7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– (By leave). -I move -
That the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of’ Australia expresses its sorrowat the loss which has befallen the British Empire in general; and the Union of South Africa in particular, by the death of the Right Honorable the Prime Minister of the Union, General Louis Botha, patriot, soldier, statesman, and empire-builder, and extends itssympathy to the people of the sister Dominion.
A feeling of sincere and profound sorrow will prevail throughout the Empire today upon the news of the passing away of the great Prime Minister of the South African Union. In no portion of the Empire will that feeling be more deeply experienced than in the Commonwealthof Australia. We are conscious that the Empire has sustained an irreparable loss in the death of one who will ever be honored as patriot, statesman, soldier, and nation-builder. His personal characteristics endeared him to his own people; his courage, determination, high principle, and magnetic personality, inspiring confidence, marked him out early as a leader of men. His manly, courageous bearing, his noble sense of chivalry, commanded admiration and respect from his foes.
Our hearts go out in sympathy to the people of the sister Dominion. For them, he has. truly been a nation-builder. In a country which suffered through the devastations of war, he stood steadily fox unity and peace; and in the governmentof mixed traces, for toleration and forgiveness.He stroveto mould the life of his country on sound national and democratic lines. It is gratifying that he lived to see the high national status that the Dominions had achieved at the close of the war, and that his signature, on behalf of theUnion, was on what is probably the most important document in history.
His great services to the Empire are not yet fully realized. The mind goes back to that evening at Pretoria when the Peace Treaty of Vereeniging was sighed. After the signature, Lord Kitchener rose and held out his hand, saying to General Botha, “We are goodfriends now.” That hand-clasp meant much to the British Empire, It was the beginning of the drawing-together of the races in feelings of true friendship, and real union.
General Botha fully appreciated the principles of equity, justice, and freedom upon which the Empire was based. His advocacy of its cause and his personal leadership in the recentwar have been an inspiration to all portions ofthe King’s Dominions. AsPrime Minister of a great Dominion ofthat Empire,he has shown himself to be thesoul of honour.
To-day we mournourloss,and desire to place our appreciation of his life work permanently upon the records of this House. A personalityconspicuous among thegreat personalities ofourtime has passed away. The abiding influence of his character and workwill remain. May wesay or him, ashesaid of the late CecilRhodes, “The heart inreverence bows tothe silent prayer that what was greatest and noblest in Louis Botha may remain a living influence inthe country he loved so well,” and wemay sincerely add,”and in the (Empirewhich he fought sobravely and unselfishly to preserve.”
. -I second the motion. Unhappily, during the lastf ew months death has visited the homes of many of those who are near and dear to us. We allread last nightwith feelings of profound regret of the death of the Prime Minister of the sister Dominionof South Africa,General Louis Botha, and thenews must have come as a shock to the people of the Empire. Doubtless in South Africa, as in Australia and other parts of the Empire,the extraordinary strain imposeduponits statesmen by reason of theabnormal positionwith which they have had to deal,has led to a deterioration of their fibre, and made them less able to withstand successfully many of the ills that beset us.
We sincerely sympathize, quite irrespective of party,with thosewho have thus been bereaved. We are all familiar with the life of General Botha. It is not many years since be took part in a war which many believed to be wrong, while others considered it to be justifiable, but he showed on emerging from it that he was prepared to do everything within his power to bury the ill-feeling thathad been created by that unfortunate conflict. In company with the people of the sister Dominion, South Africa, we mourn his loss to-day.
Question unanimously resolvedinthe affirmative, honorablemembers standing in their places.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to.
ThatMr.Speaker be requested to conveythe foregoing resolution,and a copy of the speeches delivered thereon,to Mrs. Bothaandtothe Government of theUnionofSouth Africa.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
ThattheHouse,at its raising, adjourn until
Wednesday, 10th September next.
Suspension of the HonorableMember for Barrier.
– I riseto a question of privilege having reference to an incident which occurredyesterday in Committee of the whole, when thehonorable member forBarrier (Mr. Considine) was named and later on was suspended from the service of the House. I propose to record in a motion, which I intend to submit, my disapprobation and that, I trust, of other honorablemembers, of the action of the Chairman of Committees (Mr. Chanter) in naming the honorable member in the circumstances. It will be remembered by those who were present that, while the honorable member for Barrier was speaking, a number of very unfriendly interjections were made.
Mr.Fowler. - I rise to a point of order. I desire to know, Mr. Speaker, whether the honorable member will be in order in proposing, under cover of privilege, a motion having no personal’ relation to himself.
– I understand that the incident to which the honorable member desires to draw attention occurred in Committee. The honorable member will not be in order in dealing with such a matter at the present time. Proceedings in Committee are dealt with in Committee, and cannot be revived in the House. Action taken by the Chairman, indorsed by vote of the Committee, and again by the House, could not be made at any time the subject of a question of privilege.
– On the point of order, sir, it will be remembered that the Chairman of Committees having called upon the honorable member for Barrier to withdraw the statement made by him, the circumstances under which that request was made were not, and could not, at the time, be made the subject of debate. The Chairman of Committees declined to hear honorable members on the question. The honorable member for Barrier having been named, that fact was reported to the House, and he was thereupon suspended from its service. I submit, with great respect to you, sir, that the action of the Chairman of Committees must in some way be cognisable by the House. I do not know how it would be possible to take action in regard to it other than by dealing with it as a matter of privilege. If honorable members think, as I do, that the action of the Chairman of Committees was a flagrant abuse of his position and power, and showed, as I think it did, partisanship and a tyrannous spirit, them surely it is open to an honorable member to bring before you and the House in some Way-
– Should not action have ‘been taken on the report?
– No. No debate was permissible at that stage or up to the point at which the honorable member for Barrier was suspended and practically ejected from the House. The facts and circumstances which move me to make this charge against the Chairman of Committees were not, as I have said, brought before the House, or debated, nor were they debatable up to the time of the honorable member’s suspension. If the Chairman of Committees was permitted to show this discriminating and tyrannous spirit, and if we cannot at the time take exception, to such conduct-
– I rise to a point of order-
– There is already a point of order before the Chair.
– Surely I have a right to speak. I understand the natural desire of honorable members opposite to cloak this matter, hut we must have power to refer to it by virtue of some standing order. I put it as a point of order, Mr. Speaker, that this course of conduct having been pursued by the Chairman of Committees, and not having been debatable by the Committee or, later, in the House itself, until the honorable member had been suspended from its service, it follows that now, on the re-assembling of the House, with you in the chair, it is open to any honorable member to say that the Chairman of Committees not only abused his position, but invaded the rights of honorable members.
– As already stated by me, the proceedings of a Committee of the whole are governed by the Committee, and questions arising out of such proceedings cannot be dealt with by the House except upon report. If any question of order concerning proceedings in Committee was involved, it should have been raised at the time in Committee. No question of privilege can arise out of action taken ‘by the Chairman of Committees in .carrying out the Standing Orders. The Committee of the whole, having carried a certain resolution, thereby indorsed the action of the Chairman. The Chairman reported the matter to the House, which in turn indorsed the action of the Committee. These proceedings, having been taken. in accordance with the Standing Orders, cannot afterwards be made the subject of a question of privilege. Whether the Chairman was right or wrong is a question which cannot now be debated, since the Committee first, and the House afterwards, decided the matter by a vote which cannot be reflected on unless on a motion for its rescission in the regular way as provided for in the Standing Orders. A question of order can only arise at the time of the occurrence to which it relates.
– This is a point of order, and I submit-:-
– The honorable member cannot, again traverse the question.
He has raised his point of order, and I have given my ruling. There the matter must end, unless my ruling is challenged in the proper way provided by the Standing Orders.
– On a point of order. Yesterday was the third occasion on which the honorable member for Barrier has been suspended, and, therefore, his suspension on this occasion is for one month. But I suggest that the Standing Orders were framed on the understanding that the sessions of this House would be annual. In view of the fact that owing to the war the session has extended, and apparently will extend, throughout the whole life of the Parliament, I ask whether there is any possibility of leniency being shown to the honorable member?
