4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and readprayers.
Mr. FOWLER presented a petition from certain citizens stating that addresspetitions, signed by many citizens, had been sent from Western Australia to Their Majesties the King and Queen, who had sent to the authorities in Western Australia replies to the said documents, but such replies had not been made public, and praying that the House would cause copies of the address-petitions and the replies to be laid on the table and sent to the citizen deputed by the petitions, thus causing them to be duly informed.
Mr. FAIRBAIRN presented a petition from E. Norton Grimwade and others, styling themselves respectively President, Vice-Presidents, and Secretary of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, praying that, in view of the serious nature of the matters with which the publication Secret Remedies deals, the House will be pleased to abstain from the gratuitous distribution of the Parliamentary Papers on these matters until affidavits arrive from England, and an opportunity is afforded of submitting rebutting evidence from those possessing practical experience.
Petition received and read.
– It is advisable that honorable members who have petitions to present shall first give the officer at the table, or myself, an opportunity to look over them. When the motion that a petition be received and read is made immediately upon its presentation, it is often difficult to decide on the spur of the moment whether the petition is in order or not. The petition in question bears no seal.
– Is the Chamber of Commerce a corporation?
– I do not know whether it is a corporation or not. It is impossible for me to decide these questions without notice.
.- I move -
That the petition be printed.
I do not wish to associate myself in any way with the patent medicine proprietaries which are moving in this matter, but I think it only fair that both sides should be heard. The case for their opponents has already been put before honorable members.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority … … 38
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to-
That the House at its rising adjourn until to-morrow at half -past 10 o’clock a.m.
” NAMING “ A MEMBER.
– The Prime Min ister is reported to have said, yesterday, that he did not know why the honorable member for Richmond was named by Mr. Speaker.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot ask a question relating to that incident.
– May I not ask a question of the Prime Minister as to what is his duty?
– The honorable member cannot refer to that matter now. The incident is closed. .
– I wish to ask a question for my future guidance.
– The honorable member cannot do that. He must wait until the circumstances arise.
– Do you, sir, rule, before you know what I am going to do, that I cannot ask a question ?
– The honorable member cannot ask the question which he was putting.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether he considers it his duty to move the suspension of any honorable member without knowing what that suspension is for?
– That question is out of order, and the honorable member must not ask it.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Minister representing the Postmaster- General to the fact that new statutory rule No. 222, which has just been issued, sets out that telegrams dealing with electoral matters, and giving information as to the general elections, shall be transmitted within the Commonwealth at press telegram rates. Is that instruction intended to apply to the general public as well as to officials of the Department, and if not, will he consider the advisableness of extending it to the public?
– I will consult the Postmaster-General in reference to it, and obtain a reply to the honorable member’s question.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that the session has been a protracted one, he will take into consideration the question of making an allowance to parliamentary messengers and others of the working staff of the House who have been kept on duty for longer hours than they are ordinarily required to work?
– If the honorable member will address his question to Mr. Speaker, I am sure the latter will give it consideration.
– I wish to ask you, sir, whether you will take into consideration the question of making a slight allowance to the parliamentary mes sengers and others of the working staff for the additional hours that they have been called upon to work this session?
– I can assure honorable members that the officers of the House will receive all the consideration that is due to them for the extra work which they have performed.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs’ when the paper called Secret Remedies, which was ordered to be printed by the House, will be available to honorable members ?
– I am informed that it will probably be available to honorable members at the end of next week.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs what he is doing in regard to the redistribution of the electoral divisions of New South Wales, and when he intends to submit a thirdscheme to this House ?
– I think it will be here on Tuesday or Wednesday next.
– Will the Minister state what reason he has for that statement? Is it merely the expression of a pious wish of his own?
– My statement is based on a telegram which has been received by Mr. Oldham from Mr. Poate, the Surveyor-General of New South Wales.. I have not received any direct communication myself.
– The cadets are drilled in the barrack square. There is an artillery canteen at the barracks, but it is not adjacent to the square in which the cadets are drilled. In any case, no cadet is allowed either in the canteen or in the barracks.
– I wish to ask the Treasurer whether he will consider the advisableness of issuing an instruction to the officers charged with the administration of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act - after the amending Bill with which we dealt yesterday has become law - drawing the attention of claimants to the changes which have been made in the law, so that they may put in their amended claims as soon as possible?
– The matter has been well advertised, and the Deputy Commissioners know all about it. I will see that the matter is formally brought under their notices, so that they may advise the recipients of old-age pensions and other persons who may wish to become applicants.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether it will not be the duty of the Deputy Commissioners, and of other officials, to regulate the pensions now being paid, so as to make them accord with the amending legislation which has been passed by this House - assuming, of course, that that legislation becomes law?
– In my previous statement, I intended to convey that the Deputy Commissioners had already been communicated with as to the form in which it is proposed to amend the law. But there are persons who are not now receiving pensions, but who will come in for them, and who will require to be informed on this matter.
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Lang made inquiry as to when the new map of Australia would be completed. I have now been informed that the proofs of the map have been struck off, and will be forwarded to the Surveyors-General of the several States of the Commonwealth for revision. It is anticipated that the map will be available in three or four months’ time.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
Can he inform the House if he has any information to give it in reference to the vote for the Referendum and Initiative, held in September and November of this year by the following States of America : - Ohio, containing 4,762,121 people; Washington, 1,141,990; Nebraska, 1,192,214; Idaho, 325,594; Wyoming, 145,965;
Wisconsin, 2,333,860; Nevada, 81,175; and Indiana 2,700,876; being a total of over 12,688,000 population of the United States of America?
– I am making inquiries on the subject through the Consul-Genera! for the United States of America, and will inform the honorable member as soon as I receive the result. It is reported in an American magazine that the State of Ohio voted in favour of the referendum and initiative, but I have received no official information in that regard.
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
Whether he has a complete list of the officers appointed by the Governor to fill positions on the staffs of the Commonwealth Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank, and information showing : -
If he has not the list of officers’ names and the information asked for, will he obtain both?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that Federal officers accepting the positions in the Commonwealth Savings Banks are obliged to forfeit existing pension rights accruing to them as officers of a Department transferred from the State to the Commonwealth ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
Tools and Plant - Powellised Sleepers
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : - 1,3,7,11. The Engineer-in-Chief for Com monwealth Railways is responsible generally for purchase of tools and plant.
Mr. W. ELLIOT JOHNSON (for Mr. Hedges) asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Honorable members who have been in the Commonwealth Parliament since its inception will know that this is the fourth or fifth Bill relating to the Excise upon sugar with which this House has dealt. There are some honorable members who hold the view that the Excise and bounty upon sugar should have been swept away long ago. I do not share that opinion. It will be seen, by reference to the Bill, that the date upon which it is to come into operation is to be fixed by proclamation. In order to make the position clear, perhaps I had better read the telegram which the Prime Minister despatched to the Premier of Queensland on the 3rd instant. It is as follows : -
Referring to subject of your letter, 5th September, 1912, I have now honor to inform you that the Commonwealth Government will introduce Bills during the current Session of Parliament to abolish the Sugar Excise and Sugar Bounty Acts, which shall be brought into operation by proclamation upon the States concerned passing an Act to -(a) Confer upon Commonwealth Parliament the power to legislate in respect of the employment of coloured labour, and regulation of wages and conditions of labour; (ends) or (b) Abolish coloured labour in the industry, and establish tribunals for the regulation of rates of wages and conditions of labour ; (ends) such legislation, whether by Commonwealth or State, to adopt the recommendations of Royal Commission on Sugar Industry as to minimum rates of wages and conditions of labour.
A similar letter was sent to the Premier of Victoria, and the Premier of New South Wales; and this Bill will come into operation by proclamation when the Legislatures of Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria pass legislation embodying the wages and conditions laid down by the Sugar Commission. If only the Queensland Parliament passes such legislation the Bill will, in all probability, be proclaimed, but it certainly will come into operation if the three States comply with the conditions.
– Victoria is not very much concerned?
– Not much. About 90 per cent. of the Australian sugar is produced in Queensland, about 9 5-6per cent. in New South Wales, and the remainder, almost a negligible quantity, in Victoria; but it was necessary to communicate with the three States. The recommendations of the Sugar Commission, as set forth on page 64 of their report, are as follow -
– All these conditions are not included?
– No. The principal recommendation is the first, and the second one is subsidiary and consequential. In the memorandum or schedule, or whatever it was, I issued, I believe it was laid down that the men who received their keep were to be paid at a lesser rate for overtime than the other employes who provided for themselves, and no doubt the keep must be taken into account, though I think that it would be hardly feasible for a man who receives his keep to receive 9d. per hour for overtime, alongside a man. receiving1s., as he cannot eat any more because he works overtime. Personally, I approve of the hourly rate of1s. without keep, and 9d. with keep, and all overtime at the rate of, at least,1s. per hour, even as against the recommendation of the Sugar Commission. Both the New South Wales Parliament and the Queensland Parliament have gone into recess, but they may consider it worth while to meet for the purpose of dealing with this matter. At any rate, it is the desire of the Commonwealth Government to pass these Bills, and leave nothing undone to attain the desired end. The following is a telegram sent by Mr. Denham, on 5th of this month, in reply to a communication from the Prime Minister -
I am obliged to you for your message of 3rd instant, and am much gratified at your assurance that you will introduce Bills during the current Session of Parliament to abolish the sugar Excise and sugar bounty. I prefer alternative (b), and see no insuperable difficulty in giving effect to your requirements. From pressresume of Commission’s Report, I am hopeful that satisfactory solution of sugar problem will be arrived at.
On the same date the Prime Minister replied -
Thanks your wire even date reference mine 3rd instant subject legislation sugar industry. Press here report you more fully, stating you would journey to Melbourne to consult Commonwealth Government on matter. Will be pleased meet you soon as convenient to discuss means that will place sugar industry on satisfactory permanent basis.
On the following day the Premier of Queensland telegraphed -
The full text Commission report awaited with anxiety. Hope ere this report has been mailed. Will you by Statute fix minimum price at £21 10s. ? If so, it will be necessary for you to secure such power over Tariff as will preclude foreign sugar being sold in Australia under that price. The mere abolition of Excise and bounty without adequate Custom protection will not meet the case, even of existing mills, and still less encourage new mills. Initial difficulties and expense of clearing, cultivating, and erection milling plant now much greater than formerly. I can arrange leave Brisbane Sunday morning December 15th preferably later if equally convenient yourself. Of supreme importance to be assured of such duty as will insure price adequate to meet such conditions as Commission recommend in conducting the business.
The Prime Minister on the nth inst. sent this telegram to Mr. Denham -
Given notice to-morrow to introduce Bills to abolish Sugar Excise and Bounty Acts in pursuance of my undertaking 3rd Dec. and your acceptance of proposal in telegram of 5th idem. Am surprised at terms of your wire dated 6th which opens up separate questions not involved in former proposals, and which expresses fears that have no place in your letter5th September.
– Has Mr. Denham arranged to come to Melbourne?
– I do not know that any communication has been received from him since.
– I saw something in the newspapers to the effect that Mr. Denham proposed to come to Melbourne, and, in response to an invitation, I said he might be here at the beginning of next week.
– Whether Mr. Denham comes or not, it is the intention of the Government to proceed with these Bills, which are about as brief as, with one or two exceptions, any presented to this Parliament. The attitude I take up is thatis is just as important to see that the whiteworkers are given proper industrial conditions and safeguards, as laid down by the Sugar Commission, as it was for us to look after the interests of the blackworkers. It is too late in the session to go into the other question referred to by Mr. Denham, because that would involve dealing with the sugar industry from the Tariff stand-point, and in a way quite different from that adopted in regard to any other industry. It is suggested that there be a sliding scale, so that when sugar is cheap in Europe the duty may be increased and when it is dear decreased. The Government are carrying out their promise to repeal the Acts now in operation, and take power to proclaim these Acts, reserving to themselves the right as set forth clearly in the telegram of the Prime Minister to safeguard the interests of the workers on the lines laid down by the Sugar Commission. This will enable the Government, even if Parliament be in recess, to bring the Act into operation.
– What are the financial gains and losses in connexion with this Bill?
– Speaking from memory, I believe that, in 1908-9, the production of sugar in Australia was 225,000 tons.
– Then we pretty well supplied our own requirements?
– Yes, within about 25,000 tons. By this legislation we shall lose ;£i per ton on about 9-ioths of that production, and £4 per ton on the remaining 1-10th, so that the probable loss in revenue will be a little over £200,000 a year, or, perhaps, ,£250,000 in a few years’ time.
– The production is about 130,000 tons this year.
– Yes; there has been a shortage in the crops, except in one or two cases. This Bill, when proclaimed, will not be ante-dated, and by that I mean that it will not be made retrospective. I use the word “ante-dated” because it is the word used, and the practice resorted to, by farmers who are allowed to antedate their applications when they have to cut the crop a few days, or a week or so, before they are entitled to the bounty.
– That is a longestablished practice.
– And a proper practice. The trouble is that a mill might “ cut out,” so that if a man was not allowed to take off his crop about a fortnight before he was entitled to claim, he would be liable to lose the result of the whole of his season’s labour. This Bill will not be retrospective, but will come into operation on a date to be proclaimed. That will be when the Spates have given effect to their promise to pass certain legislation.
– Does its coming into operation depend upon the States concerned taking action?
– If the three States take action it will be proclaimed; if the State of Queensland alone takes action it probably will be proclaimed. That is the position. If Queensland takes action on the lines set forth in the Prime Minister’s telegram, I think that the Government of the Commonwealth will be perfectly justified in bringing the Act into operation, since over 90 per cent, of Australian sugar is produced in that State. I should regret very much to have ito leave the sugar workers of New. South Wales to the tender mercies of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, but I do not know that in such circumstances we could do anything else. One has only to refer to the report of the Sugar Commission to learn how absurdly low are the wages paid to them. During the last few weeks many honorable members opposite have been loud in their praise of State industrial tribunals. I should be glad if they would devote a little of their energy to an attempt to induce the States to extend them to rural industries, because if any men have been sweated, and denied that which is their just due, it is those who follow rural occupations. We hear some honorable members loudly praising such industrial tribunals when there is no chance of getting them, but, like some newspapers, when there is an opportunity to secure that which they profess to desire, they disregard it. I do not think the Commonwealth Government would be justified in refusing to bring this Act into operation unless the three States took the desired action in view . of the fact that over 90 per cent, of our sugar is being produced in Queensland. No one would be more delighted than I should be, however, if a settlement should be obtained on the lines which I, as the mouthpiece of the Government, have suggested, since the sugar industry occasions more worry and anxiety than does any other matter relating to my Department. I have never taken any action in connexion with that industry without giving the fullest consideration to the various interests involved, and I certainly should not have followed the course that I recently toot with respect to it had I not thought it absolutely necessary to do so. When this legislation has been passed, I hope that the States will fall into line, and that we shall soon see the industry on a better footing.
– What effect will the abolition of the Excise and Bounty have on the amount of Protection given to the industry?
– It will give it a clear protection of £6 a ton.
– What is now the net duty?
– The Sugar Commission estimates it at about£5 5s. per ton; but I always assume that the net duty is the amount which the man outside has to pay to bring in his sugar - that is, £6 per ton.
– So that according to the Sugar Commission this proposal will really increase the protection by 15s. per ton.
– Yes; but according to my reading of it, it will not increase the import duty by one penny per ton, although it will relieve the whole of the growers of a system that has long been in operation. The Sugar Commission reports that a large number of growers are averse to the bounty regulations, whilst the employes are favorable to their retention as a means of assuring a certain standard of wages. The Commission recommended their abolition, and that the import dutybe the same for beet as for cane sugar. The adoption of that recommendation would have a far more reaching effect on the industry than would the carrying out of any other proposal made by the Commission.
– Because there is at present a duty of £10 a ton on beet sugar, and we should have all European sugar brought in here at the one rate. I personally believe that the one rate should prevail.
– The minority report, recommends that the import duty should be the same for both cane and beet sugar.
– The report of the majority makes a similar suggestion. That, however, is a matter for Tariff consideration. We are dealing now not with the Tariff but with a proposal to abolish the
Excise duty, and as soon as this measure has been disposed of the House will be invited to consider another Bill providing for the abolition of the bounty.
.- I do not desire to occupy much time in dealing with this question, the ramifications of which have a very wide range. Although it seems a comparatively small matter to abolish the bounty and Excise, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the taking of such a step will have a far-reaching effect, and, I believe, will be entirely beneficial to the industry. I have always held that view. I gave expression to it on the first occasion that I had the honour of dealing with the Subject in this House. My knowledge of the working of the bounty and Excise system in my own electorate led me to the conclusion that it would be much better in the interests of the growers who are primarily concerned in the operation of the bounty and Excise that the system should be abolished. The Minister has said that owing to the late stage of the session which we have reached it is impossible to deal with the whole of the recommendations of the Sugar Commission. I would remind him that that is entirely the fault of the Government. Had they continued the Commission which their predecessors appointed-
– Our predecessors did not appoint a Commission. The honorable member should get that idea out of his. mind.
– The honorable member knows that he is quibbling.
– I do not. I know that the late Government did not appoint one member of the proposed Commission.
– Although the actual Commission had not been issued, to all intents and purposes the Commission had’ been appointed, and there was nothing to prevent the present Government, on taking office, carrying that Commission to itslogical conclusion. Had they doneso this question would have been settled long ago, and the Ministry would have got just as much out of the report of that. Commission as they have out of the Commission which they appointed. If ever there was a report that reminds one of the story of Balak and Balaam, it is the one to which we are now referring. One reason why I welcome the abolition of thebounty and Excise is that it will throw back upon the States which are primarilyconcerned the control of their own industry.
That is undoubtedly right. The industrial question will be thrown back on the States which are primarily interested, and the matter will be taken out of the hands of this Parliament which is not primarily interested, and which, in my opinion, is the least fitted of all Legislatures to deal with industrial matters when local conditions really control the situation.
– Is that the Minister’s proposal?
– Subject to certain conditions.
– Yes, there are certain industrial conditions providing for a wage amounting to is. per hour. The Minister referred to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the labour which they employ. But I would remind him that the company employs only a comparatively small proportion of the actual labour engaged in the industry. The bulk of it is employed by the growers. I have had several letters from growers in my constituency who say that they do not object to the rates of wages proposed, provided that this Parliament imposes such a protective duty as will enable them to pay them. That is to say, eventually the price of raw sugar should be sufficient to enable the millers to pay to the growers a reasonable price for their cane. That in turn would enable the growers to pay higher wages. Into the price of sugar in Australia the question of wages largely enters. The Sugar Commission points out that it was given in evidence that 85 per cent, of the cost of production represented actual wages paid, the percentage varying from that to 70 per cent.
– That is the cost of the production of the cane.
– Yes, I am now speaking of the matter from the stand-point of the growers. Honorable members will see from this statement by the Commission that the question of wages is a very important one. The growers do not object to pay fair rates. If honorable members will read that report they will find that, at the present time, there is, in the sugar industry, a very great deal of inefficient labour, and I am sorry to say that insobriety is one of the chief causes of that. There is one point which strikes me very forcibly in the minority report of Mr. Crawford, and that is, that in no single case did any employe’ who was in per manent employment of the better class appear before that Commission to give evidence.
– He dare not.
– I very much doubt that. That is a remarkable feature, but if the wages which are stipulated are paid, the result will be that there will be a weeding out of the employes, and competent men only will be employed in the future. As the Minister has mentioned the question of wages, I wish to state what is the true position in connexion with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company’s mills in New South Wales. It will be remembered that when the Attorney-General was speaking the other day I challenged his figures. I happened to be in a position to know exactly what wages were being paid, and I knew the Minister was wrong. I notice that the report of the Commission in this . regard is based largely upon the evidence of one man whose evidence was never refuted, or appears not to have been called into question. The minimum wage paid at these mills is 24s. 6d. per week, with keep, which works out at 12s. 6d. a .week, or, in all, 37s. That wage is paid to 12^ per cent, only of those actually engaged in the industry, .and those who receive it are practically youths and elderly men. They have not to stack cane as is stated in the report. They assist the sugar boilers and storekeepers, and attend to the juice-well, and the re-melting of sugar, and those duties are of a very light character. It is possible that on an odd occasion one of these men may be taken off to do other work, but those are their general duties, and, under the circumstances, I do not think the position has been stated fairly. To revert to the question of the abolition of the bounty and Excise I hope that for all time the question will be settled as to whether or not the consumer of the sugar pays the Excise. The Commissioners are very emphatic upon that point. They say -
In Australia, under the Customs duty, the cost is paid by the consumer. The incidence of the Excise and bounty does not directly affect him except in so far as it enables him, as taxpayer, to recover through the. Treasury the difference between Excise collected and bounty paid.
– I think the consumer does pay it, but he does not pay any more than he would otherwise have to pay.
– After those gentlemen have made a long investigation into the whole business that is the conclusion to which they have come.
– I think they pay the Excise precisely the same as the consumer of whisky, or the user of tobacco pays it.
– I take leave to differ from the honorable member. I am simply pointing to the conclusion that the majority of the Commission has come to - that the amount of the Excise and the bounty does not affect the consumer, except so far as it enables him to recover from the Treasury the difference between the Excise collected and the bounty paid.
– They say further on that it costs the Australian public£1,500,000 per annum.
