6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Assistant Minister of Defence if he is aware that Admiral Henderson and many other naval experts have reported that Port Stephens is one’ of the best harbors in Australia for naval purposes. Is the Minister also aware that, because of the war, many miners in the surrounding districts are out of employment ? Under these circumstances, will the Government take into consideration the necessity of carrying out the naval works recommended for Port Stephens, so that employment may be found for these men?
– The Government is going to send a surveyor and staff to Port Stephens to make necessary surveys, and to take soundings with a view to commencing the expenditure of £5,000, which was voted on the Estimates.
– Are we to understand that £5,000 was voted on last year’s Estimates for works at Port Stephens, and that a survey of the place has not yet been begun ?
– That is so.
– I draw the attention of the Assistant Minister to the fact that, according to Admiral Henderson, Port Lincoln is one of the finest situations in Australia for a Naval Base, and I ask the honorable gentleman whether any of the money that was voted twelve months ago for naval works there has yet been spent?
Report (No. 2) presented by Mr.
Charlton, read by the Clerk, and adopted.
Listof Privates Killed
– I ask the Assistant Minister of Defence if he expects to receive a list of the privates killed in action during the engagement which took place on the landing of our troops at the Dardanelles. A list of the names of about forty officers, twenty killed, has been published, but no list of privates?
– We are very thankful for the information that we are getting. I understand that it is impossible to furnish accurate lists immediately after’ a battle.
– The engagement to which I refer took place twelve days ago.
– Those who were wounded then are being transported to hospitals in places a long way from the scene of action, and as information regarding their condition has to be obtained from the hospitals, it must take time to . acquaint us of it.
– But is there no list of privates killed in action? “We have heard only of those who have “ died from wounds.”
– The Minister makes public the whole of the information supplied to him, but if the information is incomplete in regard to this matter, I think that we should cable for fuller particulars as soon as possible.
– When does the PostmasterGeneral intend to lay on the table the award of Mr. Justice Powers in regard to the letter-carriers?
– At a very early date.
– The honorable mem ber for New England asked the other day if the Assistant Minister of Defence would ascertain the position regarding overtime in his Department. It was pointed out that permanent hands are paid for only ten hours of overtime per week, no matter how long they may have to work, and that the temporary hands are paid in full for all overtime. Has the’ honorable gentleman made inquiries, and is he in a position to tell the House exactly how matters stand ?
– The question iB being inquired into, and I hope to give a reply on Wednesday next.
– Is the Minister of Trade and Customs in a position to lay on the table a resolution remitting the duty on chaff f
– No. I have not yet prepared the resolution, but I hope to be able to do so at an early date.
– It is well known to honorable members, if not to the Cabinet, that a feud exists in the Northern Territory between the press and the Administrator.
– And between the public and the Administrator.
– Yes. As it appears that the External Affairs Department cannot put an end to this trouble, will the Prime Minister take a hand and settle it 1
– Why not withdraw the public t
– It would not take much to do that. I showed the Prime Minister a circular memorandum that I have received. Though there may be few people in the Northern Territory, those who are there are as desirous as the people here to have news. Will the right honorable gentleman see that the censor performs his duty properly, and allows the Northern Territory Times to publish the Baine news as ie published in Melbourne?
– I have not had an opportunity to consult with the Minister of External Affairs on thiB matter, because my honorable colleague is not well. I have not heard that there is a great feud in the Northern Territory.
– There has been nothing else for months.
– It is a healthy sign in the north .when things are lively - a sure sign of progress.
– It is just the opposite. I have letters frequently.
– Regarding the second! part of the question, I shall see that those living in the Northern Territory shall be afforded the same facilities, protection, and rights as are enjoyed by those living in Melbourne.
– That is all that they want. Will the right honorable gentleman see that they get that?
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Pending the consideration of making representations to the Imperial Government regarding the supply of meat from Australia, will the Minister confer with the chief exporters of the Commonwealth so bb to insure that the consumers in Australia will’ not he unduly taxed by paying abnormal prices for meat!
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Owing to the existence of arrangements between the Imperial Government and the State Governments with regard to purchase and shipment of meat for imperial purposes, and to the control which the State Governments are exercising over the quantities allotted for export, and over local prices, I do not think any effective result would follow the proposed conference.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he will inform the House what are the prices paid for sugar in New Zealand compared with Australia and the United Kingdom, and also make a statement as to the duties, charged in New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom t
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is: -
The price paid for household sugar in New Zealand is £20 per ton.
In Australia - New South Wales, £21 per ton; Victoria, £21 2s. 8d. per ton; Queensland, £23 per ton; South Australia, £22 per. ton; and in United Kingdom, £27 10s. per ton (according to press cable 8th May, 1915). There is no duty on sugar imported into New Zealand!
Under Commonwealth Tariff, duty on cane sugar is £6 per ton.
In United Kingdom duties are dependent on character of sugar, and range from 16s. 8d. per ton to 36s. 8d. per ton. Sugars like Australian cane sugar with average 98.91 polarization would come within the 36s. 8d. per ton charge.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
When the report of the Engineer-in-Chief for Railways on the present position and the estimated future progress of the East-West Railway will be placed on the table, as promised by him on 21st April (see page 2461 of Hansard) ?
– The particulars are now available, and are as follow: -
Department of Home Affairs, 84-88 William-street,
With reference to the following extract from Hansard, dated 21st April, 1915 : - “ Sir John Forrest asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
I have to advise that the present position is as follows : -
Western Australian Division. - The survey is complete and the route has been permanently located to 260 miles. A preliminary inspection has also been made between that point and the South Australian border. The permanent survey will proceed in advance of the platelaying, and will be continued through to Ooldea.
South Australian Division. - The survey is complete and the route has been permanently located from Port Augusta to Ooldea - 428 -miles 71. chains from Port Augusta.
Estimated Future Progress of this Railway.
It is estimated that the rails will be laid throughout towards the end of next year, although very heavy earthworks are now being approached at the South Australian end, and the rate of platelaying will thereby be considerably reduced. During the past four weeks over 46 miles of rails have been laid.
I am of opinion that since my appointment no delay has taken place in the construction of the line, as although the work was held up at the western end for several weeks owing to an industrial dispute, and heavy earthworks in the eastern division considerably hampered the progress, since my appointment 350 miles of track have been laid, and of this length 240 miles have been laid during the last six, and 133 during the last three months.
The original intention was that the line should not be ballasted. Some time ago, however, it was decided that the line was to be ballasted throughout, and action was taken to select suitable quarry sites, and to procure the necessary rock crushers, engines, and other plant and equipment.
Rock crushing plants are now being erected in the western division at 75 miles, and a further plant will also be erected at the 205- mile. In the eastern division rock crushing plants are being erected at the 71-mile. Other crushing plants will be erected as required.
Ballasting has been completed to the 40-mile in the South Australian division, gravel being used. A considerable quantity of gravel ballast has also been done in the western division.
Western Australian Division. - Distance from Kalgoorlie, 69 miles. Karonie (late Cardonia) Reservoir with weir, approximate capacity, 7,000,000 gallons. In course of construction.
It is proposed to provide reservoirs in the vicinity of 104-mile and 132-mile, and at other points along the route, and the surveyor is now engaged locating suitable sites.
Distance from Port Augusta - 52 miles - Bookaloo Reservoir, approximate capacity 6,000,000 gallons, now being lined and roofed. 94 miles - Windabout Reservoir, now being constructed, approximate capacity 5,000,000 gallons. 130 miles - Eucolo Reservoir, now being. constructed, approximate capacity 5,000,000 gallons. 323 miles - Wynbring Reservoir, to be constructed, approximate capacity 3,000,000 gallons.
It is also proposed to provide reservoirs at other suitable points along the route, and thesurveyors are now engaged locating suitablesites.
A great deal of shallow boring has been done in the eastern division as far as Tarcoola,. to provide water for the construction gangs and locomotives.
Two boring contractors, with full plant and equipment, have been engaged in boring_ for water in the western and eastern divisions. Bores have been sunk as follows : -
Distance from Kalgoorlie - 205 miles, 220 miles, 235 miles, 250 miles, 280 miles, 310 miles.
Distance from Port Augusta- 426 miles, 438 miles, 463 miles, 493 miles.
The boring is now being continued east of the 810-mile towards the South Australian border and westward of Ooldea. “ 3. Whether the rolling-stock, viz., locomotives, carriages, and waggons, &c, is under -order and under construction ; and, if so, the quality and estimated cost of such rollingstock?”
I have to advise that with the locomotives now on hand, and those for which contracts have been arranged, sufficient provision has been made for building the line.
A number of waggons are now under contract, and these will enable the work to be pushed on; but further ballast waggons will be required, and the question of obtaining these is now in hand.
Locomotives, Carriages, and Waggons for Working the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway when completed.
The question of the rolling-stock that will be required is having full consideration, and plans, &c, are now in hand. Tenders will be called to permit of the stock being in readiness when the line is ready for the through public traffic. The data is not sufficiently advanced to permit of the estimate of the cost of such rolling-stock being submitted, but up to the 30th ultimo £432,286 has been expended on Tolling stock. “ 4. The total expenditure on the railway to date ?”
The total payment from Loan Funds for the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway to 19th ultimo is £3,319,737, which is inclusive of payments for locomotives, rolling-stock, also workshop machinery and equipment, the greater portion of which will remain for the working and the upkeep of the line after completion. The amount includes moneys remitted to London to provide for payments there, also the value of stores and materials on hand. (Signed) Norris G. Bell,.
Acting Commissioner and Engineer-in-Chief.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Will the Minister lay on the table of the House a return showing the total weight and value of the imports into Australia during the years 1913 and 1914, of strawboards and leatherboards)
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
The information desired by the honorable member will be found on page 23 (Tariff Items 356 (k) and 256 (n)) of the “ Statistics of Imports and Excise, Etc.” recently circulated by the honorable the Minister for Trade and Customs.
It will be observed that leatherboard is included in a group with millboard, greyboard, and woodboard, and separate figures for leatherboard cannot be supplied.
Imports of leatherboard, &c, during 1913 and first six months of 1914 were - 1913- quantity not recorded, £60,395.
First six months of 1914 - quantity not recorded, £38,686.
Imports of strawboard during 1913 and first six months of 1914 were - 1913-74,593 cwt., £25.083.
First six months of 1914 - 35,879 cwt., £11,809.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
asked the Min ister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 to 5. As previously explained, the number of cases of duplicated marirings on the certified lists is not greater than might have been expected to have resulted from error or misunderstanding.
In the absence of some tangible evidence of wrong-doing, the persons concerned cannot properly be charged with double voting or be called upon to prove their innocence, or required to answer questions as to their action or movements on polling day.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether he will obtain from the Federal Capital Director of Design and Construction (Mr. Griffin) the estimated cost of the artificial lakes proposed by him in the Federal Capital area ?
– Yes. I have asked Mr. Griffin to supply the information desired by the honorable member, who will be duly informed on receipt, tnereof.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether he will lay upon the table of the House all papers relating to his statements in the Argus of the 7th May that -
” Mr. Griffin claims that, according to his agreement, he should be the solearbiter of what has to be done in connexion with carrying out his premiated plan for building the city ?”
“He (Mr. Griffin) also claims that he should have full liberty to retain what expert assistance he may require?”
– I shall havemuch pleasure in allowing the honorable member who asked the question, or any other honorable member, to inspect thedepartmental files on the subject.
Medical Examination: Discharge of
Soldier’s Wife: Pay of Provisional. Lieutenants : Enlistment of Postal Employes: Selection of Nurses-.’ Railway Passes for Soldiers
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Prime - Minister, upon notice -
In view of the Education Department of Victoria compelling the resignation of a -lady teacher at Toolangi, who married a soldier going to the front, will the Minister try and induce the Education Department of Victoria to abstain from dismissing any lady teacher or compelling her to resign should she marry a soldier?
– As the question refers to a function of State Government, I can only bring the honorable member’s question under the notice of the Government concerned.
Mir. PIGOTT asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are-
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Assistant Minister,, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Whether it is a fact that railway passes, which were issued to members of the Expeditionary Forces to enable them to visit their homes prior to departure, have been stopped; if so, why?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The issue of railway passes to members of the Australian Imperial Force, to enable them to visit their homes prior to departure, has not been stopped.
These passes are, however, only made available for use on the railways within the State in which the troops are actually being trained.
The following papers were presented : -
Papua Act -
Infirm and Destitute Natives Account -
Statement of the Transactions of the Trustees, 1913-14.
Public Service Act -
Appointment of G. F. Chilton as OfficerinCharge, Class E, Professional Division,
Wireless Telegraph Station, Port Moresby.
Promotion of H. W. Hilton as Divisional Returning Officer, 3rd Class, Clerical Division, Electoral Division of Angas, Department of Home Affairs, South Australia.