– Unfortunately, no discretion is allowed to the Chair in this matter; the Standing Orders are specific and mandatory. For the information of honorable members, I quote standing order 59 -
Whenever any member shall have been named by the Speaker or by the Chairman of Committees, immediately after the commission of the offence of disregarding the authority of the Chair, or of abusing the rules of the House, by persistently and wilfully obstructing the business of the House, or of disorderly conduct, or otherwise disregarding the authority of the Chair, then, if the offence has been committed by such member in the House, the Speaker shall forthwith put the question, on the motion being made, no amendments, adjournment, or debate being allowed, “ That such honorablemember be suspended from the service of the House “; and, if the offence has been committed in a Committee of the whole House, the Chairman shall, on a motion being made, put the same question in a similar way, and, if the motion be carried, shall forthwith suspend the proceedings of the Committee and report the circumstances to the House, and the Speaker shall thereupon put the same question, without amendment, adjournment, or debate, as if the offence had been committed in the House itself. If any member be suspended under this order, his suspension on the first occasion shall be for the remainder of that day’s sitting; on the second occasion for one week; and on the third or any subsequent occcasion for one month.
– That was the Chairman’s object.
– The honorable member has no right to say that.
– The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) is quite out of order in interrupting the Speaker when he is on his feet, or in reflecting upon another honorable member by interjection or otherwise. The standing order concludes -
Nothing herein shall be taken to deprive the House of the power of proceeding against any member according to ancient usages.
The honorable member for Barrier was suspended by order of the House, on a report from the Committee which had voted for his suspension, and no power to extend leniency to him is given to the Presiding Officer. But if the honorable member is desirous of making an apology and putting himself right with the House, he may do so at any time, and it will then be within the power of the House, if it so desires, to rescind its motion of suspension and allow him to return to the service of the House.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. Last evening I thought it necessary to call attention to certain remarks which had been made by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith). I wish to briefly point out how, in respect of two particulars, he has, I think, grossly misrepresented me. Speaking on the third reading of the Immigration Billlast evening,the honorable member said -
The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) has asked me for a copy of my remarks before I have had an opportunity of seeing the proofs.
That is quite incorrect, and the honorable member’s subsequent statements show that he himself recognised that he had not stated the facts, because when I interjected he replied -
This is the note I received from the Acting Principal Parliamentary Reporter : - “ Mr. Finlayson asks me for an uncorrected proof of your speech. May I give it to him?”
I made no request that the honorable gentleman should allow me to see a copy of his speech to the exclusion of his own perusal of it. I have received an uncorrected copy of the honorable member’s speech, and the portion to which I take particular exception is -
The honorable member for Brisbane was honest when he said, “ We will fight this Bill.” He said, in effect, “ We will allow consumptives to come in here. We will allow those who live on the prostitution of others to enter, as well as anarchists and others, because we want to use this Bill on the public platform for political purposes.” Is that the type of politics we want in this country?
What I did say is summed up in three short paragraphs of my speech. I quote from an uncorrected proof of Hansard -
The Honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), whose opinion is always listened to with respect, said that this Bill would apply only to persons entering Australia, and that it was our bounden duty to prevent the influx of undesirable persons. To that extentI am entirely in sympathy with his attitude.
Later I said -
I have no objection to a very severe tightening of the immigration laws in order to secure that criminals, those who live on the prostitution of others, diseased and insane persons, and persons who are likely to becomea charge on public charity shall not be allowed to enter Australia. We cannot be too careful about keeping the race pure. We have established a reputation throughout the world because of the White Australia policy, which is only a declaration of our desire to keep the Australian race as clean and high as possible. To that extent everystrengthening of the immigration law must secure unlimited support.
I suggest that those three extracts from my speech are a flat contradiction of the statement and suggestions made by the Honorable member for Denison. I desire only to add that; as the honorable gentleman himself saw his error, and later, by personal explanation, apologized, and also interviewed me privately; giving me the assurance that his remarks were not intended to have any personal application to myself, I place in contrast his statement and mine, and inform him that I accept his apology and. assurance.
– On the 20th December, 1918, when the Public Service Bill was before the House, I raised a question as to the position of certain persons who had been temporarily employed in the Public Service, and were exempt from the provisionsof theAct. On page 9991 ofHansard,I am reported -
The provision in clause 3, in regard to appointments without examination tothe General Division, must surely referto persons who are temporarily employed in the Service.
– Yes. It refers to their appointment to permanent positions.
– There are certain classes of work, suchas cleaning and washing, to which itisnot considered desirable to apply thecompetitive examination test, and it is left to the Commissioner to specify the classes.
Has effect to that promise been given by the Public Service Commissioner? There are persons.who have given satisfaction in the Service, and must either bemade permanent or leave the Service. Any honorable member who has been in control of the Customs Department knowsthat it is necessary to have, for certain work, men who areabsolutely reliable, and the service of certain individuals has been extended for a period longer than is usual in the case of the ordinary temporary employee. Can the Acting Leader of the House see his way clear to make representations to thePublic Service Commissioner in regard to this matter ?
– I have not had time to look into thismatter very closely, because the honorable member gave me only brief notice of his intention to raise it. But I remember distinctly the object of the amendment. I stated at the time -
The second amendment of the principal Act for which this Bill provides deals with certain positions in the Public Service, in respect of which it is not considered desirable to have competitive examinations. It is hardly fair, for instance, that cleaners, who have been in the temporary service for some time, and have given satisfaction, should be required to undergo an examinationin order to become permanent officers in the General. Division. It is proposed to specify certain classes of these servants, and to enable them to be appointed without being submitted to a competitive examination.
The honorable member desires to know to what extent that policy has been complied with. I shall make inquiries, and let the honorable member know the result.
– Will the Minister for Home and Territories furnish the House with a statement showing the individual salaries paid in Australia House, London, and the total cost of the upkeep of that establishment?
– That question should be addressed to the Acting Prime Minister. Australia House is not controlled by my Department.
– Yesterday the Acting Minister for the Navy stated that the report of Admiral Viscount Jellicoe on the future naval policy of Australia will probably not, in its entirety, be made public, because some portions, dealing with future naval policy, are secret. With that I entirely concur; but as Admiral Viscount Jellicoe visited and inspected the Randwick Wireless Works, formerly owned by the late Father Shaw, I ask the Acting Minister for the Navywhether that portion of the Admiral’s report is secret, and, if not, whether it can be laid upon the table of the House?
– When thereport of Admiral ViscountJellicoe is being considered by theCabinet, I shall bring forward the honorable member’srequest. A number of documents connected with the report, and relating to the wirelessworks at Randwick, and confirmations or variations of Admiral Henderson’s naval scheme, which is well known to the public, are notsecret. ThereforeIsee no reason why, though we may not be able to publish thereport in its entirety, extracts from it should not be made available. I will represent the honorable member’s request to Cabinet.
– Has the Minister for Homeand Territories seen a paragraph which appeared inlast night’s Herald in reference to a meeting of the Proportional Representation Leaguein Melbourne, at which itwas stated that the League had a copy, or knew the contents, of the Proportional Representation Bill which the Minister intends to introduce to Parliament? Is that statement correct? If so, would it not be better forParliament to be made aware of the contents of the Bill before they are disclosed tooutsiders?
Mr.Boyd. - I rise to a point oforder. I think you, sir,have ruled previously that questions founded onnewspaper extractsare not in order.
– In the hum of subdued conversation. I did not understand the honorablemember for Yarra to be specificallyreferring to anewspaper paragraph. I understood him to say that a certain report had come to his knowledge.
– I have had the misfortune not to seethe paragraph to which the honorable member refers,therefore I cannot say whether or not it is correct.
– Did the Minister allow an outside body to get a copy of theBill ?
