4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– In the Sydney Daily Telegraph of Wednesday last, this statement occurs -
The Fisher Government is about to attaciously memorialize itself in our history by Americanizing Australian politics and introducing the “ spoils “ system. The deputation from the “Victorian Political Labour Council which indignantly remonstrated with the Minister of Home Affairs on Monday for proposing to give a Liberal work on the census-taking poured its protest into willing ears. . . The Caucus adopts the same system by excluding from a chance to work any man who does not belong to the organization which created and maintains it.
I ask the Minister of Home Affairs if any member of the deputation which I in troduced to him desired to deprive any man of the right to work ?
– No member of the deputation asked me for preference. All they asked was that they should not be compelled to suffer injustice because they were Labour men. I say about the writer of the article what I said before. He was born out of season, being conceived, thousands of years ago. He writes now, when he should have been writing ages ago.
– Can the Minister state whether on any occasion preference has been shown by his Department to any class- of applicants for employment, and whether adherents of the Labour party have been .excluded from positions because of their association with the party ?
– If the honorable member desires, I shall have a search’ made, and I shall be able to show him that .very few Labourites have had jobs, anyhow.
– I ask the Minister of External Affairs if it is true that he has promised to give instructions or directions that hereafter none but members of the Labour trade unions shall receive employment on Government contracts?
– No. I have not heard anything of it.
– You generally get the- best men when you get trade unionists.
– Does not the Minister of Home Affairs consider that his statement relative to the preference that has been shown in- his Department, whereby members pf Labour organizations have been excluded to a large extent from employment, is a reflection on the Public Service Commissioner?
– The honorable member is labouring under a multiplicity of delusions. I did not say any such thing as he attributes to me.
– In reference to a reply Riven to a question I asked yesterday, I wish to know whether the Government favours the continual reduction of the wages of those brought into the Public Service?
– Without expressing an opinion about the answer given to the honorable- member’s question yesterday, I may be permitted to say that the Government has duly considered the complaints of those public servants, who, although’ twenty-one years and upwards, are de-, barred from receiving the minimum wage, through not having completed the term of three years in the Public Service, and is of the opinion that, in the best interests of the Commonwealth, all adults should, by virtue of their having reached the age at which they . are entitled to claim the privileges and bear the responsibilities of citizenship, be paid the minimum wage of £110 per annum. It has therefore been decided to pay to all those so debarred, and to all those who may in future enter the service, when they reach the age of twentyone years, the minimum wage of£1 10 per annum. This will take effect as . from the first day of January, 191 1.
-Willthe new arrangement apply to those in. charge of contract post-offices, who now receive considerably less than20s. a week?
– It will apply only to those who are debarred by the Public Service Act from receiving the minimum of £110 per annum, because they have not been three years in the service.
– Has the Government yet arrived at a determination respecting the invitation to the Coronation ceremonies next year of a delegation of eighteen membets of this Parliament? If so, what action is proposed to be taken in the matter?
– No official invitation has been sent to the Government, and it is not usual to accept invitations before they have been received.
– Has the Minister , of External Affairs read the two letters which appeared in this morning’s newspapers, written by the Rev. Dr. Campbell Nicholson, in which it is stated that Frenchmen are smuggling or recruiting native women in the New Hebrides? Will the honorable gentleman make inquiries, and, if he thinks necessary, represent the matter to the proper quarter?
– I have not seen the statements, but I shall look into the matter, and if, after due inquiry, it seems desirable, shall cause representations to be made as the honorable member suggests.
– Has the attention of the Acting Prime Minister been called to a paragraph in yesterday’s Argus, stating that the. South Australian Government contemplates the construction of weirs and locks in the Murray River, and that shortly a party will make a trip on the river to inspect it? I ask the honorable gentleman whether, under section 98 of the Constitution, this Parliament has power to intervene? If it has, will the Government take steps as soon as possible to have the Commonwealth represented at the inspection?
– I have not seen the , paragraph referred to, but I shall look into the matter, and endeavour to give, the honorable member a reply on Tuesday next.
– I ask the Minister if will extend his inquiries to what has. been done by the State of New South Wales in connexion with the Mumimbidgee. In pursuance of its commendable policy of improving navigation and providing for irrigation, it has erected a lock and weir about nineteen miles above Narrandera. Will the honorable gentleman also look up the American cases in which it is held that a State, in the absence of action by Congress, is quite entitled, to improve the navigation of river’s by the construction of weirs and locks, and that that does not derogate from the reserve power in Congress?
– I shall look into the matter, with due regard to the statements made by the honorable member for Herbert and the honorable member for Angas, and with a view of furnishing an answer on Tuesday or Wednesday next.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs direct his officers to ascertain the cash and credit prices that are being charged for harvesters and drills ?
– I shall be pleased to make an effort to obtain the information:
– I wish to ask the Acting Treasurer when the application forms for invalid pensions will be ready for distribution ?
– I am pleased to be able to inform the House that a section of the additional staff which will be necessary in connexion with the payment of invalid pensions has been obtained, and that these officers were immediately set to work to prepare the necessary forms. I am advised by the Secretary to the Department that it is anticipated that the forms will be ready not later than Wednesday next. Arrangements have been made to forward supplies to the different States, and the Deputy Commissioners are being advised to use all possible expedition in considering applications, so that applicants may qualify for the payments which are due on 15th December next.
– Will the Acting Treasurer ask the officers of his Department to take into consideration the desirableness of publishing in country districts notifications of where such forms, can be obtained ?
– Such action will be taken. A public statement will be made, and a press notification given of the places where the forms may be secured. It is our intention, as far as possible, to make them available at the offices at which old-age pension application forms may now be obtained.
– I desire’ to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether his attention has been drawn to statistics which have been published showing that whereas in 1906 imports into the Commonwealth were of the value of ^44,744,912, whilst our exports were of the value of £69,737,763, in 1909 the value of our imports had increased to £5 1,1 7 1,896, whilst our exports had fallen away to ^65,318,836. Will the honorable gentleman take steps at the earliest possible opportunity to improve the Tariff with a view of remedying this state of affairs?
– The question raised by the honorable member relates to something more than a slight anomaly. I have observed the figures showing the increase of our imports, and the honorable member can rest assured that I hold to-day precisely the same fiscal faith that I entertained when I supported the first Federal Tariff as introduced by the late Honorable C. C. Kingston, and the second Federal Tariff introduced by the honorable member himself. The manner in which the
Tariff will be dealt with must depend entirely upon the result of the referendum to be taken next year.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral whether he is aware that the Telegraph Office, Sydney, refuses to accept cable messages for transmission to Ceylon, and that the public are referred by it to the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company for the transaction of the business of cabling. Further, will the honorable gentleman inform me why the Sydney Telegraph Office refuses to accept such messages, which are accepted without question at the Melbourne Telegraph Office?
– I shall be pleased to communicate with the Postmaster-General’s Department, and to ascertain whether the facilities that offer at the Melbourne Telegraph Office for the transmission of cablegrams to Ceylon cannot* also be given at the Sydney Telegraph Office.
– Is the Minister of Trade and Customs aware that cargo which has been carried in the refrigerating chambers of an oversea steamer - on which a case of infectious disease has occurred - has been ordered to be placed in quarantine and that, although the cargo . was foodstuff, it was ordered to be fumigated. Will the honorable gentleman look into the matter with a view of doing away with such a ridiculous system?
– I am not aware that such a practice takes place, but I shall cause inquiries to be made, and the honorable member may rest assured that we shall do all that can be safely done in the interests of the health of the community.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs lay on the table of the Houseall the papers relating to the recent appointment of two lady medical practitioners, who are said to have been appointed to positions in the Public Service in respect of which applications were not publicly invited?
– Can the Minister of External Affairs inform the House whether there is any likelihood of a motion being submitted this session in regard to a site for Commonwealth offices in London?
– I think it unlikely that such a motion will be submitted this session.
– Following up the question asked by the honorable member for Darling Downs, I desire to ask the Minister of External Affairs whether the suggested sites for the Commonwealth offices in London will be submitted to the House before the selection is made?
Conference of Representatives
– According to this morning’s newspapers a Conference isto take place to-morrow between the Acting Prime Minister and representatives of the Government of New South Wales. Is it convenient for the Acting Prime Minister to inform the House what is the object of the meeting and what matters are to be discussed?
– I have no idea of the matters to be discussed. I received a wire from Mr. McGowen asking whether I could go over to Sydney to meet him, and I replied that I could not do so. He then intimated that he would come over to Melbourne, and I understand that he intends to do so.