Debate resumed from 7th May (vide page 3007), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- In addressing myself to the second reading of this Bill, I wish to express approval of its main purpose, which, I understand, is to eliminate the enemy from any beneficial interest in Australian contracts. Reading the measure, as I have done, somewhat more closely in the last few days, it does appear to me doubtful whether some of its provisions will effect the purpose aimed at, and particularly the last clause of tlie measure, which, on further examination, I think will be regarded as too wide and somewhat dangerous. We have had two very interesting speeches on this question from legal members of the Opposition. I hope to discuss the matter from an entirely different stand-point. Although the measure is general in character, it is clearly designed for the recovery of - the base-metal trade, and I wish to speak as a layman who has endeavoured to inform himself as to the conditions surrounding the raising, treatment, and marketing of those important products. I listened attentively to the speech of the Attorney-General, which seemed to be divided into three phases. First of all, he spoke as the chief law adviser of the Crown, and in that capacity we may leave him in the custody of the legal members of the House. Then he spoke as a law-giver with patriotic intent, seeking to free these important industries from the embarrassing grip of the enemy, and when he spoke in that capacity I think he echoed the sentiments of every member of the House. Whatever our views may be on general politics, we all desire to cancel the enemy out of these contracts in a way that will protect Australian interests, and give us future immunity. Then the AttorneyGeneral spoke as an expositor of facts relating to this industry. It is with that part of his address I propose to deal particularly, because an examination of the speech revealed an extraordinary conglomeration of fact and fancy. The facts were already known to the Empire, and particularly Australia, through the columns of the daily press for many years past. It was hard to separate the facts and the fancies because of the craftsman’s skill’ of the Minister in presenting them. I think the Attorney-General in his statement of some of the alleged facts was extremelydogmatic. I, myself, do not hold my political opinions very insecurely, nor do I voice them without emphasis, but I could not help feeling considerable envy of theAttorneyGeneral because of the way in. which he presented this part of his case. The , honorable gentleman reminded meof a saying of Sidney Smith, after readingone of Lord Macaulay’s celebrated essays, “ I wish I could be as certain of anything as Tom Macaulay appears to be about everything.” That was the view one took of the statement of the AttorneyGeneral regarding the rise and development of the base-metal industry, and itscontrol in Europe. The Attorney-General1’ said, “ This is a world-wide war, and it isbeing waged for the purpose of a world power.” Later on, he added, “ I think that that nation has committed the most fatal blunder in its whole history in entering the lists of battle when she could have achieved her whole purpose withoutrisk and with comparatively little expenditure and loss of time.” Thatappeared to be an extraordinarily mischievous and extravagant statement. That Germany, because of her progress incertain branches of commerce and production, without resorting to war with theAllies, and particularly with Great Britain, has, or could have, practically achieved commercial supremacy, is a statement that I had not expected to hear from any Australian statesman orpolitician. The Attorney-General, however, undertook to prove the statement. After reading an extract from a formerspeech he had made in this House respecting the output of certain Australian mines, and the treatment of that output abroad, he said - 1 put this forward to substantiate my statement that the position of Germany in her efforts to secure world power had reached u point when it needed no more than that she should press on in the direction she was going in order to achieve it.
And he finished with these memorablewords -
German influence is dominant throughout the many industries of Australia.
There is no necessity to buttress so good a measure as this in its purpose by argument that will npt stand the test ‘of analysis or examination. It is lamentably true, as I shall endeavour to show, that, in particular directions, Germany has secured an undue and preponderating influence. But can it be said with equal truth that Germany has secured any influence whatever, or has any substantial interests, in the great industries on which the people generally of this country depend ? Take, for example, wheat, wool, meat, hides, tallow, butter, fruit and wine; is it suggested by the AttorneyGeneral that the German influence has control in any of these great industries, which may be truthfully said to form in combination the bedrock of Australian industry and commerce? Whether the Attorney-General uses a microscope or a telescope, he will fail to -detect such influence in production or exchange as he has suggested. If we leave primary production and turn to manufacturing, we do not find German influence paramount in connexion with the hats, boots, or other clothing we wear. But on the contrary, we find the production of our’ food and also our clothing practically free from ulterior or improper influence of the kind. And so with the buildings which shelter our people from Queensland to Tasmania. We thus see that the three great staples of comfort, together with innumerable connected industries - such as the manufacture of fertilizers, agricultural and other machinery - are practically untrammelled.
– The honorable member makes that statement, but I do not admit its accuracy.
– Surely the honorable gentleman cannot challenge the accuracy of the statement respecting our primary products? Can it be said that German influence is rife in the meat indutry, or any of its dependent industries ?
– It is very easy to select certain industries.
– I am making the widest selection possible, from our primary products to the manufacture of the things we eat and wear; and I instance the exportable products on which the nation’s life blood depends, and which keep ns prosperous and healthy in international competition. I regret that, in order to fortify arguments already strong enough, the Attorney-General has seen fit to make statements, which, quoted elsewhere, might give rise to improper inferences. Similarly, although in a less’ degree, the honorable gentleman, with clear intent - pardonable, I have no doubt, to his mind, but, susceptible, again, to misinterpretation - made use of criticisms about operators and interests associated with the basemetal industries that left an unfair impression on the minds of honorable members and the country. It cannot be said, if we follow his speech, that he made any direct charge or aspersions on those who conduct those industries though it may be said that, inferentially, the impression was conveyed that those men are responsible for the fact that Germany and Austria have gained such a wide power over the treatment and handling of base metals on the Continent of Europe.
– I do not think I said anything at all about Austria.
– Not about Austria, because, so -far, the influence of Austria in these matters is just in its initial stages, although it is, as the honorable gentleman indicated, showing evidence of progress. If what J have said is the meaning of the honorable gentleman’s words it should nob be allowed to pass unchallenged or uncommon ted on in this House. While these are features of trade that we do not desire to expand, but to limit, we ought not to pass aspersions of deficient patriotism on men who have delevoped the huge interests to which I have referred, or suggest or say that they have been selfish, and not thoughtful, in regard to the interests of their country-
– The facts are as I have stated
– I should not mind if the honorable member had merely stated facts, but he has stated them in such a way, not only in his speech on this Bill, but, by way of interjection, in regard to another Bill, as to imply that there are in our midst men who put self before country, and would trade with the enemy even if it meant the sacrifice of our national interests. It is probably true that there are such men; but for the honorable gentleman to suggest that the men engaged in these industries–
– I made no such suggestion.
– Even if the statements were true - if all the Attorney-General has suggested or expressed were true - surely, he will see - I say this with great respect - that they have been merely put- ting into operation the doctrine of the Free Trade party of which “he was, within my memory, the finest oratorical exponent in the State from which he comes. These men have evidently been trying to buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest; and, while such criticism might well come from those who do not believe in that principle, it hardly comes with propriety from a gentleman who regards it as the basic canon of his economic faith.
– I am wondering what is coming - dona ferentes.
– I do not wish to dwell further on this point except to say that, after considerable reading on the question and a good deal of investigation amongst men who know, my view is that those associated with these industries are not at all responsible for their drift to the enemy country. The rise of metallurgical science on the Continent, chiefly on the great coal-fields of Belgium, Silesia, and Westphalia, and of scientific research, with the incentive given thereby, have been responsible for the transfer of the great treatment works from England to Germany, and, in some cases, to Belgium. Just in the same way the progress of organic and industrial chemistry, particularly during the last forty years, has been responsible for the transfer of the great aniline-dye industry from England elsewhere. But it cannot be said that men in Australia are responsible for this. They have been endeavouring, in the interests of Australia, to increase our exports and our wealth - to sell to the first and best buyer that came along; and, although we are at war, let us be quite fair to them, and see that the services they have rendered are not forgotten. I shall endeavour to ‘show that these great combinations for the purpose of regulating either the output or sale of the raw products from these mines are not unbeneficial to Australia. It is customary for many honorable members on both sides to talk of combines, conventions, and syndicates as ‘ if they were anathema ; but, in my opinion, the association of many of our big producing agencies with the conventions that have sprung up in the last few years, have protected, and, perhaps, as the honorable member for Barrier will clearly see, saved many of the industries from injury, if not from practical extinction.
– They have kept some of the mines going.
– In these industries there are, as we know, periods of feast and famine - sharp fluctuations and dislocations through the rise or fall of prices - and the effect of the conventions has been, iu many cases, to steady up’ the industries, to introduce more capital, to give the workmen larger wages, and, I admit, to give the capitalists larger profits. I should say that thebenefit we have enjoyed from these conventions amounts to at least 90 per cent. The very men who have joined those conventions have also taken, I think, an extremely patriotic stand dur-. ing the war. I know very many of them well enough to speak to in terms of friendship; and this may, I am afraid, to some honorable members, discount the force of my utterances. However, had these men been timid, they would probably have shut the mines down when the war broke out - when they could not longer sell to the old buyers and there were no other buyers “ on the mat,” and when, with the banks not ready to render very liberal financial assistance, wonderful courage and sagacity were required to cope with the situation. Those men, I say, with patriotism and courage kept the mines going; and in view of the great service they have rendered, they should” be free’ from such criticism as that to which I am taking exception.
– I thought that this Bill was to help them.
– I recognise that the companies are favorable to the broad principle of the Bill, and I do. not suggest anything else.
– That is the reason I am supporting the Bill.
– The object of my remarks is to place those men in a proper light in view of the suggestion of unpatriotic conduct on their part. Many communities like those of the Barrier. Mount Morgan, and Mount Lyell, unsupported as they are by any other form of industry, have been the special problem of the Commonwealth and State Governments; and that problem has been practically solved by the determination of those interested to keep the mines going.
– I am here to vote for the Bill because I think it will h-3lp the industries.
– I realize that that is the honorable member’s attitude, and I join With him, though, perhaps, we may differ as to details, particularly as to the wisdom of the last clause. As to the main object of the measure, however, it receives indorsement from both sides. I should now like to present another view. The Attorney-General used these words -
Most, if not all, of the mining companies of Australia have entered into contracts for the disposal of their products up to the year 1921.
What conclusion or inference do honorable members draw from that statement? Personally, I took it to mean that the great bulk of the companies are bound by .contracts with an enemy country for about six years - that the great bulk of the products of the mines are subject to contracts extending over that period. I wrote to and received replies from every company in order to ascertain exactly how the contracts stood, because I doubted the correctness of that interpretation of the honorable gentleman’s remark. I do not desire to trespass on the patience of honorable members by reading the replies, but merely to show how far it is from *the truth that these companies have been tied up in the way suggested, except ‘ in one case. Now there is only one company which has any contract extending to 1921. Some have no contracts. Some have contracts for a portion of their output. Some have contracts with alien enemies, but the great bulk of them are about to expire, and will expire, long before 3921.
– Does the honorable gentleman say the great bulk of the output or the great bulk of the mines?
– I say the great bulk of the mines.
– I say the great bulk of the output is tied up.
– I will show the honorable gentleman that that is. not so.
– And the one mine that I spoke of is equal to the whole lot of the others taken together.
– Only where zinc concentrates are concerned.
– Still zinc concentrates are a big thing to Broken Hill.
– A big thing, but not so big as lead. I was astonished to see the comparative values of the lead and zinc concentrates. But I am making these .suggestions in a desire to put this matter right.
– How does the honorable gentleman propose to put it right?
– By information which I hope to give to the House if the honorable gentleman will allow me.
– If the honorable gentleman gives any information I shall give the information we have at our disposal.
– I shall be glad if such is done, because I think the House did not get much information during the earlier debate, except that contained in one statement from the Minister. Before the Bill disappears 1 think the fullest publicity should be given to this matter in the interests of everybody concerned. I have taken the not unpardonable course of writing to the companies concerned in order to find out how their contracts stand. In one case the information is supplied privately. In another, it is given for my own information only, and I will not use this information. But from other sources I received considerable information. I asked the Broken Hill, Block 14, Company what zinc concentrates contracts they had, and what lead concentrates contracts they had. The company replied that the whole of their output for the year is sold locally. The honorable gentleman knows where it goes. That company has no contract with the enemy.
– Block 14 is not a very big mine.
– No. It is not big, but I am giving the companies in their due order. . I shall give the Broken Hill Proprietary last. That is the company which has one contract, stretching into 1921. Block No. 10 Company has a contract for the sale of lead concentrates which expires on the 31st December, 1915 - that is, the coming December. This company does not produce any zinc concentrates, so that the whole of its produce of lead concentrates is covered by this contract ending in 1915, apart altogether from any consideration whether, in the meantime, it is suspended or voided. The North Broken Hill contract for its lead concentrates expired on 31st, December, 1914, and they have no zinc concentrates contract at all. They are producing tailings which go to the Amalgamated Zinc Company. The Broken Hill South people say that their contract was suspended on the 3rd August, 1914 - that is, on the outbreak of the war - and subsequently cancelled.
– That is what they say.
– Yes. I am giving the information contained in their answers, and I think the House would be interested to know just exactly what the position is.
– In what way were the contracts cancelled 1
– By mutual consent, according to the answer of the secretary who writes me. However, I wish the honorable gentleman would let me go on. This company produces no zinc concentrates, but the zinc tailings go to the Amalgamated Zinc Company. The British Broken Hill Proprietary tell me that their lead concentrates contract expires on the 31st December, 1917, and the zinc concentrates contract expires on the same day. They do not stretch to anything like the extent to which the honorable gentleman has referred.
– That is the only British company.
– I think all these companies are British companies. I do not know where they originated, but all the Broken Hill companies stand as combinations of Australian and English capital. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company, which is, of course, the largest, have no lead concentrates contracts at all, but their zinc concentrates contract expires on the 31st December, 1921. That is the only one of all the silver, lead, or zinc propositions that I can discover, which has a contract stretching so far. The bulk of them expire much earlier. The Zinc Corporation Limited have done a great deal here and at Home to get such a measure as that before us, and they inform me in their letter that they have even gone so far as to communicate with the Imperial Government, urging them to introduce into the Mother of Parliaments a Bill to terminate these contracts. I think I am entitled to read a letter which the chairman of that company placed before the Right Honorable Lewis Harcourt, Secretary of State for the Colonies, urging that this course should be followed, on the 11th January of this year. Amongst other things - and I particularly desire the Attorney-General to listen, to this - Mr. Govett, chairman of the Zinc Corporation, in his letter to Mr. Harcourt, says -
All the counsel consulted by us coincide in the opinion that the contract is void -
That is dealing with their own contract with the enemy -
But the Australian lawyers are not so certain, and nothing can be done without absolute certainty.