– No outside body has a copy of the Bill.
– Does any outside body know the Minister’s ideas in regard to the matter ?
– I shouldlike tohave my ideas impregnated in the usual way.
– Ifind that thehonorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd), was quiteright in saying that the question which has just been repliedto hadreference to aparagraph which appeared in anewspaper.Iwouldremind honorablemembers that it is not strictly in order toask questions foundedon newspaperreportsunless thememberasking any such question ispreparedto personally accept responsibility forthe accuracy of the newspaper report.
-I desire to makea personal explanation. A fewdays ago I taskedtheMinister representing the Minister for Defence aquestion in regardto thewives ofsoldiers who havebeen marriedin England. I inquired whether any specialprivileges had been granted to them inregard totheir passage to Australia, and alsowhether any concessions hadbeenmade to the sisters-in-lawof soldiers whohad married overseas. From the answer which I received the impression may be given that I am in favour of these sisters-in-law receiving special treatment.
I am asked “Why not ? “ I do not desire to incur the hostility of quite a number of unmarried ladies in the Commonwealth. There are a few in my own electorate, and it is just possible that the impression may get abroad that I asked the question, to which I allude, because I am in favour of special concessions being granted to the sisters-in-law of soldiers.That is not so. We are told that in Melbourne and suburbsalone there are 20,000 eligible unmarried women in excess of the number df unmarried eligible men, whilst forthe Commonweath there is an excess of more than 100,000 unmarried eligible women.I did not ask the question with a view to increasing the immigration of unmarried women.
Mr.BRENNAN.- Iask the Acting Leader of theHouse (Mr.Groom) whether he has made himselffamiliar, in a general way, with the results of the municipal elections which took place in Victoria yesterday, and which he will find recorded upon the back page of some of our morning newspapers. If he has done so, and if he has marked the success of the Labour party at those elections, will he accept that as a broad hint to the Government-
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. W. Elliot
Johnson). - Order! Questions, as I have pointed out several times, founded on newspaper reports, are irregular, and it is quite clear that questions arising out of the Victorian municipal elections have nothing whatever to do with any Commonwealth Parliament departmental administration.
– I was just coming to the point.
– I hope that the House will assist the Chair in seeing that its rules are observed. Most of the questions asked without notice have dealt with matters which are not of such urgency as to warrant the taking up of time in asking or answering them without notice. Questions which are not urgent should be placed upon the business paper. The honorable member’s question, however, has nothing whatever to do with the business of the House, and relates to matters outside the cognisance of Ministers.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that it is not within your province as Speaker to interrupt me in the middle of a question by anticipating what I am about to say.
– Order ! The honorable member is reflecting upon the Chair, and he must not do that.
– I submit thatI should be permitted to finish my question which related to profiteering.
– The honorable member is not permitted to finish his question. The Speaker is the sole judge of whether or not a question is allowable.
– You have not heard my question.
– It must be quite clear to honorable members, other than the honorable member himself, that his question had nothing whatever to do with departmental administration.
– You did not hear it.
– It had nothing to do with the administration of any Depart ment over which any of the Ministers exercise control.
– That is not correct.
– Order ! The honorable member asked a question about newspaper reports of municipal election results. He cannot do that.
Graves in France - Conditions on a Troopship.
– I ask the Assistant Minister for Defence whether it is a fact that it is proposed to put the inscriptions on the graves of our men who have fallen in France in Latin ?
– I have not heard what is the intention, but I will make inquiries into the matter.
– I ask the Assistant Minister for Defence.-
– Well, your question is out of order. It is irrelevant.
– Certain disquieting reports are in circulation to the effect that an Australian troopship, owing to very faulty conditions, has been obliged to put back to Durban, and in view of the declared policy of the Government that complaints of this character should cease, will a strict investigation be ordered into the conditions which obtained on this vessel immediately upon her arrival here, and before the officers and soldiers on board have time to disperse?
– I am quite satisfied that such an inquiry will be made.
– Will the Acting Leader of the House state whether the Government are prepared to assist the States to cut down their expenditure by centralizing the various State agencies in London? I understand that more than half of the Agents-General of the States are on the eve of returning to Australia.
– This Government will always be willing to assist the States to economize in any way.
– I ask the Acting Treasurer whether he will make it possible for the committees of hospitals to pay the full amount of the old-age pension to pensioners during their treatment in those institutions ?
– I am at present engaged in the unpleasant task of making two ends meet. I notice that the honorable member for Calare (Mr. Pigott) yesterday desired to get an increase in the amount of the old-age pensions. All these matters are receiving consideration.
– Will the Acting Treasurer, during the proposed adjournment of this House, see that the financial position of Australia, and the necessity for curtailing our public expenditure, is brought prominently under the notice of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes).
– Most certainly the entire financial position of the Commonwealth will be brought under the notice of the Prime Minister immediately upon” his return.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Having in mind the ever-increasing number of returned soldiers awaiting employment, will the Government place such sum of money on the Estimates, to be given to the States by way of subsidy, as will enable such States to provide work, such as re-afforestation, under favorable conditions and at a fair wage to those men desirous of taking up work in the country ?
– The Commonwealth has already undertaken -to advance to the States funds to enable them to proceed with re-afforestation, providing returned soldiers are employed on the work. Seventy-five per cent, of the money advanced is by way of loan, and the remaining 25 per cent, as a gift, in consideration of the inefficiency of the nien in this class of employment. In addition to this, the Commonwealth provides each man sent to employment with the necessary personal equipment, and also pays the cost of his transport to the place of employment. New South Wales,
Victoria, Western Australia, and Tasmania have taken advantage of this offer, but there is a manifest disinclination on the part of the men to accept this class of employment. The Commonwealth has also arranged to advance to the States from £30,000,000 to £40,000,000 to enable them to make land ‘available for soldier-settlement, and for the construction of necessary public works, such as railways, bridges, &c, for their successful occupation, returned soldiers to be given preference of employment. The funds are advanced at the rate at which it cost the Commonwealth to borrow, less a rebate of £25,000 interest on each £1,000,000 borrowed, in respect of the States making advances to the soldiers at cheap rates of interest. It is anticipated that the works covered by these proposals will soon be in hand, and, in consequence, additional avenues of employment will be available for returned men. In addition, ‘ the Commonwealth has offered to loam to the States at favorable rates of interest, to be in turn .advanced to local government bodies, funds to enable the latter to proceed with local government works, provided returned soldiers are employed as far as possible in the undertakings.Sofar nodefinite proposals have been received from any of theStates except Queensland.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorablemember’s questions are as follow: -
– Last week the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked me whether the signature of an applicant for registration under the Electoral Act should appear upon both sides of his application card. I told him that Ihad seen the original draft, and thatthereason underlying this practice was a desire to help other Departments. Nevertheless, I promised to look into the matter.
-My questionhadreferenceto the giving of the exact age of ladies who object to supplythat information.
– I am not dealing with that subject now,although instinct dictateswhat the answer should be. The matter, whichhas receivedconsideration from time to time attheinstance ofthe honorable member, was fully discussed at theconference of electoral officers in 1915, anda form of claim suitable for jointenrolment was then drawn up. It was of thesizenow in force, 6¼ in. by 4 in., as suitable for postal and index purposes, as well as ordinary electoral purposes.I am also informed that it is a good thing to have the signatureon bothsides, because sometimes the particulars on ohe side of the card are filled up for the applicant by other persons. The signature will be a great help for verification purposes.
– On the 14th inst. the honorable memberfor Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) asked -
I promised to make inquiries, and; am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information: -
-On31st July the honorablememberfor Capricornia(Mr. Higgs) asked -
WilltheMinister leading the House begood enough to lay on the tablethe names of the Wheat Board who sit in London, and of which, Iunderstand, Mr. Fisher is chairman ?