– That is quite true. That is due to the operation of the duty, and I want the Minister to take notice of this fact, that if the duty on sugar remains as it is, and we abolish the Excise and bounty, it is not going to affect the price of sugar to the public one solitary cent. The price of sugar will remain as it is today, but the difference will be that the Treasury will not receive the difference between the bounty and the Excise, which has been, up to the present, a direct tax upon the grower, and which he will now receive. I believe that if the bounty were removed the growers would be benefited, because the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, who deal with nearly the whole of the refined sugar, have promised definitely that they will return the sum which they now pay to the Treasury to the manufacturers and the growers, and the majority, at all events, of the manufacturers and growers are quite prepared to rest on the promise which the company has made them. The evidence which the Sugar Commission adduced definitely shows that the dealings of the company with the millers, the growers, and the Australian public, have been of an honorable character, though they have been guided by strictly business principles. They have not taken advantage of the controlling position which the Commission say they hold to crush out anybody, or to detrimentally affect the operations of any one. The majority report sums up the position, so far as the company are concerned, by saying that the Sugar Trust has so far been a beneficent institution. The other point I want to deal with is this : that the duty has not always been charged to the consumer to the full. The report of the Commission states -
When, as recently, foreign market prices are abnormally high, the sellers of refined sugar may not take full advantage of the protective duty.
– Finish that paragraph.
– It proceeds-
Pre-existing contracts, the fear of decreasing the demand, or the fear of legislative action, and other considerations may and do operate to the advantage of the Australian consumer at times when the foreign market price is abnormally high.
That has nothing to do with the point that I was making, that the company, though they have held this controlling influence, have not taken full advantage of their position to fleece the public which they could have done had they so desired.
– The Commission says that they were afraid of legislation.
– Admitting that, it does not affect the position. The fact is, that the company have not so acted, and I thank that that state of things will continue - that they will do what they consider to be a fair thing by the sugar-grower. Let me point out also that had the company taken full advantage of their position, the millers, and not the company, would have benefited.
– How do you make that out?
– Because the Commission show that the method of payment by the company to the millers has always been upon this basis: They fix £19 a ton as the price for refined sugar, and then, if there is an advance in price, they give 18s. of every £1 to the manufacturer, who in his turn has the option of passing it on to the grower.
– But he never does.
– The point I wish to establish is that had the company raised the price they would not have benefited primarily except so far as they themselves are the manufacturers of raw sugar. The Minister says that the manufacturers never pass the increase in price on to the growers. The position of the growers is that they have agreements with the company. They have the right, if they so desire, to accept from the company a sliding scale of prices, which rises and falls as the market rises and falls, but with very few exceptions they have always preferred to take fixed prices for their cane. The company are prepared to give to the growers the advantage or disadvant- age of the market prices, but the growers say, “ No, we prefer a fixed price for our cane.” As honorable members know, a number of the raw sugar mills are co-operative, and in that case the growers get the benefit. It is the shareholders, not the suppliers, of the Butter factories who get the benefits of the operations of these factories.
– The only benefit they get is the dividend, which is a small one.
– Yes, but most factories will not accept supplies except from persons possessing a small number of shares, which, I think, is a good principle. The consumer of sugar has nothing to fear from the abolition of the bounty and Excise; but, in my opinion, the suggestion of the Commission that the duty should rise and fall with the price of sugar in the world’s markets is clumsy and dangerous, and would work detrimentally to the grower of cane, to whom it would not be beneficial to have the price of sugar fixed. If honorable members take the average price of raw sugar paid by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company during the last ten years they will find that it exceeds appreciably the sum suggested by the Commission as a basis, which sum would in effect be themaximum price of sugar in Australia, and would prevent us from getting the benefits of any rise in the world’s price of sugar. It is possible for us to legislate in such a way that the growers will never be exposed to the importation of lowpriced sugar, and the evidence of the Commission shows that the consumer need not be afraid that sugar in Australia will ever rise above a certain price; that the fear of legislation, or some other influence, will prevent it from doing so.
– It is not to be assumed that, because I said nothing on this subject, there is nothing to be said from the standpoint of the Government. I deliberately avoided all controversial matter. I do not object to the honorable member making these statements, but I desire that it shall not be assumed that the Government has no answer to make to them.
– The Commission recommends that the price of refined sugar should be fixed, and that there should be a sliding scale for the price of raw sugar and of cane, which, in my view, is inconsistent. If the price of refined sugar is fixed, the price of raw sugar must be fixed, and the same remark applies to the price of cane. At the present time the price of cane in some districts varies at different mills.
– It would be risky for the farmers to be paid on analysis.
– That is a matter of opinion. As a rule, these things are arranged quite fairly. The dairy farmers are all paid according to the analysis of their cream.
– By the co-operative companies, but not by the proprietary companies.
– By both, and, taking them all round, the analyses are fair and just, and considered quite satisfactory by the suppliers. The abolition of the bounty and Excise will benefit the industry as a whole, and will not put the growers in any worse position. At present they have to pay the wages stipulated for by the Minister of Trade and Customs, and, in addition, they have the harassing conditions of the bounty and Excise.
– What are the harassing conditions of the bounty?
– I brought a case under the notice of the Minister a day or two ago, in which a man who is employing a number of hands at the ordinary rate was requested by them to buy their tucker for them.
– That is the employer’s statement.
– I have every reason to believe that it is a true statement, but I am willing to put the case as a hypothetical one. The men asked their employer to buy their tucker, and to find a cook, promising to pay when the job was finished. He was to get them what they asked for. The bill came to over 12s. a week.
– Over £1.
– I think that 17s. 5d. was the highest charge. The men lived well, the employer getting whatever they asked for; but, in the end, they lodged a complaint with the Customs Officer, with the result that the claim for bounty, amounting to£300, has been hung up, and goodness knows when it will be paid. I think that the growers will welcome the abolition of the bounty and Excise. I hope that the Queensland and New South Wales Parliaments will deal with this matter at the earliest possible date, if necessary in a special session. The present condition of affairs hampers the industry, and prevents its expansion. Its importance to Australia, from the national point of view, seeing that it provides a way for developing and settling our tropical regions, justifies every consideration being paid to it.
.- In view of the importance of the matter with which we are dealing, and of the fact that my own electorate is particularly interested in these proposals, I may be forgiven for making a few remarks, especially as I have taken a somewhat active part in the debates on every previous occasion when the sugar industry has been discussed in Parliament. To me, it is a matter for regret that a majority of the growers appear to desire the abolition of the Excise and bounty, and I have expressed the opinion before that they will be sorry if the abolition is determined upon. The bounty has been of inestimable benefit to the growers, and in my own district it has worked wonders. Years ago, when refined sugar was worth £28 a ton, the grower was getting only 8s. 6d. per ton for cane ; but now, when the price of refined sugar is at least 20 per cent, lower, he is getting twice as much for his cane.
– The methods of manufacture have been improved.
-.- I admit that ; but the difference between the price of cane and the price of refined sugar was then so great that some one must have been making an extreme profit. I admit that the bounty cannot be continued indefinitely, and that it has, to all intents and purposes, accomplished its end, 90 per cent, of the cane now being grown by white labour, whereas formerly about 90 per cent, was grown by black labour. Recently in the Mackay district a vote was taken by the Australian Sugar Producers’ Association to ascertain whether the farmers favour the abolition of the Excise and bounty, or their equalization; and there was a slight majority in favour of their equalization. In arguing in favour of equalization, honorable members are not. on firm ground. I regret, from the stand-point of the farmer, that the abolition of the Excise and bounty is contemplated. I am satisfied that it will prove a serious loss to him, as he will find out later. In regard to the question of the grower being paid a higher price for his cane . provided that the bounty and Excise are abolished, Mr. Denham, the Premier of Queensland, says -
Mr. White, M.L.A., assures me he raised the matter at a meeting of the Sugar Manufacturers’ Association held at Bundaberg on 2nd September, when it was resolved that in the event of the Excise and bounty being abolished the millers will pay the growers of cane 8s. 8d. per ton, in place of the 6s. 6d. now being paid by the Customs.
That is the assurance which Mr. Denham got from Mr. White, and there is nothing in it which the honorable member for Darling Downs would accept as being satisfactory from a legal stand-point. I am perfectly certain that, though the Colonial Sugar Refining Company may pay this increased price for a season or two, they will find some excuse for getting out of it later on, and the farmers will then be mulcted of the bounty which is now paid to them.
– In that’ case, they wil? go down.
– There is no doubt about that. Prior to the 5th September last, Mr. Barnes, the Treasurer of Queensland had interviewed the Prime Minister ora this question, and, on his return to that State, Mr. Denham, its Premier, wrote -
I have the honour to inform you that my colleague, the Treasurer, on his return to Brisbane, communicated to me your expressed opinionthat it would make for the welfare of the sugar industry if both Excise and bounty were abolished; that you would do your best to influence your colleagues to take the same view,, and, if successful, would next session introduce Bills for the repeal of so much of the Exciseand bounty sections as applied to the sugar industry.
He went on to state his reasons. He said -
I have been favoured by an authority, whose opinion may be implicitly relied on. with the following reasons for the abolition of the sugar Excise and bounty -
That no other primary industry pays Excise.
That is not correct. The tobacco industry pays Excise -
– Does the honorable member admit that?
– No. It will be found later that the reverse will be the case -
– Every State Government is experiencing the same difficulty.
– Throughout the whole of Mr. Denham’s letter of 5th September, only the proposal to abolish the Excise and bounty is discussed. But, immediately the Prime. Minister gave a definite promise that the Excise and bounty would be repealed, the Premier of Queensland shifted his ground. The following is a copy of the latest telegram which was forwarded by him to the Prime Minister -
Full text Commission report awaited with anxiety. Hope ere this report has been mailed. Will you by Statute fix minimum price at £21 10s. ? If so, it will be necessary for you to -secure such power over Tariff as will preclude foreign sugar being sold in Australia under that price. The mere abolition of Excise and bounty without adequate Custom protection will not meet the case even of existing mills, and still less encourage new mills. Initial difficulties and expenses of clearing, cultivating, and erecting milling plant now much greater than formerly. I can arrange leave Brisbane Sunday morning, 15th December, preferably later if equally convenient yourself. Of supreme importance to be assured of such duty as will insure price adequate to meet such conditions as Commission recommend in conducting the business.
– The honorable member agrees with that?
– I am pointing out that the Premier of Queensland has shifted his ground ; that he has raised entirely new questions, and wishes to shuffle out of the promise which he made.
– There is nothing to justify that statement.
– I make the statement unhesitatingly. Mr. Denham has raised entirely new questions. He is guilty of an absolute shuffle. No doubt, one of the reasons which actuate him is the financial position of Queensland. As the honorable member for Darling Downs has admitted, that
State is not in a position to find money for these mills.
– I did not say that. I said that every Government in Australia was experiencing a difficulty in finding money at the present time.
– The legal mind again. To anybody who has not a legal mind, Mr. Denham’s communication clearly shows that he is endeavouring to shuffle out of his promise.
– That is a very unfair statement to make.
– I know that the honorable member gets heated whenever the Queensland Government is attacked. The question of fixing the price of sugar was not raised till the report of the Sugar Commission had been presented to this Parliament and the Queensland Government had promised to erect the mills to which I have referred a long time previously. I do not intend to occupy undue time in discussing this Bill. ‘But I would impress on the Minister of Trade and Customs the necessity of seeing, not merely that the labour employed in- the cane fields is white, but also that white labour is employed in the mills. In this connexion, there is no complaint to make, except in regard to the mills in Queensland, which are owned and run by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. I do not think that there is a single coloured man employed in the Central Mills, but at least 50 per cent, of the hands employed in the mills which are the property of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are coloured workers. In the Herbert River district, not only are coloured men employed in the mills, but only coloured labour is employed in the maintenance of the tramways. I should say that the State Government will have some power over these tramways,, because the money to build them was borrowed from the States, and, at any rate, this aspect of the question should be taken into consideration before the proclamation is issued. Another point is that, when it was proposed that the cane must be cultivated by white labour for twelve months prior to the payment of the bounty, I desired to have the period made two years ; and I am still of the opinion that I then expressed.
– When the bounty is abolished we shall have no control at all.
– But the bounty is abolished only on condition of the State
Government taking certain action. I am informed that in the Mosman district cane is being planted by coloured labour, but is afterwards worked by white labour for twelve months, and thus becomes entitled to the bounty. The bonus given to the labourer, referred to by the honorable member for Richmond, is, in many cases, a swindle. A worker is promised certain wages, and on condition of his remaining the whole of the season, he is entitled to a bonus of 2s. 6d. per week; but it often happens that he is sacked in the last week of the season, thus forfeiting the bonus. I do not object to the forfeiture of the bonus under certain conditions, but it unfortunately happens that the bonus, when forfeited, goes into the’ pockets of the man who has the power to discharge the worker. In my opinion, any forfeited bonus ought to be divided amongst the men who remain the whole season, for I am sure that by this means a great deal of injustice would be prevented. The report of the Sugar Commission tells us that, as cane cannot be carried great distances, the nearest mill is usually selected, and this, of course, puts a certain amount of control into the hands of the millers. The report says that where several mills can compete, they have, at any rate, in some cases preferred to combine for the purpose of fixing prices or for apportioning the areas of supply. That is certainly done in the Mackay district.
– It is done in all the districts.
– Quite so; but the honorable member for Richmond said that it is not done.
– I did not say that; I was not discussing the matter from that stand-point.
– At any rate that is what I understood the honorable member to say.
– I said that the price was fixed and that the growers preferred a fixed price.
– The honorable member for Richmond went on to make some capital out of the statements we find on page 20 of the Sugar Commission’s report, but I cannot see anything there on which he may congratulate himself. However this raises a question on which I desire, at this stage of the session, to say a last word. I have no desire to oppose the wish of the growers, the report of the Commissioners, or the wishes of this Cham ber, but the honorable member for Richmond referred to the price that the consumer has to pay for his sugar. The price of raw sugar is £16 per ton and the cost of refining is £2 ; everywhere I am told that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company has to pay the Excise of £4. I do not see why that should be so if the Excise has already been deducted from the price of the cane by the miller. Under the circumstances, why should the Excise be passed on to the consumer, and thus, as it were, be paid twice? This matter has been very often before the House, and has caused some heated discussions, and I shall be very glad, indeed, when it has been finally dealt with. I can only hope that the grower will not be disappointed, but I am very much afraid that he will.
– The step taken by the Minister, in the introduction of these two Bills, is, I hope, distinctly towards a more satisfactory conclusion of the great sugar problem. The importance of this industry to Australia justifies us in taking any possible step to> secure it permanently for this country. According to the report of the Royal Commission the industry represents at least ;£i 2,000,000 of capital, and it keeps in employment over 27,000 people, while it. has an important social bearing, inasmuch as it represents a contribution to the solution of the great problem of the settlement of the northern part of this continent. Thereport of the Royal Commission is full of conflicting questions, the discussion of which would not assist us in arriving at a decision on the Bills immediately before us. It is proposed to repeal the Excise and to abolish the bounty, and the State Parliament of Queensland is expected to do something in return. We have in view the preservation of this industry to Australia, in common with all other industries of an Australian character; and our first duty is to place all industries on the same basisfrom a protective or Tariff point of view. The problem is complicated by thecoloured labour question; and, as we desire a White Australia, we have to devise some means to eliminate the coloured element. Then we have to see that the industry is made a white man’s industry, at the white man’s rates of pay. If theseBills be passed I take it that the sugar industry will be preserved on a white man’s footing, and will continue to be entitled’ to protection like any other industry. The- import duty of £6 per ton will, therefore, continue to be imposed.
– As a minimum.
– Yes.. The Commonwealth, by repealing the Excise and abolishing bounty, leaves it to the States to secure the employment of white men, at white men’s rates of pay. On the 5th September the Premier of Queensland wrote to the Prime Minister -
I have the honour to inform you that my colleague the Treasurer, on his return to Brisbane, communicated to me your expressed opinion that it would make for the welfare of the sugar industry if both excise and bounty were abolished ; that you would do your best to influence your colleagues to take the same view, and, if successful, would next session introduce Bills for the repeal of so much of the excise and bounty sections as applied to the sugar industry.
That is a distinct promise, and what was to be done in return? The Premier of Queensland went on to say -
If you can give me an assurance on this point, I shall undertake to introduce legislation prohibiting Asiatic aliens from engaging or working in the industry, and compensating such aliens as may be bond fide owners or lease holders of land now under sugar cane. The people of Australia desire the sugar industry to be a whitelabour one, and I will gladly give my support to any arrangement which will insure the realization of that desire. It is also their wish that this’ industry should pay the white labourer the highest wage consistent with its prosperity, and the better to achieve that end I shall so enlarge the Industrial Peace Bill as to bring sugar workers (both field and mill hands) under Industrial Boards. I think that will be the most effective means of protecting their interests.
That sets forth the honorable understanding between the two Governments. The Government of Queensland have already, by the Industrial Peace Act, fulfilled part of the promise made by them. In the schedule to that Act honorable members will find the names of a number of Boards that are being continued, and among these is the Sugar Manufacturing Industry Board for the Central Division. The callings to which the Act applies are also set forth, and we have the statement in the schedule that it is to apply generally to the “ sugar field workers.” The Queensland Government have therefore, taken steps already to carry out that part of their promise which relates to the industrial conditions. The Sugar Commission, having sent in its report, the Prime Minister addressed the following telegram to the Premier of Queensland : -
Referring to subject of your letter, 5th September, 1912, I have now honor to inform you that the Commonwealth Government will introduce Bills during the current session of
Parliament to abolish the Sugar Excise and Sugar Bounty Acts, which shall be brought into operation by proclamation upon the States concerned passing an Act to - (a) Confer upon Commonwealth Parliament the power to legislate in respect of the employment of coloured labour, and regulation of wages and conditions of labour; (ends) or (b) abolish coloured labour in the industry, and establish tribunals for the regulation of rates of wages and conditions of labour ; (ends) such legislation, whether by Commonwealth or State, to adopt the recommendations of Royal Commission on Sugar Industry as to minimum rates of wages and conditions of labour.
– There is no reference there to the price of cane.
– No. We have in that telegram a distinct promise that the Federal Government will take steps to abolish the Excise and bounty. Two alternatives were offered, the second being that the State Government should -
Abolish coloured labour in the industry and establish tribunals for the regulation of rates of wages and conditions of labour.
The Queensland Government have taken steps to carry out that alternative proposal. A further condition was made that Queensland should adopt the recommendation of the Royal Commission as to the minimum rates of wages and conditions of labour, and the condition, which the Minister regards as substantial, is that the minimum wage for adult workers in the sugar industry shall be not less than is. per hour, or 8s. per day of eight hours. The Premier of Queensland, on receipt of this telegram from the Prime Minister, replied -
I am obliged to you for your message of 3rd instant, and am much gratified at your assurance that you will introduce Bills during the current session of Parliament to abolish the sugar Excise and sugar Bounty. I prefer alternative (i), and see no insuperable difficulty in giving effect your requirements. From press resume of Commission’s Report, I am hopeful that satisfactory solution of sugar problem will be arrived at.
The Prime Minister replied -
Thanks your wire ewen date reference mine 3rd instant subject legislation sugar industry. Press here report you more fully, stating you would journey to Melbourne to consult Commonwealth Government on matter. Will be pleased meet you soon as convenient to . discuss means that will place sugar industry on satisfactory permanent basis.
My reading of that statement is that the Prime Minister is prepared to discuss with the Queensland Government any other matter that the State may consider desirable to put the industry on a satisfactory footing. Speaking as a member of the Opposition, I think that we ought to give credit to both Governments for their efforts to bring about a final, and satisfactory settlement of this difficult question. In the circumstances I think it scarcely fair that honorable members opposite should make imputations against one of the parties to the negotiations, and I regret very much that such an element should have been introduced into this debate. Mr. Denham telegraphed to the Prime Minister -
Full text Commission report awaited with anxiety.
Then comes the natural inquiry -
Will you by statute fix minimum price at £21 10s. ? If so, it will be necessary for you to secure such power over tariff as will preclude foreign sugar being sold in Australia under that price.
In other words, he says that if the Federal Government intend to carry out their proposal it will be necessary for them to take action also in respect of the Tariff.
– He really wants to know whether the Government intend to give effect to the Sugar Commission’s report.
– Quite so. Mr. Denham then goes on to make a statement which I think honorable members opposite will applaud -
Initial difficulties and expenses of clearing, cultivating, and erecting milling plant now much greater than formerly. . . Of supreme importance to be assured of such duty as will insure grice adequate to meet such conditions as Commission recommend in conducting the business.
– There are other things to be taken into consideration. It is stated in the Sugar Commission’s report that Mr. Drysdale, in five years, made a profit of £150,000 on an investment of £100,000.
– At all events, Mr. Denham says that it is of supreme importance to be assured that such a duty will be imposed as will insure a price that will be adequate to meet the conditions recommended by the Commission. That is practically what we say in regard to every industry in Australia. The Minister would ask the same in regard to the hat industry or the boot industry.
– Why does die honorable member say “ We”? His supporters do not say anything of the kind.
– - Why “supporters”? I speak of my party.
– I meant to refer to the honorable member’s colleagues. They are Free Traders.