– In view of the fact that in a number of cases the amount necessary to secure telephonic communication in country districts has been lodged with the Department for some time, will the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral explain why such communication has been delayed, notably in the case of Daylesford, for a period of several months ?
– I will bring the matter under the notice of the Postmaster-General and ascertain whether the work cannot be expedited.
Aeroplanes and Dirigibles - Appointment of Area Officers : Competitive Examinations - Coronation Ceremonies : Australian Military Contingent
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Defence Department to acquire aeroplanes or dirigibles, or both, as a. part of its defence system?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
The matter is under consideration by the Military Advisers of the Minister, and the War Office is being asked to supply the Department with full information on the subject, but so far it has not been fully demonstrated that such machines would be of service in time of war.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
If the Minister will take into consideration in all? future appointments of area officers the advisability of holding competitive examinations at which all officers will be eligible to compete, and that such appointments shall be made, from those who pass with the highest marks, and thus insure the post of area officer being held by the most efficient ?
– The answer to the honorablemember’s question is -
The Minister for Defence has already considered very fully the desirability of holding competitive examinations for the appointment of area officers. Such consideration shows that the duties of area officers during the first few years of the new system require of them a fair knowledge of military training and a good capacity for organization and administration. The latter it would be difficult to test by examination, hence it has been decided to make only provisional appointments, terminable at any time if an officer’s work does not produce the result required. Due weight is also being given to the military qualifications of applicants.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 and 2. No.
asked the Acting Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Sale of Race Tickets at Post Office - Brunswick and Central Telephone Exchanges.
– The honorable member for Lang asked the following questions yesterday : -
In reply to inquiries which were then being made, the Deputy Postmaster-General, Melbourne, has now furnished the following replies to questions 1, 2, and 3 : - 1 and 2. A portable wooden office, in which an officer of the Railway Department sold railway tickets, which included admission to the Flemington Race-course, was placedin the colonnade of the General Post Office on the 1st November (Cup Day).
As will be seen by the answers to previous questions, the office was for the sale of railway tickets. I am glad to say that the relations between the Railway Department and this Department are of the most harmonious character, the Railways Commissioners always showing a disposition to meet postal requirements whenever possible, and I think it is only right that a similar spirit should be shown by the Postal Department. The honorable member for Bourke asked the following questions yesterday: -
The Deputy Postmaster-General, Melbourne, has now furnished the following information : -
Telephone Exchange equipment was commenced on 12th September, 1910.
Material will eventually be recovered from the old Exchange to an estimated value of £243.
The expenditure to date is as follows : -
The cost of the land and building was £26,12711s. 4d.
In reply to the question asked by the honorable member for Melbourne yesterday -
If the Postmaster-General can inform the House when the new Central Telephone Exchange will be open for public use?
I have been furnished with the following answer : -
It is expected that thefirst section of about 3,000 lines will be connected to the new Central Telephone Exchange about July or August, 1911. The remainder will be connected as soon as possible thereafter.
Mr. FRAZER laid upon the table the following paper : -
Defence Acts. - Military Forces. - Revised Financial and Allowance Regulations (Provisional) Statutory Rules 1910, No. 94.
Bill returned from Senate without re quest.
Bill received from Senate, and (on motion byMr. Hughes) read a first time.
Debate resumed from 3rd November (vide page 5663) on motion by Mr. Tudor -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- It appears that the affairs of the Commonwealth Oil Corporation of New South Wales have not been investigated, and, so far as we know, they may be in a flourishing condition or otherwise. It would be a pity, in the interests of good government, if any firm may come to this House and ask for assistance, for no other reason than that they are in a bad way, because that is likely to lead to corruption. As to the expediency of a measure of this kind, we have to remember that Australia is a protective country, and that all our industries must be encouraged either through the Customs House or by means of bounties. The Minister of Trade and Customs has made out a very good case for the bounty on kerosene ; and we should do all possible to build up any industry capable of successful development within the Commonwealth. It is desirable that the nation should be self-supporting as far as possible, because in time of war or of external trouble that is one of the greatest securities we can have. That end can be attained, as I pointed out, in two ways - either by a protective duty or by a bounty. The Minister referred to the increase in the price of kerosene since the present Tariff came into operation; and I regret that, with that increase, there has been a deterioration in the quality, as all who depend entirely on kerosene for lighting purposes must have noticed. Some time ago a representative of the Orient Steam Navigation Company told me it was quite possible to convert the engines of the vessels for the use of fuel oil, but that the company declined to trust themselves to the mercy of the American Oil Trust. In constructing our battleships we are providing for the use of fuel oil; and there is no doubt that we are in the same difficulty as that which confronts the shipping company. We all can see the disastrous results that might follow any adverse action on the part of the Oil Trust; and there is, therefore, a national as well as an industrial aspect of the question. This industry is unprotected, and has to compete with the cheap labour and cheap products from other parts of the world. The argument as to cheap labour may not, perhaps, apply to the oil industry so much as to others, which I should be out of order in mentioning at the present juncture; but the fact remains that we should take care that our workmen enjoy the best possible conditions. One argument against the bounty has not yet been raised, and it is one that could be used even if the oil company were proved to be in a bad condition financially. The export of shale from Australia is a very profitable business. It appears that shale can be taken out of the present properties worth £2 per ton, and though this, of course, is a phase of the business that will not help the oil industry in Australia, it certainly affords an outlet for oil companies if they should find that, as at present, the manufacture of oil is unprofitable. However, I remove from my mind any consideration for the oil corporations, and regard this as purely an Australian question of whether we shall build up. an oil industry for the Australian people. The Minister, though he made out a very good case for a bounty on kerosene, utterly failed to show any necessity for a bounty on paraffin wax. I am opposed to granting bounties and protection to the same industry. There is a protective duty of £9 per ton, or 33^ per cent., on paraffin wax, and if an industry cannot succeed with that advantage, any amount of spoonfeeding by means of a bounty will not establish it. The Minister told us of a tanner who complained that he had to pay 4 1/2 d per pound for paraffin wax; and, apparently it did not. suggest itself to the honorable gentleman that the wax, being used for “ loading “ purposes, was sold by the tanner at, perhaps, is. 2d. or even is. 10d per pound. I have very little sympathy with men who use adulterants.
– I do not .think the honorable member is quite fair. A certain amount of grease is necessary in the manufacture of leather, and the wax is used for that purpose, and not for the purpose of “loading.”
– I remind the Minister that paraffin wax is not a grease.
– But it is used in the manufacture of some leathers. I can assure the honorable member that it is not used as an adulterant.
– I shall not dispute the matter, but it suggests itself to me that the wax is used as an adulterant. I am not accusing the Minister of endeavouring to assist people in adulterating their goods ; but, in any case, a person who uses paraffin wax can afford to pay a little more for it than at present. The dairying industry, in which I take a great deal of interest, uses a good deal of paraffin wax, not as an adulterant, but purely for waxing the boxes; and no return is received for it by the producer. I am quite sure that those engaged in the dairying industry are prepared to pay a fair price for the wax; and if the present Customs duty is not sufficient let it be increased. After all, paraffin wax is only a sort of by-product; and we were given to understand by the honorable member for Cook, though I do not know whether his figures are correct, that 5 per cent, of the crude oil represents wax. Last year it appears that the value of the paraffin wax imported was £41,000, and the duty paid about £10,000 ; so that there is a fair margin of protection. When we reach the Committee stage, I shall move to remove paraffin wax from the operation of the bounty. I have previously mentioned that there are indications in Australia of crude oil in the bowels of the earth; and I suggest that if “the amount now proposed to be spent in encouraging the paraffin wax industry - or, indeed, a much larger amount - were devoted to prospecting for oil wells, it would be more to the interests of the country. We have to consider the users more than the producers of oils. The users extend throughout Australia, and the demand is increasing day by day, not only on the part of the general population, but on the part of those who run locomotives and machinery, in the development of which fuel oil is going to play a very important part in the near future. It is a great advantage for any manufacturer to have fuel oil to resort to; and I urge the Minister to act on the suggestion made in regard to prospecting. In Queensland, some time ago, a bore was put down at Dalby to test the locality for oil ; but after a certain distance had been traversed, the gas caught fire, and the company or syndicate was practically ruined. However, it is believed that oil exists; and I hope the Minister will do something to develop this natural product of the country.
I think I have made it quite clear that I shall support the bounty on kerosene, but not on paraffin wax.