I promised to make inquiries, and am now inaposition to furnish thehonorable member withthe following information : -
It was originally intended that the High Commissioner and the Agents-General ofthe States concerned should constitute a Board in London.It hasbeenfound more convenient, as a matter of practice, that the LondonSelling Agency should actunder the cable instructions of the AustralianWheat Board. The LondonSelling Agency keeps in close touch with the HighCommissioner, towhom copies of all letters despatched tothe Selling Agency are supplied.
The following paperswerepresen ted : -
Public ServiceAct - RegulationsAmended -Statutory Rules 1919, No.180.
Return showing prosecutions under the War Precautions Act andRegulations, and under the Unlawful Associations Act.
Debate resumed from 8th August (vide page 11467), on motion by Mr. Greene-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I welcome the introduction of a Customs Bill, or anything pertaining to the Tariff. The introduction of a new Tariff is a long-deferred promise, but I recognise that the delay has been caused by the exigencies of war time. Still, as I suggested earlier in the session, the Government could have, by a single clause, given complete protection to Australia by a measure adopting inglobo the whole of the Tariff of the two most up-to-date nations in the world so far as fiscal matters are concerned. I refer to the United States of America and Japan. When the Tariff is brought on I shall be as limited in my remarks as my duty will permit me to be, because it is the desire of the House topush this matter along at every opportunity andhave it completed bef ore the next election.
I shall endeavournow to sound a note which I hope will find an echo in the breasts of many Honorable members. So far as I know, it is a new proposal. I do not think it has ever been mentioned in any Parliament in the world. Honorable members will agree that the crystallized thought of the greatest statesmen nowadays tends to theconclusion that, in order to eliminate the curse of murder which men call war, secret treaties should be abolished. There is nothing so irritating throughout the length and breadth of Australia as the greatly increased prices of goods and commodities, generally referred to as profiteering. The proposal I wish to put before the Minister (Mr. Greene), and the House is that, if it is right to abolish secret treaties in order to eliminate war; it is right to abolish the secrecy of the Customs House, so that citizens may know the value upon which the importers pay duty on goodsbrought into this country. Pianos at one time were landed in Australia for something like £17.
– Some, I think; for less than that.
– The one I have in my mind was sold to the public for £45. If any one for a fee of sixpencecould go to the Customs Department and see the landed price of pianos, the people would be given a certain amount of protection against retailers, who charge them profits amounting to 200, or 300, and even as much as 400, per cent. Alternatively, the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette could be made a much more useful document than it is to-day. It is very rarely that any one reads it, and I never yet met a man who read it from cover to cover. If he did, I would take it as a symptom of lunacy on his part. We would like to know the cost of many goods on which import duty is paid, and that knowledge would cause the Australian public to keep a keen eyeupon retail prices when they went above a figure that would allow a just profit to be made. The Government of the day might then feel called on to issue a proclamation according to law, enacting that for the welfare of the public only a certain rate of profit should be allowed. What would happen if the Government, by proclamation, determined that the piano I mentioned should not be sold at a net profit of more than 50 per cent. over landed cost? This would immediately stop all that interchange of commodities between individuals which does not bring the article any nearer to the consumer. I believe that wheathas been sold more than once in wholesale transactions, and we have been told that certain imports have changed hands no less than eleven times, the selling price to the public being increased with every sale.I ascertained by the translation of the chief adviser of the Japanese Consul in Melbourne that matches were made in Japan and exported atless than1d. per gross - that is, 144 boxes full of matches ! In London, to make a gross of match boxes, without the matches, women and children used to be sweated and had to find their own fire and paste. No protective duty is worth a snap of the fingers against such a low cost of production as I have just mentioned. It indicates to me that the article should be a Government monopoly. That is the only means of fixing a Trust or Combine, which has its headquarters outside the confines of our territory.
Every one to whom I have made this suggestion indorses my belief that to give publicity to the landedcost of articles in Australia would be a great preventive of unjust increases in prices. What is the use even of 1,000 per cent. duty in the instance I have given ? What hope have we, with our higher ideals and higher wages and improved factory conditions, of competing against an industry of the kind to which I have referred? Every one recognises that no country in the world has increased the wages to its workers to the extent to which Japan has done lately. The advance has been really phenomenal, and the employees in many of the Japanese trades and callings are receiving more now per day than they received for a whole week’s work when I visited Japan. In those times male country workers could be obtained for about 50s. per year, and females for about 30s. per year.
– That is not going to continue.
– I am glad my honorable friend agrees with me. I look upon Japan as possibly the first co-operative Commonwealth the world will see. I do not know any other country which has so many nationalized industries. It is the only country that has beaten the American Tobacco Combine, and it did so by using its Customs Department. Japan offered the American Combine on two occasions to purchase their business and pay for their good-will. The Combine refused, knowing that in America they were backed up by all the other Combines. They had brought the Japanese palate to like the cigarettes which they were supplying, and they were very haughty and amused at the idea of Japan taking their business from them, seeing that in the meantime they had conquered England. The Japanese Government imposed a duty of 50 per cent. The Combine still laughed. Next year the duty was increased to 100 per cent. When it reached 150 per cent. the Combine approached the Japanese Government with a request that they should enter into negotiations. The Government refused, reminding them that they had previously made two fair offers which had been turned down. Next year the dutv rose to 250 per cent. This meant that cigars landed in Japan at £10 per 1,000 f.o.b. would cost the Combine £35, as against a cost to the Japanese Government of £10 plus landing charges and freightage. Even the American Combine could not stand that. When they found that the Japanese Government would not purchase their business, they gave up Japan and had all the rest of the world at their feet. The Japanese Government then obtained all their buildings and machinery, which it would not pay them to remove, for a mere song. Japan was not content with that, because I find from Kelly’s Customs Tariffs of the World that the duty in Japan on all tobaccos, other than chewing tobacco and snuff, is 355 per cent. Cigarettes manufactured by cheap. Japanese labour, and equal to any made anywhere else in the world, can be bought there at the rate of twenty-five for 2d.
– Have you any idea of the purchasing power of wages in Japan and Australia?
– No. Since I visited Japan, the wages paid in some trades there have increased to the extent of 500 per cent. In one case there has been an increase of 800 per cent.
– How long is it since the honorable member visited Japan?
– I think it was in 1905, and on my return I published my impressions in a little booklet entitled Flashlights from Japan, which was edited by “Telemachus” - Mr. Frank Myers.
As Japan was able to combat successfully one of the strongest Combines in the world, we also should be able to defeat the Trusts and Rings. I am reiterating what is really an old suggestion on my part . I commenced my political career by advocating the nationalization of “ lights, smokes, and drinks.” France has made £1,000,000 out of the nationalization of matches alone, and the movement has met with the satisfaction of the French people.
A point that I wish to stress is that we should do away with the secrecy of the Customs House. Let the citizens of Australia know what is the bedrock price at which goods consumed by them are imported. If that were done, a succeeding Government might see, in its wisdom, a chance to prevent the exploitation of the people in so far as imported commodities were concerned. It would be easy for the Department to garner the details relating to a particular industry, showing what would be a fair value to fix for its products. Then, by means of a referendum, the people might be asked to determine what would be a fair selling price, making due allowance for a reasonable profit.
The Minister should be able to do something to put down the infernal profiteering that is going on. There are many difficulties in dealing with the profiteer; but I think there is a way out. If the Government think there is not, then they should tell the people, and let them appoint others who will find a means of dealing with such individuals.