– The point that I wish to make is that all who have accepted the policy of Protection admit that effective
Protection is necessary and effective Protection means such Tariff assistance as will insure the permanent existence of an industry. It is that for which Mr. Denham asks. I very much regret that the honorable member for Herbert should have based upon this telegram’ from Mr. Denham a most unjust and altogether irrelevant attack upon the Premier of Queensland, who, he suggested, was trying to shuffle out of some arrangement. There is absolutely no foundation for such a statement. Only by the most gross exaggeration of the terms of the message could such a construction be placed upon it.
– So far as the mills are concerned, Mr. Denham has been shuffling for the last twelve months.
– When the two Governments are trying to bring to a satisfactory issue negotiations to settle this conflict for all time, it is highly improper that an honorable member should make such an unfair charge against the Premier of Queensland. Both the Premier and the Treasurer of that State have been making an honest effort to establish the mills. It was pointed out some time ago that the issue of new regulations relating to the increase in the cost of labour put, for the time being, difficulties in the way of carrying out their scheme. It was pointed out that the conditions which we are now doing away with pressed unduly on the growers, and that some of them refused consequently to sign certain agreements with respect to the quality of cane. Now that the system is being repealed these difficulties will, to a certain extent, be removed. . It was stated that it was the delay on the part of this Government in introducing legislation for the repeal of the Excise and bounty that was holding up the establishment of the mills. Now that these difficulties are to be removed, I think that the erection of the mills will be proceeded with. I regret that the honorable member for Herbert should have imported this element into the debate. It is irrelevant and certainly is not helpful when an effort is being made to satisfactorily solve the problem.
– Is Mr. Denham as thin-skinned as the honorable member suggests ?
– That is not the question. The point is that when an honest effort is being made to solve this problem unfair charges should not be made respecting either party to the negotiations. I think that in introducing this legislation the Government are actingwisely, and that the confidence which they are reposing in the State Government will be reciprocated. I am sorry that, owing to the delay in introducing this legislation, nothing can be done this year by the State Parliament to complete the arrangements.
– A special session could be convened.
– The State Parliament was prorogued only a few days ago, but I hope that this matter will be dealt with as soon as it meets next year.
– Is St not remarkable that it has taken us all these years to discover that we ought to abolish the bounty and Excise?
– The bounty and Excise legislation was only a temporary scheme to carry out a specific purpose, and that purpose having been achieved - now that the growers have succeeded in making the industry a white man’s industry - there is no need for its continuance.
– Apart from making it a white man’s industry we want to see that white man conditions as regards wages and hours of labour are secured.
– That is another matter. The effect of the new legislation will be twofold. In the first place it will place the sugar industry upon the same basis as other industries in Australia, and secondly it will return to Queensland the industrial control of the industry. The third and the most important result will be that it will give security to those engaged in the industry. It will remove the impression from the minds of many that this industry is particularly pampered as compared with other industries. When this legislation is passed, it will be a protected industry just the same as any other industry. It is undoubtedly an industry natural to Australia, and should, therefore, become permanent. As a result of affording this security, people will engage in the industry with more confidence, and to a greater extent, than they have engaged in it in the past. This legislation is a distinct advance towards the satisfactory solution of the problem, it reflects credit on the Federal and the State Governments, and will, no doubt, result in material progress.
.- I am surprised that honorable members opposite, who have been so anxious to get this bounty and Excise abolished, have not occupied less time in dealing with this Bill, and allowed it to go through, but it seems necessary that those who represent sugar districts should say a word or two. The repeal of this legislation marks an epoch in Federal parliamentary history. The Act was passed in spite of the strenuous opposition of the Tories and Liberals opposite.
– That is not correct.
– I except one or two honorable members opposite, but we know that many of the Tories and Liberals opposite were opposed to this legislation., and that their party pulled the wires to such an extent that all the Chambers of Commerce in Queensland and nearly every local body sent wires to the Prime Minister stating that if the legislation were passed the sugar industry in Queensland would be ruined.
– There were deputations even from the Queensland Houses.
– Yes, and deputations from as far north as Mackay and Townsville. It has been proved that if fair wages are paid white men will engage in the sugar industry. Exception has been taken by the honorable member for Darling Downs to a. remark made by the honorable member for Herbert regarding the intentions of the Premier of Queensland. We have every reason to believe that the Premier of Queensland will not carry out his compact regarding this legislation.
– Would it not be fair on our part to make the same charge against your own Government?
– The correspondence bears out what I say. The Premier of Queensland stated that if the Prime Minister would abolish the bounty and Excise he would take certain action, and in the correspondence he drew attention to the necessity of taking action at once. But after the Prime Ministeragreed to his proposals, he closed the Queensland Parliament in a few days. If he thought it was so necessary to get this legislation passed, why were the Queensland Houses sent into recess? There was no occasion for those Houses to go into recess on the; 6th or 7th of December. If the Premier of Queensland had had the interests of thesugargrowers and workers at heart, he would have kept the Queensland Parliament in session until this question, had been settled.
– Why was not this legis-. lation introduced six months ago?
– It was not introduced because the Prime Minister had to wait for the report of the Sugar Commission. The Premier of Queensland is in a great difficulty. He has undertaken to do certain things which I doubt the possibility of his doing. We are prepared to repeal this legislation at the earnest request of honorable members opposite. I agree with the honorable member for Herbert, that it is very doubtful whether the growers will ger the advantages which honorable members opposite say they will. I only vote for this Bill because I had it from Mr. Denham’s own lips, while travelling with him in the train last November, that he would introduce legislation establishing a tribunal to fix the price of cane, so that the growers might get the economic value of the difference between the bounty and the Excise. The Premier of Queensland has not stated in his correspondence with the Prime Minister that he will establish a tribunal for the purpose of giving the growers the difference of 2S. 2d. between the bounty and the Excise, but he has stated publicly in Queensland that he will do so. Fresh issues are now raised by Mr. Denham, who tells the Prime Minister that he ought to fix the price of sugar at £21 10s. per ton.
– He simply asked if the Prime Minister intends that trie prices shall be fixed.
– That is how the honorable member excuses the Premier of Queensland, but that is no excuse. Does not the honorable member, as well as the Premier of Queensland, know that this Parliament has no power to fix the price of sugar? Honorable members opposite will go before the people, and advise them not to give this Parliament the power to fix the price. It is a quibble and a shuffle on the part of honorable members opposite.
– The honorable member is unfair.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– The honorable member for Darling Downs, who is a great constitutionalist, knows that we have no power to fix the price of sugar at £21 10s. per ton, and why does he try to induce the growers of Queensland to believe that we have that power? The Premier of Queensland has the power under the Queensland Constitution to establish tri bunals to fix the prices of cane and sugar.Will he do so? He sees his difficulty, and he is, therefore, raising this new issue. He expresses a doubt as to whether the import duty of £6 per ton is sufficient to protect the sugar industry. That issue was never before raised in this House. I remember that originally Mr. Angus Gibson, a prominent sugar planter, and his associates, asked for a duty of £5 a ton only; but it seems to me that when certain persons saw that Mr. Denham was falling in with the view of the Prime Minister to so regulate matters as to give the growers and the workers a fair return for their labour, they went to Mr. Denham for the purpose of trying to get further concessions, so that they might place additional burdens on the people of Australia. I believe that the Australian public have no objection to paying £28 per ton for sugar, providing the growers and the wageearners get a fair share of the £6,000,000 which is yearly paid for sugar in Australia. But they will have a great objection to paying any more for sugar if the enhanced price is to go to swell the profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the millers. I only vote for the Bill on the understanding that the growers will get what Mr. Denham describes as the economic value of the difference between the bounty and the Excise, and I believe that it will remain on the statute-book a very long time before it is put into operation.
– I appreciate this Bill as being a step in the direction of improving the sugar industry generally. The Acts which we have already passed on the subject have had a fair trial, and have produced fairly successful results. They had for their object the establishment of the sugar industry under white-labour conditions. The people of Australia, through their representatives in this Parliament, were of the opinion that the industry should only be carried on under white-men’s conditions, and, realizing that difficulties existed in that connexion because a great deal of coloured labour was then engaged in the industry, the bounty and Excise system was established. Before repealing that legislation, we have to consider whether the Acts have achieved the objects for which they were passed. The figures supplied by the Royal Commission show that fair results have been obtained from the operation of those
Acts, as 94 per cent. of our sugar is now produced in Australia under white-labour conditions. Further than that, considerable progress has been made in the way of securing a living wage and improved conditions for white labour. We sympathize with the ideal of the Minister, although we do not always approve of his methods, in trying to secure for the workmen engaged in the industry fair and reasonable rates of wages. We believe that, as far as is practicable, white labour should be employed in all our industries, and that it should receive reasonable remuneration.
Sitting suspended ‘from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– The object which was in view when the Excise and bounty were imposed on sugar has been practically attained, and we may congratulate ourselves on its success, seeing that 94 per cent. of the sugar is now grown by white labour, and that the conditions under which the work is done by white men have been greatly improved. The Government asked the Sugar Commission to inquire into the conditions of all phases of the industry, and as a result the abolition of the Excise and bounty has been recommended. The Commissioners say on page 25 of their report -
As a result of the bounty regulations a certain amount of discretionary power is left in the hands of the Government of the day. This appears to us to be a grave objection; it invites the intrusion of political influence, and it introduces an element of instability into the industry.
An industry which warrants the attention which has been paid by Parliament to the sugar industry should not be governed according to the whim of any political party. All connected with the industry, particularly those who have taken up and prepared land for that purpose, have a right to demand that nothing shall be done to affect its stability, and the Commissioners’ recommendation that the abolition of the Excise and bounty is desirable in order to get rid of political control has greatly weighed with me in supporting the Bill. According to the Commission, the Government in administering the law has imposed conditions which have proved irksome. The cane-growers themselves say that -
They further think that to maintain the industry and to prevent the possibility of such reversion, the Excise should be continued on all sugar produced from cane grown by coloured labour. Further, a large number of cane farmers are of opinion that the Excise and Bounty should be absolutely abolished; while they are unanimously of the opinion that if this be not done the amount of the rebate and Excise must be made equal.
In the minds of a number of others, equalization would not meet the difficulty. Regulations that have been found specially irksome are these -
By a very unjust regulation, whenever there is any dispute between employer and employe in the matter of wages, however trivial or unfounded, the whole of the employer’s bounty earned or to be earned is withheld until the point in dispute has been settled, which may not be for some months. The delay entailed works most harshly in the case of the small farmer, and might be avoided by holding a sum sufficiently large to cover the particular dispute in case the finding should be against the employer. Where a charge has been made of a contravention of the Act or regulations in the matter of the employment of coloured labour, then -
A man would require to be an accountant to properly draw up the returns which are required to be furnished. An immense amount of clerical work is involved in making out the returns, and the regulations interfere with the working of the plantations. The first recommendation of the Commissioners is -
That the Bounty and Excise be abolished, provided that the Commonwealth Government, by co-operation with the States or otherwise, take whatever steps may be necessary to promote the white labour policy, and to ensure the maintenance of a living wage in the sugar industry generally.
– Let us have your view.
– My view will be shown by my vote on this, as on other occasions. Honorable members on this side have always advocated co-operation with the States on these matters.
– Not with a view to getting better wages for workmen.
– I should do my honorable friend an injustice were I to interpret his interjection as meaning that we are opposed to the granting of good wages.
– With the exception of the honorable member, that is what the party is opposed to.
– Our votes have shown that we desire that reasonable rates of wages should be paid in every industry. My support of the 1907 Tariff shows that I desire that good wages should be paid. Another reason is given why the Commissioners think that the Excise and bounty should be abolished -
The utility of the Bounty Regulations as a means of promoting an equitable distribution of the profits among the various branches of the sugar industry is so obviously inadequate that the retention of the regulations on this ground would be wholly unjustifiable. The true solution of the problem here indicated is a matter of great importance, and will receive due consideration in Part III., Growers, Millers, and Refiners.
On the whole, we arrive definitely at the conclusion that the system of Bounty and Excise should be abolished as soon as may be practicable, and that, with a view to this abolition, such action should be taken as we indicate in the Recommendations at the conclusion of this part of our Report.
In imposing protective duties or offering bounties for the encouragement of industries, the desire of Parliament is to benefit, not a particular section of the community, but all sections affected. The Minister recognises the value of the Commission’s report and the need for giving consideration to its recommendations. According to the information before us, the Treasury will lose £157,000 a year by the abolition of the Excise and bounty, that being the difference between the sum paid in bounty and the sum received in Excise, but the figures show that there has not been an equitable distribution of the benefits of the bounty between those engaged in the industry. It is generally recognised, however, that the bounty and Excise system has served its purpose. I would have been pleased if the Minister had recognised the recommendation contained in the minority report of the Commission concerning the equity of paying a special bounty upon the cane grown this year upon which no bounty will otherwise be paid. Mr. Crawford recommends -
That a special bounty of as. per ton be paid on all cane harvested under bounty conditions during the 1912 season, as compensation to growers for the increased cost of production due to the Minister’s order of August last.
It is only right that those who have complied with the wages conditions imposed by that regulation shall receive some recognition at the hands of the Government. I hope that the Prime Minister will be able to give effect to Mr. Crawford’s recommendation. The price of sugar has been mentioned during this debate, but that is a matter which does not come within the scope of this Bill. My own opinion is that when we imposed a duty upon sugar, our intention was to levy such a rate as would insure to all persons engaged in the industry, whether farmers or labourers, a fair remuneration for their labour. What the import duty ought to be is a phase of the question which may best be considered at a later stage. All I want to insure now is that the persons who are engaged in the industry, whether they be farmers or labourers, should receive reasonable remuneration. In conclusion, I congratulate the Government upon recognising that the State authorities are best able to deal with the rates of wages and the conditions of employment which should obtain in the industry. Their attitude in this matter is a complete answer to much that has been said during the course of debate within the last week or two. If a State, by means of its own machinery, can regulate the conditions of employment which should obtain in this industry, it can do so equally well in other industries.
.- The honorable member for Capricornia has stated that the Queensland Government have prorogued the Parliament of that State without having dealt with this question. I regret that that course has been rendered necessary, bur the Commonwealth Government had ample opportunity to do, two or three months ago, what they are now doing. The Minister of Trade and Customs issued a regulation in August last which very seriously interfered with the sugar industry; and while I do not complain of that regulation, I do say that, if he had the power to take action then, the Government might have introduced these Bills long since. They would thus have afforded the Queensland Parliament ample time to deal with this important question.
Even now, the Commonwealth Government will not trust the Queensland Government. It is rather unfortunate that there should exist this want of confidence between the two Government.
– The Queensland Parliament had ample time to deal with the matter.
– I am satisfied that the Queensland Government are in earnest in this matter, and that they will lose no time in initiating legislation to meet the case.
– Is it not worth while calling a special session of the State Parliament to deal with it?
– I think it is. But there should have been no occasion to convene a special session of the Queensland Parliament to consider it. I feel sure that Mr. Denham will take action suited to the occasion. These Bills will confer a great benefit upon the sugar-growers of Queensland and upon all who are interested in the industry. It will impose no further burdens upon the people of Australia, although we shall suffer a loss of revenue amounting to probably £180,000 or £200,000, which has always been an impost on the industry that ought not to have been levied. I regret that the Bill is not to come into operation forthwith, but that it is to be hung up until such time as the Government are satisfied with the action of the Queensland Government. That is practically what it means. The regulation which was recently issued by the Minister imposed heavy burdens on the sugargrowers of Queensland. I agree with the honorable member for Cowper that this difficulty can be met, either by bringing the Bill into operation immediately, or by equalizing the bounty and the Excise from the time that regulation came into force. I am pleased to have the assurance of the Minister that, if the Queensland Government will meet him, there is a possibility of the proclamation being issued forthwith. Still the power is left in the hands of the Commonwealth Government to withhold that proclamation until the three States which are engaged in sugar growing have passed Bills in regard to the labour conditions which shall obtain in the industry in accordance with the requirements of the former. It is quite possible that Victoria, which is only interested in the growing of beet sugar, may stand in the way of a settlement of this question for an indefinite period, and I am glad to have the Minister’s ‘assurance that his attitude will be shaped by the attitude of the Queensland Government. It has been urged that Mr. Denham, in his latest communication to the Prime Minister, has shifted his ground. But I would point out that in the wire to Mr. Denham of 6th December the Prime Minister said nothing whatever about fixing prices. Yet the Government now propose to insist upon prices being fixed. So that they are shifting their ground.
– The Government are not endeavouring to fix prices. The honorable member knows that we cannot fix prices.
– I am quite satisfied that Mr. Denham would be the last to attempt to fix prices if he had not been pressed to do so by the Commonwealth Government.
– We cannot fix prices.
Mr. SINCLAIR. That is one of the difficulties which presented itself to me. I am under the impression that if we attempt to fix prices we shall cripple the industry.
– Then the honorable member does not agree with Mr. Denham?
– If he is going to attempt to fix prices I do not. I am quite sure that the passing of these Bills will have a beneficial effect upon the sugar industry so far as the producers and wageearners are concerned.
– Will they make any difference to the consumer?
– I do not see how they can. While I admit that a protective duty has to be paid by ,the consumer, the consumer is not affected by the payment of the sugar Excise and bounty. The abolition of the Excise and bounty will enable the sugar-growers to pocket the £180,000 or £200,000 which has hitherto found its way into the Commonweatlh Treasury. To some extent, that will compensate them for the increased wages which they will have to pay to their workmen, and to which the workmen are justly entitled. I do hope that the payment of those increased wages will result in the employment of a better class of labour than we have hitherto had in our cane fields. I am sure that even the honorable member for Capricornia will admit that some of the labour that we have had in the north has been of a very undesirable character. If we get an improved class of labour, it will be better for Australia as a whole. There has been some difference of opinion as to who pays the
Excise and the bounty. Any difference between the Excise and the bounty - certainly if the Excise is more than the bounty - must reduce the effect of the protection on sugar; and, consequently, that difference comes out of the pockets of the growers.
– That settles it !
– I do not know whether the honorable member for Herbert has quite made up his own mind yet.
– The honorable member for Herbert has never yet been able to settle who pays the bounty.
– I am quite satisfied in my own mind.
– The honorable member for Herbert has told us that the consumer pays the bounty and the Excise.
– I believe that the consumer pays the lot every time.
– Here, hear; the honorable member for Franklin is right for once.
– I believe that these Bills will prove who pays. My opinion is that the legislation will not affect the price of sugar one way or the other.
– Hear, hear.
– It will put additional money into the cane-growers’ pocket.
– I doubt that.
– If the cane-growers get the benefit of this legislation, and the Treasury of the public suffer, it must follow that in the past the growers have paid the bounty. Onpage 24 of the report of the Royal Commission we are told -
The growing recognition of the national importance of the Australian sugar industry discounts the fact that the Bounty system, taken in conjunction with the Excise duty, has been a source of revenue to the Commonwealth Treasury. The fact appears as an argument against, rather than in favour of, the retention of the Bounty and Excise system. We see no adequate justification for a tax on the sugar industry; . and the real alternative which presents itself to us is either the abolition of Bounty and Excise or their equalization.
It is quite evident that the Royal Commission: came to the conclusion that the bounty and Excise are of no benefit to the producer. This Bill will also tend to give stability to the industry by taking it, I hope, absolutely out of political control. It is rather unfortunate that this industry has been used for political purposes for years past, one party being played off against another. The Royal Commission, in their report, say -
As a result of the Bounty Regulations, a certain amount of discretionary power is left in the hands of the Government of the day. This appears to us to be a grave objection ; it invites the intrusion of political influence, and it introduces an element of instability into the industry.
For that reason, amongst others, I hail with pleasure the introduction of this measure, and I am gratified to find the Government acting so spontaneously on the report of the Royal Commission. If the legislation promised by the Queensland Government be brought into operation quickly, as I have no doubt it will, we may hope to see this industry, like other industries, placed under a Wages Board or some other industrial tribunal, and thus taken out of the political arena. I am rather doubtful whether the amount of Protection given to this industry is sufficient.
– I thought that would come.
– Almost the whole cost of the production of sugar may be classed as wages ; and over and over again I have expressed the opinion that Protection ought to be granted equal to the labour cost. A cane-grower will pay at least 66 per cent. of the cost of his harvest in wages, thus receiving himself a return of only33per cent., and the report of the Commission affords conclusive evidencethat the protective duty ought to be, much higher than . in the case of an industry, which, perhaps, pays only 25 per cent in wages.I trust that the Government will not wait until all the three States have conceded the demands in regard to wages and conditions, but will take the matter up in a friendly way with the Queensland Premier, and see that legislation is passed within the next few months to place the sugar industry on a proper footing. I trust that the Minister will not forget those growers who have been forced to pay higher wages, and who will not benefit this year by the abolition of the bountyand the Excise.
.- The honorable member for Moreton is, I think, entitled, under the circumstances, to feel a considerable degree of selfsatisfaction at the legislation the Government have initiated. There is no doubt that, in the past, an immense pecuniary advantage has been given to the sugar industry of Queensland at a tremendoussacrificeby the people of Australia; and now we are about to consummate the policy by giving those in the industry another £200,000 per annum, if not more.
– By giving them back their own.
– The honorable member ought to have had sufficient experience to prevent his repetition of that exploded fallacy. He knows very well that the Excise and bounty are wrapped up in the import duty, and that that duty increases the cost of sugar to the consumer by £6 per ton. When, therefore, the grower pays the Excise, and receives the bounty, he does not pay anything out of his pocket, because he has received £6 from the unfortunate people who consume sugar. The honorable member may repeat the fallacy to uninformed folk outside, but not to honorable members here. We all understand that at one time this matter was so tangled up that a Philadelphian lawyer would have failed to discover its true inwardness, but we all know now that the consumer pays, not merely the import duty, but the Excise and the bounty.