– This Bill has been introduced rather in a hurry ; and I am sorry we had no notice such a proposal was to be made. While I agree with the bounty, it appears to me not to go far enough. Under an Act that was proposed in 1907, a bounty is given on “ combed wool or tops exported “ ; and it seems to me highly desirable that there should be a slight amendment in that measure. I do not know whether an amendment could be made by means of this Bill, or whether it will require separate legislation.
– On the 18th August last I distinctly stated that the intention of the Government was to give a bounty of £50, 000 on kerosene and shale oil, spread over five years, and the only alteration is that the period is now made three years.
– I am sorry that that announcement escaped me. The Act to which I have referred has done a great deal of good in establishing the tops industry, at all events in New South Wales; but, although I had charge of the measure when it was proposed, I cannot say why the word “ exported “ was inserted. The result, however, is that, although a large quantity is being manufactured under the bounty, not 1 lb. can be sold in New South Wales. Vicars and other woollen manufacturers in Sydney cannot buy their tops from Hughes, the man who has started this industry. He is exporting the whole of his product to Japan. I heard that last year he sent away an immense quantity, amounting to £30,000 or £40,000 worth, in, I think, one shipment. When I asked him why he did so, he said that he could not afford to sell the tops in the State, because if he did he would get no bounty on them. The result is that other manufacturers have to make their own tops, which I do not think are as good as those made by Hughes.
– They also would be eligible for the bounty.
– Yes; but they make only a little for themselves.
– Messrs. Foy and Gibson make their tops for themselves here.
– Even if they do, that does not get over the difficulty to which I have drawn attention. Hughes has imported splendid machinery, and invested a large sum in producing the best tops I have ever seen, even superior to the Bradford tops that I have seen brought to Australia.
– This matter was brought under the attention of the House by Mr. J. C. Watson.
– It was he who brought it under my notice when I was preparing the Tariff, and it was on account of information supplied by him at the time that I proposed the payment of a bounty on wool tops. It seems to me ridiculous that the bounty should be paid for exported tops only; and I cannot conceive why it was done. There seems to be no reason why we should not manufacture in Australia all the tops required for Australian mills. I should be very glad if the Minister could see his way clear to introduce a short measure of one clause to get rid of the word “exported” from the existing Bounties Act. It is an anomaly that has crept in in some way, and is doing serious harm. Its removal would be a simple matter, and do a great deal of good.
– I think the House would be unanimous in passing a Bill to remove it.
– I think so, too, because it is such an absurdity.
– Has not the whole of the bounty available been secured?
– I believe so, At any rate, the export of tops to Japan last year by Mr. Hughes was very heavy. I am very glad the Minister has brought in a Bill to give bounties on paraffin wax and Australian shale oil. He was at the Commonwealth Oil Corporation’s works when I was there, and although he made no promise at the time, I have no doubt that what he saw and heard in that neighbourhood impressed him considerably. A number of people object to the imposition of a duty, because they think it would raise the price. That may be so, but I do not think it would. The only other thing the Minister can do is to propose a bounty. The only fault I have to find with his proposition is that it extends only to 30th June, 1913. Still, what he proposes will help our industry, and a very great industry it is. We have not only the Commonwealth Oil Corporation’s shale works in the mountains of New South Wales, but there is shale in Tasmania, and, I think, in almost every State. We require a solid bounty to develop these deposits and insure that those who undertake the work shall be able to compete with the Standard Oil Company, because that is the curse of the whole country. I remember when I was going to England, I held up about sixteen ships with a lot of oil that the Standard Oil Company were dumping into Australia. We could only hold it because it. was not properly marked, but I put the company to the trouble and expense of properly marking everything before it was landed. I think I am safe in saying that nearly a million pounds has been spent by the Commonwealth Oil Corporation alone in their shale works, and I suppose what they have spent comes to more than has been spent in all the other places put together. I do not want to see the undertaking fail. A failure of that sort would do great injury to Australia, and discourage the establishment of other works hereafter. The public in England who invest their money want a proper return for it, and I think this Bill will enable them in some degree to get a return by assisting the company to develop their works properly. I would again urge the Minister to bring in a measure to lemove the export provision relating to wool tops in the existing Act, and give the industry a fillip in New South Wales and Australia generally.
– Practically two-thirds of the employes of the Commonwealth Oil Corporation are in my electorate. During last night’s discussion several not quite accurate statements were made regarding them, and also regarding Messrs. Hoskins Limited, of Lithgow, who are already receiving a bounty on iron. The number of Messrs. Hoskins’ employes was stated at 6do. It would be more correct to put them down at I,20C ; in fact, I think they number rather more than less than that.
– The 600 are, perhaps, those connected with the blast furnace.
– The bounty is given on other irons than pig iron, so that it is not fair to single out the blast furnace employes alone. Nearly all the branches of the Lithgow Iron Works are earning bounty for their products. As I am reminded, a good deal is deducted for scrap iron, but the greatest care is taken in computing the bounty to make allowance for all scrap iron used. A certain percentage of scrap must be used in the production of steel. At any rate, it is not fair to the Lithgow Iron Works to- put the number of employes down at only 600. Some statements were made last night by the hon orable member for Cook regarding the Commonwealth Oil Corporation that were very wide of the mark, and gave the House the impression that the honorable member really did not understand his subject. Many of the items that the honorable member mixed up were really not relevant to the question. For instance, the honorable member gave the production of coke at 20,000 tons per year, but that coke should never be reckoned at all in connexion with the production of shale. The Commonwealth Oil Corporation has a coal mine as well as a shale mine, and the production of coke from shale is quite a different matter from the production of coke from coal. The residue, after everything has been extracted from the shale, is a coke, but it is a peculiar kind of coke, and I do not think the amount produced runs to more than about 200 tons per year. The coke produced rom shale is, however, very valuable. About six months ago it was on the market, and brought about £14 a ton. It is very rich in carbon, and is used mostly for the manufacture of carbons for electric lighting purposes. I think it carries go per cent, of carbon. It is. therefore, a very different article from ihe coke produced from coal. The 20,000 tons of coke to which the honorable member for Cook referred is produced from the coal mine, and is bought for the most part by the Cobar Company and by Hoskins Limited for smelting purposes. It has, therefore, nothing to do with the shale question at all. I can pardon the honorable member’s ignorance, because whoever was responsible for the article from which he quoted had the coke question so mixed up with the oil and shale business that a stranger, not knowing the industry, would naturally fall into the mistake. So far as I am concerned, the interests of the company are secondary to the interests of ihe employes in the industry. When the honorable member for Cook spoke about not having the facts regarding the amount of capital invested, I thought it would not be amiss to place before the House a statement showing the amount of money that the company had invested up to 28th August, 1910. The figures were supplied to me by a prominent official in the company, and can, I think, be verified on reference to the proper quarter in New South Wales. Theya<e as follow: - On works construction, plant, and machinery, including the purchase of the New. South Wales Shale and
Oil Company’s plant, .£356,885 ; for freehold lands, properties, leases, roads, construction and maintenance, £340,416; mines development, £[153,920 ; railway construction, rolling-stock, &c, £225,000; total, £1,076,221 invested by the company. The former idea of the Government, as outlined by the Minister when the deputation waited - on him in August last, was to give a bounty of £10,000 extending over a period of five years. If the company earned the whole of the bounty under that proposal it would get an amount equal only to about .75 per cent, on its capital outlay. I do not think that its present position justifies the proposal of the honorable member for Cook for the nationalization of the industry. If there were a great deal in it, no doubt the New South Wales Government would have been there before us. The land of the company is held under special lease from the State. The figures which I have given show that the bounty will not be of much concern to the Commonwealth Oil Corporation; but there are other companies which it may assist, and from the national point of view the oil industry should be encouraged. At Murrurundi, in the Robertson electorate, there is a company which will probably be soon in as good a position to earn the bounty as is the Commonwealth Oil Corporation. The honorable member for Cook stated that the Commonwealth Oil Corporation had been paying good wages. Its relations with its employes have not always been as satisfactory as they are now. For nine months the men connected with the Newnes portion of the work were on strike, during which time they averaged only 2s. 10d. per man per week. It was then seen that it would be better for the employers and employes to have a conference, and a voluntary Wages Board was constituted, which, after sitting for twelve or fourteen weeks, drew up an award, which was registered in the New South Wales Industrial Disputes Court, and has since worked fairly well for both parties. The shale miners in the Wolgan Valley number about 150, and the coal miners there about
The award covers also the employment of those connected with the coke ovens and other branches of the work. It was for a term of two years, and has about twelve months to run, being terminable by either side on three months’ notice. I am glad that the Government has inserted in the Bill the provision that the bounty shall be paid only if the conditions of labour are satisfactory. At Hartley, about 40 miles from Newnes, some 100 men are employed in connexion with the refineries. I have been through that portion of my electorate twice, once during the electoral campaign and once since, and have been informed that the ruling rates of wages have been satisfactory. At Airlie and Torbane, in the Macquarie electorate, the men are working under an award arranged by a member of this House and a member of another place, and it, too, is satisfactory. I admire the action of Mr. Carmichael, the miners’ representative, who, after fighting the company determinedly for nine months to get fair conditions for the men, came here to make representations to the Government with a view to assisting the company to get a bounty. His action showed that he is able to see both sides of the picture. It is not the desire of the men that the company should be killed by the competition of the Standard Oil Trust, or of the oil imported from Borneo. The Government cannot afford to allow the oil industry to be killed. From a defence point of view it is almost as important as the iron industry. Therefore, Parliament should be prepared to make some sacrifices on its behalf. If £50,000 will establish it, I shall be well pleased.