– I recognise that this is largely a machinery Bill, designed to provideby Statute law for much that is now dealt with by regulations. In these circumstances, I shall delay the House for only a few minutes. I rise particularly to draw attention to a clause in the Bill, which provides that the value of goods on which duty shall be collected shall be the fair market value in the country of origin. This provision is likely to have a bad effect on the commercial world of Australia. It is calculated to penalize men who are and have always been anxious to do the right thingin connexion with the importation of goods. I learn that the practice for which this clause provides has given rise to a great dealof friction between importers and the Department of Trade and Customs,and that many importers have been inconvenienced, and, in some instances, quite unintentionally, no doubt; penalized, by the Department. I understand that duty may be collected either on the f.o.b. invoice value plus 10 per cent., or on the fair market value ofthe goods concerned in the country of origin. I would point out, however, that an importer might purchase goods at a certain price, and find it impossible for some time to secure their shipment to Australia. In the meantime the value of such goods in the country of origin might considerably increase, with the result that, under this Bill, he would be charged duty on the higher price, and not on the f .o.b. value. Such a man might have entered into a contract, as an indentor, for the supply of such goods at a certain price, and in this way he would be very seriously inconvenienced. Again, goods might be purchased in New York at a certain price, and while they were held up owing to shipping difficulties, there might be a considerable fall in their value there. A competitor comingin and purchasing at the reduced price, and able to get his goods away as soon as the first purchaser, would thus havean unfairad vantage; sincehe would only have to pay duty on the lower value.
I ask the Minister (Mr. Greene) to try to devise some other means of getting at the dumper. I have the utmost contempt for any man who tries to evade the payment of duty rightly chargeable to him, and would make such an evasion a penal offence. But I would urge that it should be sufficient to provide for duty being collected on the invoice valuef.o.b. plus 10 per cent. It should be possible for the Department in. some other way to deal with the unscrupulous trader, whom nobody desires to protect.
Mr.FINLAYSON. (Brisbane) [12.8]. - While in Brisbane last week I had an interview with the Chamber of Commerce, and had brought under my notice very pointedly the matter to which reference has just been made by the honorable member forDenison (Mr. Laird Smith). I have been waiting this opportunity to point out what I think is the gross injustice done to the trading community of Australia by section 154 of the principal Act, as proposed to be amended by this Bill. Whereas the genuine invoice value plus 10 per cent. has hitherto been accepted as the correct value for duty - and every effort is made by the Department to insure that the invoice value so declared is correct - it is now proposed to adopt a new system whereby the value for duty will be the value, at the time of shipment, provided that it is not less than the invoice value.
– This Bill does not provide for any change in the existing law as recently laid down by the High Court. It simply expresses the same law, but in clear, definite terms. We are not altering the law in that regard in the slightest degree.
– Section 154 of the principal Act declares that the value for duty shall be the value at the port of shipment as shown by the invoice, plus 10 per cent.
– In arecent case the High Court determined that the departmental practice of charging the duty on the value as at the time of shipment was the law, and we are now putting in this Bill in clear unmistakable terms what we believe the law is, and has been, in accordance with the practice of theDepartment from the very beginning.
– This Bill embodies the High Court’s interpretation of section 154 of the principal Act. If that section is capable of such an interpretation, then I think it should be amended.
Those who know anything of business, must be well aware that orders are booked in other countries months, and in some cases years, ahead of the date of shipment to Australia. Recently shipping conditions have been abnormal, and goods have been piled up in Great Britain, America, and other countries awaiting opportunities for shipment to Australia, According to the Minister’s statement it is now proposed to make it quite clear in this Bill that duty is to be levied on the value of all goods at the time of shipment. Let us consider for a moment what might be the position in regard to a contract entered into by an engineering firm: Obviously months, or even a year or two, might elapse before the goods forming the subject of that contract couldbe delivered.
– The honorable member is not quite right in his statement that the value of the goods for the assessment of duty is to be the market value at the time of shipment. I would remind him of the provision that the value is not to be “in any case less than the actual money price shown in the genuine invoice.”
– I have already mentioned that. The Customs Department takes good care that the higher value shall always be the value for duty. That, I think, is perfectly fair. I am pointing out, however, that after goods have been ordered at a price agreed upon the value of those goods might rise very considerably owing to current shipping delays before they could be shipped to Australia. In such a case the purchaser would be penalized to the extent of the additional duty payable on the increased price.
– But he would pass on the increased amount of duty.
– He could not do so, since he might be under contract to supply the goods at a certain price.
– Most of these goods are sold long before they reach here.
– Quite so. Take the position of softgoods merchants.
– The Government are only proposing to do to the trader what they do to the producer, by putting an arbitrary value on his goods. Honorable members opposite raise no objection to the standardized values and book entries under the Income Tax Act, which affect the primary producer. Why so much concern for the city profiteer ?
– But the point is that any artificial interference with trade between Australia andother countries must divert trade from the Commonwealth.
– These people will make contracts with due regard to this law.
– They would have to provide in such contracts that any increased duties shouldbe payable by the purchaser.
– As long as it was set out in the agreement that the duty collected should be part of the contract price, there would be no trouble.
– There are no fewer than three honorable members trying to advise me.
– In any event the importers will pass onthe increased duty.
– That has nothing whatever to do with the question. If any passing on is going to be done, it will apply not only to the duty but to everything else. The question of profiteering does not affect this matter in the slightest degree. The provision to which I object simply means that in placing orders and incurring liabilities abroad, the trading community of Australia, and the general public in proportion, are going to be penalized because of artificial increases and changes that may take place in the price of goods as between the date of purchase and the date of shipment. If conditions were normal, and shipping vsras available without serious interruption, the risk would be comparatively small.
– The shipping space offering for goods coming to Australia is in excess of the cargo offering. One half of our ships coming out to Australia are in ballast.
– That is not the information which the public have.
– It is correct. Nine thousand-ton ships carrying our troops from Great Britain come out almost entirely in ballast,
– That is only from the Old Country.
– Yes; and not from America. I am credibly informed. that thousands of tons of goods for Australia are awaiting shipment in Great Britain.
– That was true, but it is not true of the position to-day.
– Even if that be so, it is true that the shipping available for the carriage of goods to Australia from other countries, particularly America, is wholly insufficient.
– We are overcoming difficulties in regard to inward shipping, but we have a difficulty in getting sufficient outward tonnage.
– If shipping were at its pre-war standard, we should have no difficulty.
– So far as the importation of goods is concerned, shipping is practically normal to-day.
-In any case, I openly admit that if shipping were normal the risk under this Bill would not be so bad. But I do not think that the policy that is proposed is honest and proper. After all, we must rely to a very large extent upon firms in this country anticipating a demand for goods, and placing their orders in other countries at such a period in advance of local requirements as to insure that we shall have trade flowing backwards and forwards. Under this Bill they will be compelled to take a risk between the time the goods are purchasedabroad and the time of their shipment. That, I think, is unfair, and harasses and interrupts legitimate trade.
– But that cuts both ways.
– The Bill distinctly states that the value cannot be below the invoice price. The Customs Department always proceeds on the assumption that anybody having business relations with it is a would-be robber, and is trying to cheat the revenue of the country.
– It is a fairly good basis for our transactions.
– I have toadmit that it is the only basis, because there are some people who think it no crime to rob the Government, and who will resort to all sorts of devious devices in order to defraud the revenue.
– The best way to protect the honest traders is to treat all traders as robbers.
– The main difficulty that the traders have is in learning exactly what the Customs Department requires.
– We are introducing this Bill so that there may be no doubt as to what we require.
– Then this Bill is the last word in the simplification of Customs procedure?
– We hope so.
– My own experience, when I was in business, was that it was very difficult to ascertain what the Customs Department required. I was desirous of doing the right thing. I had no wish to take advantage of the Department, but I was always treated as if I had some ulterior motive and was seeking to rob the Government. However, the Customs Department take every precaution to protect the revenue, because even the most reputable firms are likely to make mistakes, but this proposed alteration, whether or not it be to meet an interpretation of the law by the High Court, is causing considerable perturbation in the minds of importers in this country and manufacturers and exporters abroad.
-What countries abroad ?
– America, for instance.
-That gives the whole show away. I believe that this provision is mainly directed against America.
– The honorable member for Brisbane has been to the wrong sources for his information.
– I discussed this matter with the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce, and there is no political motive behind my criticism.
– I also discussed it with Chambers of Commerce.