And then he goes on to say that he regrets that there should be conflict between the British and Australian lawyers. He proceeds -
It appears to us intolerable that it is not possible to establish, or even definitely ascertain from the Law Officers of the Crown, our legal position under a given contract, and on the principle of helping ourselves as far as possible we instituted an action in the Court of Chancery and obtained an injunction against ourselves to prevent our making a new contract.
Strange procedure, but that is what the company did. This came to the Special Court of Appeal, which was set up to decide questions of law regarding the effect of the law upon various clauses in various contracts. The ‘ letter goes on -
Six Judges were on the Bench, of whom five appeared to treat the case as a magnificent joke, and would not hear the appeal on the ground that we had not brought the alien enemy into Court.
The honorable gentleman, who is familiar with the law, will see that that must have been impossible, and the letter goes on to say that, after endeavouring to have their position defined by appeal to the Courts,- they appealed to the Imperial Government to give some measure of this kind.
– I do not think that shows much patriotism on the part of the British Judges.
– I do not think British Judges are so much concerned with patriotism as with the interpretation of the British law. I made some inquiries from the “Amalgamated Zinc Company, and they tell me -
We had no contract existing immediately prior to the war with regard to lead concentrates.
Theirs are the biggest treatment works of the whole lot -
Our contract for the sale of zinc concentrates expires on 31st December, 1919.
– Whom is the contract with?- Hirsch?
– The Australian Metal Company. Dealing with copper, because the remarks of the honorable gentleman extended to copper, the Mount Lyell people inform me that their contract expires on the 31st December next. With regard to the Mount Morgan Company, their communication is marked “Private,” and I cannot use it.
– To these periods must be added the war interregnum.
– Quite so; if the contract is only suspended. Some of the companies are advised that their contracts have already been voided. I am talking of those which have been suspended. The Mount Oxide Copper Company say they have a contract with Melbourne and Sydney for 2,000 tons of copper per year, of which 500 tons have been delivered. This contract would have expired on the 31st December last had it not been for a clause suspending it in the event of the war. A contract held by the Hampden and Cloncurry Copper Mine for the sale of blister copper expires on the 31st December this year. I put these facts before the House hoping to show that there is no necessity whatever to exaggerate the intensity of any criticism levelled against these companies. Many of their contracts are expiring, some have expired, and the ones that stretched from year to year did so for a very good reason, as the honorable gentleman will see. Zinc concentrates were offered by the Australian people in their present form to the treaters in Europe when they were using a cruder kind of material, and before they would alter their machinery or discard their other sources of supply, and enter into contracts with Australian companies, they necessarily demanded some assurance that supplies would be continuous over a considerable period. That was merely an ordinary business precaution taken on both sides, and it led to the making of contracts that stretch over this embarrassing time.
– The obvious retort to that is that that applies also to the British capitalists who are to be induced to come into these concerns.
– Quite so; but I wish my honorable friend would not think of retorts so much as following sympathetically my argument.
– I am trying to be as sympathetic as I can.
– As you can - yes. Now, I want to take the question of these conventions, and deal with their rise and influence on the industries that they affect, because it has been implied that a con vention is a very heinous thing, and that the men associated with conventions have been guilty of prostituting their trust and doing an injury to the nation. Let us look at the facts in connexion with them. The Lead Convention, the most important in some -respects of them all, was first mooted in 1908. It was established in 1909, and if the honorable gentleman will take the report of one of our largest producing companies - the Broken Hill Proprietary Company - he will find in the circular issued to the shareholders on the 31st May, 1909, this statement on the subject of the Cbn?vention which was issued for the information of the investing people of the State -
During thc half-year conferences between some of tuc chief producers of lead in the world were held in Paris, and at these meetings the chairman of the London Board, Mr. Dutton, represented your company. It was felt that some arrangement might be arrived at whereby a more even range of values could be maintained, and thus to some extent avoid the continued varied fluctuations which have ruled for some time.
After considerable negotiation a mutually satisfactory agreement was arrived at, and as there would appear to be an opinion that the arrangement .is one merely to put up prices, your directors desire to inform shareholders that this is altogether erroneous. The agreement specifically states that its object is the “ regularization of lead prices, but not to create an artificial level of prices.” As wilt be seen, no artificial inflation, is intended, the object liebig to obtain such control of the. disposition, of the lead in such markets and ways as will maintain & regular range of prices to such extent as the law of supply and demand may allow.
That, surely, would be the effort of any body of men, if they were wise in their generation, whether dealing with an international or u purely local trade. Such men would certainly endeavour to prevent those sharp catastrophic rises and falls which dislocate industry, and that was the object of the whole arrangement. The published matter in relation to this Convention shows that its members comprise nearly all - with one exception, I understand, all - the big English lead refiners, many American lead treaters, and most of the Spanish, German, Grecian, and Belgian smelters. Strangely enough, there is only one Australian company - the Broken Hill Proprietary Company - associated with it. If we are to trust the preliminary announcements, as well as other statements, these people bound themselves to only one condition, and that was to reduce the production of lead when prices fell below a certain level. This was, apparently, to prevent the sharp rising and falling of prices that sometimes takes place, and which upsets all calculations. These sharp fluctuations often meant the enforced idleness of mines and fields and the destruction of contracts as well as of their financial arrangements. But the strange fact remains that not once since 1909 has that one condition, for which these firms united, been put into operation. The Convention proved in itself a protection, and had a steadying influence without having to be called into operation. But even if it had been put into -operation once, twice, or a dozen times since 1909, it could have- affected the production of only one mine in Australia, and that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company. No other Australian mine would’ have been in any way affected by it.
– The other mines were what the honorable member would describe as non-union mines.
– I am not dealing with that point. The honorable member knows more about the actual conditions of work at Broken Hill than I do. I am merely taking the broad view of a spectator, who has hunted up the facts for himself with the object of trying to understand them, as we should all endeavour to do. The work of this Convention cannot be held to have adversely affected the output, the price, or the destination of any lead the product of an Australian mine. On the contrary, the regular prices which have been insured, as I shall endeavour to show, later on, in other lines, have had a very beneficialinfluence upon the particular field that is so vitally concerned in this matter.
– And this has meant the opening up of new fields.
– Yes ; while, as the honorable member for Barrier knows, it has proved a lasting benefit to the men whom he claims to specially represent. The honorable member spoke a little while ago of the comparative values of zinc and lead. I find, according to” the official figures for1913 - the last full year available - that the exports of lead concentrates from Broken Hill in that year amounted in value to £3,171,483, while the exports of zinc concentrates represented only £1,088,313. It will thus be seen that the influence of the Lead Convention which is exercised over three-fourths of the produce of a great field has been a beneficial, and not a deleterious, one, and that it should be upheld by the representatives of a producing nation into whose coffers falls one of its results. The consumer at the other end of the world may take a totally different view ; but . the figures as to our consumption of zinc and lead are so small relatively to our production that we must look at this matter almost entirely from the point of view of a producing nation.
– Are we to infer from the honorable member’s remarks that he thinks we should be very careful that we do not prevent the Lead Conveution from carrying on?
– No, I am. criticising the Attorney-General’s suggestion that this Convention was bad.
– I did not suggest it. What I did was to state the facts in regard to it, which show that it has completely dominated the lead market.
-The honorable member is too clever a tactician, I say again, with all -respect, to introduce facts unless he wishes his hearers to draw inferences from them. The very statement of these facts which fell so powerfully from his lips introduced into my mind the thought that he wished his fellow members to treat this influence as a hostile one. Like the honorable member, we all want to cancel these, contracts. But in doing so, do not let us misread the facts relating to the industries concerned. As a producing nation we have, benefited by the Lead Conveution.
– Whatever I said about the Lead Convention was absolutely true. I say that it did and does control the output and the price of lead, that it is controlled by Germans, and that it does limit and has limited the output of Australian metals.
– I am not used to these outbursts, Mr. Speaker, and they are rather embarrassing. I shall deal in due order with the question of German influence. The facts clearly show that while this Convention was designed, should the necessity arise, to regulate the output, it has never yet regulated the output of one mine in the world, to say nothing of any Australian production, and that even if it had been operative to its full extent it could not have influenced the output of more than one mine in Australia, although that admittedly is the largest one.
– I do not agree with the honorable member.
– I did not expect the AttorneyGeneral to do so, since he has not had an opportunity to inform his mind by a reference to anything more than the bare official facts.
– I have, and not from the source from which the honorable member has drawn them.
– The honorable gentleman does not know anything about my sources of information, but I know what have been the sources of his information. I asked him in this House, as Hansard will show, whether the statement which he made in an answer to a question on 10th December, 19.14, was obtained entirely from official sources.
– What statement was that?
– The statement which the honorable gentleman read on 10th December dealing with this trade, and which he repeated when introducing this Bill. On the day following the making of that statement, I asked him whether it was founded upon official information obtained in the raid, and he replied “ Yes.”
– What statement did I make?
– I am referring to the honorable gentleman’s Ciceronian statement in which he dealt so powerfully with the Australian metal trade, and which he repeated when introducing this Bill.
– The facts came from an official source.
– Now the honorable gentleman says they did not.
– Will the honorable member show me the Hansard in which my statement appeared?
– The honorable gentle- man may obtain it for himself. I am referring now to the speech which he made when moving the second reading of this Bill. Coming to the closing part of this argument, let me say that during the Convention’s regime and its control of this trade, as suggested, Broken Hill has had the time of its life - a more sustained output, higher wages, greater prosperity. This being so, not only the mine-owners and the interests that have absorbed their money there, but all the operatives have felt the benefit of this influence. In these circumstances, therefore, I suggest that we think again before we describe these attempts to organize a great industry of an international character as being anti-social and non-beneficial to what is chiefly a producing nation. The Attorney-General says that this Convention is controlled by German influence. I doubt that. I ask him to publish the names of the governing committee of the Lead Convention. If they be produced, it will be seen that German influence is not controlling it, although it goes without saying that German influence has operated largely over the products raised from the mines. The London broker of this Convention is Henry Merton Limited. It is true, as we all know, that Merton has German connexions, but he cannot be entirely German, or he . would not still be one of the brokers for the British Government in connexion with the supply of metal.
– I do not know about that.
– Why not? ‘
– Unfortunately, we are not sure of that.
– Is it suggested that the British Government would employ in the purchase of metals, so vital to them in this war, a man whose loyalty might be -doubted ?
– It might have been true of him prior to the war.
– But Merton is still one of the brokers or agents for the British Admiralty.
– I say that the selling agency and the Convention are dominated now by German influence.
– Not at all. The honorable gentleman has admitted otherwise. He told us that the Germans had withdrawn from this Convention.
– I said that the German element had withdrawn, but the influence was still there.
– It is difficult to combat statements of that kind. The honorable gentleman cannot prove his statement, and I cannot prove mine.
– If my statement be not correct why has the Broken Hill . Proprie- tary Company given notice of its intention to terminate the agreement?
– Because it wishes to be freed from dealing with enemy subjects, if it is possible to do that and still to keep its industry going. The company joins heartily with the Attorney-General in the desire to reach that position ; but that fact does not bear upon the question of the control of the Lead Convention, which I am now discussing. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company has not said a word against the Lead Convention. The Attorney-General is confusing the contracts they have made for selling with the Convention regulations. The company is free to believe that the Convention is good, although it may desire a purchaser for its products coming from a more friendly nation.
– But the Broken Hill Proprietary Company-
– I wish, Mr. Speaker, that you would keep the AttorneyGeneral quiet.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral to cease these interjections.
– I would not make such a request, but that my time is limited, and that I have a parcel of matter which I am afraid I shall fail to deliver if I am constantly interrupted. This trade is international and interlocked. It is true that the Germans have been the chief purchasers of lead concentrates, but the Convention itself, so far as I am able to judge, has not been entirely or largely subject to their influence. In all these conventions the desire has been, apart altogether from patriotic thoughts and even before the war, to try to make this new growth of industry, stretching as it does across national borders and covering many nations, into an international arena in order to ascertain whether it is not possible, in some wise way, to prevent the unfair and improper effects of competition by equitable regulation. That apparently is the desire of all parties concerning this Convention. The Zinc Convention is somewhat different. There is an International Spelter Syndicate which is really the Zinc Convention. It comprises every European smelter of consequence, and its doings are quite public. Every metal trade journal that one picks up knows something of it, and deals largely with it. Here, for example, is the Statist of 2nd August, 1913, a journal without politics, but with a vast amount of financial and economic knowledge, which dealt with the Spelter Syndicate - this was over two years ago - in this way -
The spelter trade is controlled, so far as Europe is concerned, by a Convention framed on approved lines. This Convention consists of three groups which, for convenience, may he termed A, B, and C. Group A consists of the associated German and Belgian makers, whose output is disposed of by a joint selling office. Messrs. Beer, Sondheimer, and Company, Aron Hirsch and Son, and The Metallgesellschaft, acting as selling agents. It is this group which is known as the Verband, and which fixes official prices. Group B comprises a number of Belgian and French producers who are outside group A, and who sell independently. Group C consists of the English producers, who also sell as they please. Groups B and C have an arrangement as regards production with group A, with which they exchange information regarding output, stocks, and some other matters. America is outside the Convention ; indeed, a fair quantity of American spelter has been imported into this country recently from Baltimore, though the selling has ceased now that the price has fallen, and indeed some metal sold for export has been bought back. The Convention, which was formed originally in 1009, was elaborated in the following year on the occasion of its renewal, and under present conditions lasts till April, 191G, so far as group A is concerned, but the renewal of this, which is really the effective group, is subject to the renewal in April, 1914, of the international groups.