– Before three years are up we shall have an application for the continuation of the bounty.
– I hope that that will not be necessary, but that if application is made the matter will be considered on its merits. I wish it to be understood that the bounty will not go wholly to the company working in my electorate. There are extensive shale deposits in other electorates, and I hope that bounty will soon be earned by working them.
: - It is a matter for congratulation that, although the Government cannot see its way. to deal effectively now with the Tariff anomalies, which were so frequently alluded to last session, it has come before the House with this effective proposal. The bosom of the Minister of Trade and Cus- toms must swell with pride at being able at last to appear in his true character, and to assert, as he did just now, in reply to the honorable member for Hume, that he is still a strong supporter of the policy which he has so consistently and ably advocated.
– The honorable member did not doubt it?
– No; though when protestations are not followed by action, one cannot but feel disappointed that environment should be so powerful.
– Especially when we have the Trades Hall in evidence.
– That may give a further reason for the disappointing attitude of the Minister. I feel that the Bill would have been different had he had a free hand in regard to it, and that a larger measure of relief would have been given.
– The honorable member would not propose a duty on kerosene ?
– During the debate on a motion moved by the honorable member for Wilmot, at least one member of the Labour party suggested that it might be advisable to follow that course ; but I have always opposed it. For many years efforts have been made to induce the Government of the day to assist the shale oil industry, but without receiving the consideration to which they were entitled.
– What does the honorable member mean by Tariff relief?
– I refer to that measure of Tariff reform found to be absolutely necessary owing to the anomalies that admittedly exist in the .present Tariff. The honorable member for Wilmot brought this matter before the House during the present session, and in a brief but pointed speech drew attention to the necessity for Commonwealth action. An intimation was then given that the Government intended to bring in a Bill dealing with the question, and we now have before us the measure which was then foreshadowed. Whilst I agree with its object, I feel that it is altogether inadequate to achieve the object which we have in view. Those who have watched the course of industrial events during the last few years must be struck with the enormous part which fuel is playing in the industrial world. During the recent coal miners’ strike businesses that were not in sympathy with either one side or the other - which had nothing to do with coal mining - were completely paralyzed by their inability to secure that which is really the life blood of all industry.
– Does not the honorable member think that the Government ought to offer a substantial reward for the discovery of oil springs in Australia?
– Such a find would be of more importance than the discovery of a new gold-field. I do not know what the indications are, but if oil springs were discovered in the Commonwealth the welfare of Australia would be advanced by leaps and bounds. Probably by no other agency could we hope to make such progress as we should in that event. The use of oil is increasing in almost every industry, and in no industry is it coming into more general use than it is in connexion with those relating to rural interests. The rural industries of Australia are being threatened with a limitation of their sphere of usefulness, the like of which has never previously menaced them. They are going to be subjected to industrial conditions which no industry solely affected by climatic influence should be expected to observe. Those restrictions can be coped with only by the introduction of labour-saving machinery and appliances, the motive power of which can best be supplied by the use of oil. The farmers and dairymen in country- districts will find their operations seriously hampered unless they are able always to secure a plentiful supply of this class of fuel. It is a matter of notoriety that those who use oil fuel in anything like large quantities find themselves at the present time under the control of a monopoly, and that they cannot obtain that continuous supply so necessary to the success of an industry. They do not receive from importers and others that attention to which they are entitled, and it is therefore highly desirable that we should make Australia in this respect absolutely self-contained. I would remind honorable members that irrigation is becoming more general in Australia. Its benefits are more widely recognised than ever, and the use of motive power, such as oil supplies, is becoming greater every day. Canada has afforded us an example in this regard which the Government might have followed with advantage. Greater liberality than is now proposed was evidenced by the Canadian Government in dealing with industries of this class, with the result that vast stores of hitherto undeveloped power have been placed at the disposal of the people of that country. The honorable member for Franklin has said that in the matter of cheapness of production and effectiveness in use, no comparison can be made between oil obtained from wells and that obtained from shale. I quite agree with him, but we are being asked at present to deal with something tangible - to deal with something which we know exists, not merely in one part of Australia, but in different parts of it. We are not asked to agree to the payment of a bounty in respect of a commodity which is produced by only one State. Deposits of oil-bearing shale have been found in several of the States, and have been worked up to a certain point, which has been determined by outside competition. Competition from abroad is so keen that it has been found impossible for those who have invested their capital and labour in the enterprise to hold their own against it, for it is that of men who are determined to put the local industry out of the market by undercutting. In the circumstances, the bounty system can be adopted with advantage, and neither a Free Trader nor a Protectionist need offer any excuse for supporting it. I am pleased to observe that in clause 6 the Ministry have provided for the observance of industrial conditions on the part of those who secure the bounty which should accompany every grant of Government assistance to an industry. I would remind the House that such conditions are by no means new. They were introduced in the Bounties Act of 1907, which was brought in by the Deakin Administration, in which it was provided that - livery grower or producer who claims bounty under this Act shall specify the rates of wages paid in respect of the labour employed by him, other than the labour of members of his family, in growing or producing the goods, and the Minister, if he is of opinion that the rates so paid are below the standard rates paid in the place or district in which the goods are grown or produced, may withhold the whole or any part of the bounty payable.
The Government in this case have elaborated that provision, and have brought it into harmony with the new conditions, for which they are responsible. The principle, however, in each case is the same, and it is one which I have always contended should be observed in connexion with every grant of assistance by the Commonwealth to an industry or body of men. Save for the one drawback to which I have referred - the smallness of the amounts payable every year - this Bill is one that ought readily to be adopted, and I can only express the hope that its success will be so immediate and so pronounced that the Government will be encouraged to offer still greater inducements to other investors to open up new areas with a view to participating in the encouragement thus offered by the Commonwealth. It will be ‘futile for us to pass a measure of this character and to expect it to enable the local industry te compete on anything like equal terms with other businesses of the same description which have already been established, unless we can bring them up to something like the same level. In addition to asking our own people to compete against those abroad who are employing all sorts of labour, and working under conditions which,- happily, do not obtain in Australia, we are calling on the local industry to observe other conditions which are far more expensive than those prevailing in other parts of the world. In those circumstances we are entitled to give them that which, after all, is only their just due. We are entitled to give them such monetary assistance as will place them on something like an equal competitive basis with their trade antagonists, and that can be done only by enlarging the financial scope of the measure. I hope that the success of this short and somewhat timid step taken by the Government will be such as will encourage them to offer a very much larger sum for distribution amongst those who will provide in Australia what is really the life-blood of modern industry.