– I know the Minister did; and those bodies were not converted in the least by the discussions. It is represented to me that this provision would not only cause unfair interference with the men who are seeking to do business with other countries, but is already having the effect, which will be increasingly felt, of diverting trade from Australia, because, obviously, there is no security.
Mr.Greene. - The honorable member means that it will restrict imports and encourage the local manufacturer.
– If it will divert trade from Australia, what will happen?
– This is an added measure of protection,
– If I thought that, it would have my hearty support. But the trade of the world is so nervous that the more restrictions we place upon it the more disturbing is the effect on. the general public. If a firm is compelled to place abroad an order for machinery or softgoods months or years ahead of delivery, and has to take the risk between the date of purchase- and the time of shipment, it must; cover itself by an additional margin of profit.
– That is done in every case. Every contract of sale contains the phrase, “Subject to variations of the market.”
– That additional margin must be paid by the public.
– Of course, it is paid by the public.
– That simply means that the duty which is legally payable is paid by the public.
– The duty is always paid by the public. The merchants in fixing the wholesale distributing price must on entering into contracts with their customers for the delivery of the goods add an additional margin of 10, 15; or 20 per cent. to cover the risk they take between the dates of purchase and shipment. Therefore the Australian public will be penalized.
Until lately all sorts of artificial restrictions were placed upon trade between Australian and Eastern ports, and the Customs Department introduced a lot of permits, landing certificates,&c., that were obviously unnecessary and irritating.
– Those were nearly all war precautions.
– I know that they are gone now, but if we substitute other restrictions such as the Bill proposes, we shall hinder and not help trade. It is quite obvious that the trade of the world will develop along lines different from those that were followed before the war. New avenues and, channels of trade must be developed, and we in Australia must operate along them in order to maintain our trading relations with other parts of the world. I think we should develop the most friendly commercial relations with America. Our mutual interest in the Pacific justifies us in having close reciprocal trading relations with New Zealand, Canada, and America. International disturbances often arise as the result of commercial antagonisms, and as I believe the principal theatre of international trouble in future will be the Pacific, we should cultivate the most kindly commercial relations with the nations that share with us the interest in that ocean. For that reason anything that can be done to promote trade between Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States of America will be altogether to our advantage. If it be true that the clause I am referring to is aimed at the United States I am afraid it will have the effect of hindering instead of helping trade with that country.
– I assure the honorable member that it is not aimed particularly at the United States. Indeed it brings our legislation into almost direct line with similar legislation in America, and Canada has the same law as we are now incorporating in this Bill.
– I am merely pointingout what will cause difficulties in our commercial relationship. I am convinced, after consultation with the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce, that we are causing unwarrantable risk and interference, and thatno good purpose will be served, by insisting that the increased price, as between the time of purchase and the date of shipment, should be liable to duty. The price which an importer pays for goods is the amount on which duty should be collected, and the Customs Department should be content with such duty. So long as the Government have reasonable security that the invoice price is genuine that is quite sufficient for all useful and necessary purposes.
Mr.BOYD (Henty) [12.28].- I indorse many of the remarks of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) in regard to the clause he particularly dealt with. The principle it contains has operated in the Customs Department in two different ways. When the war broke out and prices were rising the Department did not accept the invoice value of goods. The original Act gives to the Customs authorities power to load the invoice price in order to bring it up to the value existing in the exporting country at the time of shipment. For instance, if a man bought a ton of iron at £20, and before the iron arrived in Australia the price at the port of shipment had risen to £30, the Department added £10 to the price shown on the invoice, making the invoice value the normal priceat the port of shipment when the goods arrived in Australia. A deputation to the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) pointed out that the Act provided that duty should be payable on the invoice value. The Department replied, in effect, “ We are entitled to get duty on the full value of the goods. When prices begin to fall, the importer will get the benefit of a refund, because the goods will be priced at £30 in the invoice; but if the price at the port of shipment at the time when the goods arrive has fallen to £20, only on that value will duty be collected.” That promisewas made by the Minister
– When was the promise made?
Mr.Greene. - I confess that I was not listening to the honorable member.
– Then I will call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– Before the honorable member for Henty proceeds, may I once more direct attention to a point to which I have frequently referred, namely, that upon the motion for the second reading of Bills there is a general disposition on the part of honorable members to discuss the clauses of the measures. So far I have not interrupted honorable members, but unquestionablythattendency obtains at the present time. I would remind the House that the clauses of a Bill should be discussed in Committeeand only its general principles should be debated upon the motion for its second reading.
– The principlewhichwas observed in the Customs Department of chargingduty upon the full value of goods as set out inthe original invoice, plus any increase whichmayhave taken place in thecountry of shipment,operated until a deputation waited upon the Ministerialhead of thatDepartment. An interjection by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) prompted me to ask the Ministerwhen the Department promised that, when prices began tofall, duty would not be chargedonthe invoiced prices of goods, if those prices were higher than the value of thegoodsatthe time at their port of shipment. Idonot know the precise date uponwhich that promise was made, butI do know that the Customs Department is acting on that principle to-day.
– I know that it is not.
– I know that it is. If the honorable member challenges my statement I will produce an invoice. I would like this point to be cleared up now. Has the Department charged duty upon a less value than has been set out in any invoice which has been presented to it?
– I cannot answer that question off-hand.
– As a matter of fact, I know that it has done so in numerous cases. It followed that course in pursuance of the promise which wasmade, and I say that it is a perfectly equitable course. But under this Bill, now that prices are falling, an attempt is to be made to catch the advantage both ways. T he Department got the advantage when the rise took place, but now, when it has to make concessions on a falling market, it says, “ No.We wish to collect duty upon the invoice value “ - a course which is absolutely dishonest.
– Upon which invoice? Sometimes there are two invoices.
– Upon the value set out in the genuine invoice. I have no objection to the Department collecting duty upon the full value of any article. But by maintaining these prices when the market is falling, the Government are deliberately keeping up the cost to the consumer and thus encouraging that profiteering of which we hear so much from the Opposition. Everybody knows that the merchant does not pay the duty. He merely passes it on, with a percentage of profit added to it. That is business. By adopting the course that is proposed in this Bill, prices will be artificially raised and the consumer will have to pay. While thecountry is seething with agitation against profiteering, this measure seeks toperpetuate that evil by reasonof theattitude ofthe CustomsDepartment.
There is another principle involved in the Bill which I do not regard as a fair one. It seeks to clothe the Government with power to prevent any duty being collected upon goods imported forthe purposes of trade, so long as that trade is managed by the Commonwealth. In other words, if we take over the sugar industry or any other industry, and control it as a Commonwealth concern-
– To which clause is the honorable member referring?
– To sub-clause 2 of clause 10 of the Bill.
– The honorable member is barking up the wrong tree. The object of that clause is the exact opposite of what he. alleges.
– Section 131 of the principal Act says -
No goods the property of the Commonwealth shall be liable to any duty of Customs.
– And clause 10 of the Bill says that that section shall not apply. The effect of the clause, therefore, is to do exactly what the honorable member wants.
– I accept the assurance of the Minister. I see that I was mistaken.
There is one other objection which I have to offer to the Bill, namely, that it aims at gradually depriving this Parliament of power to determine anything except vague general legislation. Clause 4 seeks to repeal section80 of the principal Act. Now, schedule 2 of the principal Act prescribes thefees which shall be chargeable against warehouses. Under this Bill that power will be placed in the hands of the Minister.
– He is responsible to the House.
– The honorable member apparently forgets that under the War Precautions Act very large powers were vested in the hands of Ministers, and, as a result, a number of honorable members got doses of something which they did not like. That is why I am prepared- to kick. So long as I am a member of this Parliament I shall protest against the Government taking unto themselves powers which properly belong to this Parliament. The longer this process continues, the more incompetent will honorable members become to enact legislation in the interests of this country. Apparently theonlyvoice we shall have in these matters will be in our power to take exception to regulations when they are laid upon the table of the House. If no exception be taken, those regulations will have the force of law within a period of fourteen days.