That period nas since passed, and the convention has been renewed -
The main interest in connexion with the Convention lately has centred on the reduction in the price of spelter to a figure below £22. This is the critical range, for when the price has been below this level for four months automatic restriction of production comes into force, provided also that the stocks of the three groups are 50,000 tons or more.
That is the object of the Zinc Convention. It is pretty well the same as that of the Lead Convention, but organized in more detail, and apparently in a more efficient way. As to its effect on trade, and particularly on Australia, first of all it is regrettable that the Germans do, as selling agents and the controlling force of the chief group, exercise the major control over this Convention and its doings; but it is strange that, although German control is so undisputed in regard to the principal group, the great bulk of our zinc concentrates do not go to Germany, but go to our own Allies - Prance and Belgium. Let me compare
Belgium and Germany. In 1913, Belgium received from us 2,792,738 cwt. of lead concentrates, while Germany received 191,602 cwt. Thus, over 2,750,000 cwt. of our lead concentrates went to Belgium to help to make the great strength of the lead industry there. In regard to zinc the position is almost relatively the same. Belgium received from us in 1913 zinc concentrates to the extent of 5,960,544 cwt., while the quantity sent to Germany was only 1,660,177 cwt.
– Is it not merely a case of German interests being located in Belgium?
– That is the point. If we try to ascertain the facts from the leading metal journals, such as the Mining Magazine, which is published in London, and has such an important influence on the mining world universally, we see how this comes about. These treatment works are met with all through the Belgian coal area. They are practically all situated in the one spot, just as in Germany they are to be found in the coal districts of Westphalia and Silesia. Germans may not control all the works in Belgium, but they have large interests in some, and certainly in other cases they are operating plants there. But that fact does not alter the intent of my argument, which is that, although the Convention has been so largely German, our product has not been imported into Germany; on the other hand we have helped to build up a great industry for Belgium. A condition of the Zinc Corporation is that the supply of a maximum and minimum quantity is stipulated for. That is to say, the producers must supply a certain quantity of concentrates to theassociated smelters, but at the same time they can smelt their own product so long as they do not enter into competition with the Convention in the markets of Europe. There has never been a prohibition against exceeding the output of the maximum supply demanded by the Convention. Therefore, although the Convention is apparently in hostile international hands, it has never affected the output of one Australian mine. On the contrary, it has done a vast amount to help our mines. The prices obtained for spelter snow the benefit conferred upon Broken Hill interests. The Statist gives the highest and lowest prices for spelter from 1893, but I shall content myself by quoting the lowest. The range in the price of spelter through the 90’s> was -
Since the . Convention was started, or since the Broken Hill Proprietary completed its treatment process, and the result became a commercial reality, the prices have been -
– At the same time the world generally has been more prosperous.
– It is strange that that prosperity synchronizes with the successful treatment of zinc concentrates at Broken Hill by most modern methods, increasing the world’s supply by an output that was formerly dumped and could not be commercially treated, rendering control all the more necessary to restrain this new factor of competition, and, at the same time, there have been increased prices obtained. This fact needs not the slightest comment, and can meet with no objection. Again, I think that this attempt at scientific organization has been wise for this particular branch of trade, although the fact that German influence has been so strong is regrettable.
– Apparently that is the only trouble.
– Yes, to some who, like the honorable member, are informed upon these matters, but I regret that the subject cannot have been given the same amount of thought by Ministers. Otherwise the Attorney-General would not have delivered a speech casting a reflection on this trade, which, I think, calls rather for praise from honorable members anxious to see, not only its preservation, in Australia, but also its extension. It is suggested that one object of the Bill will be to increase smelting in Australia. I devoutly hope that it will do so. Steps are already being taken by the principal mine to raise, by debentures and guaranteed interest, £750,000 with this object. But international thinkers on this question have arrived at the conclusion that in a high-wages country, unless it has the advantage of cheap money, the successful establishment of a plant to smelt zinc concentrates cannot be hoped for, if the output is to be put into competition in the markets of the world, unless the industry is allied with the other industries of iron and steel. I shall deal with this phase of the question in a moment, because the same company is making the double effort. Experience in other parts of the world has shown ant sources of coal supply must be taken into consideration, and that the two industries are twin industries leading to mutual success. We hope, however, that there will be successful smelting in Australia, notwithstanding the fact that the records of our Mining Departments show all over Australia the wrecks of many giant smelting enterprises of all kinds, copper, tin, lead, and zinc, which have failed in the face of international competition. However the war may break down some of the disadvantages from which we suffer, and possibly this great industry may be successfully established, shedding many advantages over other industries in Australia. The AttorneyGeneral has suggested that the same kind of control as is exercised in regard to zinc and lead is being exercised in regard to copper, but his reading must have been very much astray, for there is no copper convention; there is no copper force, convention, or controlling interest in Europe, or anywhere else. There was a Copper Producers Association started in the United States of America some years ago, which endeavoured to place fantastic prices on copper, but it smashed and went out of business altogether. Australia puts on the market two kinds of copper - refined copper and blister, or unrefined copper, the great bulk being refined copper. Strangely enough, on the 1913 figures, three groups of mines - the Mount Morgan, the Mount Lyell, and the Wallaroo and Moonta mines - supply practically two-thirds of the Australian output of refined copper saleable in the open market, where there is keen competition, and prices, dependent on other industries, have shown a tendency to rise with the new prosperity of the world.
– I must confess that the Dapto people have told me a very different story.
– If the honorable member consults the proper authorities - in whatever walks of life they are - he will see that the attempt to regulate copper has failed, and that it is an absolutely free industry, though Germans again, acting through Aaron Hirsch, chiefly exercise influence, as buying agents.
– I have no wish to take up the time of the honorable member; but representatives of the Dapto people have been here, and asked us to vote a bonus or provide an export duty for copper, because they say the copper market is controlled. I understand that it is controlled by Americans.
– America exercises a larger influence on production than Germany, because of its huge production-; but, on the European side, Aaron Hirsch apparently exercises the largest control as purchasing agent, though it is really only in the regulation of competition that he has obtained that position, for no convention guarantees it to him or regulates the output. Blister copper is turned out at Cloncurry, and shipped to England, where it is refined. Therefore, so far as we are able to say and see the copper industry is free from the embarrassment of which the other industries may complain. All these facts that I have been endeavouring to give hurriedly and imperfectly convince me that the Bill should have been preceded by very careful inquiries in order to inform both Houses as to the basis of the metal trade. We have never had a complete inquiry. Able man as he is, and backed up by a competent staff, the AttorneyGeneral has done his best to get to the bottom of the trade. I doubt whether he has got there. He has certain sets of facts which reveal certain tendencies, but I believe that he is mistaken as to the basis on which the trade has been worked. The Commission, comprising Mr. Deakin, Mr. Dugald Thomson, and Mr. Knibbs, had just about begun an inquiry into this matter when they were shut off, thensupplies being stopped. They had est,amined Mr. Delprat and also, I think, Mr. Lumsden, the secretary of the Mount Lyell Company. I have not seen the record of the evidence given by these gentlemen, but I think that it should be published. At any rate, I think that a Committee of this House, or, if necessary, a Commission, if the Government think that course wiser, should take hold of the business, and examine the conditions of this trade, and its importance, scope, and possibilities, so that we may be able to assist the Government in maintaining it, and in putting it on a higher and a stronger level. I make the suggestion in the hope that it will be considered later when the Bill is being passed. I have said that the annulment of these contracts is, in my judgment, the right procedure, but we should not be too optimistic as to what is to follow. We must remember that unless after the war there arises in Great Britain or in Australia a great smelting industry, the only man who will be on the mat to buy our products will be the Germa’n. It is, therefore, of the utmost importance that we should not pass the Bill thinking that we shall then have done all that is necessary, but that we should realize that the measure will be operative only in a limited degree unless private enterprise, or some other force, comes alone to build up this industry within the British Empire. The Minister, perhaps, has in his mind the thought that the proper thine; to do would be to nationalize the industry, and a number of his supporters may hold the same view, but T take leave to doubt that this, of all industries, could be wisely controlled by the Government.
– A bonus would be especially valuable.
– A bonus might be valuable, but, above all, we must establish British smelting works, so that we may be able to produce the finished article, and to say to the world, “ You must buy on our conditions; we shall no longer put our supplies through enemy channels.” This industry has demanded more expert and scientific knowledge than any other. Those who have made the success of the treatment works which have sprung up since 1903, and have given such a worldwide reputation to our metals, have possessed knowledge and skill to a preeminent degree, and I doubt whether they would be likely to serve in a nationalized industry. The Germans have beaten the British in the metal trade because of the scientific staff associated with their works.
– And because of the long hours which the men have worked at the smelters.
– Above all, they have beaten us in matters of treatment, in technical science. We must learn that lesson. If we nationalized the industry, the Government would have to remember that the most important element of success would be found in keeping abreast of the times, and, if possible, in getting ahead. It has been said that State complementary legislation is necessary, and I hope that such legislation has been promised, although I have seen no record of such promises. Without Intra-State assistance, much of our effort may be futile We have been told, too, that communications have passed between the Government and the Imperial Government as to the view of the latter on these propositions, but we have not been told what the Imperial view is. I think that we ought to know that.
– Apparently, from what appears in to-day’s newspapers, the Imperial Government, will not give any information on the subject. A question was asked in the House of Commons.
– I saw the earlier answers, and read a definition of the attitude of the Secretary of State for the Colonies in the British newspapers, but I have not seen any recent information. This is an important consideration. This is the first time, within my knowledge, that a Dominion has legislated ab initio on international matters. I do not recollect that ever before the right, or wisdom, or necessity of advancing ahead of the British Parliament, either in time of peace or in time of war, in regard to matters in which the Imperial authorities are intimately concerned, has ever been pressed in a Dominion. I say that with great respect to the Government, because in certain matters Ministers are bearing the heavy responsibility which rests upon them at this grave period very well. I hope that, unless they shortly receive an assurance that the British Government approves of this legislation, they will advise the Governor-General to reserve the measure for the King’s assent. If they do not do that, I am afraid that the task of the Mother Country in settling the terms of peace with her enemies and Allies will be made more difficult. That, of course, we do not desire. I had intended to deal with other parts of the measure, but I think that they can be left to the Committee stage. I commend the Government for the main substance of clause 3, and hope that after fair consideration the measure will take its place on the statute-book of the country.
– I do not intend, so far as it can be avoided, to cover any of the ground so well traversed by the honorable member for Balaclava, and I think that I express the opinion of honorable members on both sides when I say that, however the Bill may be regarded, .his contribution to the debate was extremely valuable and illuminating. I wish to approach the subject from a different point of view. I do not yield to any honorable member in the desire to do everything to preserve to Australia, as an integral part of the British Empire, everything that it can gain from our enemies in the present war. But I cannot help thinking that the Bill, although I agree with one of its main objects, has been put into shape with more haste and less consideration of some of its effects than should have been given to a measure of its great importance. Under clause 4, which provides for the suspension of contracts, serious difficulties of a legal character will arise, but I shall deal with that subject more particularly in Committee. With the general object of the clause, which is that the position of those who have entered into contracts for the delivery of goods, made for a long period of years, and especially contracts for the delivery of concentrates and the products of our mining fields - contracts suspended during the war - shall be definitely defined, so far as Parliament can do it, I am in accord. But clause 3, I think, goes a great deal further than honorable members are aware. Before asking attention to its provisions, I wish to make one or two general observations concerning the complex problem of our trade relations, not merely with Germany and Austria, but also with other countries. The Imperial Government, after mature consideration, has taken a very definite position regarding the continuance of trading relations with alien subjects residing within the British Dominions. It is rumoured that the German Government has indicated its intention to confiscate the property of British persons in Germany. I do not know whether the Minister in charge of the Bill has any more definite information than is possessed by the public generally regarding this matter, but I venture to think that the proposal has not gone very far. Still, even if there is a determination to confiscate the property of British subjects in Germany, surely that is a new development of the relations arising out of the war, in regard to which it ought to be the peculiar duty of the Imperial Government - which is the Government leading in this war - to define its position. The Imperial Government, almost immediately after the war broke out, issued n proclamation defining the position of aliens - that is, of German subjects living, not in Germany, but in British Dominions. The proclamation was published early in August. After more mature consideration, the position taken up by the Empire towards alien subjects who were permitted to remain and to carry on their business in our midst was defined and enlarged in a second proclamation, which was published, not only in Great Britain, but also in every part of the British Dominions, including Australia. The earlier proclamation was revoked by the latter proclamation, which sets out in exact detail the position of enemy subjects who have been permitted to remain within the British Dominions. This second proclamation is dated the 12th September, 1914. It proclaims, to n very large extent, what has always been the common law, when a state of war exists, regarding enemy subjects permitted to remain in the country, recognising what has long been the rule throughout the civilized world, that foreigners who are subjects of the State with which the country where they are residing is at war, and are permitted to. remain within that country, not only shall not have their property confiscated, but shall be permitted to carry on their ordinary trade, and shall be protected in their civil rights as if they were subjects of the country.