– No one denies that.
– It is continually denied, and the honorable member for Moreton said just now that the producer paid the Excise and bounty out of his own pocket.
– Yes, as between the duty and the Excise it was so.
– What is the sense of the honorable member’s interjection? Is not £6 a ton paid by the people who consume sugar?
– Yes, and the grower has never got the benefit of it.
– What has that to do with this Parliament or the people who pay the duty? There is no doubt that the duty of £6 a ton has increased the cost of sugar to the community.
– We admit it.
– Then all else follows. This Bill means, of course, that we are going to subsidize the sugar industry with another £200,000 per annum, The unfortunate wheat-grower with much inferior land - who has to sell in the world’s market, and can enjoy no protection - will have to pay a portion of the subsidy to the planters on the rich sugar lands. That is the position in a nutshell. The unfortunate fruit-grower, who wishes to turn his fruit into jam, is handicapped by the price of sugar. While we are subsidiz ing and bolstering up the sugar industry in Queensland, we are depressing and hurting industries in other parts of the Commonwealth - industries that pay good wages - which the sugar industry never did. Of course, no matter what we do, we shall never satisfy the people in the sugar industry. I have watched developments during the last ten or twelve years; and I am perfectly convinced, as the honorable member for Moreton foreshadowed in his speech, that this industry will demand more protection by-and-by in the form- of a new increased duty.
– We want it now.
– Well, the honorable member will never get it with my assistance. My voice and vote will never be given in support of any increase in duty that will impose a further load on the consumers of sugar. It is a commodity essential to civilized existence; for which there is no substitute as yet discovered; and yet it is subjected to the enormous import duty of 50 per cent, on the value.
– It is not enormous incomparison with other duties.
– The duty is 50 per cent., and, on beet sugar, 80 per cent.
– It is amazing that the Government should have attempted any legislation until the wages and labour question generally had been properly settled.
– I said this morning that the proclamation will not be issued until’ the industrial conditions, as laid down in the report of the Royal Commission, have been accepted.
– An industry that sends representatives to Melbourne to complain of having to pay 6£d. an hour for labour-
– It is 4A&, I think.
– That makes it all the worse; but I fancy that, with keep, the wage amounts to 6id. an hour.
– Possibly it does.
– Such an industry does not appear to be deserving of much encouragement at the hands of the National” Parliament. Unfortunately, however, we appear to be committed to this policy. It is a significant fact that when an opportunity presented itself to secure for this industry big concessions from the Commonwealth, political differences were lost sight of in Queensland, and men whose politics were as far apart as the poles united in a determined effort to obtain them. I never witnessed a more remarkable union than that which took place in this House between members holding different political views with the object of carrying the policy that we have hitherto adopted for the encouragement of the sugar industry. The kanaka difficulty was recognised to be a fine “stalking horse.”
– There was also a very good union of parties to secure the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway.
– But that is a national work, a worthy accomplishment of statesmen. The difference between the two propositions is that, whereas there is a limit to the expenditure that will take place on the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, the policy adopted for the encouragement of the cultivation of sugar by white labour means a constant and continuous demand upon the taxpayers of Australia. Sooner or later the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway will pay its way.
– Does the honorable member think that it will?
– I do. But as the question is irrelevant to the measure immediately under consideration, I am not permitted to discuss it. The presence of the kanaka in the sugar industry - and the kanaka is the least objectionable alien that we have ever had in Australia - was used to force this Parliament to agree to the imposition of an enormous import duty to encourage the production of sugar by white labour. If there was any possibility of the industry being permanently established without this constant drain upon the Commonwealth Treasury, I should not object, if it were necessary, to a large grant being made for its encouragement. But it seems to be almost impossible to insure the maintenance of the industry in Australia except by an enormous financial sacrifice. I feel confident that in time to come the people will realize what they are actually paying for the maintenance of the industry, and that they will then ask their representatives in this Parliament why one of the primary industries of the Commonwealth should receive such an enormous grant out of the public Treasury at the expense of other industries, the produce of which has to be sold at the world’s prices in foreign markets.
– I have very much pleasure in supporting this Bill. Ever since I have occupied a seat in this House I have protested every year against the sugar industry being placed, as the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has just said, on a different basis from that on which we deal with all other primary industries in Australia. I welcome the Bills for the abolition of the bounty and Excise, believing that they will rid the industry of its shackles, and leave this Parliament free to deal with sugar precisely as we do with every other primary production, and, indeed, with every article that comes under the Tariff. I must, however, enter my protest against such important measures as these being introduced at the fag end of the session. A number of very important measures are being introduced at a time when they cannot be fairly and reasonably considered. There is no excuse for the failure of the Government to introduce six months ago the Bills for the abolition of the bounty and Excise.
– We could not introduce them before the Commission had reported.
– As a matter of fact, the Government, in introducing these measures, are acting entirely in opposition to the recommendations of the Commission. The Commissioners distinctly recommended that this increased protection should not be given to the industry. I agree with those who have said that these Bills will do away with manacles which should never have been placed on the cultivation of sugar. I have always urged that the kanakas having been deported, there is no more reason for a bounty and Excise on sugar than there is for such legislation with respect to dairying or to wool, wheat, or apple growing. The difficulties experienced by the sugar-growers, the manufacturers who use sugar very largely, and the consumers generally, have been due to the artificial barriers imposed by the Federal Parliament. The Minister said that these Bills could not be introduced before, inasmuch as the Government had to wait for the report of the Sugar Commission. The Government, however, are “flying in the face of the recommendations made in the majority report. The report of the Commission contains matter of interest, not only to the Parliament and to the sugargrowers, but to the whole of the people of Australia, and it should be one of the first matters to be discussed in the new
Parliament. At pagexxviii. of their report the Commissioners state -
The Customs duty on cane sugar is £6 per ton, raw or refined. As we have shown in Part I. (p. xix.), this means a net protection to the industry of a sum which may be approximately assessed at£5 5s. per ton.
I think that is very nearly correct -
The proposed abolition of Bounty and Excise, presuming the Customs duty to remain stationary, would mean an increase in the protection of approximately 15s. per ton. Whether this increase would be justifiable is a question to ‘which your Commissioners have given careful consideration.
While we assume that the import duty should be sufficiently high to enable every branch of the industry to conduct its business at a reasonable profit, while paying employes generally a living wage, we are strongly of opinion that any increase in the import duty should not be made without consideration of the various objections to a high Tariff. Among these objections the foremost is, of course, the burden which a high Tariff lays upon the consumer.
The Minister, I am sure, will be one of the first to recognise that by repealing the Bounty and Excise Acts we shall increase the protective duty on cane sugar by about 15s. per ton.
– I do not agree with the Commission in that regard.
– At present we have an import duty of £6 per ton, whilst there is also a bounty and Excise system in operation. The Excise duty has been about 15s. per ton in favour of the Government, so that if we remove it we shall unquestionably give the sugar industry an increased protection of 15s. per ton. At page xxix. of their report the Commissioners state -
Assuming, as will probably be the case, that this amount -
The reference is to the consumption of sugar in Australia - will be soon produced locally, and assuming the import duty of £6 a ton to effect a corresponding increase in the price of sugar on the local market -
There can be no doubt about that - the Australian consumer is pledged to, in a sense, a subsidy of approximately , £1,500,000 per annum.
These are very serious figures. Here are some further facts which the Minister has not touched upon -
An unnecessarily high duty, imposed in respect of a commodity with regard to which an external market cannot be anticipated, is a direct encouragement to the production of an unprofitable surplus. . . . Havemeyer, President of the American Sugar Trust, went so far as to declare that “ The mother of all Trusts is the Tariff.”
We have there a distinct recommendation that this increased protection should not be given. In the dying stages of the session the House is asked to deal with this question, which is of the utmost importance to the people. Just as we are about to put up the shutters - at a time when honorable members are not in a position to deal with these matters as they would like to do - we are asked to take them into consideration.
– I invite the honorable member to read the recommendations made at page xxxvi. of the report.
– The Commission distinctly recommended that the Tariff should be on a sliding scale.
– I am referring to the bounty and Excise.
– The Commissioners certainly recommend that they should be abolished, but at the same time they say that the increased protection which we are now giving the sugar-growers should not be granted. That being so, whilst the Government are carrying out the recommendations of the Commissioners in one respect, in another they are flying in the face of the Commission. I understand that the Prime Minister, some time before this session, gave a pledge to his constituents that this bounty and Excise would be abolished during this session.
– He said next session.
– Neither the Prime Minister nor any other member of the Government can give a distinct pledge as to what will be done in a future session. The Prime Minister probably will not be in a position next session to carry out any promise. As the Minister of Trade and Customs has mentioned Mr. Denham, I may say that I think it is very deplorable that these undignified squabbles between Federal and State Ministers should be discussed in this House. It is the aftermath of the interference of the Prime Minister in the last State elections in Queensland. The speeches from the Ministerial side have consisted very largely of an attack upon Mr. Denham, and that does not raise the tone of the Parliament, and does not tend to maintain those amicable relations which should exist between the Federal and State Governments.
– There has beenno squabble as far as the Government are concerned.
– I think there has been.
– With what Minister?
– A squabble between the Prime Minister and the Premier of Queensland. The Government are to be congratulated on recognising, as they are to-day, that in matters relating to the internal conditions of a State the State Government is the right and proper authority to deal with them. “ I do not want to detain the House, because it is impossible to deal with even the fringe of this very important subject, but we should bear in mind that the interests of all parties have to be considered. The sugar-grower of Queensland is fulfilling a great national duty, because he is helping to people that empty north, which every one of us desires to see peopled by the white race. We should, therefore, be prepared to assist him, and to be not only just but generous to him. We must not forget, however, that we have placed a duty of 50 per cent. on one of the essential necessaries of life. That duty is placed on an article which is more largely consumed in the poorer homes than by the wealthy. The wealthy have many other substitutes for sugar, while the poor classes, and those whose incomes are comparatively small, must use sugar, and on them, therefore, falls this heavy impost, which we are increasing to-day. Then there are a number of secondary industries in which sugar is used. For instance, there is the great fruit-preserving industry - one of the most important industries in Australia. Those engaged in that industry have to pay a duty of 50 per cent. on the raw material used in their manufactures, and that is a question which this House will have to deal with in the near future. I regret that the question has been brought before the House in the dying moments of the Parliament, when honorable members are not in a position to properly consider it.
– And yet you congratulate the Government in bringing the proposal forward ?
– This is not the be-all and end-all of the matter. I congratulate the Government upon removing certain shackles from the industry, so as to leave Parliament free and unfettered to deal with this great question on fair and legitimate grounds and do justice to the grower, to those who use sugar as a raw material, and to the consumers of Australia, who are now paying a decidedly heavy impost in the form of a 50 per cent. duty on sugar.
.- I think we ought to recognise that this proposal means an increase of 25s. per ton on sugar to the consumers.
– I do not admit that at all. It leaves the import duty just as it was.
– It means increased Protection, at any rate to the sugar-growers of Queensland, to the extent of from 15s. to 20s. per ton. We should consider this question apart altogether from the operations of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. It has already been shown by correspondence that has passed between the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the Attorney-General, that in New Zealand, where there is no duty, the consumers get sugar for more than£6 a ton less than Australian consumers get it, and that the company makes a greater profit per ton on the sugar that it sells in New Zealand than on the sugar it sells in Australia. At present, we consume about 230,000 tons per year. Our production in Queensland for the last five years has amounted to nearly 200,000 tons a vear. That means that Protection is given to the grower to the amount of £6 per ton on 200,000 tons. Taking the cost of the sugar at the mills at . £12, we find that the total value of our production of sugar is £2,400,000, of which the consumer pays no less than . £1,200,000 by way of duty ; in other words, on every £2 worth of sugar produced in Australia the people contribute a subsidy of £1. We know that in the interests of a White Australia, and in the interests of the development of the sugar industry in Northern Queensland, especially, it is necessary that we should have very heavy Protection, but a very serious tax is imposed on the people of Australia in order to attain that end, and it is just as well that we should know exactly where we stand in connexion with that industry. The sugar industry is a primary industry, which differs to a very large extent from other primary industries. We can hardly expect to ever export sugar to any extent, because the cost of production is so great as compared with the cost in other countries, and we shall, therefore, have to confine ourselves to supplying the local market. It is to be hoped that the best and latest methods are being followed in the production of sugar in Australia. I should have liked to see information in the report of the Royal Commission as to how far chemistry has enabled the growers in Queensland under the white labour policy to introduce the latest methods of cultivation. We know that, although wages have gone up, we have, by scientific methods, been able to raise most of our products at a cheaper rate in competition with other countries, by getting a larger return per acre. It is shown ,by the report of the Commission that, although the acreage under’ crop has not substantially increased since 190.1, there has been a larger production per acre, and we have yet to learn that it is impossible to further increase the rate of production. If there is an increase in the cost of production, owing to its being necessary to pay higher wages to white labour, it should be possible to bring scientific knowledge to bear which will enable a larger quantity of sugar per acre to be produced. The Minister is doing right in proposing the abolition of the bounty and Excise, which were imposed to bring about the employment of white labour. It is satisfactory to know that Parliament has succeeded in the end that it had in view, and that over 90 per cent, of the sugar is now grown by white labour. It should be possible, however, to still further cheapen production, and thus to reduce prices to the consumer. From the Protectionist point of view, it is unsatisfactory that the duty should be paid by the consumer, because the theory is that when a duty is imposed, the internal competition which is created, as well as the competition of importers, prevents monopoly, and lowers prices. Notwithstanding that we have to import a certain quantity of sugar each year, the consumers of Australia are paying the full amount of the duty.
– I agree with those who take the view that it is not fair, unless under exceptional circumstances, to single out one industry for special treatment, and to bolster it up with legislation as the sugar industry has been bolstered up. This industry has been carried on in Queensland for a considerable number of years, and the Commonwealth Parliament has assisted it as no other industry has been assisted, helping it by the imposition, of an import duty, and by the granting of a bounty to encourage the employment of white labour. Now, however, kanaka labour has been practically got rid of, and the need for the bounty has disappeared. Therefore, the proposal for its abolition is a good one. The abolition of the Excise is an other matter, because the effect of that step will be to increase the already heavy Protection by 15s. a ton, assuming that about 5s. a ton is spent on collection. That money, which has hitherto gone into the Treasury, and increased the revenue, will, under the proposal of the Minister, go into the pockets of those connected with the sugar industry, and there is no guarantee nor likelihood that the price of sugar will be reduced. No provision is made for the protection of the consumer, who is always the last person considered in these matters. ‘ In a number of industries, such as fruit preserving and jam making, sugar is a raw material, and the abolition of the Excise will not secure a reduction in the cost of this raw material for many manufactures. The report of the Royal Commission, page 28, paragraph 8, says -
The Customs duty on cane sugar is £6 per ton, raw or refined. As we have shown in Part
– The refiners, I think.
– Most of it may go to them. At any rate, a monetary gift is being made by the Commonwealth to certain individuals in the sugar industry. I have not heard any good reason put forward in support of this step. It is time that the sugar industry became less of a burden on the community than it has been, and is now. In New South Wales sugar was grown by while labour without any bolstering up, and with only half the Protection that the industry has now ; and what could be done in that State could be done in Queensland. If the industry is to be for ever bolstered up, there will be an increasing burden on the people, mainly on the poorer classes, who feel it acutely. Is it not nearly time that the position should be reviewed, and that we should set about finding some less expensive crop, if sugar -growing cannot be made profitable without heavily taxing the consumers? Queensland is a tropical country, and should be able to grow tropical products without Protection. Industries natural to the soil should be able to pay the highest rates of wages without being bolstered up by the Treasury at the expense of the taxpayers.
– - I should not have risen but for the interjection of the Minister to the effect that we are putting £1 a ton into the pockets of the refiners.
– I am afraid that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company will get most of it.
– Then my honorable friend is putting through a Bill to benefit the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– I have stated that the Act will not be proclaimed until the workers have been safeguarded, so far as the wage of 8s. a day is concerned.
– If the workers and growers get the money, the refiners cannot.
– The workers will get their share before the Act is proclaimed.
– Why should the country pay more to these workers than to others?
– The Minister does not know that the money will find its way to the workers. He ‘thinks that it will go into the pockets of the Sugar Company.
– I think that most of it will.
– It is well to have the frank avowal of honorable members opposite that they are putting through a Bill to feed fatter what they have called the Sugar Trust, against which they have been hurling anathemas for years past. The Minister tells us that he is going to give the Colonial Sugar Refining Company another £1 a ton.
– Will the honorable member vote against the Bill?
– My vote will not make the slightest difference. . I wish to know whether, after the statement of the Minister that another £1 per ton is to be paid into the coffers of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, honorable members opposite, who are the sworn enemies of the trusts, will support the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Commencement).
.- This morning I asked the Minister of
Trade and Customs if he would consider the advisableness of imposing a condition that white labour only should be employed in the sugar mills. In reply, he stated that he did not think he could ask the State Governments to do any more than we have been doing ourselves. I may mention that some years ago, when the late Charles Cameron Kingston was Minister of Trade and Customs, I asked him if he could not take action in the direction I have suggested, and he then informed me that the Commonwealth had not power to do so. I would point out that it was not because we did not desire to interfere with the labour which is employed in the sugar mills that we stayed our hands, but because we had not the necessary power.
– I have already stated distinctly that this Bill will not be proclaimed until after the conditions and wages of the workers engaged in the industry have been safeguarded in accordance with the recommendations of the Sugar Commission. Whether the New South Wales, Queensland, and Victorian Governments will subscribe to that condition remains to be seen. The honorable member for Herbert asked me this morning whether the Government were prepared to go further, and declare that no aliens are to be employed in the sugar mills, or on the tramways.
– I do not think that we have power over the tramways.
– The desire of this Parliament to exclude aliens from the sugar mills will be brought under the notice of the Queensland Government. I confess that the point with which I am chiefly concerned is to safeguard the interests of the white men in the industry who are producing 90 per cent, of our sugar today.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta; [4-3]- - How is the Minister going to safeguard the interests of those white workers? I should like to know what steps he proposes to take to insure that this £1 per ton shall not find its way into the pockets of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. To me it is amazing to hear honorable members opposite declare that it will go into the coffers of that company. The ultimate result of this legislation, therefore, according to the staement of the Minister of Trade and Customs and the honorable member for.
Herbert will be precisely similar to that which followed the enactment of legislation some years ago in regard to agricultural machinery. We were then told that the consumer and the wage-earner would be protected.
– The honorable member’s party were responsible for that.
– No. The honorable member had better read the debates, and he will then see that the present Prime Minister actually laughed at my suggestion that the workmen would not get their full quota of the benefit which was to be conferred.
– I would ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the Bill.
– I am merely citing that case by way of illustration.
– Has the honorable member read the telegram which was recently forwarded to Mr. Denham, and also, his reply ?
– I do not know that Mr. Denham will control this matter. I do not know that the Commonwealth Government, with all the machinery at its disposal can control it. There is no guarantee that the money we dispose of here will reach the destination that we desire. Honorable members opposite say that it will find its way into the coffers of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. It seems, therefore, that this alleged Trust which they have been denouncing from the housetops is to get the benefit of this £1 per ton, and the grower of the sugar is to go to the wolves.
– How are we to alter that?
– Has it come to this, that honorable members opposite have to plead piteously as to what they are to do? They told the people that they could do the job. The Minister has brought forward this Bill for the purpose of releasing from the Treasury the £1 per ton Excise which has hitherto been paid, and now he says, “ I say frankly that the grower will not get it.”
– I have not said that. The honorable member must not put words into my mouth, and he must not twist my words. I said that I am afraid the Colonial Sugar Refining Company will get it.
– After the statement of the Minister and the honorable member for Herbert, I doubt whether I ought to vote for the Bill. We wish to see the vacant spaces in our tropics fully utilized, and people settled there to defend Australia. We are paying for that. Consequently, we ought to know that the money which we will pay under this Bill will find its way into the pockets of the grower, and of the man who tills the land, instead of into the coffers of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. The Minister says that he fears that company will get it, and the honorable member for. Herbert says the same thing. I think we had better take some steps to keep this money in the Treasury rather than allow it to get past the grower and the labourer in the north of Queensland.
– Is the honorable member going to vote against the Bill after all this talk?
– Would not the honorable member like me to do so, in order that he might go out and denounce me for it ? I am going to tell the electors, when the honorable member begins to fulminate against this Trust, that he voted to give it another £1 per ton,- without any guarantee that this money would benefit the growers at all.
– In view of the doubt which has been expressed by the Minister as to the destination of this Excise, and of the fact that we have no guarantee that it will find its way into the pockets of the grower or the wage-earner-
– The honorable member is attributing to me something which I have never said.