Mr.Tudor. - We cannot take exception to regulations.
– Then why are there notices of motion on the business-paper disagreeing with regulations which have been made under an Act of Parliament.
– No regulation has ever been discussed in this Chamber since the inception of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member’s first statement was that we could not take exception to them. Yet honorable members are prepared , to givethispower to the Government.
– The Bill does the very opposite.
– I repeat . that regulations which are framed by Ministers under an Act of Parliament have to be laid on the table of the House, and if no exception be taken to them within a prescribed period, they have the force of law. I need scarcely remind honorable members that regulations framedunder the War Precautions Act have been presented to Parliament, and honorable members have tabled motions disagreeing with them. But by means of certain standing orders, the Government have effectually prevented those motions from being discussed.
– I understand that in another place honorable membershave been more successful.
– What has that to do with us ? I cannot be bluffed like that. When once effect has been given to regulations, this House is impotent to alter them. That applies to this Bill and to nearly every Act of Parliament providing for the payment of fees. The Minister should make up his mind as to the different fees his officers should receive, and incorporate them in a schedule to the Bill, and not leave them to be prescribed in an indefinite way. I shall always protest against the gradual taking away of the power of honorable members and placing it in the hands of Ministers - a course of procedure which simply compels those of us who are not in the Ministry to become useless excrescences on the legislative machine.
– I cannot indorse the sentiment expressed by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson), that every encouragement should be given to the establishment of trade between Australia and America and ‘ Canada, and other places bordering on the Pacific Ocean, because the- arrangement of a reciprocal agreement with those countries, even with other Dominions of the Empire, would mean that there would be very little for Australian workmen to do. One country stands out particularly as a very serious competitor with Australia. I hope the day will come when, actuated by the best of good sense, we shall give the Minister for Trade and Customs the statutory power to say that goods shall not be permitted to enter Australia unless they are manufactured under conditions similar to those prevailing- here. A good deal has been said about the effect that the shipping disabilities have had in increasing the cost of imported goods, but the Minister (Mr. Greene) has shown us that, so far as shipping between Great Britain and Australia is concerned, conditions are now almost normal. In fact, he has explained that some of our vessels which are bringing back troops are arriving in ballast. Since the war began, one country which has been able to control the seas and its own mercantile marine has been in a position to land goods in Australia at a cost with which Australian manufacturers have not been able to compete. The trade which this country is doing with Australia has so increased that persons who were fiscal atheists are now awaking to the fact that if Australia is to be in a position to pay its enormous debt, every effort must be made to find employment for its people. If this country is to be in a position to hold out a welcoming hand to immigrants, its industries must be stimulated.
– How does this Bill affect the matter?
– This is a Bill which places in the ‘hands of the Minister for Trade and Customs certain administrative powers, making it possible for him to protect the industries of Australia, or leave them practically at the mercy of other countries. We ought to insert a clause insisting that goods shall not be allowed to come into Australia unless they are manuf actured under conditions similar to those applying here. With such a provision we would not be subjected to the very undesirable competition which we now suffer
– Why admit the goods at all?
– That is what I say. One need not nowadays speak with bated breath of Japan. . That country has landed millions of pounds’ . worth of goods in Australia during the war; and, be it said to their lasting disgrace, since the war broke out and our trading con- nexion with Germany ceased, many people who call themselves Australians ‘have taken themselves to this Eastern country, and filled it with orders for goods for Australia. The goods supplied to those orders are now coming here. When the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) was Minister for Trade and Customs, he found that all kinds of faked invoices were being foisted on the Customs Department.
– That practice has been going on for many years.
– The honorable member for Yarra and other Ministers who followed him,- and probably, also, preced-‘ ing Ministers, sought to defeat this practice by sending to Germany, Great Britain, and, I believe, America, certain men who were splendidly qualified for the duties they were called upon to perform, namely, to examine the invoices of goods being shipped to Australia. I heard it said by the late Senator McGregor that, owing to the undervaluation of invoices, Australia was losing £1,000,000 per annum.
– There was the Reid case.
– Yes, we have had some disgraceful exhibitions of undervaluations. Our Customs Department, under State management or under Federal administration, has been “rooked” time after time. In this respect conditions have improved in recent years, and I believe that Australia is now enjoying the receipt of Customs duties on goods valued at their proper invoice value at the port of shipment. But when I look at the latest figures supplied by Mr. Knibbs, and see what an immense quantity of goods is coming in, I realize that our Customs officers have their hands fairly full. During the first nine months of the financial year 1918-19, textile goods, not including apparel,were imported to thevalue of £21,000,000, asagainst £11,000,000 for a similar period in 1917-18. It is a step in the right direction to tighten up ourCustoms laws, and give the Minister and his officers every possible authority to scrutinize invoices, not only when goods arrive here, but also at the port of shipment. When the practice of investigating invoices abroad wasfirst instituted, the British manuf acturerstookexception to it. They said, “ Why should Australian Customs officerscome intoour invoice departments to ascertain thevalue of goods.?”Ibelievethat wedid it under the threatthat if the British manufacturers were notprepared toallow an inspectionof their booksdisclosing the invoicevalue of goodssentto Australia, we wouldhave to take measures to preclude the entry ofthosemanuf acturers’goods into Australia. I believe that we still haveofficers on the otherside of the world carrying out this duty, and I understand that prior to the war even Germanmerchants desirous of despatching goods to Australiahad to submit to these investigations. An honest man mayobject to this scrutiny ofhis books, but the Customs Department has come to the conclusion, from what has happened in the past, that every man doing business with it must be deemed to be a rogue. I would like the Minister (Mr. Greene) to state whether the same investigations take place in Japan ; whether our officers are privileged to enter a Japanese merchant’s warehouse and ascertain the value of his goods prior to exportation.
– We do the best we can to arrive at the value of goods in Japan.
– From what I know of the habits of the Japanese, I am doubtful whether our Australian Customs officers are permittedto enter a Japanese warehouse in order to secure the information they can obtain in Great Britain.The Japanese goods comingto Australia are made the subject of, perhaps, the worst system ofprofiteeringthereisin theworld. Recentlyaspecial Commissioner came to Australia from Japan in order to ascertainthe requirementsof our buyers, and wastold thatone ofthetroubles our merchants had in dealing with Japanese goodswasthatthebulkshipment was neverup to thesamplesubmitted. He promised to dohis bestto see that the matter wasrectified,but whether hehas doneso I donot know.However, we should treat the Japanese manufacturers in the same way as we treatthe British manufacturers. Ifthey will mot permit our officers to ascertain the invoice value of goods inJap an, weshould subject them to Customs disabilitieshere. I see no remedy for this evil but in the direction ofabsolute prohibition. I would not do what the honorable member for Brisbane has suggested - make a Customs arrangement with any nation which may beregardedas a partner in the custody of the Pacific Ocean. I admit that very oftenwars are occasioned over trading disputes; but Ihopethatwe shall never buy support for ourselvesby ruining Australian industry. Whenthe Minister says that he and his officers are doing their best,it ishardly fair to insist that they should do more; but why should he not make thesame stipulationas was made by the honorable member for Yarra in regard to British and American goods, and impose certain disabilities upon Japanese goods if our officers are not permitted to examine the invoice value of those goods in Japanese warehouses ?
The Bill meets with my approval, because it has a general tightening-up effect, but we know that the trouble in regard to the importation of goods is that the wholesale houses must make theirprofits as well as the retailers. Coates hasalmost a monopoly of cotton,and there are two firms in Australia - one in Melbourneand one in Sydney - who have the monopoly of the distribution of thatparticular article. We must keep our eyes on that sortof thing, andtakecareto seethat ample protection is given toourown traders and our own people, who should be our chief concern.