– Even those interned?
– This rule, like all others, is subject to any special provisions which may have to be taken for the safety of the realm. I do not say that the circumstances are not rapidly approaching under which it may be necessary, here as in England, to adopt measures of a stronger character than have ever been taken before. I am merely stating the position defined and proclaimed by the British Government. I shall endeavour to show that clause 3 might produce the most serious embarrassment to the Imperial Government, which has charge of the relations of the British Dominions with our enemies and with other countries, and also embarrassments to a great many transactions of a perfectly legitimate character which have hitherto been permitted within Australia. The proclamation defines an enemy subject to be one who is not merely a subject of Germany, owing allegiance to the enemy, but a subject of Germany residing, in the enemy country. It is provided that -
The expression “ enemy “ in this proclamation means any person or body of persons of whatever nationality resident or carrying on business in the enemy country, but does not include persons of enemy nationality who are neither residents nor carrying on business in the enemy country. In the case of incorporated bodies, enemy character attaches only to those incorporated in an enemy country.
Enemy country is defined also, and means in this case the territory of the German and Austrian Empires. The. proclamation goes on to give express permission to British subjects to continue their trading with all subjects of the German Emperor who are still permitted to remain in the British Dominions, and those German subjects are to be protected in the contracts into which they have entered as long as they remain here, but the condition is attached that there shall be no trading, no communication, and no passing of money in any shape or form across the line which divides our territories from those of the enemy country. That is the great protection. The honorable member for Balaclava, at the conclusion of his speech, said that we must be very careful not to do anything that may embarrass the Imperial Government in the relations which it may ultimately have to establish at the conclusion of the war. I wish to emphasize that point, and to show that clause 3 may seriously embarrass the Imperial Government in what it may wish to do at the termination of a successful war. In the first place, I believe that honorable members on neither side of the House are prepared at the present moment’ to pass an Act, the effect of which will be to immediately confiscate German property. To take that step would be to go far. beyond what the Imperial Government ‘ in its wisdom has attempted to do. No matter how naturally strong our feelings are with regard to what is taking place in this uncivilized warfare, do not let us lose our heads, and in this Parliament of Australia be the first to set an example of any hysterical attitude. Let us, as far as possible, adopt and follow that splendid attitude of dignified and considered firmness adopted by the Imperial Government, holding its absolute grip- over all German properties in the British Dominions, so that when the war comes to an end we may then be in a position to make any terms we choose, and have in our hands the power to do it, and let us in the meantime prevent any money or property leaving the shores of Australia or Great Britain going to Germany. But to go beyond that, and adopt a measure which may confiscate German property would be to take a step which has not yet been taken or authorized by the Imperial Government, which should be permitted to have charge of these affairs.
– How can we start smelting operations in Australia unless we confiscate the German contracts ?
– I will deal with that matter directly; but I may say now that clause 4, which is intended to deal with those contracts, only comes into operation where the practical purpose of the contracts is indefinitely suspended. In regard to most of these contracts, several of which have come before me professionally, I have no hesitation in saying that already the effect of the war is to abrogate them altogether, and the effect of the Bill will be merely to enable companies to proceed with an added’ degree of certainty.
– Do you mean security?
– Yes, security to enable them to engage in large undertakings which they might be reluctant to undertake unless they had the certainty which the Bill gives. Clause 3 is likely to have some effects which I am certain the Attorney-General has not fully considered. I opened my remarks by saying that I did not think this portion of the Bill had received the full consideration which it deserved. It provides that an enemy contract is one -
The definition of enemy subject is limited in clause 2 to what is defined as an enemy subject under the proclamation, and there is not much criticism to be attached to it, but paragraph c, which defines as “enemy contracts” all contracts which are or are likely to be for the benefit of enemy subjects or of enemy trade, enormously extends the operation of the whole Bill, and I wish to point out to the AttorneyGeneral some of the effects of that. The Bill goes on to provide that the AttorneyGeneral is to have the judicial determination of whether any particular contract is or is not an enemy contract. I do not quarrel with the fact that an enormously important judicial determination should be vested in the AttorneyGeneral, nor do I question his ability to properly exercise it, but in this matter there is no discretion allowed. It is purely a judicial determination. The Attorney-General cannot make any distinction arising OUt of the desirability or otherwise of cancelling contracts. The Attorney-General’s duty will be to find out whether any contract falls within any of these clauses, and, if it does, that contract is ipso facto void, no matter how unjust that voidance may be, or how detrimental it may be to British subjects in Australia. If the matter is brought before him by any one who wishes to get out of a contract for his own purposes, and the Attorney-General finds that the contract is not with an enemy subject in Germany, but a contract, the ultimate profits of which will be for the benefit of enemy subjects in Germany, that contract is absolutely void. That provision, when read in conjunction with the words that -an enemy subject is “ any person, firm, or company, the business whereof is managed or controlled directly or indirectly by or under the influence of enemy subjects,” has a very wide application. I will illustrate what I mean with a very strong example - a case which has arisen in fact, the main party concerned being one with whom this House will probably have very little sympathy. I refer to the case already launched, in which an action is being brought by the Australian Metal Company against the Union Bank. A writ has already been issued, so that the matter is public property. The Australian Metal Company is a German company: for all practical purposes it is a “branch of the Metallgesellschaft, which is (essentially an enemy organization.’ That is why I take that instance. The Australian Metal Company is one which is allowed, under that proclamation, to continue to carry on its business here, provided that it gives the fullest kind of security that there shall be no transmission of money, or goods, or anything else to Germany. This foreign company is nominally an Australian company, inasmuch as it has been registered here, and that fact raises one of the great difficulties in this situation, but I am dealing with it as a company which is, to all intents and purposes, a German company, and as being in the same position as an individual subject of the German Emperor who happens to be resident here. That company sues the Union Bank, its debtor, for a large sum of money, about £20,000. The effect of clause 3 will be to say that the contract between the company and the bank is void. I ask the Attorney-General to consider whether that is meant. If the bank comes before him and under this measure asks him to declare the contract void-
– There is a saving provision.
– I am coming to that saving clause, which also seems to require further consideration. Sub-clause 5 says that every enemy contract is void except in relation to goods which have already been delivered or acts which have already been performed at the commencement of the war. The effect of those words is that the money for which the Australian Metal Company is suing belongs to the bank. If we are going to confiscate German property, for Heaven’s sake let us confiscate it for the Government and not for the banks. If we are going to take the extreme step, which the Imperial Government has not thought it advisable to take, of confiscating the property of German subjects permitted to reside in the community, let that confiscation be in the hands of the Government, and not in the hands of a private individual, or corporation, or bank. I am referring to sub-clause 5, which the Attorney-General regards as of a saving character -
Every enemy contract made before the commencement of the present war is hereby declared to be and to have been null and void as from the commencement of the present war, as regards all rights and obligations thereunder, except in relation to goods which had already been delivered .or acts which had already been . performed at that time.
In the case I am putting before the House there exists the ordinary form of contract. I have no doubt that the AttorneyGeneral had no contract of this kind in his mind at all. He was thinking of contracts for the supply of goods, but even in that case I shall show that there is likely to be a great injustice that will affect our Australian citizens just as injuriously as our enemies. But the relations of the Australian Metal Company and the bank undoubtedly come under the definition of an enemy contract, because when a man deposits money with a bank to open an account that money is not his. It is not as if he took along a bag of sovereigns and left them there for safekeeping. What happens is that the bank enters into a contract with him to pay certain money on his presenting a cheque. In this instance there is a contract which may be declared to be a contract with an enemy subject, not because the Australian Metal Company reside here, but because the ultimate profits of that contract belong to the principals of the AustraJian Metal Company who reside in Germany.
– The point is that the profits will go to Metallgesellschaft.
– Quite so; I take a very strong instance assuming that in Australia there is a mere branch of the business of an enemy subject residing in Germany, and that it is highly desirable that the whole of the profits under such contracts should be secured from being in any way transmitted to the principals in Germany until the termination of the war. Every measure which the Government may think necessary for the purpose of giving that security shall receive my hearty support.
– Would that not amount to the expropriation of private property ?
– It is expropriation of private property; and my object is to show that clause 3 necessarily compels expropriation, and that the Attorney-General has no discretion that may mitigate this. I am not suggesting that such discretion should be given.
– To annul a contract is one thing, and to take private profits and keep them is quite another.
– For instance, profits amounting to £20,000 may be lodged in the bank by the Australian Metal Company registered here, such profits being intended ultimately to go to an enemy subject residing in Germany. Of course, the Attorney-General will take steps to insure that the profits shall not go to that enemy subject abroad; and as to that we are all in accord.
– They cannot go during the war.
– Quite so; but ultimately, unless another arrangement is made by the Imperial Government in the nature of a general confiscation, these profits” ought to go to the company in Germany.
– Of course; but such profits ought not to be made in the meantime, and then there will be no profits to go to Germany at the end of the war.
– I am not talking of making profit, but of the effect of the Bill. I am speaking of a particular company here which has entered into a contract with an Australian bank to pay to the company a certain amount of money. That being a contract, the benefit of which, under the Bill, will ultimately go to the German company in Germany, it falls directly under the definition of an “enemy contract.” If I were Attorney-General, and such a case came before me, I should have to declare the contract an enemy contract. And what is the effect? The proclamation at once annuls the contract; and the debt of the bank to the company of £20,000, or whatever the amount may be, is, of course, also annulled. The bank holds the money, the Government gets nothing, and the debt is destroyed ; the only gainer is the bank, by the amount of money it promised to pay to the company. I do not suppose for one moment that the AttorneyGeneral intends anything of that kind.
– Will the honorable member let me have some particulars - not names - of the contract ?
– I know nothing about the particulars of the contract; all I know is that a writ has been issued. Such an account may never have been opened so far as I know.
– What is this a contract to do?
– The contract is the ordinary contract made by a person who opens an account by paying in a certain sum of money, the obligation of the bank under the contract being to repay that money.
– I now see what the honorable member means. He says -that this deals with deposits by aliens or by persons under paragraph c.
– I have cited an extreme case.
– I do not think that the case is as presented, but anyhow if it be so, I admit that it treads on ground that I did not intend.
– I fully anticipated that that was not the intention, but I am showing that that is the effect; and that it is very difficult to draw the line exactly. An enemy contract means any contract which is, or is likely to be, for the benefit of an enemy subject; and in this case the “ enemy subject “ is the principals of the Australian Metal Company, who are living in Germany. Under the circumstances I have instanced, the AttorneyGeneral can only do one thing, namely, declare the contract void; and the effect is confiscation, though the benefit is not to the Government, but to the party to the contract who seeks to have it declared void. This is an illustration of the danger of declaring void contracts which are partly performed, one party having done his part, while the other party has yet to fulfil his obligation.
– And in your opinion the Attorney-General has no option of any kind.
– No, there is no option.
– Of course, the honorable gentleman does not mean, that according to sub-clauses 3 and 4 of clause 3, I have no option.
– I pointed out at the beginning of my argument, that the Attorney-General has a judicial determination to make, but has no discretion. The honorable gentleman, of course, knows the difference ; he has merely to ascertain the facts, and, if the facts are such as I have cited, he has no discretion. If the contract is declared an enemy contract, it is one, and it is void ; all the AttorneyGeneral has to do is to ascertain the facts.
– I do not admit that the class of contract to which the honorable gentleman alludes is one covered by clause 3 at all. I am not going to say that the point is not arguable.
– I know that the honorable gentleman does not admit that such a contract is covered by the clause, and I am merely endeavouring to point out what seems to me to be the effect of it. I hope that the honorable gentleman will find some way of preventing such results following this Bill, though I admit that it is extremely difficult to do so. If by “ enemy contracts “ we mean merely contracts now existing with Germans living in Germany, there is not much difficulty, and” most of such contracts are already annulled. But, even supposing the real enemy subject is living in Germany, the law, and the regulations which the Imperial Government have issued, preserve such contracts. The Metallgesellschaft or any other company cannot sue in our Courts or the British Courts; but, after the war is over, as has been recognised by all nations carrying on civilized warfare in the last 250 years at all events, those contracts are not to be voided except in particular cases where it is impracticable to carry them out.
– I submit that we are now under ‘unprecedented conditions; we have had no experience of what ought to be done in the circumstances.
– What I really desire to show is that this particular clause, if carried unamended, will effect direct confiscation. Whether confiscation be right or wrong is another matter; but it is a question on which the Imperial Government ought to express an opinion. Let us take the extreme case of a contract between an Australian merchant and a German merchant in Hamburg. Take it that the Australian merchant has sent home money, say, in the form of bills of exchange forgoods to be delivered from Germany. That would be a contract directly with an enemy subject; and are we going to pass a Bill the effect of which would be to destroy the obligation of the German to fulfil his contract ? What does the AttorneyGeneral say to that?
– It is not often that goods are paid for before delivery.
– It is done frequently. I wish to put the matter quite fairly, and I am not in any way trying to raise difficulties.
– As I understand the honorable member, if goods have been purchased, or an Australian merchant has done so much as to advance money on the purchase, that contract should remain intact until after the war is over.
