refer to Dr. Howell, who is certainly -one of the most excellent experts that Australia has known. He thoroughly agreed with me and with the objects I had in view, and placed at my disposal a lot of literature showing the methods adopted in this respect’ by the United States. There they fix standards of purity and excellence in regard tc~ every product that is exported, and those products have to conform with the standards fixed before they can be sent’ abroad. The board which fixes thestandards is drawn from different bodies. The Agricultural Department and theHealth Departments of the different States- are largely represented on it,, and the commerce interests are also represented. The board fixes standards which comply with the requirements of health, without interfering with the commercial and’ agricultural interests of the country. My intention was’ to do here in a small way what is being done in the United States, to adopt proper standards of purity and’ excellence, with which our export tradeshould comply, and, for the protection of our people, to subject importations to similar conditions. The Bill as drawn containsgeneral powers extending to all commodities, and I had not time to revise it beforeleaving the Department. My intention was to go into the matter thoroughly, making; such alterations as were necessary or desirable before submitting the draft measure to my colleagues. But when I left theDepartment it had not been so revised, nor had it been submitted to the Cabinet. . I am sorry “that since (hat time my health’ has not allowed me to follow the course of legislation here ais I should have liked todo. I thought it well to place before the House the reasons which have actuated me in this matter. I confined my attention toimports and exports of food products for the use of man and beast, in compliance with the order of the House in regard tothe establishment of an agricultural bureau, and I think that it would have been preferable to so restrict the application of theBill at first, extending it afterwards, if necessary, in such directions as might bethought best.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - If the honorablemember presses his amendment I must oppose it, because I think it unwise to arbitrarily provide that the- Bill shall not comeinto force for so long a period as nine or ten months ahead. I admit that it is only fair that those who have orders’ on the seashall be given notice of the intended changein our law.
– It is not only those who have goods on the sea who areaffected.
– In some cases contracts have been entered into which have & considerable time yet to run.
– Where orders had been given before the provisions of the Bill could be known, it would be unfair to catch . the merchants on the hop, so to speak.
– As they were caught in regard to certain bags.
– I know all about that business, and so did the merchants concerned. It would be unwise to fix a date so far ahead as the honorable member for South Sydney wishes to fix for the coming into force of the measure.
– I made the interjection about the bags, not that I know anything of the merits of the case, but because I am aware that it has been complained’ by persons interested that if sufficient notice “had Been given of what would be required the trouble would not have arisen. I know one man who had to go out of business because he had not time to get done what was wanted. Apparently the Minister did not give sufficient notice to allow of the alteration of machinery necessary to carry out his directions. It appears to me that in all cases where an alteration of th.e law is to be made, and especially where the alterations are so numerous and so serious as in this case, ample notice should be given to those concerned.
– I am willing to consent to the postponement of the operation’ of the measure until the end of March next.
– When the honorable gentleman remembers how far-reaching are the provisions of the Bill, I think he will see reason for agreeing to the amendment. Clause 7 provides that the Governor-General may prohibit the importation or introduction into Australia of any goods specified in a proclamation, unless there is applied to them a trade description of a certain* character. It may not be required only that the trade description shall be a true one. If that was likely to be the only requirement, there would not be so much need for the postponement of the operation of the measure. What will be required will be compliance with a certain description laid down by the Minister. The Minister will decide what description shall be applied. We do not know how long after the coming into force of the Act this proclamation will be issued.
– What we are now considering is the date of the commencement of the Act. The issue of the proclamation will be subsequent to the coming into force of the Act, and the proclamation may announce a still later date for the taking effect of its provisions.
– Nothing unjust will be done to those who have already sent orders.
– The Minister’s statement, to some extent, gets over the difficulty, but it must be remembered that the Act will require many alterations in the present practice. Intimation of the changes in the law will have to be sent abroad, new. orders and specifications must be framed, labels must be altered and reprinted, goods must be specially prepared for this market, and when everything is complete, shipped out here by sailing vessels. All these changes will take a long time to effect, and I do not think that the delay asked for by the honorable member for South Sydney is too long. It would not be desirable not to enforce the Act after it had once come into force, nor, on the other hand, would it be right to forfeit shipments of goods which the importers had not had time to label with the descriptions required by the Minister.
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - I have every desire to meet honorable members, but if the honorable members for North and South Sydney will consider this matter for a moment they will see-
– We know more about these things than the Minister does.
– I have had, at any rate, a great deal of administrative experience, perhaps more than is possessed by any other member of the House. Honorable members seem’ to forget that considerable time must elapse before any proclamation can be issued. If I am called upon to administer the Act. I propose, first of all, to call upon responsible and1 trustworthy persons of repute in their several trades to say what would be fair descriptions to require in regard to various kinds of goods.