.- I wish to place briefly on record the reasons why I intend to support this measure. In the first place, I shall do so because I am a strong Protectionist, and believe that we ought to encourage our own industries-. I look upon this as one of the most important industries in the Commonwealth that we should assist, and for the ‘reasons that have been advanced by other speakers I shall feel justified in voting for the Bill. There are only two courses open to us. We have either to place a duty on kerosene oil, or to assist the industry by means of a bounty. When we recollect that we are producing only one-sixtieth of the kerosene consumed in Australia, we must recognise that it would be wrong to place a duty on that commodity, for it would mean that the people would be called upon to pay for it more than they ought reasonably to be asked to pay. By means of the bounty system, however, we can encourage the in- dustry, until, perhaps, a time will arrive when the supply of locally-produced oil will be such as would justify us in imposing a duty calculated to prevent monopolies in other parts of the world, such as the Standard Oil Company, from competing with and crippling our own enterprise. We all know that that particular monopoly stops at nought in order to achieve its object, and unless in the future we are prepared to protect our industry, we shall find it unable to compete with that Trust. Whilst the Standard Oil Company has a monopoly of a market it can charge high prices for its oil, but while competing with a local industry it is prepared to place its oils on the market at a very low price. In these circumstances, therefore, it will be necessary for this Parliament later on to go even further than it now proposes. As to the proposed bounty on paraffin wax locally produced, I do not feel justified in supporting such a proposition, in view of the statement made this morning by the honorable member for Moreton that we have already imposed a duty of 33 per cent. on that article. If that statement be correct, then the better course for us to pursue would be to divert the money now proposed to be paid by way of bounty on the production of paraffin wax to the bounty on kerosene oil. It is hardly right, in my opinion, that there should be both a duty and a bounty; and I think that if the suggestion I have made were acted upon, it would assist the kerosene industry to a very much larger extent with the small amount of money available.
– Is the honorable member speaking of kerosene or crude oil ?
– I am speaking of refined oil. We can quite see how it happens that so much has been said about one particular company ; it is because this company has spent a very large amount of capital in New South Wales, while no other has developed to any extent. We are told, however, that, in the near future, in Tasmania and elsewhere, shale deposits will be developed, so that this measure does not apply entirely to the one company. I should be sorry if it were the intention that this money should all go to the one corporation, because this is a question which should be approached from an Australian point of view, with the idea of developing the industry throughout the Commonwealth. If the money voted should prove to be insufficient I should be one to support an increase ; and my hope is that many may par ticipate in the bounty. Much criticism was expended on the action of the honorable member for Cook in producing a balancesheet last night, but, although I may not agree with the honorable member’s methods, I desire to give him credit for taking the trouble to sift his information, and lay it before honorable members. Whether we agree with the honorable member or not, we ought to recognise that he is endeavouring to fulfil his duty as a representative. However, although he set out to prove, apparently, that this company was in a flourishing position, the state of affairs he disclosed as he went on was quite the reverse, and convinced me, even more strongly than before, of the necessity for a bounty. The honorable member showed, according to his balance-sheet, that this company has expended , £205,600, while the income has been£92,012, disclosing a loss of £113,588. He told us that the company expected to double their income within the year, which would then mean a loss of £21,576, and he asked whether we were justified in granting a bonus to an industry in such a position that, even with the whole of the bounty, it would not be able to make ends meet. The honorable member, however, only convinced me, even on his figures - though they were not authentic - that this industry has a chance even with the small bonus. The net loss would be only £21,576, but the honorable member forgot that£10,000 is to be divided during the remainder of the year, which would reduce the loss to£ 1 1, 000 odd, and that in the following year the bonus would amount to £20,000, provided, of course, no other companies came into existence. If a company can double its turnover, the expenses of production are considerably reduced, and it may be thus converted into a paying concern; and if that result can be attained, it will be of considerable benefit to Australia from every point of view. If we produce the whole of the oil that we consume, it means employment for thousands. We realize the necessity for population ; and in what better way can we encourage it than by establishing flourishing industries ? I desire to place my views on record, in order to justify the vote I intend to give.
.- The honorable member for Hume has raised the question of the bounty on “ combed wool or tops, exported,” and I desire to say that that bounty was deliberately voted by this House in 1907.
According to a special report, issued in Jul)’, 1907, of a Conference of the State agricultural experts and containing other information, it was found that the cost of manufacture, owing mainly to the higher wage rate, had militated against the industry in Australia, and that there were certain temporary difficulties to be met with at the outset. For instance, the increased cost of manufacture, including initial difficulties, the lower selling price until the commodity is favorably known, and extra trade expenses diminishing yearly, represents a temporary disadvantage of 4d. per lb., but the permanent disadvantages will be only i£d. per lb. As against this disadvantage, however, there is an advantage of 2§d. per lb., owing to the saving of cost in scouring, drying, and packing in one operation ; the increased value of the produce due to the same cause; saving in freight, commission, middleman’s profit; and the continental comber’s profit. It was further pointed out that Australian tops can be produced very much cheaper than the tops could be imported, and that the cost of making worsted yarn was considerably less than the cost of importing yarn of the same quality. The report further stated that if markets were found in Japan and the East the advantages to which I have already referred would be altered in favour of the local manufacturer. That is exactly what is now being found - a favorable market in the East. I mention these facts so that honorable members may know where to acquire the information available on the question. I have always advocated bounties when I felt there could be established industries natural to this continent; and I am heartily in favour of the principle. This industry is absolutely vital to most of the producing industries of Australia ; more and more oil is coming into use in all directions. However, the question has been sufficiently argued, and I have no desire to delay the measure. No doubt improvements could be effected, the Bill not being so generous or so well framed as we could desire; but, inasmuch as it is an instalment of a principle in which I concur, I shall support the second reading.
.- 1 regard this oil industry from a purely Australian stand-point. We ought to be a self-contained nation as far as possible ; and, having the raw material, we should endeavour to produce all the finished products we require for our own consumption.
Then it must be remembered that we have to compete with the largest and most powerful combine in the world, and that it is necessary for the Government to stand behind the industry in order to see that it gets a fair deal. I am, therefore, prepared to assist the industry to any extent, with a view to enabling those engaged in it to compete with the American trust. The honorable member for Hunter says he is not prepared to support a bonus on paraffin wax, because there is at present a protective duty ; but, in my opinion, both bounty and duty are necessary. The American trust is using this continent as a dumping ground for paraffin wax, notwithstanding the duty of 33^ per cent. This wax is a by-product of the oil industry ; and if they can kill the trade in this commodity they can kill the whole industry.
– Then increase the duty !
– I believe we should increase the duty, but that is not the question now before us. Our ultimate aim and object, as soon as we produce sufficient oil for our own requirements, should be drastic steps to exclude American oil. There is a large amount of paraffin wax produced here; and it is only right to give a bonus. I may point out that the particular company so much referred to has all its engines and rolling-stock made locally, and employs all the Australian labour possible, and under the circumstances I am quite prepared to vote for the measure.
. -I am strongly in favour of a bounty in preference to a duty on oil, but my ideas on the subject have been considerably shaken by some of the speeches made in favour of the measure. I infinitely prefer a bounty to a heavy duty,- but there seems to be an idea that as soon as the industry overtakes the local consumption there must be a high duty. The policy has hitherto been to impose high duties in order to encourage and assist industries, so that they may be able to compete with outside manufacturers. I have seen for some time that our choice lies between a bounty on oil and a duty ; and, as I say, I prefer the bounty. From the figures quoted by the honorable member for Hunter, it appears that, if the whole of the bounty goes to this one company, it will just be about able to pay its way, and that is not a very hopeful prospect; indeed, it is rather a doleful outlook for those other companies which are starting shale works in view of this measure. A great deal more consideration might, I think, have been given to this question. It seems that we have very little information as to the position of the companies concerned, or as to the necessity for the bounty. I am, however, very strongly opposed to a duty on oil. It would be absolutely a class duty, falling almost wholly on the people of the country districts, and on the very poor in the cities. As the bounty is the less of two evils, I suppose it is better to let the Bill go, but I think the prospects of the bounty are more doleful and less hopeful than in the case of any other bounty ever granted by the Federal Parliament.
– What about the Tasmanian mines ?
– The Tasmanian mines were started, and would continue to work whether the bounty was granted or no; but they, like all other companies, would do their best to get their “ cut “ at the bounty. I hope that if the paraffin wax industry is to receive a share of the bounty, the question of a 33 per cent. duty will be reconsidered. I should like to see the bounty, if given at all, given wholly on the oil production, because the paraffin wax industry ought to stand on its own merits, with a protection of one-third.