– That is the inescapable deduction from the Minister’s admission. He has expressed a doubt as to whether a large proportion of this money will not find its way into the coffers of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. Seeing that the ostensible purpose of the Bill is to benefit the labour which is employed in the industry, I ask him whether it is not advisable, at this stage of the proceedings, to consider the propriety of so amending the clause as to safeguard the measure against this probability. I think that the ostensible and sole purpose is to benefit the growers and workers in the sugar industry. But if, instead of doing that, this Bill will confer another benefit upon a large monopoly, which is already bolstered up by a high protective Tariff, surely it is time for us to pause before committing ourselves to support it. I would suggest that, before proceeding further, the Minister should so safeguard the clause as to preclude the possibility of this Excise being diverted from its supposed destination to another destination which was not contemplated by the framers of the Bill.
– All that the Government can do is to withhold proclaiming the Act until the conditions which have been laid down by the Prime Minister in his telegram to’ Mr. Denham and Mr. McGowen, and in his letter to Mr. Watt, have been given effect to. This morning I stated distinctly that if New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria, legislated to give effect to those conditions, the Act would be proclaimed. If the Parliament of Queensland only legislates to that effect the proclamation may be issued. The conditions which we desire to see carried out are that the States concerned shall pass an Act to -
The minimum rates of wages and conditions of labour are laid down in the report of the Sugar Commission, the minimum wage being 8s. per day of eight hours.
– Has the Minister anv objection to inserting a proviso to that effect in the Bill?
– I submitted that suggestion to the Crown Law officers, who consider that it would be better not to insert such a provision in the Bill, inasmuch as it would have to embody the whole of the conditions which we desire to see carried out. The honorable member for Richmond knows that I have stated, not once, but three or four times, the conditions upon which the proclamation will be issued. It is the desire of the Government to safeguard the interests of the workers. The growers have been assured that if the Excise and bounty be abolished, they will get an extra amount per ton for their cane. I admit that I fear that any advantage which may be granted to the industry will ultimately find its way into the pockets of the monopoly which is sitting upon it.
I believe that, in the first case, the bene fit will go to the growers and the workers, but what will happen after two or three years I do not know.
– Even after the Minister’s explanation, the matter is clear only on the one point, with which, apparently, he concerns himself, namely, the wages and conditions for the men who do the work.
– We cannot legislate any further than we propose.
– The grower is to be made to pay more wages, while, at the same time, the Minister fears that the wherewithal to pay the wages will find its way into the coffers of the Sugar Trust.
– What is the honorable member’s party doing to help the grower?
– I suppose the honorable member would say that we are doing nothing at all - that everything is done by the Labour party? The Minister officially and authoritatively expresses a fear that the £1 per ton will find its way into the coffers of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and yet he insists that the wages and conditions laid down shall be observed by the grower. I have no fault to find with the wages, which are not too high for the tropics ; but all should be treated a little alike.
– The honorable member’s party will not let us protect the grower, and next year, no doubt, they will be attacking the Labour party in the referenda campaign.
– The honorable member may talk as much as he likes.
– I shall talk, because what I say is true.
– Of course, we know that this is a bit of electioneering. While we make the growers pay these wages, the Minister fears that the money will find its way to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
.- The honorable member tells us that the interjections from this side are in the way of electioneering, but, in my opinion, the speech of the honorable member is undoubtedly intended to have the effect of placing the Minister of Trade and Customs in an unfavorable light before the people of Queensland. The whole action of the Labour party, before and since taking office, has been in the direction of helping the grower and the wage-earner. The bounty was kept on for years for the benefit of the grower - the succouring hand of the Government was outstretched with the 6s. 6d. per ton for cane. When the honorable member for Parramatta, because of a doubt expressed by the Minister, says that the Labour party are not in sympathy with the growers, it is only one of his ordinary electioneering weapons of distortion, misrepresentation, and exaggeration.
– I rise to order. I think it is time, Mr. Chairman, that you “ named “ the honorable member. Honorable members have been “ named “- for half, or quarter, of what the honorable member for Capricornia has said.
– What is the honorable member’s point of order?
– I ask that the honorable member be asked to withdraw his statement that I have been guilty of wilful distortion, which is worse than anything that has been said within the last day or two.
– Under the circumstances, I must ask the honorable member for Capricornia to withdraw the words.
– I withdraw the words, but only because I do not wish to take up time at any great length. The responsibility of protecting the grower does not rest with the Minister, or the Government, but with the Tories and Liberals opposite, and their colleagues in the Queensland Parliament, Mr. Denham and his followers. Mr. Denham said that if this legislation were passed, the Queensland Parliament would protect the grower. As I have said, honorable members opposite will not give this Government the. power to protect the grower. Who will be the most loud and raucous-voiced in the whole crowd against the referenda proposals but the honorable member for Parramatta.
– Not “ raucous “ voiced.
– Well, strident-voiced.
– Are those insulting observations in order?
– I have been following carefully the honorable member for Capricornia, and I have heard nothing said that I think is insulting.
– I regard the honorable member’s observations as insulting, and so would anybody else, I think.
– Then I shall say that the mellifluous cuckoo-like tones of the honorable member for Parramatta will be wafted from tree to tree in the country, and from housetop to housetop in the towns-
– I must ask the honorable member to deal with clause 2.
– The honorable member is opposed to the Commonwealth being given power to protect the growers, and I am endeavouring to reply to that persistent gentleman who wishes to place this Government and the Minister of Trade and Customs in an unfavorable light before the House and the country. The Labour party are anxious to protect the growers, and the measure before us is only part of the necessary legislation. Mr. Denham has promised, in view of this and other Bills, that, at some time or other, sooner or later - later in all probability - he will see that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the millers pay the growers a reasonable price for the cane.
.- I should like to say a word or two in reply to the honorable member for Capricornia as to Mr. Denham’s liability to protect the growers. It is said that Mr. Denham changed his ground when he wired to the Prime Minister, but, as a matter of fact, he did nothing of the sort. Mr. Denham asked the Prime Minister whether he intended to add legislation to fix the price of sugar.
– Can we do that?
– Yes, in the way suggested by the Royal Commission, by seeing that the price never falls below a certain minimum; and it was to that Mr. Denham referred when he suggested that the price should be fixed at £21 10s. Mr. Denham desired to know for his own information what was the intention of this Parliament, because the growers might be placed in an invidious position unless power were also taken in regard to the duties. The whole of the action of the present Government until the present moment has been anything but of a sympathetic character, so far as the growers are concerned. Not only in my own district
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the clause, which provides for a proclamation of the Bill?
– I hope that the Minister of Trade and Customs will take the first opportunity to proclaim the measure.
– Not until the Queensland Government take action.
– I trust also that the Queensland Parliament will take the first opportunity to pass the promised legislation.
– After that the Bill will be proclaimed.
– Personally, I do not think that this £1 per ton will find its way into the coffers of the Company, but that it will, on the other hand, go into the pockets of the growers. If I did not think so I should not support the Bill, and I cannot understand any one supporting it who thinks otherwise.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
– I am perfectly willing for the third reading to be taken, but was there not some understanding that it should be postponed until Monday in case Mr. Denham came to Melbourne?
-I should have no objection to postponing the third reading, but Mr. Denham is not coming.
Bill, by leave, read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is the complement of the Bill just passed. No one would dream of keeping the Sugar Bounty Act in operation without the Excise.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time; reported without amendment, and report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill read a third time.
Mr. TUDOR (Yarra- Minister of
Trade and Customs) [4.31]. - A few days ago, when moving a resolution to appropriate revenue for the purposes of this Bill, I dealt very fully with the object of it. It is proposed to extend the operation of the measure for two years. One or two honorable members asked for a postponement, and we consented. I do not know that I can add anything to what I then said. If, however, honorable members desire further information, I can give it.
The immediate purpose of the Bill is to extend the bounty on wire netting. Last year £56,684 worth of wire netting was manufactured, and the bounty paid was £5,690. During the last four years £16,828 has been paid in bounty on wire netting manufacture. The manufacturers are compelled, under the terms laid down, to manufacture under strict conditions as far as labour is concerned. In this Bill, we leave nothing to chance. We adopt the industrial conditions laid down in the Sugar Bounty Act, namely, that it is within the power of the Minister to refer matters as to wages and working conditions to the Judge of the Arbitration Court, or to a State industrial tribunal. That is with the object of insuring that proper conditions are observed. The manufacturers who are engaged in this industry - only one firm is affected - issued a report, which has been circulated amongst honorable members, showing the amount of wire netting manufactured, and the wages paid. I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Amendment of section 6).
– Perhaps the Minister of Trade and Customs will now give us a fuller explanation informing us particularly what reason there is for the extension of the bounty.
.- It will be remembered that the Bounties Bills were originally introduced and passed in 1907. The Bill affecting this particular industry was postponed till1938. The bounties were to operate for five years. That period has now terminated. The persons engaged in the manufacture of wire netting are compelled under the terms under which the bounty is paid either to use wire made from Australian ore - of which I am sorry none is being made - or British wire. As the term of the bounty terminates on the 30th June next, the persons interested desired to know whether there is to be an extension. If not, they inform us that they can purchase German and American wire cheaper than British wire. I submitted the matter to the Government, and it was agreed to extend the bounty for two years. The manufacturers have gone on using British wire on the assumption that the action of the Cabinet would be ratified by Parliament. It will be remembered that the matter was mentioned in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech at the beginning of the session. We are therefore keeping faith with the manufacturers in introducing this Bill. It is said that since the bounty was paid the price of wire netting has gone up, but the fact that we have a competitor manufacturing in Australia has had an effect in steadying the market. That effect will continue.
– Unless there is a combination.
– I grant that. I understand that the wire netting manufactured is of a superior kind. Those who use it speak highly of it. It is proposed to extend the bounty for two years. The reason that I gave the other day is, I think, a sound one. I do not think it is right that these bounties should come up for consideration in the final session of a Parliament. They should be dealt with either in. the first or the middle session. The reason for that is that honorable members should have an opportunity of dealing with such questions apart from electoral considerations. If we extend this bounty for two years, therefore, it will be dealt with again in the second session of the next Parliament. I may add that the employes in the industry are treated much fairer than trey were previously. I think there are good reasons for extending the period ; and, at all events, if there is no intention on the p’art of Parliament to extend it, the manufacturers should be notified.
– While it may be generally accepted by those who hold the fiscal views that I entertain that bounties are preferable to Tariffs if the choice is between one or the other, still there is always one objection to granting bounties which I have continually urged. If bounties are to be granted to one industry, why should they not be granted to all? I object to discriminating between one section of the community and another. I believe in equality of opportunity for all, and equal treatment for all. I do not believe in selecting one body of citizens’ or manufacturers for favoured treatment. The system of granting bounties has grown up in this way : In the beginning a bounty is granted on the distinct understanding that it is to expire at a certain time, lt is granted for a definite period, which is fixed by law. But I always pointed out that we had no guar antee that that distinct understanding would be kept, and that the bounties would cease at the expiration of the period. I pointed out that there was a strong probability that when the time approached for thi expiration of the payment of the bounty further requests would” be made to Parliament for an extension, on the ground that if the bounty were withdrawn the industry affected would suffer. The people who engaged in this industry when the bounty was fixed for a definite term did so with the full knowledge that it was the intention of Parliament that the bounty should expire at the end of that term. They should have been prepared to abide by the result. But during my parliamentary experience I have never known an instance where a bounty granted by this Parliament for a term of years has expired when the period expired. In every instance we have had requests for the extension of bounties. Those requests, I am satisfied, will go on indefinitely. We now have a proposal for the extension of the period for the payment of a bounty on wire netting for two years. I have no doubt that, before the two years expire, proposals will again be submitted to Parliament for a further extension ; and that process will go on ad infinitum. We shall be told that without the bounty’ there is a likelihood of the industry languishing or closing up altogether. That being the case, it is clear that Parliament was, at the beginning, misled into voting a bounty for a fixed period of years. Those who vote against it now will lay themselves open to misrepresentation on the ground of being opposed to the best interests of the country, and desiring to inflict an injury upon an Australian industry. I enter my protest strongly against the continuation of these bounties time after time. Parliament was misled in the beginning into supposing that bounties would be granted only for a specific period, set forth in the measures by which the money was appropriated. I am perfectly certain that the same thing will happen again in connexion with this and other bounties. There is no knowing how long the bounty on wire netting will continue. An extension for two years is mentioned, but before the expiration of that time another extension will be proposed.
– This Parliament will not grant the bounty for more than two years.
– No; but what about the next?
– So that your responsibility will be over with this vote.
– Yes ; but the Minister knows very well that when a proposal to extend this bounty comes, as it inevitably will come, before another Parliament, the same responsibility will rest upon me if I am here to deal with these bounties, and to oppose them, as rests upon me now. We are sometimes willing to forego, to a certain extent, our objections in the hope that by giving a bounty for a limited period we may do some good, and that on the expiration of the bounty the industry will be able to stand without such extraneous aid. However, I realize that I am a “ lone fisherman “ in this matter. Practically, it is useless for me to attempt to do anything by way of opposition. I can only enter a protest against the extension of bounties and duties which, in the beginning, were imposed for only a specifically limited period.
.- I have no desire to oppose the Bill, but I do think that the Committee are entitled to know from the Minister whether the industries which are to be bounty-fed are really in need of bounties.
– I made a mistake in giving the information the other day when we were considering the message covering the Bill. I should have saved the information for the second reading.
– I do not know that the Minister gave us the information. The wholesale price of drawn wire ready for making up is about £14 a ton, while the wholesale price of the wire netting, which is mostly used for rabbit-proof fences, is about £27 a ton. It appears to me that there is a fair amount of natural protection for these manufacturers, and they have no competition to meet. We are entitled to know whether the industry is fit to stand alone, or whether it should continue to be bounty fed. Where industries are not able to stand alone, I shall be found willing at all times to assist them with a bounty.
– If you do not give them a bounty, they will ask for an increased duty.
– At present, we deem it advisable to encourage this industry by means of a bounty. I shall support the measure, but I regret that we have not proper information. I am sure that the Minister feels that he is taking a leap in the dark. I know that there is a big difference between the prices of the two commodities. The raw material is fetching about half the price of the finished article, and very little labour is said to be used in the manufacture of the wire.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4, preamble, and title, agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill, by leave, read a third time.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
I promised the honorable members for Darling Downs and Angas that I would make a statement at this stage. They were afraid that, in connexion with this measure, the Minister would not have the power to grant exemptions, if it were necessary, to a person who was in any way diseased. I admit that at that time I was under “the impression that I did not have that power, but I have since found that I have full power to issue an exemption certificate, so that if there should be a person who ought not to be prohibited from entering die Commonwealth I could grant an exemption certificate. Suppose, for instance, that at the time a family left Great Britain the father, the mother, and four or five children were quite well, having passed the doctor, and obtained medical certificates, but there was one child who could not obtain a medical certificate. Ordinarily, that child would be prohibited from coming into Australia, and that fact possibly might deter the whole family from coming here. In a case of that kind, there will be full power for the Minister to grant a certificate of exemption to the child so that the whole family may enter. The honorable member for Melbourne asked whether, if a person had passed a test in, say, Great Britain, but was found to be unwell on board the boat, but the doctor certified that the disease was curable, the Minister could allow the person to land for two weeks, or a month, or six months, in order to see whether he could be cured. I find that I have full power to grant an exemption in a case of that kind, so that no injustice need be feared.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 12th December, vide page 7000):
Clause 1 (Short title and citation).
Sitting suspended from 4.55 to 5.15 p.m.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This measure creates an Inter- State Commission. The Inter-State Commission is provided for in sections 101 to 104 of the Constitution. As contemplated it is a body having such of the judicial and administrative powers as outlined in the Constitution, and as may be conferred by this Parliament. The power to create an Inter-State Commission, however, is not dependent on the Constitution. The United States Constitution is silent in this matter, but an Inter-State Commission has been appointed there by virtue of the trade and commerce power, and is clothed with practically the same functions as it is proposed that the Commission created under this Bill shall exercise. A similar power exists under our Constitution, apartfrom sections 1 01 to 104. The reasons for the provision are to be found in sections 102 and 104, which require the interposition of an Inter-State Commission to deal with the railways of any State for undue preference or discrimination. There are, therefore, some powers under the Constitution in relation to this matter which can only be exercised by the Inter-State Commission, and, failing their exercise by that Commission, can not be exercised at all.
Legislation-creating bodies exercising functions similar to those contemplated by our Constitution in this regard has been passed by several legislatures. A memorandum has been circulated for the information of honorable members, giving a summary of English and American legislation in regard to this matter. It will be noticed that the English law has long recognised that the exercise of functions similar to those exercised by the InterState Commission are necessary. A number of Acts, beginning with the Act of 1845, have been passed in England in order to clothe the Commission with sufficient power to deal with railway rates, discrimination, rebates, and all other forms of unfair treatment, and so on. In the United States of America, an InterState Commerce Commission has been in existence for many years. Its work has been confined very largely to dealing with railway rates, discriminations, and rebates. Unfortunately, its efforts in this latter direction have not been as successful as could be desired. During the course of a recent debate, I mentioned that some 4,000 cases were then awaiting settlement by the United States Inter-State Commerce Commission, in regard to railway rates and matters connected therewith.
The power of our Inter- State Commission will not be confined, of course, to dealing with railway rates. Otherwise, inthis country, there would be little need of such a body. In Australia the position differs very materially from that which exists in England and in the United States of America. Railways here are owned by the people, and, therefore, rebates and discriminating railway tariffs are not material factors, and very far from being as destructive and unfair as they frequently are in the United States of America. Still, as is well known, the State railway authorities unnaturally divert tradefrom its proper channels, and quote differentialrates from a remote corner of a State to the capital city, or a particular port, with the object of diverting commerce from its proper and natural outlet. Viewing the Commonwealth as a whole, it will be the business of this Commission to regard all commerce as being entitled to find its nearest economic outlet, all other things being equal. This is not the least of the functions which can be usefully exercised by this Commission.
But, in addition to this, it will have power in regard to carriers generally, including Inter-State carriers by sea. It will have power in regard to shipping. In this case, we have an exactly analogous state of things to that which exists in the United States of America, or which may exist in any country where railway or sea transport is not Stateowned. The regulation of rates, the prevention of rebates and discriminating charges is a power which should be invested in some Commission clothed with sufficient authority, and it is proposed to vest it in the Commission. In addition, of course, the Commission will have power over all other Inter-State carriers. In addition, it will exercise powers in regard to trade and commerce on navigable waters, and to all those uses of Inter-State waters which the Constitution contemplates. Under clause 17 of the Bill, the Commission will be empowered to investigate all matters affecting
In short, the Commission will be vested with the power to deal with questions of the navigability, the use, and the apportionment of the use, subject to the Constitution, of the Inter-State waters of Australia. Its functions do not end here. Under section 101 of the Constitution, it is provided that -
Thereshall be an Inter-State Commission, with such powers of adjudication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade and commerce, and of all laws made thereunder.
That covers a very wide, and what will be a continually increasing, field of usefulness. Under that section, the InterState Commission will have power to deal with all matters incidental to the AntiTrust Act, the Tariff, and to make such inquiries in relation to all questions relating to trade, commerce, and other matters mentioned in section 16 as will provide this Parliament with reliable data for the proper exercise of its legislative functions, including the Tariff and Tariff alterations, if such, at any time, are found to be necessary. The section of the Constitution to which I have referred authorizes this Parliament to vest the Inter- State Commission with power to deal with all matters relating to trade and commerce arising under the Constitution and all laws made thereunder. There is, for instance, the Commerce Act in connexion with which the Commission will be able to make inquiries. The Minister of Trade and Customs has lately given this House the benefit of certain investigations and inquiries by his Department in connexion with matters dealt with under that Act. In connexion with all these matters, the Inter-State Commission will have power to inquire, report, and to take appropriate action.
It has to be noted that the InterState Commission will not be merely a Commission of Inquiry. It will possess, as I have already pointed out, powers of administration and adjudication. It will be a Court of Record. It may make orders, and enforce them, exactly in the same way as any other Court. It will be subject, of course, to the limitations imposed on its jurisdiction and powers by the Constitution, and, in matters of law, by the right of appeal to the High Court, but upon matters of fact, within its jurisdiction its decision will be final.
Coming to the basis of the measure now before the House, it may be pointed out that Bills relating to the Inter- State Commission have been introduced into this Parliament twice before; once in 1901, by the Barton Ministry, and again, in 1909, by the Deakin Ministry. The latter Bill, in particular, has been taken as the basis for this measure. That Bill, in its turn, was based on the powers which the Constitution expressly authorizes the Inter- State Commission to be invested with.
– Will the honorable gentleman tell us in what respect this measure differs from the Bill of 1909?