– Hear, hear; all the more reason for delaying the operation of the Act.
– The chances are that in some cases the Aci will not take effect for a considerable period, but it would be unwise to say that it shall not apply at all for nearly a year to come. I think that I have met the honorable member very fairly in agreeing to postpone its commencement to the 31st March. Between now and then I hope to make arrangements with those who are likely to be affected which will enable the Department to prepare trade descriptions which will not cause friction. A little while ago, some gentlemen from Tasmania and Victoria who are interested in the fruit trade seemed to fear that the Bill would require the sale of apples by weight instead of by the bushel. I knew that apples are always sold wholesale by the bushel, and obtained from them the proper size of the cases which are used, informing them that what would be prescribed would be the proper sized cases customary in the trade. Similarly in the case of smaller fruit. The members of the deputation went away quite satisfied, and I hope to be able to deal with other persons interested in the same way. It does not follow that there will be any serious alteration in a large number of trade practices. I listened with attention to the statement of the honorable member for Gippsland, and I was gratified to learn that I had to a very large extent fallen in with his ideas in making the promises I did to the members of the Chambers of Commerce. Of course, I had not the slightest idea of what was in the honorable member’s mind when he drafted his Bill, put I had my own conception of what would be reasonable and practicable by way of a commencement in legislation of this kind. If we find it necessary to extend the scope of the measure, or to modify its provisions in any way, it will be easy to introduce an amending Bill.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth).- The statement made by the Minister shows that there is no special urgency in connexion with this measure, and I think that we should profit by the experience gained in connexion with the Sea Carriage of Goods Act. I would suggest, therefore, that the clause should be postponed, with a view to the further consideration of the amendment.
– I would point out that my honorable colleague has expressed his willingness to fix a date for the commencement of the Bill. No proclamation could be issued before that date, and my honorable colleague indicated that he did not propose to issue a proclamation until he had inquired into the trade practices followed in every branch of - industry likely to be affected. That “would all take time, and I think that an arrangement of that kind would meet the requirements of the case. Under clause 7 we can consider the question whether any special term of notice should be given in connexion with the proclamations that are issued.
Mr. KELLY (Wentworth). - I suggest that the Prime Minister should afford the honorable member for South Sydney a further opportunity to move his amendment as a later stage, if he should so desire.
– The honorable member will have an opportunity to effect his purpose by amending clause 7.
– At present we are asked to trust the Minister to delay the issue of any proclamation until he has made certain inquiries into trade practices. The intention is an excellent one, but the Minister’s action must be governed by the provisions of the Bill, as finally adopted, and we can only gauge the value of his assurance whenthe Bill has reached its final stages.
Mr. LONSDALE (New England). - I think that we might fairly adopt the 31st March as the date for the commencement of the Bill, if we were quite clear that no proclamation would take effect until extended notice had been given to those affected. It will be necessary to give reasonable notice to those who are trading with us .from oversea, so that they may adapt their arrangements to the altered circumstances
Sir WILLIAM LYNE (Hume- Minister of Trade and Customs). - When the deputation from the Chambers of Commerce waited upon me, I told them that I would be willing to allow a reasonable period to elapse after the passing of the Act before bringing it into operation. They asked for six months, and I was perfectly agreeable to that.
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS (South Sydney). - I should be perfectly satisfied if the Minister would agree to provide that the Act would come into operation on a date to be fixed by proclamation not earlier than six months after it has been passed. Many of us know what we are speaking of, and realize that our export and import trade may be seriously hampered if the Act is brought into operation too soon. Certain goods are put up for export from Australia, and if the Act were brought into operation hurriedly, it might be impossible to execute from existing stocks a large number of orders. Similarly, manufacturers of imported goods might be required to supply special trade descriptions, and would find it very difficult to do so in time to execute their orders.