– I support the measure, and commend the Minister of Trade and Customs for introducing it. I cannot follow the pessimistic strain of the honorable member for Franklin. No doubt his Free Trade proclivities led him in that direction. As an exceptionally strong Protectionist, I believe in giving bounties where we can do so to help industries along, and where a high Protective duty will help them still further, I am prepared to impose it as well. The honorable member for Laanecoorie seemed a little doubtful this morning about the Protectionist professions of the Minister of Trade and Customs, and also, I presume, of other members sitting on this side. I believe I am safe in saying that, whatever their fiscal faith may have been prior to the last elections, all the members on this side of the House have been returned as new Protectionists. I was delighted to hear the honorable member say that he indorsed every word of clause 6, which provides that the bounty shall be granted only to those who pay proper rates of wages and provide reasonable conditions of labour. That clause is the essence of the new Protection idea, and in granting any assistance, whether through the Customs or by means of bounties, I take it that we must insist upon the payment of proper rates of wages and the provision of proper conditions of work. It is no doubt true, as the honorable member said, that oil is playing a very important part in the development of our country industries. The honorable member said that, as the producers would be called upon to pay increased wages for their labour in the future, it would be absolutely necessary for them to go in for labour-saving machinery and appliances. I have already stated in this House that the inventor and the worker of this country have helped as much as the man upon the land to develop our rural industries. Wherever they can do so, the farmers and producers are employing labour-saving machinery and appliances. Suction gas, and other things, are coming to the rescue of the man on the land, and already a great deal of money has been saved to him. He is doing very well, and I think he can afford to pay reasonable wages to those who work for him. The honorable member for Moreton seems to object to the proposed bounty on paraffin wax, because the dairying industry uses the article considerably. When the wood of which the butter boxes are made is likely to give the butter an odour, the practice is to line them with paraffin wax, which is an odourless material, and helps to preserve the butter in its transit to the markets of the world. I do not think the granting of a bounty on the production of paraffin wax in Australia will be in any way inimical to the dairying industry.
– I did not say it would be.
– Ithink it will rather help the industry, but the honorable member seemed to be somewhat opposed to it. I am glad to know that in New South Wales and Tasmania there are large shale deposits, and I am confident that in many parts of Australia we shall yet discover oil wells. I heartily indorse the sentiment of the honorable “ member for Balaclava, the honorable member for Moreton, and others, that it would be well worth the while of the Government to spend considerable sums in an endeavour to strike an oil well, or develop our oil resources. I believe that Australia, which is rich in every other form of mineral wealth is rich in oil also, and this Parliament should, perhaps in conjunction with the States, spend large sums of money in boring for it. It would be an immense advantage to Australia if we could discover even a limited supply. One reason why I support the measure lies in the fact that we have to import 20.000,000 gallons of kerosene per annum from a quarter which we do not love too much. We talk of the great Standard Oil Combine, but that practically means one man in America, who, almost by a stroke of his pen, can fix the price of kerosene for the world. He is, I believe, making ,£7,500,000 every year for himself out of oil alone. It is very wrong that this or any other country should be practically subject to the dictation of one individual so far as the price of its oil is concerned, oil being a commodity so much used in the houses of the poorer classes of the community. Even £500,000 would not be too much for this Parliament to vote in order to discover oil wells in Australia, and make this a self-contained country in respect of that useful product. As an illustration of what a bounty can do, let me mention the action of the Victorian Government in giving a bounty for the production of butter. It gave such a wonderful fillip to the industry that this is to-day the greatest butterproducing State in the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Moreton dissents, but he is thinking of the fact that much of the bounty went into wrong hands. Whether that was so or not, it undoubtedly had the effect I have indicated, and I am glad to know that the other States are developing their butter industry also, although I admit that some of them are doing it without bounties. Another reason why I support the Bill is that in developing industries of this kind we are giving play to the intelligence and investigation of our chemists. Germany is drawing heaps of riches to-day from the discoveries made by her chemists in the matter of byproducts from various industries. The Mount Lyell Company in Tasmania is producing numbers of by-products, and I can also instance the by-products from the chlorination works in various States, giving employment to thousands of people, and enriching the country. If we give our chemists full play in the oil and shale industries we shall be able to develop along the lines followed in Germany and other countries. This measure, therefore, meets with my heartiest support. Another consideration that compels my support is that both employers and employes have come forward, and made out an exceptionally good case. Where we find that happy combination of employer and employ^ presenting a good case to the House, either for protective duties or for bounties, I shall lend a listening ear to their representations, and will at all times give my hearty support to any measure that will lead to the development of our great resources.
.- As a supporter of the scheme of bounties introduced by the previous Deakin Government, I give my hearty adhesion to this measure. I believe the product dealt with warrants encouragement in this way. In the country districts not only is kerosene widely used as an illuminant, but throughout the agricultural areas oil of different kinds, but particularly kerosene, is being more and more widely employed for power purposes. The farmers, as the honorable member for Maribyrnong said, are constantly supplying themselves with new labour-saving machinery, and the fuel used is mostly kerosene. I heartily indorse the proposal to grant a bounty, but I think the amount provided is not sufficient. The Minister of Trade and Customs showed that we are importing about 20,000,000 gallons of kerosene per annum. The value of the imports in 1.906 was £439,000, and rose in 1909 to £630,000, showing a steady increase, due, I presume, to the increased use of kerosene owing to our great commercial progress. Even if the whole of the bounty proposed is mopped up by the local companies in the production of kerosene, we shall then only decrease our importations by about onetwentieth. The amount is therefore altogether too small. Even in the second year, if the whole of the bounty is earned, we shall be able to reduce our importations only by one-tenth.
– Does the honorable member mean that the total amount offered is too small ?
– Yes; when the importations amount to £630,000 worth per annum. One company in New South Wales has already invested capital to the extent of £1,000,000. To grant a bounty of £10,000 for one year, and twice the amount for the two succeeding years, does not seem to me sufficient encouragement to an industry which, if reasonably treated, would reach substantial proportions.
– It has been shown that the industry cannot absorb the amount now offered.
– If a reasonable bounty is not offered, we shall probably have our experience of the iron industry repeated ; the companies in existence absorbing the whole of it without an appreciable increase in their output.
– The Commonwealth Oil Corporation promises to more than double its output next year.
– Even then the output will be only small. To bring about a reasonable reduction in the importation of oil, the bounty should be increased.
– In any case, the rates should be so adjusted as to permit of the absorption of the bounty.
– The honorable member is in favour of increasing the total amount of bounty paid.
– Yes; but I presume that safeguards will be introduced to prevent the exploitation of the Commonwealth inthe matter. It is our duty to provide a substantial bounty which will develop the enormous oil supplies which we are said to possess, and will substantially reduce the importation of oil. If the oil industry is properly encouraged, it will become one of the most important in the Commonwealth.
– I am glad to give my support to a measure which, I hope, will not only encourage the companies which are now working shale oil deposits, but will also induce others to enter into the business. I should like information regarding the proposal to give a bounty for the production of paraffin wax, seeing that there is already a heavy import duty on that article. Of course, the sugar industry enjoys both protection and a bounty, but that is because the encouragement of the White Australia policy seemed to necessitate it. A duty on kerosene seems to be unpopular with the Socialistic-Labour party, though those who are so much opposed to duties on kerosene are willing to allow the community to pay £1,000,000 a year more for its sugar than it need pay. To be consistent, they should not have a duty on sugar, or on any commodities largely used by the poor.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra- Minister of Trade that the object of the bounty was to have as much work as possible done in Australia. Several refining processes are necessary to produce even crude oil, but we wish to encourage the still further perfection of manufacture. Refined paraffin wax is a marketable product.
– Would it be wasted if encouragement for its production were not given?
– No. From 450 tons of crude paraffin wax 300 tons of refined paraffin wax can be made. Of course, the crude wax could be sold to the candle manufacturer, but the refined wax can be used for other purposes, in addition to candle making. In encouraging the production of refined kerosene, and refined paraffin wax, we are assisting the cheapening of the poor man’s illuminants. I know that some say that paraffin candles are inferior to stearine, but we now import 5,000 lbs. of wax for candle making, and would do better to make our own.
– The Government is going to bring paraffin into competition with stearine.
– That competition exists now. I do not think that the rates of bounty should be increased. Although the total sum offered is not large, the Government has shown its earnestness in bringing forward the proposal, and thinks it better to encourage a large production by a low rate than to limit the output by increasing the rate of bounty.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 (Appropriation for payment of bounties).
– The Minister should tell the Committee whether £50,000 is sufficient.
. -The amount of bounty was practically fixed when we went into committee yesterday to consider the Governor- General’s Message recommending an appropriation, but if after twelve months’ experience it is found to be insufficient, no doubt those interested will place their case before Parliament. The Government thought it desirable that it should have experience of the working of the system before making a larger grant than that for which this Bill provides.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 -
.- The object of the Government in introducing this Bill is to encourage the oil industry. I should be sorry to believe that it was merely for the sake of assisting any one particular firm, for that would mean the introduction into politics of something savouring of corruption.
– I agree with the honorable member. This Bill is to encourage the oil industry.