– I shall do so. I am speaking now of the basis of the Bill. Naturally all measures dealing with this matter introduced in this Parliament must look for their origin and support to the one source. The measures dealing with this subject brought before the Parliament prior to this went to the Constitution for the material on which their legislative edifice was created. We, going to the same source, naturally build to a certain extent upon the same plan. But the Bill before us differs considerably from either of the measures to which I have referred. While, in regard to common carriers, its provisions are practically the same, it gives the Commission a greater range of power with regard to the subjectmatters into which it may inquire, which it may administer, and upon which it may adjudicate. The scope of the Commission has been widened, in order that it may exercise, amongst other functions, those of a standing Commission of Inquiry. That, in itself, is a function becoming more and more necessary every day. During the life of every Parliament a number of Commissions are appointed to inquire into matters of various kinds. It can hardly be denied that a constitutional Commission of this sort, removed from that close association with politics which, in general, mark Commissions of Inquiry recruited directly from Parliament, can conduct most inquiries more expeditiously and effectively. We have, therefore, given the Commission power to investigate, on its own initiation, a wide range of subjects, which honorable members will find set out in clause 16. That clause covers a very extensive field, and, I think, embraces nearly all legislative, social, and economic matters within the purview of modern legislation. Naturally, the labours of the Commission would not be spread over the whole of these at any given time, but directed to such one of them as occasion calls for, or as the business of the country may suggest as appropriate. The Commission may, for instance, investigate matters affecting the production of and trade in commodities, the encouragement, improvement, and extension of Australian industries and manufactures, bounties paid by foreign countries to encourage foreign shipping, or the export trade, and the effect and operation of any Tariff Act or other legislation of the Commonwealth in regard to revenue, Australian manufactures, and industry and trade generally. It may also inquire into matters affecting prices of commodities, profits of trade and manufacture, wages, and social and industrial conditions, and any other matter that may be referred to it by either House of the Parliament for investigation. Not only are its powers of investigation, as set forth in the Bill, very wide, but there is no limitation to the subjects that may be referred to it by resolution of either House of the Parliament.
In clothing the Commission with these extensive powers, we have not gone beyond that which is proper, or which honorable members opposite, when in office, considered to be so. It was suggested by them that the Inter-State Commission, or some like body, should provide the means whereby the machinery of the new Protection policy could be set smoothly and effectively to work. In the first memorandum relating to the new Protection which the honorable member for Ballarat laid upon the table of the House in 1907, there was a reference to what he termed a Board of Trade. This Commission will be. amongst other things, a Board of Trade. The honorable member for Ballarat proposed to invest his Board of Trade with functions which he decided, later on, would be more properly exercised by the Inter-State Commission. This is shown by the fact that, in his second memorandum, the Inter-State Commission was specifically mentioned. He proposed to clothe that Commission with powers of inquiry, administration, and adjudication, in relation to matters incidental to fair and reasonable conditions for labour throughout the Commonwealth. In another part of the same memorandum the honorable gentleman proposed that this Board should establish the machinery necessary to prevent the undue inflation of prices. I do not say that the Commission under this Bill will be authorized to deal with such matters, or to determine what is a fair and reasonable wage, beyond inquiring into the facts and reporting or making recommendations upon them. As I understand the matter, the Inter- State Commission could not, without an amendment of the Constitution, be clothed with that power in matters other than those of Inter-State commerce. The question of whether it should be so clothed is a matter for subsequent argument if, and when, greater powers have been granted to the Commonwealth. The Commission, however, will have power to inquire into and report upon prices and commodities. So far as. common carriers are concerned, it will* have power to state what it considers to be fair rates and freights. That power will apply, for example, to InterState shipping. The Commission will be empowered to say what are the reasonable fares and freights in respect of passengers and cargo carried between all Inter-State ports.
– And what is a fair wage ?
– As to that, as I have already said, I shall not express a definite opinion. I do not think it could exercise that power, as the Constitution states. The question of whether it should or should not possess it is a matter for argument.
I was pointing out what had been contemplated by the honorable member for Ballarat when he held office as Prime Minister, and I wish to continue that line of argument by showing that the honorable member, in a memorandum issued in 1908, stated that the Inter-State Commission would be em- powered to determine what was a fair and reasonable rate of wages for workers in a protected industry ; what was a protected industry, and what were fair and reasonable prices for the consumer. He stated in his memorandum that the proposed amendment of the Constitution would - enable Parliament to empower the Inter-State Commission to determine trie various conditions affecting employes in protected industries. That would seem to imply that the honorable member, thought at that time that the Inter-State Commission could not be endowed with that authority. With that view I agree. And I have already expressed my opinion as to the undesirableness of divided authority in relation to industrial matters. I think it very much better that we should have one Court presided over by a man authorized to exercise a general purview over all industries throughout the Commonwealth, who can, not only deal with conditions in any one industry, but who can see and fairly adjust the relations between one industry and another; such a Court would necessarily have its mind far better informed than a number of independent boards, the scope of whose authority is limited to specific industries or localities. I think, too, it very much better that such a .power should be invested in one such tribunal rather than that it should be distributed amongst two entirely independent bodies - ‘the Conciliation and Arbitration Count, and the Inter- State Commission - from neither of which there would be an appeal on questions of fact. If this tribunal had jurisdiction to deal with industrial matters, the same as the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, there would be no appeal from its decision on any question of fact. There would then be two unrelated industrial Courts having coordinate powers.
To sum up the effect of this part of the Bill, it may be said that it is based upon the Constitution in exactly the same way as the measure which the Leader of the Opposition brought in. We have taken from the honorable member’s own Bill many clauses without alteration of any kind. Indeed, most of the clauses that have been taken from that measure have been inserted in this Bill c without alteration. These clauses looked to the- Constitution for their source and authority; and, since they embodied in suitable language those powers which the Constitution authorizes us to invest in the Commission, we adopted them. When the honorable member for Ballarat brought in his
Bill, he contemplated granting to the InterState Commission wide powers, some of which could not be conferred upon it without an amendment of the Constitution. He probably still holds the opinion that they could not be vested in the Commission without an amendment of the Constitution. With that opinion I agree.
We have given to the Commission wider powers covering the same field as the honorable member contemplated, but which, in his Bill, stopped short of anything but inquiry in relation to industrial matters, prices, and commodities. It had no administrative or judicial powers in these matters. The American Act has recently been amended; but that amendment was not brought under my notice until after this Bill had been printed. At page 10 of the memorandum which I have circulated, the new powers conferred by the amended legislation are enumerated under the heading of “ Complaints and investigations.” It is stated that amongst these is the provision that the Inter-State Commission - shall have full authority and power at any time to institute an inquiry on its own motion in any case and as to any matter or thing concerning which a complaint is authorized to be made, or concerning which any question may arise under any of the provisions of this Act, or relating to the enforcement of any of the provisions of this Act. And the. said Commission shall have the same powers and authority to proceed with any inquiry instituted on its own motion as though it had been appealed to by complaint or petition under any of the provisions of this Act, including the power to make and enforce any order ot orders in the case, or relating to the matter or thing concerning which the inquiry is had, excepting orders for the payment of money.
Of course, the American Statute, to which we may very properly look for guidance in this matter, widens with advancing time and takes such new shape as experience dictates. We have thought, therefore, that it is quite the proper thing to embody that provision in this Bill, if this Bill does not already cover the ground. I shall look into that matter this evening. But, in any event, I propose to suggest that a new clause, to the following effect, should be inserted after clause 26 -
The Commission may of. its own motion summon before it- any State authority, common carrier, or person who it has reason to believe has done anything, or left anything undone, in contravention of this Act, or of the provisions of the Constitution relating to trade and commerce, or any law made thereunder, and shall have jurisdiction to hear and determine the matter, and may make such orders in relation thereto as if complaint had been made to it of the contravention.
All that that does is to give the same power to thic Inter-State Commission as is vested m the American Commission, namely, to act on its own initiative, and to exercise its administrative and judicial functions in such matters as though they had been referred to it.
Let me now just shortly outline the machinery of this measure. A Commission of three persons is to be appointed. One of these is to be the Chief Commissioner. They are to be appointed for seven years, and can only be dismissed by resolution, of both Houses for misbehaviour or incapacity. They are to be appointed for seven years, and are eligible for re- appointment. The Chief Commissioner is to be paid a salary of £2,500, and each of the other Commissioners £2,000. They are to be paid such expenses of travel to discharge the duties of their office as are considered reasonable by the GovernorGeneral. Provision is made for the appointment of a deputy in the event of the absence,, suspension, or illness of any Commissioner, and the deputyCommissioner so appointed will have all the powers of a Commissioner. The Commission will not be prevented from discharging its duties by reason of the absence or illness of any one of the Commissioners. Questions are to be decided by the Commission by a majority of its members. Two members may exercise the functions of the Commission, but in case of disagreement no action may be taken until the whole of the Commissioners are present. It is provided, in regard to those investigations which I have mentioned, that a yearly report shall be made to the Minister of Trade and Customs. In addition to that, more frequent reports are to be made on special subjects. Those reports will be laid on the table of thea House, and made available for Parliament. The Commission may publish such information relating to any matter investigated by it as it thinks fit. In short, the Commission is to make public all information regarding any matter which it investigates. It will carry on its investigations in public or in private, as it thinks fit, but it will only take evidence in private- where it considers that it as desirable in the public interest that it should be taken in private. I think that is a very necessary and wise restriction upon the powers of the Commission. That is to say, evidence should not be taken in private merely to suit the interests of individuals, and should only be taken in private where such a course is deemed to be in the interests of the whole people.
The powers to be exercised by the Commission are judicial, as well as administrative and investigating. In respect of matters which it has jurisdiction to hear and determine, it is constituted a Court of Record, and the Commissioners have the same powers and privileges as the High Court Judges. There is no appeal from any decision of the Commission on a question of fact. While the Commission may review or rescind any of its orders, subject to the Act, its order or finding is to be final. An appeal lies to the High Court on matters of law, and matters of law only. The Commission will have power to award damages, to issue injunctions, to disallow State regulations where those regulations are ultra vires of the . powers of the State, or any law made under the powers of this Parliament in relation to trade and commerce. It will have power also to prescribe future action. In clause 32 some of these powers are outlined, but not to the exclusion of other powers. It may, for example, name a maximum rate for any service, name both a maximum and a minimum rate, name a maximum or minimum of difference between two rates, determine the apportionment between carriers of a joint rate, and the terms and conditions under which such business shall be carried on. It will have power to impose penalties for disobedience of its orders ; and as to the enforcement of its orders clause 34 provides - (1.) Any order made by the Commission^ for the purpose of carrying into effect any provision of this Act or of the Constitution or of any law may be made a rule or order of the High Court, and shall be enforced in like manner as any rule or order of the High Court. (2.) For the purpose of carrying this section into effect, the Justices of the High Court, or such of them as may make rules of Court in other cases, may make general rules and orders in the same manner as they may make general rules and orders with respect to any other proceedings in the High Court.
Then there are a number of clauses which deal with the exercise of that part of the power of the Commission in relation to in- vestigation. It is to exercise all the powers that a Royal Commission exercises, and we have included in the Bill such powers as are necessary to make the investigation effective. All persons who are summoned to give evidence must appear when summoned, and answer questions pertinent and relevant to the inquiry - whatever that is - subject, of course, to such provisions as are laid down in the Royal Commission Act for refusal to answer questions. The penalties are severe ; they ought to be made so. It is futile to clothe a body like this InterState Commission with wide powers of inquiry if they are to be baffled, and their inquiries rendered nugatory, by the refusal of witnesses to answer questions. There fore, such powers as have been thought necessary have been conferred on the Commission in this respect. In addition to it having powers of a very wide character to investigate, it will have powers both of administration and adjudication in relation to Inter-State carriers, railways, shipping, and other matters.
It will also have pow.ers in relation to commercial causes. Commerce Courts now settle commercial disputes with despatch. They are presided over by men who understand such causes, and the procedure is free from those forms and ceremonies, long and wearily drawn out, which sometimes hamper inquiries in. Courts of law. Clause 27 provides -
Any complaint, dispute, question, or difference whatever relating to external or Inter-State commerce may, upon the application of the parties, and with the consent of the Commission, be referred to the Commission for decision ; and the Commission shall thereupon have the same jurisdiction to hear and determine the complaint, dispute, question, or difference, and the decision of the Commission thereon may be carried into effect in the same way as in other matters in which the Commission has jurisdiction.
The powers in this clause can only be exelcised upon application by the parties. In short, it is here provided that this Commission is to act as an arbitrator in commercial disputes. The extent to which this function will be exercised will depend on the Commission. If it commands the respect of commercial men by its despatch of business and impartiality, its powers will be availed of to a very large extent. Shortly, the functions of the Commission under this Bill are as follow : - lt will be a standing Commission of Inquiry, with power to investigate on reference by Parliament, or of its own motion, practically all matters knowledge of which is directly necessary to Parliament and the public. It will be a Board of Trade - an independent critic, not only of social, industrial, and commercial events and tendencies, but of the operation and administration of law». It will be a Board of Advice, to make recommendations and suggestions to Parliament as to amendments of the law. It will be an active guardian of the Constitution, with power to reach out and deal with violations of the Constitution with respect to trade and commerce. It will be a Commerce Court, with power to adjudicate, on complaint by any person interested, or public body, or upon a charge made on its own initiative, all violations of the trade and commerce law of the Commonwealth. It is to be vested, for its judicial work, .with the powers of a Court of Record ; for its investigating work, with the same powers as are possessed by a Royal Commission.
.- I am certain that honorable members have listened with great interest to the extremely lucid and comprehensive description by the Attorney-General of the new measure - one of the most important this or any previous House has yet seen. Criticism of it at this stage must needs be hasty and incomplete. I take it that there is little, if anything, to be added to the explanation that has been given of the various modes by which, and the various regions in which, the Commonwealth will be enabled to operate once this measure has been sanctioned by Parliament, and the Commission itself created. The Attorney-General has referred to the fact that there have been two previous attempts to proceed in this direction. The first, in the very first year of the Commonwealth, was checked, because at that time the interpretation of the Constitution was still a matter of individual opinion, and Federal authority comparatively undefined. As a consequence, that discussion proved fruitless, owing to want of agreement among the several critics of that measure, as to the sanctions in the Constitution and the probable effects of its operation,
The measure then, unfortunately, disappeared for some years, until the pressure of industrial questions led to resort being had first to a proposal of a somewhat kindred character, and next to the suggestion that the Inter- State Commission itself should be constituted for industrial as well as other purposes. That endeavour also fell short of achievement. But I have never ceased from that day to this tourge, and urge again, that in the InterState Commission we have a source ofpower, or, perhaps, to be more correct, a searchlight, by whose help we can exerciseCommonwealth powers with far greater certainty of success than by any other mode open to us. I say nothing in derogation- of Royal Commissions or Commissions of Inquiry, but, after all, it must be recognised that they are temporary and changing bodies, composed of men of different degrees of practical experience in connexion with the aims sought to be achieved and also subject to many political changes and many grave obligations. In the Inter-State Commission, however, we have a natural, necessary, and one can almost say, an essential adjunct of one Commonwealth Legislature.
– The honorable member thinks that it will be a more judicial body?
– Yes; and it will be more acceptable. It should consist of specialists, who, although they may not be fully equipped at the outset, will in the exercise of their functions greatly increase their knowledge and grasp of affairs. 1 look upon it as the eyes and ears of the Commonwealth Government.
– The Intelligence Department?
– Yes; not a casual Intelligence Department, or a casual agency, but a continuous means of thorough research into each and every one of the great questions, social, industrial, and commercial, by which we are surrounded.
With the growth of legislative interference, not only in all matters of business, but in every department of modern life, we find ourselves from the outset faced with difficulties principally owing to our want of knowledge. These might be described in large terms, since the true circumstances, conditions, and relations of modern business are extremely complex. This Parliament has great powers, but the old saying that ‘” knowledge is power “ applies in each case. Without knowledge, power is certain to be misused, intentionally or unintentionally. Under our Constitution we have an authority of the widest kind ; what we need to guide us is accurate knowledge. Without this’, legislation and administration alike must fail. It is not sufficient for us to depend on the experience of Ministers, on the legislature, or on departmental heads. Upon each and every one of these, and upon every honorable member, there rest public and private responsibilities and occupations, consuming all our days, if not all our nights. With the ever-changing circumstances of our civilization and the fluid condition of social circumstances, which we have come to recognise as necessary’ accompaniments of progress in the modern world, it is necessary that we should be fully equipped at every point. The pace made in the United States of America for some decades was a source of considerable alarm to every observer in the Old World. But the Old World now finds itself caught in the same vortex, obliged to move “at the same pace, and in so moving finds itself confronted at every turn with new difficulties, obstacles, problems, and riddles which have to be solved or overcome.
Hence it has always seemed to me that one of the most natural endowments of this Government would be some body of high character, which could be trusted to act as the eyes and ears of the Government and of the people as a whole, with respect to the great interests with which we are surrounded, whether they be commercial, industrial, social, or executive, relating to the development of the country or. the great and serious questions generally outlined before us in this piece of legislation. I hope not to digress too far. .But these are the foundation principles on which for a number of years I have, in season and out of season, urged that we should take full advantage of our power under the Constitution. The intention of this Bill may overshoot that mark; still it is, at least, a beginning. We have a practical illustration of the great value of such a body in the American Commission, the English Railway Commission, and other bodies.
Errors and omissions excepted, this Bill retains the breadth that characterized our previous measure. It provides for the exercise of specific powers which should Be extremely serviceable in carrying out the tasks of the Commission. I express the confident hope that, owing to the terms of our charter, and the circumstances of this country, we shall find in our tribunal, not a mere copy of the English or American institutions or both, because this Bill retains original elements of ours with additions. I hope it will achieve a large amount of original and valuable work. We are taking steps which, if they prove successful- as I believe they will, if left to wise heads and a body of legislators with sufficient foresight - may well furnish important information to our people and others who are confronted by the same sets of problems, though in different surroundings. In every session of this Parliament, a* the urgency has grown, I have pleaded for the introduction of this measure. My one regret is that it has come before us at the last stage of the last session of this
Parliament, though it ought to have been in operation two or three years ago.
– Better late than never.
– Certainly. Clearly, with the outline submitted to us, this is not going to be a work of to-day or tomorrow, but a continuous work centering the supervision of the existing political and business machinery of the country in capable men expert in the treatment of modern problems. Many inquiries must be strictly confidential. The Commission should act in the light of the very best knowledge.
I rejoice at the introduction of this measure, and, speaking for members of the Opposition, add that our endeavour will be not only to pass the measure, but to favour il with only such criticism as we honestly believe is necessary, and may contribute to a reconsideration of omissions or excesses. The plan, as a whole, has not been altered, and promises to be effective in most respects. As the Attorney-General has remarked, of the sixty-one clauses in our former measure, speaking broadly, fifty reappear here practically unaltered. The one great omission is that of the original Part V., which dealt with industrial matters, though that implied amendments in the Constitution to enable its provisions to become operative.
– I am afraid that no executive functions of that kind could be given without an amendment of the Constitution.
– That was the opinion in 1909. In regard to that portion of the previous measure, the obstacles which existed when our original proposal was made still exist. Consequently, in the Bill before us, we have the measure of 1909 practically intact, with additions of power, sometimes rather extreme, as well as safeguards, and penalties.
– The penalties, I think, have been taken bodily from the Royal Commissions Act.
– That intimation is unnecessary, because, by a printer’s oversight, the side-note to clause 67 reads “ Contempt of Royal Commissions.”
I am a little perplexed to know why there have been omitted from clause 16 the words which charged the Commission with the diffusing of valuable information. They were perhaps superfluous, but they pointed to a considerable factor in the Commission’s usefulness; its publications will be very valuable to every interest and industry with which they deal. I am sure that the omission does not indicate a change of policy. The particular office of the Commission will be to prevent its Department from being conducted in a casual or offhand manner. It must seek to give its work a scientific character, so that, starting from a given base, it will proceed by established methods, and by incorporating new methods arrive at sound conclusions. A scientific study of all relevant Australian facts, and a popularization of the results, is to be sought from the outset. I take it that the facts are not to .be thrown in the face of the public, embodied in masses of statistics, or couched in strictly technical language, but that popular expositions will be made available and circulated through the press, so as to encourage a study embracing the fullest details.
– Clause 47 provides that the Commission may publish any information that it thinks fit. This will be some of the most valuable work that the Commission can do.
– I notice with surprise that the one Imperially political note struck in the original Bill, that of 1909, is absent from this measure. We then proposed that the Inter-State Commission should consider additions to and modifications or simplifications of any Tariff, Customs, or Excise Act, in order to remove monopoliesand to develop preferential trade with the United Kingdom and British Possessions. That is a high note of challenge and foresight. That priceless purple patch uponthis garment has disappeared. The ideal indicated finds no place in the strictly legal character of the authority to investigate given by clause 16.
– I have no objection to providing for it, though I think it is covered by paragraphs c and d of the clause.
– Possibly. I press on to our clause 17, relating to riparian possibilities and the control of rivers, which happily remains intact. Australia has too few rivers, and no proper appreciation yet of her water resources, though nothing will be more valuable to her, nor should be more promptly undertaken, than their development. Although this may be a little out of the line laid down by the Constitution, it is ohe of the most invaluable of the many such provisions in the Bill. That, too, was proposed for the first time in the Bill of 1909.
Under clause 41, appeals are to lie to the High Court on questions of law only. The provision, practically a repetition of a clause in the Bill of 1909, forbids appeals on questions of fact, or regarding the locus standi of a complainant.
– I do not think that it is materially altered. There hasbeen merely a re-casting.
– I do not notice what is excluded.
– Neither Bill provides for an appeal on questions of fact.
– Some of the clauses intended to protect the Commission will require consideration in Committee. For instance, clause 49 empowers the Chief Commissioner, by writing under his hand, to summon any person to attend the Commission, and to give evidence and produce any books, documents, or writings which he is required by the summons to produce. Our Royal Commissions Act contained the words “ material to the subjectmatter of the inquiry.” The Inter- State Commission will exercise the functions of a Royal Commission and other functions as well. The doubt is whether this extremely wide endowment of power ought not to be limited, so that evidence must be material to the subject-matter of the inquiry.
– The powers of the Commission are limited only by the Statute, and may be enlarged in the future. Presumably the summons will relate to the subject-matter of the inquiry.