– I am prepared to meet the honorable member in the way suggested.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment (by Mr. G. B. Edwards) agreed to -
That the words “ not being earlier than six months from the passing of this Act” be added.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ Officer “ means an officer of Customs. “ Trade description,” in relation to any goods, means any description, statement, indication, or suggestion, direct or indirect -
as to the nature, number, quantity, quality, purity, class, grade, measure, gauge, size, or weight of the goods ; or
as to the country or place in or at which the goods were made or produced; or
as to the manufacturer or producer of the goods or the person by whom they were selected, packed, or in any way prepared for the market ; or
as to the mode of manufacturing, producing, selecting, packing, or otherwise preparing the goods; or
as to the material or ingredients of which the goods are composed, or from which they are derived ; or
as to the goods being the subject of an existing patent, privilege, or copyright, and includes a Customs entry relating to goods ; and any mark which, according to the custom of the trade or common repute, is commonly taken to be an indication of any of the above matters, shall be deemed to be a trade description within themeaning of this Act. “ False trade description “ means a trade description which, by reason of anything contained therein or omitted therefrom, is false or likely to mislead, in a material respect, as regards the goods to which it is applied, and includes every alteration of a trade description, whether by way of addition, effacement, or otherwise, which makes the description false or likely to mislead in a material respect.
– I should like to know at what stage the Minister proposes to give effect to the assurance of the Attorney-General that it is not intended to introduce a system of grading under the Bill. Would the Minister be agreeable to eliminate the words “class, grade” from paragraph a?
– We cannot consent to the elimination of those words. It is not proposed to take power to make new grades, but if grades already exist, the goods must be truly marked.
– Passing from that to another point, I move -
That the words “ a Customs entry relating to goods and,” lines 26 and 27, be left out.
Customs entries are passed by junior clerks, and hundreds of them have to be dealt with every day. Under the Customs Act much trouble and vexation was caused owing to the practice adopted by the Customs authorities of regarding mistakes in Customs entries as sufficient ground for instituting prosecutions. Surely if it be necessary to furnish a trade description of certain goods, such description should be supplied by means of some specific document which would come under the notice of the principals of a firm, and not by means of a Customs entry passed through in the ordinary daily routine? I think that it would be improper to make the penalties provided for in the Bill apply to a false entry made by some junior clerk without the knowledge of his principals. This is one of the points which I have been asked by the chambers of commerce to impress upon the Minister.
– I merely wish to say that I cannot accept the amendment of the honorable member, and, I would direct his ‘attention to the fact that the words of which he complains have been taken from section 1. of the Imperial Merchandise Marks Act of 1891.
– I would point out to the Minister that under the Customs Act he has power to punish any individual for making a false entry, altogether apart from the provisions of this Bill. The honorable gentleman has stated that the words, “land includes the Customs entry relating to goods,” appear in the Imperial Merchandise Marks Act. The reason for that is obvious. The primary object of that Act was to establish the true source of origin of goods. In many Customs entries the source of origin is stated for the purposes of British statistics, and any false statement in that connexion would veryproperly be considered a contravention of the Act. Here, however, the situation is a very different one. Under clause 7 the Minister may insist upon the fullest trade description of goods being supplied. He may insist that that description shall set out every ingredient which is. contained in an article. The clause under consideration will require that in the Customs entry a full description of every line of goods shall be given. Sheets of paper would be necessary to supply that description in connexion with some imports.
– All that the clause provides is that the description must be a true one.
– A “ trade description “ is defined by clause 3. Under clause 7 the Minister may insist upon that trade description containing certain information. If he does insist upon that, will not clause 3compel the information in question to appear in the Customs entry ?
– The whole of it?
– No. Whatever is stated in the Customs entry must be true, and in accordance with the description of the goods as specified in paragraphs a tof.
– Let me takeas an illustration an article such as mustard, which contains a number of ingredients. The Minister may say that a description shall not be a true description unless it sets out all those ingredients, and gives their proportions. Under the Customs Act the maker of any false entry can be punished. Why should a Customs entry contain the whole trade description, which may appear on the label of any article?
– I do not read the clause in that way.
– The honorable member will see that the provision is to be applied in such manner as may be prescribed. Consequently, we may exclude Customs entries.
– I think that there is very great doubt about it. and certainly anything which tends to increase the labour attaching to Customs entries is very undesirable.
– I admit that. All I understand by this clause is that a Customs entry - like other statements in respect to goods - must accord with the trade description. That, however, does not render it obligatory to include the whole of a trade description in a Customs entry. However, I promise to look into the matter.
– Under this clause, , a Customs entry is a trade description, and a false trade de scription is defined to mean “ a trade description which, by reason of anything contained therein or omitted therefrom, is false or likely to mislead,” &c.
– Yes, if it is a description which contains anything that is misleading. As long as one adheres to the truth he is
– The words “omitted therefrom” seem to me to strengthen the contention of the honorable member for North Sydney that if the clause be rigidly construed it will compel importers to include the whole formula of any article in a Customs entry.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I wish to make the usual announcement that next week business will be proceeded with in the order in which it appears upon the paper. We shall first deal with the Commerce Bill, and consideration will then be devoted to the Representation Bill, the Census and Statistics Bill, and the Manufactures Encouragement Bill, in that order.