– Keep everything as it is. The guiding principle is not to allow any benefit either in goods or money to go to an enemy subject during the war; adjustment can take place afterwards. Once we begin to meddle with contracts existing here, difficulty arises, and I admit that similar difficulty is raised by clause 4.
– Do you say that the contracts referred to in sub-clauses 5 and 6 ought to date from the present, and not from the commencement of the war ?
– If a contract dates from the commencement of the war, the effect is even more drastic. If, at any time, we take a hatchet, and cut a contract in two, we are just as likely to injure the Australian party as to injure the enemy subject; it depends on which party has carried out the contract, and to what extent.
– If the Australian contractor has accepted payment for goods, would the honorable gentleman allow him to send the goods ?
– Not during the war - that governs everything.
– The contract must lie dormant.
– Yes, so that the Imperial Government - or the Commonwealth Government, so far as it acts in co-operation with the former - may, at the conclusion of the war, have their grasp on everything. Whether they be rights under contract, or rights of property in the more common sense, let us have them at the end of the war in our hands, as a basis of negotiations, it may be, as to terms of peace. It is not adopting the right course to simply cut a contract in two. We do not know what has been done by either side, and the case may be one in which goods have been sent to Germany and money not yet received for them, or it may be a case in which a merchant here has received money and has not sent the goods to Germany.
– Would not the honorable gentleman’s proposal, if put in the form of legislation, have the effect of simply leaving things as they are?
– I say you ought, as far as possible, to leave things as they are. You must not continue any contract which involves the holding of any communication with the enemy. You must not pay any enemy. You must not approach an enemy during the war - and the Government is entitled to the support of the House in passing the most stringent measures for carrying that into effect. But the proper way to do it is not by coming forward with what the AttorneyGeneral, in his speech, called “ the sharp edge of legislation,” and simply saying, “ There is the contract ; cut it in two.” I could give numerous instances of contracts existing between our people and enemy subjects living in Germany, in which very great injustice might be done.” In some cases you may give benefit to the Australian party to the contract; but in some other cases you will benefit the other party.
– How is a party to a contract to know whether he is bound or free?
– The usual way is to obtain an ordinary judicial determination. That is what the Courts are for. But I say again, with regard to these important metal contracts, which extend over a number of years, that I am prepared to support the Government even if it is against the principle I am advocating, because of the importance of the situation, and because, for the most part, these contracts, in my opinion, are absolutely terminated by the war. But the effect of clause 3, where it is proposed to cut a contract in two, cannot be foreseen. This clause will enable all kinds of people to dishonestly get out of their contracts. Germans living here, as well as British subjects, may come to the AttorneyGeneral and say, “ Here is my contract; end it.”
– But we have no power to compel a German to fulfil his contract at the present time.
– A German living here?
– Of course we have. If the honorable member will recognise the guiding principle set out in the proclamation, he will see that it is, as I have observed, merely a statement of the law which has been observed by all civilized countries for over 200 years. That is, the subjects of one country who happen to be resident in another country are protected in the carrying on of their ordinary businesses, unless the necessity exists, in the interests of public safety, to take measures to intern them. Under this clause it is possible for any man, either Germans living amongst us or Australians who have a contract with Germans in Germany or here, to say, “ I want this contract brought to an end.” I am sure the Attorney-General does not mean to do that. It should be remembered, also, that the saving clause is no saving clause at all. It is the worst part of the Bill, because it states that the Bill can only be applied to those stipulations that remain to be fulfilled. The Bill does not apply to the stipulations that have been fulfilled. I point this out to the AttorneyGeneral, because I feel sure that he will consider the desirability of taking this into very full consideration. With regard to clause 4, I have already intimated that this does also bring the axe into operation to some extent, and that it may have the effect of terminating some contracts that are not strictly at law terminable. But I want to make this suggestion to the Attorney-General: Seeing that this legislation in clause 4 is brought in for the purpose of achieving a particular and necessary result with regard almost entirely to one class of industry - namely, the mining industry - the shipments of concentrates and other mining products to other countries - would it not be wiser to confine its operations to contracts of that particular class? Because here again we are making a general provision relating to all contracts and we may go far beyond metal contracts. There are, for instance, a number of contracts for the supply of meat, of coal, of hosts of other things within Australia. Honorable members will know that there are in many of these contracts suspending clauses set out in general terms, where delivery becomes impossible by reason of war, strikes, &c, and where one party may find it necessary to suspend the performance of the contract. If this clause is passed as it stands, it will go far beyond the Government’s immediate objective, and will enable people engaged on contracts of that kind to see that their contracts are voided.
– Is the honorable member’s, principal fear that incidental parties may come in and obtain relief; or that private persons may obtain relief from their obligations by simply becoming patriotic ?
– No, I am not now referring to enemy subjects. I am dealing with clause 4. I have pointed out that if there is going to be confiscation it should only be confiscation by the Crown. And, dealing with clause 4, I am in sympathy, with the main object that the Government have in view in giving certainty to the annulment of a number of contracts relating to the mining industry, about which there may be some uncertainty; and I am in favour of it because of the exceptional circumstances affecting that industry in that the existence of these long contracts has rendered the companies unable to make new business arrangements, and that the absolute necessities of the case may require some strong steps to be taken. That is the only reason why I favour the clause at all. But we may couch it in such wide terms that it will go much further than is intended.
– It may refer to contracts between British subjects?
– And not only between British subjects, because the clause is in no way limited.
– I am not so positive as the honorable’ member for Richmond.
– There is no difficulty with clause 3, which deals with enemy contracts, but clause 4 does not deal- with enemy contracts at all. It deals with contracts. It says, “ Either party to a contract to which this section applies may by notice in writing to the other party terminate the contract as regards all rights and obligations relating to any future supply or delivery under the contract.” What is the contract to which the section applies? It is a contract for the sale or delivery of goods the performance of which “is by operation of law or by the terms of the contract suspended, or is or may be by act of a party suspended, or is claimed by the party against whom the notice is given to be suspended,” during the war. That applies to a whole host of Australian contracts in Australia, which have in them the ordinary suspension clause. One party to the contract may justly say that the war renders it impossible for him to perform his contract, and so claim to be entitled to its suspension under this clause until the termination of the war. That would give every party the right to terminate. Such a thing was never intended. It would be a much greater injustice where one party did not claim suspension, and the other party declared that by virtue of this law his contract was suspended during the continuation of any of the items in the suspension clause, including the war. I am not going to take up the time of the House debating the general principles with regard to this measure. These have been very ably debated by the honorable member for Balaclava and other members who have preceded me. But I have brought these matters before the Attorney-General in order that he may give them his serious consideration. May I point out also that there is no immediate urgency for this Bill. It is in no sense a war Bill.
– I do not admit that.
– It does not deal with anything that tends to the efficiency of any operations of the war, or of the safety of any person in regard to anything arising out of the war.
– The necessity would not have arisen but for the war.
– That is quite true, but the necessity is not so urgent that the Government cannot give these matters fuller consideration than they have done. I do not urge that this Bill should be put back for another session. It is desirable that whatever alteration of the law we are going to make should be made as early as possible. But it is not a matter of a few days. There is an abundance of time to take such serious questions as this into particularly careful consideration, and I urge that that should be done. Then, again, this Bill is, to a large extent, merely a declaratory proposal. We have no constitutional powers for dealing with a great many things that are referred to in the’ Bill. Our constitutional powers may extend to some contracts - contracts, for instance, which are to be performed outside Australia-
An Honorable Member. - The supply of coal, for instance.
– Probably we should have the constitutional power to deal with that kind of thing. But as T understand it is intended to invite the State Parliaments to supplement what we do by Acts of a similar kind in their own Legislatures, it is highly desirable that the model legislation which we establish here, and which we shall ask them to follow, should be based upon reasonable and sound lines.
– This points out a new limitation to the Constitution.
– Oh, no. It points out a very old limitation that I and other honorable members have referred to many a time. It may be that many of the proposals in this Bill can be carried out by the State Parliaments under the Constitution as it now exists. For instance, the Broken Hia contracts, which are most closely concerned with the Bill, are, for the most part, contracts that would not come under our constitutional powers, because, in most cases - I do not speak definitely, but I think the Attorney-General will agree - delivery is to be” within the State in which the contract is made. But that is a secondary matter, which I need not discuss now. I understand the Government desire to bring forward a Bill which, so far as the Federal Parliament can give authority, will give authority.
– That is so. I do not admit that we have not the power in any case.
– I do not ask the Attorney-General to admit anything. But that is, I understand, Ministers’ intention as far as this Parliament has power, and they will invite the State Parliaments to supplement ours by local legislation.
– The States Parliaments, through their Premiers, have given the positive assurance that they will do that.
– Then it becomes all the more necessary that the model upon which we invite them to act should be a model which has been drawn after careful consideration, and which will not carry this rather drastic legislation further than necessity for it actually exists.
– I quite agree with that.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
.- I do not intend at this stage to discuss the general merits of this Bill, for I have no doubt that in Committee many objections to it that have been pointed out by those who have made an analytical study of the measure will again be raised. We realize the stupendous industrial interests involved, and recognise, I am sure, that there should be some means of directly preserving those interests in relation more particularly to the metallurgical industry. I agree with the Attorney-General that we should endeavour if possible to place that industry on such a footing as will enable those concerned in it if necessary to help themselves. If during the interregnum of the war we are able to lay down the foundations of great industries associated with the treatment of the raw materials of our various metal industries, we shall have done a great deal in the interests of the Commonwealth, and indeed of the whole British Empire. It is not my purpose this afternoon to consider how far this Bill is calculated to meet the aspirations of the people in connexion with the important question of contracts made with enemy subjects. The question is far too intricate to be dealt with except a,t the Committee stage; but I think that the arguments that have been advanced, and the telling speeches that have been made, from the Opposition side of the House, should impel the AttorneyGeneral to consider the desirableness of laying on the table the correspondence that has taken place between the Government and the Imperial authorities. It is of the highest importance that that step should be taken. We have it on the authority of the honorable member for Angas, who delivered a most erudite speech on this measure, that 26 per cent, of the world’s trade is conducted by the British Empire. That means, probably, that we have in existence tens of thousands of contracts that require very careful consideration at this stage, as well as contracts which will involve very important considerations at the termination of the war, and when the peace terms are being discussed. In these circumstances, it seems to me that’, since the question of these contracts is indissolubly associated with the trade of the Empire, it would be well for us, if possible, to bring our legislation into conformity with that of Great Britain. We do not know how far the British Government have found it necessary, since the outbreak of war, to change their views regarding the termination of enemy contracts. The increasing intensity of the war, and the horrible brutalities of the German enemy that have been brought to light, may constitute a sufficient reason for a material change of attitude on Britain’s part. If the Government would lay on the table of the House the correspondence that has taken place between them and the Imperial authorities, and, if necessary , would enter into further negotiations’ with the Imperial Government in regard to this important matter, I think that they would be welladvised in the interests of the whole trade of the Empire. I appreciate the necessity for passing a measure of this kind. I believe it is quite necessary that the Government should have large and important powers in respect of contracts, and that they should be as elastic as possible. There is, however, a considerable difference of opinion as to the interpretation of several of the clauses of this Bill. Exception has been taken more particularly to the wording of clause 4. I do not know whether that clause stands alone, or whether it would give that wide opportunity which has been suggested for the breaking of contracts as between British subjects within the Empire. I do not think it would. The AttorneyGeneral tells us that it is necessary that he should have elastic powers to deal with contracts as a whole; but the extent to which he has discretionary powers under this Bill to deal with contracts where the evidence presented to him is conclusive, is a point concerning which we should hear more. It would probably be better to provide in the Bill for the settlement of any question in regard to the termination of a contract by an independent judicial tribunal, before the matter is presented to the Attorney-General. I presume that the honorable gentleman will not take upon himself the responsibility of deciding what is a contract within the meaning of this law; but that he will act upon recommendations made to him by a responsible body appointed for the purpose. This, however, is a phase of the question which we shall have ample opportunity in Committee to discuss. The legal and technical aspects of the Bill have been presented in a very clear and luminous way by the lawyers of the House; and, having regard to the colossal interests involved, and the magnitude of the trade concerned, I repeat that if the correspondence which has passed between the Commonwealth and the Home Government is not confidential, we should be allowed to peruse it before the Bill is passed. At the same time, I recognise that there should be no great delay in dealing with legislation of this kind. If any undue delay occurred, the metallurgical industries of the Commonwealth might be seriously prejudiced. If we take advantage of the position, we may be able to establish within the Commonwealth industries for the treatment of our metallurgical products, and so retain for ourselves a great and valuable trade, which has hitherto passed over to the Continent of Europe. But we should endeavour, first of all, to harmonize and co-ordinate our legislation with that of the Imperial Parliament. We should endeavour to bring our legislation into line with the Imperial desire, especially if that Imperial desire harmonizes with the wish, on the part of Australia, that justice shall be done to that important branch of production to which this Bill chiefly relates. I hope that we shall ascertain what is the intention of the Mother Country as regards legislation of this kind before this Bill is finally placed on the statute-book.