– I fail to see why we should limit the payment of the bounty to kerosene obtained from shale. If we did, then, in the event of oil springs being discovered in Australia, those who opened up oil wells would be subjected to the very difficulty that the shale oil industry has now to contend with. I refer more particularly to the influence which controls the price of oil throughout the world. I had intended to move the deletion of the words “ from Australian shale,” but I have come to the conclusion that it would be unwise to omit those words, and I therefore move -
That after the word “shale,” line 3, the words, “ or other oil deposits “ be inserted.
– I cannot accept such an amendment since it would be a departure from the scope of the message covering this Bill.
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman, I think you have assumed a most peculiar position. Oil springs have been discovered in several parts of Queensland and how can you or any one else say whether oil so obtained does not come from shale?
– As a matter of fact, Queensland has been trying to encourage oil wells by means of a subsidy.
– That is so. I am interested in the business, and that is why I have hitherto refrained from speaking on the subject. I have no feeling in the matter, however, and would certainly vote to-morrow against the imposition of a duty on kerosene oil. But in heaven’s name, Mr. Chairman, how can you or any one else say that crude oil obtained from a spring does not come from shale?
– If that be so, then there can be no necessity for such an amendment as the honorable member for Moreton desired to move.
– I am surprised that the Minister should raise that point. I suppose that since he has been in office he has become so addicted to legal quibbles that he sees these matters now through spectacles different altogether from those which he used when he was in Opposition, or sitting in the Ministerial Corner.
– I have already ruled that I cannot accept the amendment, and if the honorable member wishes to disagree with my ruling, he must do so in writing.
– I shall not do so, but I should like to know, Mr. Chairman, how you are able to constitute yourself an authority regarding the sources of oil springs ?
– I should like to have from the Minister a pronouncement of policy respecting this matter. There are some difficulties in the way of doing by means of this Bill that which the honorable member for Moreton desires, but the point raised by him is certainly very important. I take it that the desire of the Government is to encourage the production of oil from every source in Australia, and if the Minister will promise the honorable member for Moreton that he will favorably consider any representations that may be made to him with respect to the payment of a bounty on oils other than those obtained from shale, and that he will bring in a measure to deal with such matters, I think the Committee will be satisfied.
– In view of the terms of the message covering this Bill, we can only provide in it for the payment of bounties on the production of kerosene and paraffin wax from Australian shale. If, however, an oil spring were discovered in Australia, and steps were taken to refine the oil obtained from it, I am sure that a request for favorable consideration for the industry would receive encouragement from this or any- other Government that might be in power. I believe that such an industry would receive the same fair treatment as that which we are meting out to the industry now under consideration.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 4 and 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 -
The person claiming any bounty under this Act shall . : . . . certify to the Minister
. . the rates of wages paid….. in connexion with the manufacture of the goods on which the bounty is claimed…..
.- I move -
That after the word “ the,” line 4, the words “production and” be inserted.
Such an amendment would both strengthen and broaden this clause, so that it would cover all employes connected with the industry. The word “manufacture” is not wide enough, and I think that the insertion of the words “production and” would cover all persons employed in the production of shale as well as in other works connected with the manufacture of these commodities.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 7 -
No person shall -
obtain payment of any bounty by means of any false or misleading statement…..
.- I suggest to the Minister that the word “ knowingly “ should be inserted before the word “obtain” in this clause. To say that a man shall be liable to a fine of£100,or twelve months’ imprisonment, for obtaining a bounty that is not payable whether he obtains that bounty innocently or not, is rather severe. This provision has been taken practically from the Customs Act, but it is there connected with other phrases which place a limitation upon its meaning. As it stands, paragraph a, as contrasted with paragraph b, might lead to the conviction of an innocent man, who happened to have obtained a bounty which wasnot payable as a matter of law. Owing to a mistake in regard, for instance, to the flashing point, a man might innocently obtain the bounty, and yet render himself liable to twelve months’ imprisonment.
– Twelve months’ imprisonment is the maximum penalty.
– But why should we declare that a man who makes an innocent mistake shall be liable to be prosecuted as a criminal? I do not believe in such legislation.
– I am not disposed to make such an amendment as the honorable member has suggested, until I have consulted the Attorney-General. I promise the honorable member for Angas, however, that I shall consult my colleague, and that if he considers the amendment necessary, we shall take steps to have it made in another place.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 and 9 agreed to.
– I pointed out last night that if this Bill were to have the effect of encouraging the industry, it should be made possible to secure more readily the benefit of the bounties for which it provides. Under the schedule as it stands the company now engaged in making kerosene from Australian shale will benefit to only a very limited extent, whilst other companies that may engage in the industry will benefit to an even smaller degree. It was my intention to move that the rate of bounty payable in respect of refined kerosene oil be increased from 2d. to 2½d. per gallon, and that the bounty on refined paraffin wax, which at the rate of 2s. 6d. per cwt. is equal to about¼d. per lb., be increased to¾ d. per lb. It has been shown, however, that, as there is already a duty on paraffin wax, an increased bounty in respect of that commodity would simply be a double-banking proposal.
– We have now reached the hour at which we usually adjourn for luncheon, but I understand that it is the desire of honorable members that we shall complete the consideration of this Bill before we adjourn.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– As the Government prefer to regard the manufacture of refined paraffin wax as an industry, to be encouraged by a protective duty, rather than by a bounty, I propose to move that the bounty on kerosene be increased from2d. to 3d. per gallon.
– Do not do that. The company is doing very well under this proposal as it stands.
– Having regard to the terms of the schedule, the total sum to be set apart for the payment of these bounties cannot possibly be absorbed within the time fixed. Does the honorable member think it reasonable to provide for payments under such conditions that it will be absolutely impossible for the industry to earn the bounty within the time fixed?
– I do not believe in going beyond the limts fixed by the Bill.
– The step which I propose will show that the National Parliament is sympathetic, and is not prepared to see the industry trampled out of existence. However, if honorable members are not in favour of increasing the bounty from 2d. to 3d. per gallon, I shall be prepared to accept an increase to 2½d. per gallon. The maximum amount which may be paid during the present financial year in respect of the bounty on kerosene is £8,000. At the present time only one company is engaged in making kerosene, and it can turn out 300,000 gallons per annum.
– It is a matter of being content.
– It is a matter of doing something which will be effective. The next year when£16,000 will be available for distribution by way of bounty, the oil companies in Australia will have to produce 2,000,000 gallons of kerosene. It is impossible for them to do that. They may produce 1,000,000 gallons. Seeing that they cannot produce a sufficient quantity to absorb the bounty, we shall be acting wisely if we slightly increase the rate of the bounty.
– It is the production of a certain number of gallons that we want.
– But we do not wish to deprive our oil companies of the incentive to do that, and we should, therefore, increase the amount of the bounty payable under this Bill. They will go ahead so long as they receive the requisite encouragement. But what is the use of dangling a bounty before them when we know that it is impossible for them to obtain it? I move -
That the bounty on kerosene for which the schedule provides be increased from 2d. to 2½d. per gallon.
– On a point of order, I submit that it is not competent for the honorable member to move such an amendment, inasmuch as its effect would be to increase a charge or burden on the people.
– I rule that it is quite competent for the honorable member to submit the amendment, inasmuch as the total amount of the bounty which will be payable under the Bill appears in the second column of the schedule, and the effect of his proposal would not be to increase that amount.
– I am sorry that the honorable member for Macquarie has submitted the amendment.
– If he is anxious to initiate a debate I am quite prepared to remain and discuss the matter.
– I hope that the honorable member for Lang will abandon the attitude which he is now adopting, and at the same time I would urge the honorable member for Macquarie to withdraw his amendment. The Government have considered this matter, and if they had proposed a higher bounty than 2d. per gallon upon kerosene they would have proposed 3d. per gallon. I again ask the honorable member for Macquarie to withdraw his proposal, and I trust that in the near future the oil companies of the Commonwealth will be able to produce sufficient kerosene to enable them to absorb the whole of the bounty. If we adopted a higher rate of bounty than that which is now proposed only one company would be able to secure it, and I think that other companies ought to be afforded an opportunity of sharing in it.
– Under the circumstances I have no alternative but to ask leave to withdraw my amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
.- Before the schedule is disposed of I hope that the Minister will favorably consider the advisableness of adding to the proposed bounty upon kerosene the bounty which it is proposed to pay upon paraffin wax. I would remind him that under the Bill bounty-fed paraffin wax will be brought into competition with stearine. By granting bounties to protected industries we are. establishing a dangerous precedent. If it is absolutely necessary that the kerosene industry should receive an additional bounty, by all means let that bounty be paid upon the production of kerosene itself.