– I would ask the Prime Minister to consider the advisableness of increasing the hours of sitting. Already there are nearly forty items, comprising Bills and notices of motion - all of considerable importance - upon the businesspaper, and if we proceed as we havebeen doing, I fear that, at the close of the session, a number of valuable measures will be sacrificed.
– I object to increasing the hours of sitting unless the allowance to honorable members is increased proportionately.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the following statement which appears in the Age of to-day -
The mail subsidy of £120,000 a year is not paid for visits to Sydney and Melbourne, but for the conveyance of letters from Great Britain to the most convenient ports of Australia, whence they can be circulated by rail and other means to all the States of theUnion.
As a matter of fact, that statement is not correct.
– It is correct.
– The new contract states that-
After the due delivery at Adelaide of all tbe mails intended to be delivered at that port, she . shall continue her voyage to Melbourne and then to Sydney.
– Nothing is charged for that continuance.
– By reason of that provision, I think it is only fair that Queensland should be considered in connexion with the new contract.
– As bearing upon the matter which has been called into question by tbe honorablemember for Coolgardie, I wish to point out that, although the contract for the carriage of mails specifically terminates at Adelaide, it does not state that the Orient Company’s tender was not materially increased by the. insertion of the provision which requires the mail steamers to be fitted with refrigerating chambers for the carriage of Australian produce to the European market. No provision is made in that contract for the mail steamers continuing their voyage to Queensland, but it is expressly stipulated that they shall continue their voyage to Melbourne and Sydney. It is quite possible that had we omitted the conditions as to refrigerating machinery and cool chambers, we might have received a tender at a very much lower rate than we have at present to pay., and inasmuch as Queensland is being called upon to pay part of the subsidy to the Orient Company, I am at one with the honorable member for Brisbane in thinking that that State deserves some consideration in the shape of the extension of the service to the port of Brisbane.
– On a point of order, sir, I should like to know what is the proper title by which you should be addressed when acting as Deputy-Speaker. Are we to address you as “ Mr. Speaker,” “ Mr. Deputy-Speaker,” or “ Dr.Salmon “ ?
– On a previous occasion when the honorable member raised this question, I expressed the opinion that the practice of addressing the DeputySpeaker in the State House - with whose practice I was most familiars- was the correct one. I have since consulted Mr. Speaker and others, and have found that I was wrong, and that the occupant of the Chair should be addressed as Mr. Speaker.
– I should like to say that, in my opinion, the statement intheAgetowhichreference been made, is perfectly correct.
– It is not.
– Had the honorable member taken the trouble to read; the advertisement inserted in the newspapers inviting ‘ tenders for the mail service, he would have known that it was specifically stated that the mails were to be carried from a British port to Adelaide. Subsequently, much to my surprise, the further condition was imposed that the steamers should continue their voyage from Adelaide to Melbourne and Sydney. So far as I can recollect, no such condition was embodied in the form of tender adopted by the Watson Government. The honorable member has made no attempt to show that the new condition has added one penny to the cost of the service, and until he is able to do so, it is wrong for him to question the press statement in question, or to put forward the preposterous claim that the Parliament is bound to subsidize these steamers to continue their voyage to a port to which they would not be justified in going by the present trading facilities. Not long ago the same claim was put forward on behalf of Queensland in a very impudent fashion by a State Minister, with whose statement I propose to deal when we arecalled upon to discuss the contract on the motion to be submitted by the Postmaster-General. Before resuming my seat, I should like to obtain a little information from the Minister respecting an arrangement that was made by his predecessor shortly after the Reid-McLean Administration came into office. I refer to the fact that, in order to assist the wealthy proprietors of the Melbourne morning newspapers to secure a very early distribution of their journals along the Ballarat and Bendigoline it was arranged that an early clearance of letters should be made. The late PostmasterGeneral undertook to lay all the papers relating tothat incident on the table of the House, but that promise has not been fulfilled. Possibly the honorable member is not much to blame, because those who objected to the system should have reminded him of his promise. I wish to know, however, whether the Postmaster-General at an early date will lay on. the table, not merely the departmental papers, but all other information that can be obtained regarding this system, so that we may have an opportunity to consider it before the Estimates are dealt with.
– Any papers that the honorable member for Coolgardie requires in connexion with the matter referred to will be laid on the Library table before the Estimates are. dealt with. By placing them on the Library table we shall, preventthem from being impounded by the House.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 September 1905, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1905/19050915_reps_2_26/>.