– Only presumably ! The Royal Commissions Act of 1902 provided for a penalty not to exceed £50, but this amending Act increases the maximum to £500. That is an extreme sum for by far the greater part of the cases coming under this Bill.
Again, clause 57 of the Bill of 1909 obliged a witness to answer relevant questions put to him, and to produce any documents that he might be required to produce, the penalty for failing to comply with the order being six months’ imprisonment as a maximum. That was an extremely severe penalty. Under the new Bill, the maximum is a£500 fine, and the penalties in the new Bill generally are on a high scale - the highest we have yet seen.
– The honorable member refers to maximum penalties.
– The Court is not obliged to impose these penalties, but they are very serious. The Bill of 1909 gave the Commission power to make regulations with the approval of the Governor-
General. Under this Bill, the GovernorGeneral may make regulations not inconsistent with the Act, prescribing all matters required or permitted to be prescribed. That is an improvement in form.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– There was one passage in the concluding remarks of the AttorneyGeneral which really summed up in an admirable fashion the composite nature of this Inter-State Commission. Owing to the rapidity with which he read his notes, . 1 was only able to catch some of the numerous and various functions which it is intended the Commission shall discharge; but these are sufficiently memorable. He said that it is to be a Commission of Inquiry, and at the same time a Court of Record ; that it is to be a Board of Trade andalso to exercise the functions of a common Court. He said that it will concern itself with the administration of laws - that it is to be an industrial authority; it is to lay the basis for amendments of the law and to assure its practical effectiveness. Several other functions were indicated in the same summary of the wide radius of opportunities afforded by the establishment of this body. The varied relationships in which it finds itself to practical affairs of all descriptions is in many respects novel to Parliament.
Let us hope that the always somewhat abstract, the always somewhat vague, the occasionally tortuous expressions of legal procedure will be simplified by its study of the facts and of actual practices in various employments. One of the chief efficiencies of this tribunal will consist in conveying to the public at large a clearer understanding of much of our modern methods that would otherwise be lost, endeavouring to enable it to comprehend the nature of the business operations which the Commission has investigated. At the same time, it will afford members of Parliament who are responsible for much legislation a quicker grip and a clearer understanding of many of those relations in practical affairs which are at present quite beyond our ken.
With every generation, what we are pleased to call our “civilization” increases in its complexity, multiplying its relations in novel fashions. The task of keeping pace with its versatilities overtaxes both the social historian and the student of our time. This Commission may attempt the solution of sundry problems arising out of our enormous range of interests. But it is required to handle only those which Parliament desires it to handle for definite ends and uses, and those of which we are looking for effective control. To gain that knowledge there must be a close personal relationship to the sections of our people affected - the study in immediate contiguity of the various problems of modern life with which we are confronted. How much unrest, how many disappointments, and how much friction have been engendered by our ignorance or misunderstandings of their interactions we do not know. But even if these be to some extent explained, we shall be fortunate if those who legislate are enabled to enterinto the actual conditions of the classes for whom they are legislating, with even a roughly accurate general knowledge of their circumstances and surroundings. Our legislation will then be very much better adapted to their needs than it can be under existing circumstances, when it always retains the stamp of the study, the flavour of the law Court, and a good deal of the incomprehensibility which comes from the technicalities and inter-relations of our laws.
All these sources of obscuration are plain to honorable members. But my wish is to emphasize our want of close touch, our want of intimate acquaintance with the lives, occupations, interests, aims, and ideas of the people to whom we belong and whom we represent. If we can lessen this by methods that will popularize what now appears mysterious and abstract - if we can bring home to the people that they are becoming better understood, and if we can realize how much we may still lack in understanding their minds and affairs, a mutual benefit will be conferred.
Parliament will find the policy, and it will be the duty of this Commission to study that in relation to the facts - to find what the facts are and how our fellow citizens are being affected by our legislation.
Take the vexed question relating to combinations and monopolies, real or alleged. These assume different shapes in different countries, and even sometimes in the same country, according to the circumstances with which they have to cope. It is only by bringing them under continuous observation that we shall really gather, first, the extent of their effectiveness, and, next, the injury they may be doing, or the evils of which they may be the cause. A mere academic inquiry would leave us with very misty ideas of their nature. They must be followed to the inmost recesses of their occupations and relations, and this can be accomplished only by an investigation extending over a considerable period. The ideal condition of affairs will be when, by these means, and such others as we may hereafter develop without unduly multiplying our industrial police, we shall have attained sufficiently intimate relations with dangerous business combinations to form a fair judgment of them. The necessary restrictions can then be promptly applied and maintained. Only by a continuous relation with the business operations of the Trusts shall we be able to deal with some of the grave problems that at present discourage us. We shall obtain great assistance from the proposed Commission when once in full working order, and sufficiently developed on the industrial side.
Take another very vital problem - the Fiscal question. Every honorable member who has passed through even one of our several Tariff sessions must have been perpetually discouraged by being compelled to decide between cases absolutely contradictory, though put forward in perfect good faith by both sides. We have had to rest content with a balance of probabilities. Time and again we have been obliged to vote in the dark. Whether the measure of Protection granted has been sufficient, excessive, or deficient, has been left largely a matter of opinion, or even guesswork.
– Belief in Protection or Free Trade is largely a matter of temperament.
– How often have we been perplexed to know whether a request for an increased duty was legitimate - whether the difficulties were due to the retention of out-of-date machinery, to inability to manage the business, to carelessness in handling the product, or wastefulness - or whether it related to a real national asset, struggling under strangling conditions and leaving us so much the poorer by making us so much the more dependent upon imported goods? In many cases our decisions have been arrived at in the dark. Among the fruits which we may venture to hope for from the body now to be constituted - a body that will be absolutely impartial, and concerned, not with matters of policy, but with the facts of each case - is that our votes will then be cast with very much greater confidence than they have ever been. Of course, it will not be possible to do all these things at once. They will take time. They require particular aptitude on the part of the officers and others who will study the issues with absolute impartiality.
In this Commission, which I venture to say will become a great institution, two things are absolutely essential. The first is that we shall get for the positions the best and ablest men in the community who are willing to accept them, and the second is that we’ shall secure absolute impartiality. The Commissioners must be apart from party; they can be neither Ministerialists nor Oppositionists, neither Free Traders nor Protectionists, but men of honour and capacity, whose duty will be to inquire into facts.
– We shall have to get them made in one of the foundries.
– It is said that the hour finds the- man, and it frequently does. There is quite sufficient ability in Australia to constitute the Commission; and if the Government exercise their judgment in selecting the Commissioners we can hope - if we do not attain the absolute ideal - to get fairly near it by steady approaches. Labour and employment require to be brought under the microscope in the same way. It is said that one-half of the people of the world do not know how the other half live. Those fractions are entirely wrong. I do not think that more than a small percentage of any community knows how the community as a whole lives. Few have sufficient leisure or temptation to give that study and sympathy without which the bare facts cannot be correlated or properly understood. Yet such inquiries as this Commission heralds must tend in some measure to shed light in the darkness, and to evoke intellectual and sympathetic appreciation. The more we know of each other, and control the conditions under which we exist as citizens, the happier will be the lot of all, including those who have to rule over us. On a previous occasion 1 alluded to this particular body as more effective for the equipment of Parliament with knowledge, as well as with executive power, than probably any single Act passed in this country. I believe that still, although we have had to wait so long to see the first steps to its realization.
There is one field now open to the AttorneyGeneral, which he will find it hard to neglect, in which he could caricature the various manners in which this very proposal has been met from time to time during its political progress from contemptuous indifference to understanding and sympathy. It would require a master-hand, and I shall not venture to enter into competition. We may even rejoice at the temper of this House, even if it displays, I am sorry to admit, a relative indifference to this .longlookedfor Bill. The fact is that, ignore it how we may, at the last hours of the session, if this measure is passed in its present form - and practically there is no doubt as to that - those who have taken an active part in preparing or submitting it have contributed to the creation of a new authority, which, if allowed sufficient time to develop, may be expected to steadily promote the material interests, improve the fortunes, and, I trust, advance the conditions of the people of Australia.
– In establishing an Inter-State Commission, we are completing the structure of the Federal Constitution as contemplated by its framers. The theory of our Constitution is, of course, to divide the functions of the Government into three distinct parts - the Legislature to make the laws, the Judiciary to interpret the laws, and the Executive to administer the law. It was realized that, in addition, there should be created a constitutional body, partly administrative,, and partly judicial. The Inter-State Commission is a composite body combining functions ordinarily performed by officers under the direction of responsible Ministers, and functions of a judicial character. In the United States of America, an Inter- Sta te’ Commission has been established to exercise certain functions peculiar to that country, and in England there is a body, though of ‘ a different character, to deal with matters connected with the railways. We in Australia have to create a body within’ the terms of the Constitution to fulfil our own purposes. The mere following of precedents abroad may be of assistance, but the value of the instrument we are about to create will depend entirely on the particular functions we assign to it to meet Australian necessities. Section 101 of the Constitution is mandatory -
There shall be an Inter-State Commission, with such powers of adjudication and administration as the Parliament deems necessary for the execution and maintenance, within the Commonwealth, of the provisions of this Constitution relating to trade and commerce, and of all laws made there, under.
In 1901, in the first Commonwealth Parliament, an Inter-State Commission Bill was introduced. At that time, there were really only two functions such a body could perform; the first had reference to the then prevailing differential railway rates, and the second had reference to the rates of common carriers. The mere announcement that this Parliament intended to introduce an Inter-State Commission Bill had a marked effect on the relations of the States.
– The rates are not uniform yet.
– Previously each State had tried to capture what trade it could ; but, in 1905, I believe the States, after many attempts, arrived at some agreement ; at any rate, the evil of conflict in this regard was minimized. Later on, Queensland became a party to the arrangement, and matters were still further improved. Today the evil, in my opinion, is not so great as to alone call for the creation of an InterState Commission, and if the differential railway rates were all that had to be considered, the measure under consideration would not be necessary In 1907, however, complaints began to be made. .
– And there are complaints now.
– I have not heard of any recently, but, at any rate, the complaints then made were communicated to the States concerned!, and some action was taken to overcome the difficulty. Even, if under this Bill, an Inter-State Commission is created, I hope that it may not be necessary for it to exercise its powers, but that the mere fact that there is such a body in existence will bring about the desired effect.
– That argument applies most strongly to all the Referendum Bills.
– The honorable member is quite wrong, because within the several States there are already powers to do what the Referendum Bills seek to accomplish. The Inter-State Commission, however, has to deal with the very important matter of trade and commerce. The object of the Commission, as a sort of administrative body, is to keep open the trade and commerce between the States. In this connexion, difficulties have arisen in consequence of the manner in which some of the States have exercised their powers of inspection - powers which, if improperly used, might absolutely block trade between State and State. On one occasion, the New South Wales Government, by means of their inspection laws, practically pro,hibited the importation of Queensland produce, because it was thought that there was plague in Brisbane. In the most unjustifiable manner, regulations were made far in excess of the evil with which they were called upon to deal. Of course, no one could take exception if the regulations were used simply to prevent the transmission of disease, but it is a very different matter when they are so applied as to amount to undue interference with the freedom of trade provided for by the Constitution. Then, again, the Government of Western Australia imposed inspection charges so heavy as to amount almost to a protective tax.
– There were also differential rates on the Western Australian railway.
– Yes ; I believe that certain Western Australian goods were carried more cheaply than were goods from the eastern States; and, of course, all this isquite contrary to the spirit of the Constitution. No one could find fault with any Government for seeking to exclude dangerous pests, but all such questions which’ involved a breach of the Constitution could be settled by an Inter-State Commission.
– Suppose an expert officer declared fruit to be diseased?
– We must accept such anopinion, but what I have been alluding tois the charging of inspection fees much’ heavier than necessity demands. If two experts differed, I should act on the assumption that prevention is better than> cure; but, of course, we must take it that these duties are honestly performed by intelligent men. Another function that may be intrusted to this body is that of investigation. The Constitution implies distinctly that two functions are to be performed by the Inter-State Commission., One is administration ; the second is a judicial function. But it cannot in any way exercise a legislative function. It can have no legislative function. Any attempt to clothe it with legislative power in any direction would be simply futile. Under the Constitution, the legislative function of Australia rests with the Federal Parliament. This Inter-State Commission cannot in any sense become asubordinate legislative body making laws for Australia. The only powers which* it has are those which are specifically conferred by the Constitution. The question arises, seeing that we have no power- to endow the Inter-State Commission with functions not contained within the Constitution : What are the functions with which we can endow it? Undoubtedly, we ought to give it power to deal with Inter-State railway rates. Undoubtedly, we ought to give it power to deal with the regulation of carriers between one State and another. Undoubtedly, we ought to give it power to ideal with Inter-State commerce. Those are powers of a judicial and administrative nature. The next class of powers with which we ought to endow it are powers of investigation and report. The peculiarity of our modern life undoubtedly is its complexity. Every day society is becoming a more highlycomplex organism. The evolution of society distinctly follows along defined lines.
– All leading to the subjects of the referenda.
Mr.GROOM. - All- things, according to the honorable member, lead to one city. Undoubtedly society proceeds in the direction of creating specific functions. Those functions are increasing in complexity, and each particular function of society requires a particular organ of State to carry out particular duties. We see in society an enormous development and expansion from the single germ to the highly complex organism. The specialization of function is a distinct feature of modern life; and the higher society rises in the scale of civilization the more complex the social organism will become. We may say that nowadays society does not work without a conscience and an aim. We are capable, as a nation, through our highly-organized conditions, of developing a policy, working according to a plan, pursuing distinct ideals. But at the same time, in carrying out our ideal of government, we have to be satisfied that we are moving progressively along sound lines; and society as such will only continue to progress as long as we are prepared to investigate as we go along the particular tendencies which make for social progress. We need to have an impartial examination into the lines of progress that are being pursued in order to see whether the experiments we are making are working satisfactorily or not.
– Progress depends upon accurate knowledge.
– Yes, and it ought to be our desire, no matter what our party politics may be. when once we have passed a particular law, to recognise that it becomes of interest to others besides the legislators who have created it. We have to examine the operation of that law, and to see whether it is working so as to confer a distinct benefit upon society itself. Once a law is placed upon the statutebook it passes beyond the realm of party politics, and becomes a subject for careful scientific investigation. We need to examine the trend and operation of each particular piece of legislation to see whether its aim has been true. That leads me to this point : it seems to me that now that we have reached such a highly complex state of society, an essential adjunct of every legislative body must be an organ of government capable of conducting the investigation work which is essential to the proper discharge of our functions as a Parliament. It is utterly impossible for any member of Parliament to investigate these matters for himself. No single member ofParliament can know all the complex relations of life. No single member of Parliament can watch the effect of every Statute passed by us. No single member of Parliament can trace its effects upon social life. The investigation ofmatters concerning which we require particular information will have to be more and more relegated to our statistical bureau, and to the Inter- State Commission which we are about to create. For instance, take such a problem as this. We in this Parliament legislate, in accordance with our ideals, with a desire to create a state of things under which a living wage will be paid to every man in the community. That is all that we in this Parliament can do. We can only express a principle, and give it legislative force. We desire to have that principle applied in administration. In order to carry that desire into effect, to realise that ideal, we must have special investigations made. Take the question of the cost of living. That in itself requires a highly complex scientific investigation which we in this Parliament cannot satisfactorily carry out. It requires that a specially-trained person, like our Statistician, shall look into all the different factors which go to make up the cost of living, in order to establish a definite standard. Investigation of that kind is special, scientific work, which is purely a matter of modern development. Problems of the kind did not trouble Legislatures twenty-five or thirty years ago. It is a problem that arises entirely out of modern conditions. The Inter- State Commission also should be a body that will be capable of making special investigations into social conditions. Inquiries of the kind must depend upon reliable evidence. They must not depend upon hearsay or guesswork. We want to get the results of careful scientific investigation on matters which are vital to our well-being as a people. I hope, therefore, that one of the chief results that will accrue from the establishment of this body will be manifested in its powers of investigation and report. In this Inter- State Commission we are to have a body which will investigate the production of, and trade in, commodities ; the encouragement, improvement, and extension of Australian industries and manufactures; markets outside Australia, and the opening up o’f external trade generally. It will investigate a number of other subjects detailed in clause 16 of the Bill, including matters referred to it by either House of the Parliament by resolution. We have a High Commissioner across the seas, who was appointed, amongst other things, to promote the external trade of Australia. But upon this side of the globe we have not at present an agency to collect information, to collate it, to analyze it, to formulate it, so that it may be sent to the High Commissioner, to whom it will be useful. I hope, therefore, that one of the chief functions of the Commission will be to act in conjunction with the High Commissioner, and to supply him with all that information relating to our industries, products, and manufactures, which will be able to assist him in dealing with such questions as the opening up and supply of foreign markets. Honorable members are aware that there has recently been created an Imperial Commission, one of whose members is Australian, which will shortly come to Australia to collect information. The value of the work of that Commission is this - that it is going to collect, for the first time in the history of the British Empire, information to enable it to formulate a report from which the Empire will be able to know the assets which it possesses. At present, information of that kind is scattered through the various reports prepared by many bodies throughout the ‘Empire. This Commission will be able to collect information regarding our timber resources, our mineral resources, our supplies of coal, our productive resources, and so forth. It will be able to do for the British Empire what has already been done for the United States of America. In that country a Commission was appointed by President Roosevelt which, for the first time in the history of the world, conducted investigations which .enable it to present a sort of inventory of the whole of the resources of a nation. Now this Imperial Commission will, I hope, be able to do the same thing for the British Empire. But it is absolutely essential that there be in existence in Australia a body that will be able to collect information for Australian purposes, and to compile a register of our resources. It is true that we have statisticians in Australia who collect figures regarding births, marriages, and deaths, the number of stock, the products of- the soil, and so forth. Returns on these subjects are compiled in accordance with various Acts of Parliament. But what is wanted is information in a complete and comprehensive form, so that we in Australia may know absolutely what are our resources which are worthy of conservation and preservation.
– The Inter-State Commission will have to undertake the duties of an explorer, then?
– That is not necessary. At present there is in existence in Canada a Commission which is inquiring into the natural resources of the country. That Commission is not doing the work of an explorer. It is doing the work of compilation and investigation. It is collecting evidence. By means of it Canada will be able to know exactly what her resources are.
– The Commission is doing that work for the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, I suppose?
– No. The Commission was appointed by the Canadian Government, and each Province is represented upon it by a responsible person. I am sure that the honorable member for Hindmarsh will realize that it is highly essential that we should ascertain what our natural resources are. To do so is the first step to the passing pf legislation which will properly conserve the resources of Australia.
– The honorable member would interfere with State rights, then?
– I think that if you added astronomy they might be able to fill in their time.
– What I am pointing out to the House is a serious matter. The Commission which is coming to Australia has to be supplied with the information to which I have referred. Does not the honorable member desire that Commission to be supplied with representative information of Australia as a whole? That is the kind of inquiry which is being made in Canada. In England there are a Board of Agriculture and a Board of Trade.
– I think that the InterState Commission will have plenty of other work to do without going into that business for the next two or three years.
– I think that the honorable member will find that the functions entrusted to the Commission are the encouragement of Australian industries and manufactures, and, with respect to the encouragement of industries, an inquiry as to whether an industry is worth encouraging, and with respect to natural resources, an inquiry as to whether a particular natural resource is worth investigating. If it is not intended to give these powers, what is the use of creating the Commission ; what is it going to inquire into? If it is not to inquire into our natural resources, and as to whether it is necessary to encourage and develop them, why is it to be created at all; why is it endowed with that particular power?
– There is a lot of Board of Trade work to be done first.
– The honorable member will see that w!hen the Commission is created it will do what is done in England and the United States of America. There will be appointed a number of administrative officers, each of whom will be assigned special functions. Take industrial conditions. Does the honorable member think that the three Commissioners are going to do all the investigation into the industrial conditions of Australia? Not at all. Sub-departments will be created ; two or three competent men will be put into positions, and they will have subordinates, who will work under the direction of the Commission. It will be their function to inquire into and report on different matters relating to the social conditions and progress of Australia. They will have to compile the returns and present them. Such an inquiry ought to be, not of a party character, but of a scientific kind, to ascertain if we ought to legislate in a certain way or not. Take, for instance, the value which arbitration awards have been to Australia, or the value which Wages Boards have been to us. These are matters which ought to be inquired into on both sides, and we ought to ascertain whether they are working soundly or not. If honorable members opposite found, for instance, that the Arbitration Act, by virtue of certain provisions, was working destructively to the interest of the workers, would they not be doing a proper duty in reporting it, and acting accordingly? Are we so blind that we are not going to notice the nature of our social experiments, and determine whether they are successes or failures ?
– They want to chase moisture in butter.
– I am surprised at the honorable member ridiculing the Minister’s proposal. It is absolutely essential, in the exercise of the functions of government, that we should have a body constituted with the powers with which the Inter-State Commission is to be endowed. There are one or two points I wish to refer to regarding the power of investigation. There are two sub-clauses in the Bill which, perhaps, the Attorney-General intends shall be excised, particularly, if the referenda proposals are passed. I refer to the subclauses regarding the price of commodities, and the profits of trade and manufacture. Is it the intention of the Attorney-General that these are to be purely powers of investigation, or are they to carry with them administrative duties? Does he intend the powers to include the right to investigate prices ?