– I have already pointed out the reason which actuated the Government in proposing the payment of a bounty upon paraffin wax. It is to encourage manufacturers to turn out the finished article instead of producing only crude paraffin wax, which would enter more closely into competition with stearine.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment ; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bounty on Wool Tops - Constitution Alteration Referenda - British Government and Persia - Ministerial Responsibility - Land Tax Commissioner - Federal Capital - Commonwealth Offices in London - Commonwealth and State Finances.
Motion (by Mr. Batchelor) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether he will consider the advisableness of eliminating the words “ exported “ from the Bounties Act of 1907? Under that Act a bounty is payable upon wool tops for export. I claim that the reference to export should be struck out so as to permit of the bounty being paid merely upon the production of wool tops.
.- I should like to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he can inform the House when the referenda on the Constitutional changes which are proposed, will be taken ? I suggest that it might suit the convenience of honorable members and of the country if they were taken as early as possible after Parliament gets into recess.
– They cannot be taken in less than two months after the passing of the Bills in which the proposed amendments are embodied.
– They may be taken comfortably in the middle of January.
– That would strike Queensland in a wet season.
– Why not take them on Christmas day?
– The earlier the referenda are taken the better. I suggest that the Government should arrive at an early decision on this matter, so that honorable members may know what is expected of them during the recess, and may thus be enabled to discharge their duty to the country.
– I will undertake to. have inquiries made into the matter which has been mentioned by the honorable member for Hume. But from the information which is at present in my possession, I fear that the amendment of the Bounties Act of 1907, which he desires, instead of benefiting the particular firm in New South Wales which is engaged in the manufacture of wool tops, would have the opposite effect, because every other firm engaged in their manufacture, such as Foy and Gibson’s, for example, would then be able to claim the bounty. Thus the firm of which the honorable member has spoken would not be able to obtain the amount of bounty which it now obtains. I will look into the matter with a view to seeing what can be done.
.- I desire to ask the Acting Prime Minister a simple question, although it is one which is fraught with great consequences to the country. Does he indorse the statement made by the Minister of Home Affairs that Ministers are no more nor less than animated rubber stamps under the domination of the permanent heads of Departments? If so, the sooner die House and the country are apprized of the fact the better.
.- I should like to bring one matter under the notice of the Acting Treasurer. I understand that the Assistant Treasurer of NewSouth Wales intends visiting Melbourne for the purpose of requesting that the New South Wales Government should be paid interest upon the money which has been withheld from it by the Commonwealth under the Braddon section of the Constitution. If that request should meet with favorable consideration, I presume that all the other States will te placed upon an equal footing?
Mr. HIGGS (Capricornia) [1. ^.Yesterday I referred to the action of the British Government in connexion with Persia, and I desire to know from the Minister of External Affairs whether he has seen the following cable message in this morning’s press : -
The situation in Persia was discussed at a meeting of Mohammedans resident in London, held yesterday.
The chairman of the meeting stated that the Mussulman world thought that a partition of Persia was going to be effected.
Mr. Ramsay Macdonald, M.P., who spoke at the meeting, said that, as a Britisher, he bowed his head in shame at what had happened in Persia. He hoped that the British Foreign Minister (Sir Edward Grey) was not going to allow Great Britain’s name to be dragged behind the Russian bureaucracy to assist Russia’s Asiatic policy.
I am anxious to know whether the Minister has received any communication whatever from the British authorities concerning developments in Persia? Honorable members do not appear to me to treat this matter seriously. Australia was dragged into the Boer war by the fanatics of the time, to the great regret now of most people who know anything of the subject. If we are to be bound in any way by the decisions of the Imperial authorities, and are to be dragged into war through Persia or. any other country, I think that the Government ought to be consulted. Honorable members may not regard this as a serious matter, but, from a Labour stand-point, it is most serious. At the time of the Boer war, the Labour party in the Old Country were split asunder, and members of it who were here told us that it was impossible to redress the wrongs afflicting the masses on account of the introduction of the war element into the discussions. Are we to be dragged into international complications by some people who think it is their duty to interfere with the Persians? I regard this question as of the utmost national importance to Australia, and 1 hope that the Government will open up negotiations with the authorities of the Old Country.
– In reply to the question asked by the honorable member for Maranoa, I desire to say that the statement made by my honorable colleague in reference to the position and responsibility of Ministers is not in accordance with the theory of Ministerial responsibility, and is in conflict with the practice, or what ought to be the practice, of the Ministerial control of Departments. So far as I understand the position, a Minister very properly seeks the advice of the permanent heads of his Department on all matters affecting the control of the Department. That advice is received, and ought to be received, with every consideration, and every weight attached to it. In regard to matters which are outside the control of the Department, and which affect policy, it may be desirable, and I think it usually is desirable, when they relate to facts peculiarly within the knowledge of the heads of the Department, that they should be consulted. But in every case the responsibility attaches to the Minister, and not to the permanent bead, and in every case, without exception, the power is vested in the Minister and not in the permanent head. There are limitations upon the power of Ministers, and these are set by law. When these limitations are not precisely known, it is the rule to refer the matter to the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, and the AttorneyGeneral states what the law is. Upon his opinion, Ministers are guided in regard irb those limitations in Ministerial power to which I” have alluded.
Clearly, it would be impossible to carry on the business of government, and especially responsible government, if any but those representatives of the people who are intrusted with the conduct of the country from time to time had the power as well as the responsibility; and Ministers, having that responsibility, have also the whole of the power. Subject to the laws to which every citizen is subject, Ministers of Departments have full control and full authority over their Departments if they choose to exercise it.
– In reply to the honorable member for Maribyrnong, I have to say that I have received no notification from the Treasurer of New South Wales that he desires to discuss any matters relating to finance, but if any requests are made, and any decision is arrived at, it certainly will be applied uniformly to all the States.
– I desire to impress on the Minister of Home Affairs die necessity for pressing forward with the arrangements in connexion with the Federal Capital. It has been reported for some time that the surveys are completed, and, therefore, there is no reason why, if there is to be a competition in designs, there should be any further delay in deciding the prizes or awards to be offered. I understand that it will take about twelve months for architects and others throughout the world to submit designs ; and in view of that necessary delay, I urge on the Minister to at once take steps to invite designs.
.- In all probability a number of honorable members will visit London next year in connexion with the Coronation ceremonies, and the Minister of External Affairs has told us this morning that he does not intend to deal with the selection of a site for the Commonwealth offices in London this session. Under the circumstances, I ask the Minister whether he will obtain or invite offers of sites, so that honorable members, when in the Old Country, may inspect them, and be able to advise the House ?
– How will they be able to judge ?
– They will be able to use their own judgment, I presume, as to the suitability of sites.
– I desire to know from the Minister representing the Treasurer whether prior to the resumption of the debate on the second read- ing of the Postal Rates Bill he will supply the House with a list of the commitments in connexion with the expenditure involved in the legislation already passed by this Chamber, and also with the estimated expenditure involved in re-adjusting the conditions of the Post and Telegraph Department, and meeting the many disabilities which he must recognise exist therein. The House should know whether the concession of penny postage is to be made at the expense of a service which requires immediate and searching attention on the part of those responsible for its administration.
.- Will the Acting Treasurer state whether the appointments of Land Tax Commissioner and Deputy Commissioners are to be made by the Cabinet or by the Public Service Commissioner ?
– I wish to state, in reply to the honorable member for Werriwa, that all arrangements are now nearly completed in regard to calling for designs for the Federal Capital. Mr. Scrivener is in Melbourne, and we are get- ting everything into shape, so that we can putbefore the Cabinet the arrangements for designs and the amount we are prepared to give for them.
.- The reply to the honorable member for Gwydir is that every information at the disposal of the Government with regard to commitments will be placed before honorable members. I desire to inform the honorable member for Capricornia that no official information has reached the Government with regard to the situation in Persia. In regard to the question of the honorable member for Cook, the Cabinet will certainly select the Land Tax Commissioner, but the Deputy Commissioners and all other officers will be selected by the Public Service Commissioner. The honorable member for Moreton asked whether members would have an opportunity, when in London, of inspecting the proposed sites forthe Commonwealth offices. I hope, if the question is not decided before then, that those honorable members who are in London will take the opportunity of inspecting the various sites suggested.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 1.29 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 November 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19101104_reps_4_59/>.