.- I rise to make a suggestion regarding the further consideration of this Bill. The whole of the trouble that has arisen in connexion with our consideration of War Bills has been in relation to the question of whether, from a legal point of view, they will achieve the purpose for which they are intended, or whether they may not do more than that at which the AttorneyGeneral aims in presenting them. These discussions have been of a purely legal character. All these War Bills are nonparty measures; if they were not, then the proposal , I am about to make would be utterly impracticable. Seeing that the whole House is at one in the desire to support the end which this measure is designed to achieve, and that the difficulty that has arisen in relation to it is one of legal phraseology, I think that a conference between the Attorney-General and one or two legal members on the other side would clear the way to a speedy passing of the measure. We have had much discussion to-day, as on a previous occasion, between the honorable member for Angas, the honorable member for Flinders, and the Attorney-General, as to whether this Bill goes too far, or does not go far enough. This Chamber, in the ordinary course of a debate, is about the most unsuitable place that could be founds for such a discussion-. In the Law Courts, many of the best arguments advanced are drawn out as the result of an interjection. But here, if the Attorney-General interjects while an honorable member is speaking, he, sooner or later, finds himself out of order. My suggestion is that the AttorneyGeneral, after redrafting certain clauses of the Bill, as I presume he will endeavour to do, should submithis draft to, say, the honorable member for Angas, and the honorable member for Flindsrs, and that, in company with the Parliamentary Draftsman, he should meet them in consultation. If they agreed upon the clauses as redrafted, then all sides would be prepared to accept their recommendation, and the time of the House would be saved. Meeting in the Ministerial room, they would be able, in half-an-hour or an hour, to discuss the whole matter infinitely better than they would be able to do here in a much longer time. If they did not reach unanimity, no time would be lost.
– While I freely admit that the interests involved in this Bill are of vast importance, and the questions raised by it almost endless in their ramifications, I cannot admit these to be sufficient reasons why we should not press on with the measure. I must complain, too, of the manner in which the consideration of the Bill has been approached by my honorable friends opposite. They have contented themselves in great part by pointing out the difficulties of the position. To the criticisms of the honorable member for Angas and the honorable member for Darling Downs, who dealt with the legal position, I take no exception. They pointed out, as they were freely entitled to do, and as I had myself previously admitted, that the situation is one which, itself without precedent, leaves us, in the matter of remedies, without a guide. But apart from their speeches there has been no attempt by the Opposition to deal with this measure on its merits. Honorable members opposite have done no more than point out that it may do injury in quarters where it is not desired, and may involve consequences which the House does not even contemplate, let alone desire. I freely admit that no one can say just where, in this pool of industry and commerce, the ripples of this measure will exhaust them- selves. But surely, in such circumstances as the present, we have a right to something more than mere destructive criticism. What is the alternative to this Bill ? I do not pretend the measure is perfect; but is that a reason why we should do nothing at all? Do honorable members not realize that the present position in which traders and commercial men find themselves is intolerable? They have a right to know where they stand, whether they are bound by legal fetters to the alien enemy, or whether they are free to enter into fresh contracts, the benefits of which will go to the Empire and its Allies, and not to those who seek our destruction.
I do not intend to traverse in detail the statements made by the honorable member for Balaclava. I had hoped to have the opportunity of quietly perusing his speech, so that I might be in a position to deal in detail with his statement of the position of Australian industries generally, and of the metal trade in particular; but this, owing to the extraordinary collapse of the debate, has been impossible. Honorable members opposite cannot wonder that I should complain of their treatment of this Bill. They pleaded for time to consider it; it was given them ; they asked for still more time and it was conceded; and now, after the amplest .time for mature deliberation, we find their arguments exhausted after a couple of batteries have been fired, and a few scattered shells from the honorable member for Wimmera. I should have thought that on a measure of this sort we would have had the benefit of the views of every member of the Opposition. It admittedly deals with matters of vital interest. There is no man in Australia who is not concerned in its proposals, there is no suspicion of party taint about it - in the very nature of it there cannot be. Why then has the Bill been approached in this manner? Why these attempts to shelve it?
The honorable member for Flinders claims that it is not a war measure, but I say it is a war measure. It arises out of the war. It is a direct consequence of the war, and its effects will bear directly upon the cause for which we are fighting.
Now, directing myself to the arguments put forward by the two honorable members who have occupied the greater part of the debate to-day, and first of all to the statement made by the honorable member for Balaclava as to the extent to which Germany influences Australian trade, and in particular the metal trade, I desire to say that, although from the very nature of this matter one is denied that sure and stable foundation which statistics afford, so far as one is able to ascertain through all the sources available to the Government the statement I made when moving the second reading of the Bill must stand. I freely admit that there are many industries in Australia in which the influence of Germany is negligible, but those are industries which practically preclude the exercise of such influence. It is when we turn to industries which it is highly important should be carried to their ultimate point of development in Australia; that is to say, when we turn from industries in which the crude raw material is directly available for consumption, such as meat, wheat, and coal, to industries, where further treatment is necessary before the material reaches its ultimate marketable form, we find German influence prevailing. Turning to the metal trade, which is the principal reason for the introduction of this legislation at the present juncture, I repeat that the position is just as I stated it when moving the second reading. To all intents and purposes the control by German influences over the Australian zinc, lead, and copper is or was prior to the war complete. I do not assert that German influence covered every ounce of metal exported, but that the influence over the greater part of the trade is or was sufficient to determine for all practical purposes the price, output, and manner of distribution of the whole. Unfortunately, I have been unable to ascertain, in detail, the information which I was desirous of placing before honorable members in answer to the statements made this morning by the honorable’ member for Balaclava. However, I shall give what information I possess, and when the House meets again I shall endeavour to supplement it with such details as are now lacking. The honorable member for Balaclava referred us to documentary evidence placed at his disposal by certain companies, and endeavoured to create the impression that German influence, although existing, did not cover, the greater part of the output of zinc, lead, and copper. I much regret that an opportunity of looking carefully through the statements made by the honorable member has not been afforded me. But so far as I have been able to gather, from the information available, the position remains as stated in moving the second reading, which I again reiterate, namely, that control by German influence is complete, and covers zinc and lead, and, to a large extent, copper. I am not compelled to disclose the sources of my information, but I may say that they are mainly official, and I have no doubt as to their reliability.
Now let us take these metals, zinc, lead, and copper, in turn and examine how far these are controlled by German influence. With the exception of a small quantity of zinc concentrates distilled at Port Pirie, and a small tonnage in England - through Gibbs, Bright, I think - the whole of the Australian output was in the hands of the “ trio,” the Metallgesellschaft, Beer Sondheimer, and Hirsch and Sohn. That was the position so far as zinc was concerned before the war, and it shows that over zinc German control was complete; the amount not under German control was a negligible quantity. It may be pointed out in this relation that as zinc concentrates contain 8 to 10 per cent, of lead, consequently the control of zinc concentrates affects the control of lead and also silver to the extent that such metals were recovered from the concentrates. In regard to lead, the position was that the whole of the output from the Broken Hill refineries prior to the war, with the exception of that sold in the Commonwealth and the East, was disposed of through Merton and Company, who were exclusive selling agents for lead concentrates, and who also dealt in lead aE buyers and sellers. I desire to drawspecial attention to this extraordinary arrangement made with Mertons. The usual arrangement with a selling agent precludes his going on the market on his own behalf ; but in this case the right was expressly reserved to Mertons, so that they could manipulate it in their own interests, and in those of the parties to the Lead Convention. They were thus in a position to nullify competition, and hide the real state of the market. They were also allowed to buy from the producing parties on their own account, provided that the lead so purchased came within the pool of the Convention. Some of the Broken Hill companies sold their lead concentrates for treatment in Europe. The buyers were the Australian Metal Company - that is the Metallgesellschaft - Beer Sondheimer and Company, Hirsch and Sohn, and Brandeis Goldschmidt. The Sulphide Corporation treated portion of its lead concentrates at Cockle Creek, shipping lead in bullion to England for refining. Some of the English lead refiners are closely associated with the Lead Convention. The Sulphide Corporation also sold portion of its lead concentrates to the beforementioned German firms. The lead, silver and zinc ores of Tasmania were in the hands of the German smelting companies. For years the Tasmanian Smelting Company was managed by the Australian Metal Company, and its largest shareholder was the Deutsche Bank. Broadly, then, the position in regard to lead was that the Lead Convention to which Mertons and the Metallgesellschaft and the Broken Hill Proprietary were parties fixed the price of lead, and so determined output, and Mertons was the exclusive selling agent for the Convention, and manipulated the market so that lead outside the Convention was controlled just as effectively as that inside, and controlled by and in the interests of Germans.
With regard to copper, the position before the war was this : The Mount Morgan Company had its copper refined by the Electrolytic Company, onethird of whose shares are owned by Aaron Hirsch, and the whole of the copper production of the Mount Morgan Company was sold through the exclusive agency of Aaron Hirsch. If that does not mean the complete control by German capital and influence of the copper production of the Mount Morgan mine, I should like to know what would. The Wallaroo and Moonta Mining Companies were in a similar position. They were and are tied to Messrs. Hirsch and Company, who are exclusive selling agents for the products of the mines. The Mount Lyell blister copper was formerly refined by the American Electrolytic Refineries, daughter companies of Metallgesellschaft, which are represented here by the Australian Metal
Company, but latterly the company contracted for refining by the Electrolytic Company. Messrs. Aaron Hirsch and Company, either by purchase or agency, controlled the Mount Lyell copper at the outbreak of war. The Hampden mine, at Cloncurry, had a contract for its output of blister copper with Brandeis, Goldschmidt, and Company, London, a company naturalized in England, but holding some interests in metallurgical works on the Continent. Its business ramifications are not quite clear. The Chillagoe Company contracted with the Australian Metal Company, which is its exclusive metal agent, for its total output of metals. The blister copper is sent to America for refining to one of the refineries controlled by Metallgesellschaft, or a daughter company. The Chillagoe Company also produces a bullion of lead, silver, and gold, and this, too, comes within the exclusive selling agency of the Australian Metal Company, and is refined in England by one of the subsidiary or friendly companies of the Merton group. Here, then, are details necessarily incomplete, but amply sufficient to support the statement made by me that German influence practically controlled price, output, and distribution of the base-metal industry of Australia. But if further evidence be called for it is readily available. One case out of many may be given by way of illustration. When the Government, in pursuance of its policy to encourage Australian enterprise and to establish new industries, made efforts to establish the manufacture of copper wire, sheet and tube within the Commonwealth, the only firm able and willing to undertake this great enterprise was one in which Aaron Hirsch held a third of the shares. I do not complain about the action of the company in this matter; we do not say that the Electrolytic Company is not as eager to shake itself free of Aaron Hirsch as we are eager to assist it to do so. But I do say that the fact that there is no company in Australia capable or willing to go on with this work except a company in which one-third of the interest is held by a great German company, which not only holds at least one-third of the shares in the Electrolytic Company, but which was, prior to the war, the exclusive selling agent of the whole of the refined product, shows how complete the German grip of the Australian metal industry was. Yet we are asked to approach this matter in fear and trembling, as though we were treading on holy ground. We are warned that we must be careful lest we do some irreparable wrong to these honorable men, and to the marvellous and intricate structure which they have built up by years of patient labour. We must not deal abruptly with these German gentlemen to whom we owe so much. To Aaron Hirsch this Government must say, “ Will you please establish a copper refining industry in Australia; will you manufacture copper here for us?” What a position for this Government and for this Commonwealth ! What depths of abject humiliation ! Yet we are told we must be careful what we do.
– Does the Attorney-General know that the Mount Morgan copper is all refined ?
– Yes. I have been speaking of the manufacture of the copper of commerce, the metallic product which finds its way on to the market as cables, wire, sheets, tubes, and in other forms. I am aware that copper is refined here. It is not with the refining process that we propose to deal, but with the further expansion and development of the industry, so that Australia, instead of importing annually nearly £750,000 worth of copper products made from metal which she lias exported, shall manufacture them here. The Mount Morgan Company does refine its own copper, that is, Aaron Hirsch refines it for the company; at any rate, he” found one-third of the capital which provides for its refining. What is more to the point is that he is, or was before the war, the exclusive selling agent for every ounce of the Mount Morgan Company.
I do not know how such a position appeals to honorable members; to me it seems profoundly humiliating to our racialpride and to our spirit of national enterprise. It certainly ought not to be tolerated for a day longer than we can help. I come now to the argument of the honorable member for Flinders, which I regret I did not hear at length. The honorable member dealt’ with the measure from another stand-point. He contrived to create in the minds of members a feeling of apprehension of the effects of this Bill. The manner in which he proceeded was characteristic of him j it was done by suggestion rather than by a plain statement of facts. We were led to believe that the measure would prevent a banker, with whom money had been deposited at call, from paying that money on demand. Various other difficulties were put forward as likely to result from the passing of the measure. The Australian Metal Company was frankly admitted to be a company which, for all practical purposes, is German. That admission was unavoidable, because I had taken the precaution to read the sharelist. But so far as I heard the honorable gentleman’s argument it turned on the position of the Australian Metal Company if this Bill became law. No doubt the interests of this company are seriously affected by this measure. But what of that? This Parliament does not exist for the purpose of fostering, at this particular juncture, the private interests of the Australian Metal Company, nor is it to be perverted by any effort of the honorable and learned gentleman to that end. The Australian Metal Company is, for all practical purposes, the Metallgesellschaft of Germany. Every transaction on which it makes a profit gives a profit to the great German company of which it is an offshoot, yet we are warned to be careful of the consequences of this Bill. The honorable and learned gentleman said that we should legislate in such a manner as would suspend the operations of this company and all others of the same kind during the war, but that we should not go further. We should not break the bonds that tie the commerce and industry of this country to the alien enemy. That would be very wrong, according to the honorable member. Everything should be done in a gentlemanly manner; there should be nothing rude or abrupt about our treatment of these dear friends of ours. We should suspend operations, and, when the war was over, should hand to our German kinsmen and brothers across the sea the profit made fey the companies in which their capital is invested during the war. That is the suggestion of the honorable member put shortly. I am not in favour of it. I am, on the contrary, irrevocably opposed to such a proposal. If the honorable and learned member desires to give effect to it, let him move an amendment in the Bill to test the feeling of the House. We are under no moral or legal obligation to help our enemies during the war. The principle upon which British Parliaments have always acted, and upon which I hope Great Britain and its Dependencies will continue to act, is that there must be no expropriation of private property under the cloak of international complications. But i’t is another thing altogether to keep open channels through which German trade may run in this country, to clear the way for Germany to make profits in Australia during the war, to be paid over to her when the war has ceased. We are certainly under no moral or legal obligation to do that; indeed, it is our bounden and sacred duty to prevent it being done. We propose to take such action as will prevent the Australian Metal Company, or any other company of that kind, from trading at all during the war.