– The Commission will have power to do nothing more than investigate. It will, of course, have the power to regulate Inter-State rates.
– I gather from the reply of the Attorney-General that it is not to be a body to deal with trusts, monopolies, or combinations of any description.
– It may be invested subsequently with that power.
– At the present time the honorable member does not contemplate that?
– If any powers are to be vested in the ‘Commission, it ought to have the power to investigate the operation of trusts and monopolies, because I believe that one of the best methods of dealing with trusts and combines is the principle of publicity.
– It is that principle which is exercised in Canada at present. .
– Under clause 47 it may publish information regarding everything it may investigate under clause 16.
– Clause 47 gives the power of publishing, but it is the power of investigation, with subsequent publicity, which I want the honorable member to explain. In the United States of America the suggestion for the more satisfactory dealing with trusts and combines is the endowment of a body like the Inter-State Commission, or a bureau of corporations, with the power to investigate, to require returns to be furnished, and to give every publicity. Canada has the machinery for the investigation of trusts. lt is felt that an intelligent public opinion is a greater restraining influence on the commission of many of the evils of trusts and combines than is any other agency which could be created. I do not wish to go .into a detailed criticism of the provisions of the Bill. The AttorneyGeneral has endowed the Commission with a great many of the Star Chamber powers that were included in the Royal Commissions Bill which he put through the House. He is taking exceedingly drastic powers. For instance, he has endowed the_ Commission with the power of ordering the arrest of any witness, and of keeping him for an indefinite period. That provision ought, I think, to be revised, because, unlike a Royal Commission, the Inter-State Commission will be a permanent body. A Royal Commission only exists for a certain time, and as there is power to dissolve it at any moment, the power of arrest can be regulated by the power of dissolution. In this Bill, however, no such controlling power is provided. The Commission is to be appointed for a period of seven years, and to be left with the unlimited power of keeping a witness. Clause 50 provides that every witness who is summoned to attend shall appear and report himself from day to day, unless he is excused by the Chief Commissioner or Chairman, or until he is released from further attendance. If he fails to attend, the Chairman has power to arrest him, and -
The warrant shall authorize the apprehension of the witness and his being brought before the Commission, and his detention in custody for that purpose until he is released by order of the Chief Commissioner or Chairman.
This will be the only case where, so far as I know, there will exist the legal possibility under Statute of an unlimited detention.
– I think that these powers are quite proper, seeing that the Commission will be a Court of Record.
– Yes; but the Bill gives this Commission power to do what no High Court can do. The High Court can commit a person for contempt; but here the Inter-State Commission is given the power to order the arrest of a man, and keep him in attendance upon it as long as it likes. I should like the honorable member to look into clause 53, and also to insert in subclause 1 a provision which is contained in the Navigation Bill. That Bill gives power to punish a person for not attending, but his expenses have to be tendered to him before the punishment can be imposed. I think that the words “ who, after tender of expenses, fails to attend,” should be inserted after the words “ If any person,” at the beginning of sub-clause 1 of clause 53.
– That is provided in clause 69.
– No. Clause 69 enables the Governor-General to prescribe a scale of allowances to witnesses, and does not deal with the other question at all.
– It gives power to the Commission to make what arrangements it likes.
– No; it empowers the Governor-General to make a scale of allowances, and provides that -
The claim to allowance of any such witness certified by the Chief Commissioner or Chairman shall be paid by the Treasurer.
The Attorney-General will find that in every Justice Act where that penalty is provided a tender of expenses is always a condition precedent before a man can be punished for not attending. It is only a fair provision to make.
– We discussed that matter on the Royal Commissions Bill.
– I know that we did, and the Attorney-General, if he will look into the matter when he is in a quieter mood, will find that my statement is correct. There ought to be a clause corresponding to a provision in the Arbitration Act dealing with the disclosure of information obtained by the Commission. And there should be a clause relating to secrecy, corresponding to the provision in the Statistics Act, because a great deal of the informa- tion required will be for investigation purposes. I think that, in order to facilitate the getting of such information, the Commission ought to have power to protect the persons supplying information.
– I think that the Commission is to be the judge of that.
– I think that we ought to protect the persons who give the information. We ought to prevent the disclosure of the information given without the authority of the Commission itself.
– If the power is not in the Bill, I will put it in.
– There are several other particular points of criticism, but I shall defer them till the Committee stage. On the whole, I am very glad to see this Bill proceeded with. I believe that it will prove a very valuable adjunct to the Federal Constitution.
.- In. the last hours of the session we are asked to pass a very important measure. I cannot help thinking it is a pity that we do not get a better chance to consider more closely its details. It is, generally speaking, the same as the Bill which was introduced by a Liberal Administration in 1909, and, so far as the bulk of its provisions are concerned, can, therefore, be held to be entirely non-partisan in character. It takes very large powers, and some very comprehensive new powers of inquiry and investigation. It would be just as well, I think, if the Inter-State Commission were to start on its very wide field of investigation in some systematic way, and with some considerable caution. I do not know if honorable members have ever indulged in the pursuit of sailing, but, if they have, they know that a man who wishes to win a race has a very careful eye to the sky before he sets his sail. There is such a thing as carrying too much sail. I would suggest to honorable members that, if the Inter-State Commission be asked to enter upon all its various phases of investigation at the very outset, it will be in serious risk of the thing which invariably happens when too much sail is carried in a very strong wind. It is to be part of the business of the Commission to inquire into -
That, in itself, is pretty comprehensive. The question should be tackled at once, but it is a very big question.
Act . . .
Now, it would take half the population of Australia to inquire into the prices of commodities and the profits of manufacture. The profits of trade vary with the seasons, and the profits of manufacture with the cost of materials, which also change throughout the world with the seasons. If the whole of this intricate course of investigation is to be placed in the hands of this tribunal, we shall be overloading it to such an extent that it will have no time left to inquire into the really urgent matters connected with what should be its proper duties. I have quoted the subjects of investigation as far as “ f “, but they go down to “ 1 “. It is perhaps significant that the investigation in “ 1 “ is one with which this Parliament will be concerned, since it deals with - other matters referred to the Commission by either House of the Parliament, by resolution, for investigation.
– We shall keep them busy.
– Anything which we are too busy to attend to ourselves we shall hand over to this great bureau of investigation,and we shall probably find that the Commission will be asked to do things which Parliament should properly do through its Select Committees.
I should like to say a word or two about the functions of the Inter- State Commission which, in my judgment, may be exercised with great advantage to the community. I think that one of the most valuable sections of the work which the Commission will have to attend to will be the careful watching of the provisions of laws passed in the various States, witha view to seeing that no State exercises its Federal prerogative of Free Trade with the other States improperly, and to the detriment of the people of the other States. Clothed with our powers, we are very properly preventing the importation of impure foods and shoddy manufactures. Five out of the six Statesmay do the same thing, whilst the sixth may permit its citizens to earn a living by the manufacture of such articles, and by trading in them. In such a case, the Inter- State Commission should report in the clearest way possible, to show the public what is being done, and to enable this Parliament to take such action as it can to deal with the matter. Inquiry on these lines will be invaluable, and should be one of the chief functions of the Commission. This should largely cut the ground from under many of the arguments we heard recently in the discussion of the referenda proposals.
There is another function of the InterState Commission, and that is to deal with questions as to the navigability of InterState rivers. This will touch the question, to some extent, of the use of the waters of the Murray. I personally hold that this great Australian asset should be under the complete control of the Federal Parliament.
– It is now, as regards navigation only.
– It should be entirely under our control. As the honorable member for Riverina is aware, the various States have riparian powers, subject to the inalienable right of all to the use of the waters for navigation ; and this has led to an absolute tangle between the States interested. We have not, as I have said, complete control ot the whole question, and failing that, the Inter-State Commission should be in a position to render us invaluable aid in dealing with the matter.
The next feature I wish to emphasize is the immense aid the Commission will be able to render Parliament and the country in unravelling the industrial and manufacturing problems that cannot be divorced from the great problem of Tariff construction. I have taken part in discussions on a number of Tariffs in this House, and I have found that their construction is not merely a matter of temperament. The honorable member for Capricornia tried to make us believe that temperament is at the root of all Tariff duties. I found that frequently the Free Trade temperament upon one duty became a Protectionist temperament in dealing with the next, and vice versa. Our difficulty has not been a question of temperament, but of the facts to be put before us.
– Does the honorable member think that the Inter- State Commission will alter that?
– The Inter-State Commission will be able to get at the facts in a way which Parliament could never hope to do. The Tariff question is one difficult of solution by any Parliament however ably composed. A Tariff may be framed by a Protectionist Ministry upon scientific lines from the first item to the last. There may lie a majority in Parliament disposed to favour the Tariff as a whole, but honorable members are constantly passing in and out of the chamber, some may be absent for a few days, the majorities are constantly altering, a duty here and there Ls struck out or altered, and a Tariff which, when introduced was from one point of view a scientific instrument, becomes mutilated before it passes through this Parliament. On this ground alone I regard Parliament as- a very unsuitable body to deal with Tariff’ problems ab initio. But with the assistance of a body such as the Inter-State Commission, which will be absolutely impartial, and I hope non-political, we should have the facts so clearly placed before us that we should be able to tell without very much trouble how much the country will have to pay to establish this or that industry, and how much industries associated with it will have to contribute towards its establishment. What confronts us in Tariff discussions is the interdependence of industries. It is this which makes the Protectionist voter of one moment the Free Trade voter of the next. The interrelation of industries and the dependence of one upon another for its raw material raise problems which must be carefully gone into in any Protectionist country - Australia has decided upon that policy - and the facts should be submitted from time to time for the information of Parliament.
I was glad that the honorable member for Darling Downs referred to a part of this measure which strikes me as being rather too much in evidence. I do not know why my honorable friends opposite have so drafted the measure, but I should like to say that the best way to get information from a man when we require such information constantly is to do so in a way which will not lead him to believe that we are his mortal enemies. If the public of Australia can only be made to see that the Inter- State Commission, with its powers of investigation, may be of immense value to themselves and their operations, whether they be trading or working in an industrial sphere, we shall obtain the information we require much more readily, and its value will be enhanced.
– Does the honorable member think that a strong combine .will look at the matter in that way?
– I remind the honorable member that for the purpose of dealing with strong combines we have the power of special inquiry.
– We have not that power yet.
– Yes, we have the power of special inquiry by the appointment of Royal Commissions. The only power we have not now is to inquire into things which do not happen in Australia. That is how I read the judgment of the High Court. Under the Royal Commissions Act we have all the powers of inquiry that may be exercised by the Inter- State Commission under this Bill. If we have to deal with what may be termed a refractory industry we have the power to appoint a special Royal Commission for the purpose, and that is the way in which I should prefer an inquiry of that kind to be carried out. I do not wish to see a body which ought to be regarded by every one” in the community as a beneficent instrument of government given the complexion of a public executioner simply because it may meet with a refractory witness or two if it is called upon to do work which it ought not to be asked to do. Honorable members opposite confuse the sort of investigation which the InterState Commission should make with the inquiries which might be made into the operations of such trusts and combines as they regard as inherently detrimental to the public interest. But the two things are quite distinct. They propose in connexion with industries that are not detrimental, powers of inquiry, even of inquisition and punishment, which will make the Commission extremely unpopular ; and, if persisted in. will tend to wreck its usefulness. In Committee, we ought very seriously to weigh this aspect of the question, and, as far as possible, try to divorce from these functions of general inquiry the characteristics of inquiry with power into refractory industries that may have to be specially investigated for a special purpose.
.- Having listened to the speeches of honorable members opposite, I think it necessary for my own protection to make a short statement. I am alarmed at the suggestion that the question of the Tariff will be referred to the Inter- State Commission,, since I remember that the Tariff Commission occupied two years in inquiring into Australian industries. Is the revision of the present Tariff to be held up for a period of two years?
– Certainly not.
– I hope not. When I go before my constituents, I shall tell them that I propose to urge the earliest possible revision of the Tariff. All we have to do to ascertain whether Tariff revision is necessary is to consult the statistics as to imports and exports. I would remind honorable members that even the Sugar Commission occupied twelve months in prosecuting its inquiries. It might not have taken so long if certain interested parties like the Colonial Sugar Refining Company had given the information required without rendering it necessary for us to pass a Bill dealing specially with them. Is the Inter-State Commission to inquire into the Tariff as soon as it is appointed, or is it to deal with other matters that have long been held up, such as competition between the States, railway freights, and rebates and concessions given to traders? If it is understood that the Inter-State Commission is to deal with the Tariff, then many honorable members opposite - many candidates for Parliament - will be afforded an opportunity, if returned, to shelve the question of the protection of Australian industries.
– If it means that, we shall be just as well without it.
– We have heard some honorable members opposite say that this Commission is going, to inquire into the Tariff. I objected to the Bill introduced by the Leader of the Opposition for the appointment of an Inter-State Commission, because he proposed that “that tribunal should inquire, not only into the Tariff, but into everything connected with trade and industry. If a trade were languishing, it was to inquire, not only as to what rate of duty should be imposed, but into the whole question of production, and to determine whether up-to-date machinery was employed, and whether certain chemical processes were being used in foreign countries that were not being employed in Australia. The honorable member seemed to entertain the idea that the Inter-State Commission was to travel to other countries to obtain such information. It certainly would have to do so. For instance, in connexion with manufacture in Germany, certain secret processes are adopted, about which it is very difficult to obtain any information.
– Could we not obtain information about the trade of foreign countries without visiting those countries?
– I do not know how we are to obtain in Australia information concerning chemical processes used in manufacture in other countries, which it is exceedingly difficult to obtain even where they are so employed. I rose only to soundhis note of alarm, and to say that if the Inter-State Commission is to hold up the revision of the Tariff for some years, I shall have a great objection to its appointment.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Greene) adjourned.
– At the request of the right honorable member for Swan, I beg to ask for the discharge from the noticepaper of notice of motion No. 14, standing in his nanus.
– I object.
Mr. ROBERTS (Adelaide- Honorary
Minister) [9.23]. - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
I have to submit, for the consideration of honorable members, an amendment of the Naval Defence Act, which is largely of a formal character, and has already received ithe unanimous approval, and, I might also say, the blessing of the Senate. Honorable members will probably recollect that the Naval Conference which met in London in 191 1 passed certain resolutions to facilitate the working of His Majesty’s Navy in concert with His Majesty’s Australian Navy, so that, when the necessity arose, they might the better operate in harmony. This Bill refers particularly to the question of discipline, and the holding of courts martial. We have already carried legislation permitting a British officer to act on a court martial where an Australian officer is concerned. It was then thought necessary at the time to pass such legislation, because we might not have in the Australian Naval Service a sufficient number of senior officers to conduct a court martial. Acting on the resolutions of the Naval Conference to which I have referred, the Imperial Parliament recently passed the Dominions Naval Discipline Act, which permits of a reciprocal arrangement, so that, should the two Navies be’ acting together, Australian officers will be able to sit upon courts martial where an Imperial naval officer is concerned. Honorable members probably know that the arrangement in existence is that, should portions of the two Navies be acting together, the senior officer, whether he be an Imperial or an Australian naval officer, shall have command for the time being. This amendment of the principal Act is of a formal character, permitting of the holding of joint courts martial should the necessity arise. lt also makes a slight amendment of the principal Act, more clearly defining the legal situation when the two Navies are acting in concert. It provides for an amendment of section 37 and section 34b of the principal Act, declaring that the Australian Navy shall work in concert with the Imperial Navy, “ in pursuance of an order made by thu Governor-General,” or any person acting under his authority. The Bill is also designed to facilitate the training of naval cadets, and particularly of those who are following a seafaring avocation. Men are required to undergo twenty-five days’ training per annum, and many have to leave their vessels to do so. After completing his period of training, a man might find that the vessel on which he was usually employed hadleft port, and he might have to wait ten or twelve days for its return before he could resume his ordinary work. That, of course, would involve loss. it is, therefore, proposed by this Bill that, in such a contingency, a man may continue training until his vessel returns, and that the number of days so put in shall be deducted from his training period in the succeeding year. This additional training will cease at the moment most advantageous to the Commonwealth and to himself - the moment when he may resume his ordinary duties. That, I think, will meet with the approval of the House.
– Power is taken to permit a man to put in two periods of training in the one year. In the first instance, he must undergo twenty-five days training, no matter where he may be, but in the second instance, the officer in charge will be able to allow him to leave, although he may have undergone only twenty-six, or perhaps, up to forty-nine days’ training. The Bill will facilitate the training of that section of the community which we ure most anxious to secure as members of the
Naval Defence Forces. Then, again, owing to the passing of the Navigation Act, which will probably receive the Royal assent at an early date, it is necessary to provide that persons shall be permitted to leave their ships to undergo training in the Commonwealth Service without breaking their articles. A doubt has arisen whether they could do so under the law as it stands, without breaking the ship’s articles and suffering loss, and the amendment of the principal Act designed to overcome this difficulty is set forth in clause 5. It provides that seamen may be granted leave of absence from their ships. That, I think, covers all the amendments that are proposed, unless, perhaps, honorable members would allow me to deal for a moment with new clause 40 (a). Honorable members will know that at the age of eighteen, cadets pass out into the Citizen Forces, and it is not quite clear that those who have been training as cadets in the Naval Forces are to continue hi the Naval Forces, or to go into what is ordinarily termed the Citizen or Military Forces. This amendment will make it clear that those who are trained as Naval Cadets will, under ordinary circumstances, continue in the Naval branch of our Defence Forces. I submit these amendments to the House as being practically formal in the hope that they will receive the approval of honorable members.
– I think we are indebted to the Minister for the very lucid way in which he has put these amendments before the House. It is quite refreshing nowadays to have the provisions of a Bill so clearly put by its mover. There is one point about which I am doubtful, Section 37 of the original Act reads -
Whenever the Commonwealth Naval Forces are actingwith the King’s Naval Forces for the purpose of training or for any Naval service -
the command of the Forces shall, subject to any Imperial Act or regulation devolve upon the Senior Naval Officer present and acting in a position of command ; and
any part of. the Commonwealth Naval
Forces may be placed under the command of any officer of the King’s Naval Forces.
That section would seem to imply the Commonwealth Naval Forces acting as often as possible, so to speak, with the Forces of the Eastern British unit. The principle underlying the Naval Agreement of 1909 was that our fleet unit should be trained in time of peace as much as possible with the other two sections of the Eastern fleet. We know that that has been very largely modified, but this particular amendment strikes me as possibly separating still further the Australian Naval Unit from the British forces in the East. I do not know whether that is the intention.
– There is no such intention.
– Instead of there being the words “whenever the Commonwealth Naval Forces are acting,” the amendment reads -
It separates the sheep from the goats, so to speak, and says that the sheep and the goats shall not meet unless in pursuance of an order made by the Governor-General.
– Is not that the understanding in our Naval Agreement?
– I do not think it is. If you are going to have two Forces acting together in time of war, it is essential to efficiency that those Forces shall act together in times of peace; otherwise you will not get that complete association of the various parts of the combined forces which is absolutely essential to the commander of the sections. Absolute knowledge is required by their joint commander of the standard of training and efficiency of both naval sections of the Forces if cooperation is to be effective in time of war, and this amendment seems to be more or less baulking that by separating the sheep from the goats. I trust that that is not the intention.
– That is not the intention. It is a request made by the legal fraternity to bring the Act into conformity with the provisions of the Dominions- Naval Discipline Act.
– It will not in any way debar us from acting as much as possible with the Eastern fleet?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, reported without amendment, and report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration of the Senate’s amendments) :
– Perhaps you will permit me, sir, to make a general statement in relation to these amendments. So far as the first two are concerned, I propose to ask the Committee to disagree with them, on the ground that they bring about a limitation of clause 3 of the Bill. Certain words were inserted at the instigation of one honorable senator, who, reading the South Australian Act, believed that, by putting in those words, he would grant an extension of a particular character. After submitting the amendment for legal opinion, the conclusion has been arrived at that it is merely making a limitation, and all that the honorable senator desires is really covered by the clause as it stands. So far as the third amendment is concerned, the Senate has seen fit to include within the provisions of the Bill members of the Naval and Military Forces of the Commonwealth. It practically puts on an equality the whole of the persons employed in our Public Service, so far as workmen’s compensation is concerned, but very properly provides that those officers cannot take advantage of any of the provisions of the Defence Act in respect of compensation if they also desire to take advantage of this measure. It practically gives them the option of deciding whether they will take advantage of this measure, or of the provisions of the Defence Act, which, under certain circumstances, provides for compensation. In addition, there’ is a proviso to clause 4, the effect of which was that no persons could claim compensation until at least seven days after an accident. The Senate has seen fit to strike that out, and, in the circumstances, the Government propose to’ agree to the amendment made by it. The other three amendments honorable members will find are consequential upon the amendment made in the definition of “workman,” with a view to including the Naval and Military Forces. I move -
That amendments x and a be disagreed with.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Remaining amendments agreed to.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Roberts) agreed to -
That Mr. Hughes,. Mr. Tudor, and Mr. Roberts be appointed a Committee to draw up a reason for the House of Representatives disagreeing to amendments Nos. 1 and 2.
Mr. Roberts, on behalf of the Commit tee, brought in the following reason-
Because the amendments cause a limitation.
House adjourned at 9.43 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 13 December 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19121213_reps_4_69/>.