The honorable member seemed to be under a misapprehension as. to the scope of this Bill. He seemed to be under the impression that one of the effects of the Bill would be that, where there had been part performance of a contract, and goods had been delivered on which money was owing, or money had been paid for goods not delivered, the obligation to pay or to deliver would be cancelled. That is not so. Where money has been paid in respect of goods, or where goods have been delivered in respect of a promise to pay money, the Bill will not cancel the obligation to deliver the goods or pay for them, as the case may be. We deal, not with that part of the contract already performed, but with that part which cannot, from its very nature, be performed now, or which, being performed, would benefit the alien enemy.
– I think that what the honorable and learned member for Flinders said was that the Bill, as it stands, would prevent a banker from paying over money deposited by the Metal Company.
– In my opinion, it will do nothing of the sort. Under what clause will it do so?
– I have not said that it will do that.
– I think that the honorable member for Flinders stands alone in his contention. The Bill is not intended to do any such thing, and, if it can be shown that it would do so, it will be amended. The purpose of this Bill is not to steal any man’s property, whether he be enemy or friend. Its object is to prevent the enemy cutting our industrial throats, by annulling contracts already suspended by the war, and those contracts which hamper Australians desirous of finding fresh opportunities in other fields for the prosecution of their business. In my opinion, the obligation relating to acts already done under contract, such as to pay for goods already delivered, or to deliver goods already paid for, still remains, and if it does not an amendment can be made so that it will do so.
I will now leave the metal industry for a moment, and turn to a class of contract to which I particularly direct the attention of the House, because it is typical of contracts covering a very wide field. They are, in fact, the ordinary contracts of commerce. I may not mention the name, but I have here a contract note by which an Australian firm has bound itself to take a certain quantity of enemy goods. Of course, this contract is suspended during the war, but at the termination of the war its obligations and benefits may revive. Hundreds of traders are in a similar position, and if we do not pass legislation, the result will be that at the termination of the war this country may be flooded with German goods. I put that to honorable members as a plain statement of fact from which there is no escape. There are literally hundreds of persons in this country who are bound by contracts of this sort, small when looked at individually, but covering in the aggregate a tremendous sum of money. I may remind honorable members that the export and import trade between Australia and Germany was nearly £15,000,000 in 1913, and the greater portion of it was covered by contracts of one sort or another. These contracts are now suspended, but at the termination of the war the obligations will, in many cases, revive, and unless we take precautionary steps now, instead of being able to create during the interval new channels along which will flow to us the goods we require, and along which we can send our own goods to Great Britain and to her Allies, we shall, after a season of barren inactivity, be overwhelmed by an inundation of enemy goods, swamping not only our good intentions and the possibility of giving effect to them, but giving to those who have vowed our de.struction the fruits of our enterprise and industry. This Bill annuls such contracts, and sets the Australian trader free, and every man who wishes to act patriotically, not only to Britain, but also to Australia, will be at liberty to do so. He will be able to find in England and in the countries of our Allies new fields for trade ; in fact, the whole world will be open to him except only Germany and her Allies.
It was said this morning that we were forcing this legislation on a community, who did not desire it. That statement is not in accordance with facts. We have been unable, at short notice, to obtain from representative men what the mercantile community think of this measure, but we must assume that it has their support. The intention of the Government to introduce such a Bill has long been known : it has now been public property for over a week, and not one Chamber of Commerce, or representative body, or firm’ of standing has ventured to express an opinion hostile to it. If the commercial interests of Australia were menaced by this Bill, should we not have heard a violent outcry against the measure ? In the absence of any Such outcry, are we not’ to assume Australian traders and the community generally welcome the Bill? The honorable member for Balaclava, speaking in regard to the Zinc Corporation, read portion of a letter which had been sent to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I am not in a position to read the whole of the letter, because I have not the authority to do so, but it strongly supports the purpose of this Bill. I am sorry that the honorable member did not read the whole letter, because it shows how seriously the present position affects employment in Australia. The Zinc Corporation, like many other companies, desires to know where it stands, in order that it may be able to decide whether to extend its operations or contract them. In a recent letter they say -
Lead Concentrates. - Our contract is with’ the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited. Our concentrates were smelted by them at their Port Pirie works. The contract, which expires at the end of this year, was suspended by them upon the outbreak of war, and we have since been sending lead concentrates to them under another arrangement.
Zinc Concentrates. - Our contract is with’ Aaron Hirsch and Sohn, Halberstadt, Germany, and was suspended by their Australian representative on the outbreak of war. The contract does not expire until the end of 1919.
As you have no doubt gathered from the press, the directors of this company in London ire anxious that the contract should be abrogated, and have been trying their utmost in England to get the contract annulled there, but so far without success. We enclose, for your information, copy of letter addressed by our chairman of directors (Mr. F. A. Govett) bo the Secretary of State for Colonies, dated 11th January, 1915.
We are at present watching with much interest the fate of the Bill introduced into the House of Representatives here, as if carried it may greatly help our cause in England.
And a letter from the British Broken Hill Company says - . . This company has contract with a German firm for the sale of their output of both lead and zinc concentrates. The terms of the contract are - lead concentrates from 1st July, 1913, to 31st December, 1917; zinc concentrates from 1st July, 1910, to 31st December, 1917.
The directors of the company in London have for some time past been endeavouring to get these contracts abrogated, but so far without success.
The Board in Adelaide are much interested in the Bill which has been introduced by the Attorney-General into the House of Representatives here, with the object of providing the means for the cancellation of such contracts, and we trust this Bill will be passed.
Honorable members will see that that company desires to have the contract annulled. Another letter from the North Broken Hill Company sets out that -
If you are in a position to give any further information I shall be glad to know whether it is intended that contracts between the Broken Mill companies and companies registered in England or here, but carried on in German interests, are also to be annulled, and whether provision will be made to protect companies who have claims against buyers in respect to concentrates delivered prior to the war, but not yet finally paid for. I would instance the fact that the North Broken Hill Company’s contract, terminated on the 31st December last; but it is contended that there is a right to the buyers to pick up the contract for a period of five months, i.e., the period for which it was suspended owing to the war. This the North Broken Hill Company intends to contest in every possible way, and as far as it is concerned, the buyers will have to enforce their rights (if any) at law.
Correspondence upon the contractual relations between the Australian Metal Company and the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, and the absolutely hopeless uncertainty in regard thereto, may be quoted. On the 3rd August, that was before the war broke out between England and Germany, but after the war had broken out between Germany and Russia, the Australian Metal Company sent to the Broken Hill Proprietary Company the following letter: -
We deeply regret to advise you that, owing to the outbreak of war, we are compelled to suspend our present contract.
On the 19th March, after much correspondence, the Broken Hill Company called upon the Metal Company to carry out without further delay its obligations under the contract. This the Metal Company refused to do, saying that after the war, however, they would be prepared to do so, and adding -
Meanwhile we may say that we do not intend in any way to repudiate the abovementioned contract.
On the 23rd March the Broken Hil’ Proprietary Company said -
We hereby formally rescind the contract, and will hold the company liable for all loss and damages in consequence of the refusal of the Australian Metal Company to carry out its contract.
The Broken Hill Proprietary Company have rescinded the contract, but what does their notice to rescind amount to legally? It is extremely difficult to say. It is probable that the Australian Metal Company, after the war, would be able to successfully maintain an action for damages for breach of contract against the Broken Hill Proprietary Company. Legally, both companies are British, and the contract between the two, although suspended by the war, is not avoided.
I come now to certain misconceptions regarding the scope of this Bill. It does not deal with all contracts. It deals only with contracts with enemy subjects, or in favour of enemy subjects, or enemy trade, and with contracts now suspended by the war. But as contracts with the enemy are also suspended or avoided by the war, it follows that with few, if any, exceptions, the scope of the Bill is confined to contracts already suspended by the war, or by the terms of the contract. Many of these are avoided; but there is great uncertainty on this point, and this uncertainty paralyzes enterprise. That being the case, and it being necessary that every man should know where he stands, whether he is bound or free, and be given every opportunity and inducement to create new channels, to divert trade for the benefit of the Empire, the Commonwealth, and the Allies, such a measure as this is not only justified, but necessary.Why should we hesitate to do that which is absolutely necessary? I say nothing about the position taken up by those who say that, until the British Parliament legislates in this direction, we ought not to act. But why should we not act? It is not for us to advise, or even suggest to the British Parliament what it is proper that they should do in regard to their own trade relations with Germany. We have asked them to pass complementary legislation in regard to Australian contracts, so that an action for breach of contract made in regard thereto can be defended successfully in the British Courts. That is as far as we have gone. It is for Great Britain to determine what she thinks proper to do in regard to the tremendous interests involved in British and German trade. Our business is to consider our own position, and I take it that we are not only justified, but bound to do so.
I have endeavoured to show the extreme importance of shaking ourselves free of that enemy influence. which dominates the metal industry. I have shown in respect of copper that we are hampered by German influence at the very outset of our effort to establish new industries. The fact must be faced that until this control by German influence is removed, we are fettered in our efforts to establish new industries, and to develop old ones. The fact must be faced that after the war, unless we act, and act promptly, Germany will not only regain her old dominance of the metal industry, but will gather to herself that trade which, before the war, went to Belgium and Northern France. Belgium prior to the war was a hive of manufacturing industries. She engaged largely in the manufacture of zinc. To-day she is an industrial ruin. Many of her factories now are razed to the ground. The German car of Juggernaut has gone over Belgium and Northern France, and will leave that part of Europe at the end of the war as bare of the means of industrial enterprise as the most drought-stricken part of Australia. There will not be one stone resting upon another. The men who through generations have been building up the industries of Belgium and Northern France will have to set themselves to the colossal task of rebuilding factories, and creating order out of chaos. And while they are engaged in this tremendous task, to Germany will go the work that formerly went to them. If we do not now divert from Germany the supplies of zinc concentrates it will be ‘to her alone that the whole volume of the zinc trade will flow at the end of the war, not for the benefit of our Allies, but for the benefit of Germany only. I therefore ask that we may completely sever the industrial ties that bind us to Germany. How humiliating is our present position I How incompatible with that complete control which we boast that we exercise over this country that the number of miners at Broken Hill should be determined, not by this Parliament, or even by the employers, of Australia, but by some Aaron Hirsch, or Metallgesellschaft, at Frankfort-on-Main. Such’ a state of things is an intolerable ‘ insult to the national pride of this country. I commend the measure to the Chamber with confidence. I believe it to be necessary, and amply justified by the circumstances of the times.
While I shall be ready to consider any proposals to make the measure more effective, I hope that it will receive the indorsement of the Chamber without delay.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Progress of Business: Administration ofPapua.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I shall have to ask honorable members to make arrangements to meet on an additional day during the week, and to sit a little later each night, in view of the fact that business is becoming congested.
.- I do not see that there is really any justification for such a step, because it must be admitted that there has been no undue talking, undue delay, or dilatoriness of any kind. Sorre of the war Bills were passed on the day they were presented.
– We have dealt with nothing but the war Bills.
– If the Prime Minister considers the’ percentage of the Bills we have passed’ since we met, I am sure he must confess’ that there -has been every expedition shown.
– I am not complaining on that score.
– I can assure the right honorable gentleman that honorable members on this side are anxious to do everything to expedite business, and have considered the best steps to take to that end.
– We must get the Estimates through.
– There have been very few chances as yet to consider the. Estimates. I am sure that the business is conducted here with as much celerity as is displayed in any other Parliament.
.- Last night the Prime Minister objected to some criticism of mine, on the ground that I was attacking a particular officer of the Administration in New Guinea. I have since had an opportunity to look through my Hansard proofs; and, by way of personal explanation, I should like to say that I cannot find any mention of the name or office of the head of the Administration in the Possession. I do find, however, that, in the course of my remarks, when I was challenged by the honorable member for Fawkner, I said that, if anybody was responsible for the administration, it was naturally the Minister in charge of the Department of External Affairs. I have handed the Hansard proof to the Prime Minister, in order that he may satisfy himself that his strictures were hardly called for under the circumstances.
– 1 am always glad to hear explanations such as that now made by the honorable member for Wentworth. I gathered from his speech that there was a reflection on the Administrator-
– I said that the administration was under the control of the Minister.
– The administration cannot be dissociated from the actual Administrator in Papua. In any case, it is enough to say that there is no reflection on any officers in connexion with the administration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Houso adjourned at 3.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 14 May 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150514_reps_6_76/>.