Sitting suspended from1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I sympathize with theMinister forTradeandCustoms (Mr.Greene) in hisdesire to get this Billthrough ; but I wishto refer to hisremarksregarding the HighCourt judgment, which affirmed the validity ofthe regulations under which the recent practice of determining values has beencarriedout. The Minister isevidently thoroughlysatisfied,because,in his own words,the HighCourt has givenadefinitedecisionthatthe power claimed by the Customs is inherent in the original Act. That judgment came as a surprise to the trade. It was severely technical, and having regard to the case under consideration, it was, in a way, cruel. It disturbed the commercial interests in Australia considerably in ‘every State, and naturally so.
– The practice was always the same.
– It was not. The case was the typical one, and had reference to the importation of a shipment of linoleums. . It affected several housesin the Commonwealth in this way.: The firm purchased linoleums and wanted them . immediately, because the marketwas bare here. They could notget themfor months, because there was no shipping. In some, instances that I know personally they not only purchased the linoleums, but they sold them here right out. Aftera good many months’ delay, the linoleums came along. They were delivered and paid for, and then the Customs stepped in and said the invoice was not correct, as it did not represent the value of the goods at the time of shipment. Neither did it, but it followed the practice that had always been observed, andthe case was an exceedingly hard one, because these men, in good faith and in the course of honest trading, had received the goods, distributed them, and obtained the money for them,and then the Customs Department claimed duty on a higher price.
– How.long after they had imported, them?
– It must have been at least a month after, ‘because they would not have been paidfor in. less than a month, even by cashbuyers. , I admit ‘that itwasa war condition, but ‘I claim the attention of the Ministerwhile I deal with the question of values.I shall show that these traders here were not only doing the thoroughly honest thing, but they were adopting a practice that lad been observed for a generation : back.
-The practice in Goode’s case had been in force for many months.
-I admit thatwarconditions made all the difference. Doesthehonorablemembersay that . that practice had been followed by the Customs Department?
– Yes, for many years.
Mr.RICHARDFOSTER. - Not for many years, because I had it out with the Customs Department, and they could not set up a proper moral defence.
– Apparently, if you touch one Customs Minister, you touch the lot.
– Yes ; if ordinary traders could only trade under the conditions obtaining in the Customs Department, they could do mighty well, because the Department goes always on the principle of “ heads I win, tails you lose.”
– No chance!
– It is admittedly so, and possibly there has been justification, because there are fraudulent persons; but it should also fee remembered that special penalties are very properly provided against fraud. The Department established values in a very immoral way, as I shall show. At the time the linoleums were shipped, the market at Home was bare. There are certain makers of linoleums who are well known, andtheir makes arestandard makes. They hadnostocks, and, therefore, to ascertain values at . Home at the time of this shipment, you had to go to the placewhere the few linoleums that were in existence would command almost any price that the holders liked to ask for them. Is that a fairor decent standard of value? I say it is not, and I appeal to the (honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), who would do all he couldto help Customs duties upwards, to say whether it is. It is not a fair moral standardof value, and trade couldnever be conducted . under such conditions. . My honorable friends opposite . are . always talking . about profiteering, and . the oppression . of the consumer. This practice does . not give them . a fair deal, because it is . they, and not the importer, who must pay . the extra amount, ..except . in this unfortunate instance, where the . importer had followed the practice of a generation back, and thus landed himself in a position where he could not recover whatwas claimed from him after the goods ‘had been paid for. Althoughthe High Court judgment has beengiven,the firm intend,whatever . itcosts them, to takethecasetothePrivy Council. I understand there are certain limitations, and that they have to obtain permission to go to the Privy Council’. They ought to have permission. It cannot on any moral grounds, or on any grounds of equity, be withheld from them. If this practice is to be established, it is going to prevent in trade what is known as forward buying, because that will be made impossible!.
– Not in peace times.
– Let me elaborate that. The Minister for Trade and Customs does not likeany calling this a new practice, and he would certainly object to my calling it an immoral practice, but if it is recognised, what object is there in a man buying forward ? Buying forward is a common and very legitimate practice in business.
– The buyer takes the risk on that buying.
– Of course, and if his risk comes off right, his enterprise is all in the interests of the consumer, because he will bring much cheaper stuff to this country. The practice in trade is for a certain percentage to be put on the goods. If a man, instead of getting the benefit of forward buying, must pay Customs duty on the price current at the date of shipment, the consumers will not get the advantage from his enterprise which they would otherwise get. Take, for example, cottons. It is a common thing for the manufacturer to look ahead for one, two or even three years.
– Are you referring to cotton piece goods?
– I am talking about the raw material. If an Australian importer sees that a rise is coming along, and these men know pretty well what the world’s markets are, he steps in and buys forward, not for immediate delivery, but for a long time ahead. I admit that so far as the Customs are concerned, he would not have serious difficulty in the case of cottons, because there ‘ is not much of a duty.
– Cotton piece goods from the United Kingdom are free.
– Yes, my argument is a bit at fault, and I must take another material with cotton in it.
– Tweeds, which may have 95 per cent, cotton in them, are charged as woollens.
– Take that material as a basis. The practice will interfere with a man who wishes to buy forward. Again, in the matter of. declaring values, the Customs officer may aver a certain value,’ and under this Bill that averment will be taken as prima facie evidence of the value.
– The honorable member is getting on to quite a different subject.
– It is different, but it very often has the same effect on the importer.
– In normal times there will be no difference.
– I admit that. Some members have referred to the Chambers of Commerce. These bodies in all the States got a scare about this Bill, but in South Australia the Collector was able to remove a great deal of the feeling of unrest, because the Chamber of Commerce there had. not seen the Bill, and were proceeding under a misapprehension. The member for Kooyong is perfectly right in saying that in normal times the practice will not make much difference in the case of cottons, particularly with regard to the United Kingdom, because there is a fairly level and even standard of business there, and it is pretty honest too. But there are other parts of the world which proceed on different principles.
– I admit that, in making that statement, I am giving my case away. But, after all, I am only asking for a fair thing.
Honorable members are aware that there are other conditions where the declaration of values for export are, I shall not say false, but compared with the principle set out in clause 11 of this Bill, are on a false basis. Every one knows that the United States, for instance, exports its surpluses at prices much lower than those ruling for home consumption.
– That is very rough on the people at home.
– And rough on our fiscal policy here. I understand that in’ Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa, the principle for. which this Bill provides is recognised, and it means that in respect of imports from the United States duty will have to be paid, not on the prices for export, but on the home values. That will be a distinct advantage to Australian industries. It will mean a little more protection for them, and an extra preference to Great Britain.
– It will make the preference to Britain effective.
– Yes ; and even better than it appears to be.
– If we revise our Tariff, will American manufacturers establish industries here?
– So much the better if they do.
– And chargeus higher prices while they dump their surplus good? in America? There are already a few Americans here with that idea.
– There may be such people. The Minister must admit that the Adelaide case to which I have referred was an exceedingly hard one, and I think that a refund should be made to the firm in question.
– How does the honorable member view the principle involved in this proposed amendment of section 154.
– From an all-round point of view, and having regard to what is done in respect of exporte from the United States, and other countries, I do not think we could adopt any other means.
.- I object to the autocratic powers which it is proposed by this Bill to vest in the Min-. inster for Trade and Customs and the permanent head of the Department.
– Are they new ?
– No ; they represent an old sore, and that is why I take exception to them. We have the greatest confidence in the present Min-. ister (Mr. Greene), but, as Byron has said, “ we are but the children of time and circumstance,” and Heaven only knows who may be the Ministerial head of the Department in the future. Under clause 9 it is proposed to repeal section 119 of the principal Act, and to provide in its stead that -
I object to that provision, and in Committee shall move an amendment providing that such a clearance shall be given unless the master shall have violated some law of the Commonwealth. The Kaiser, of whom we hear so much in this House, was, to some extent, an “ innocent abroad,” having regard to the powers which Customs officials are given.
– There is always an appeal to the Minister.
– But I object to the provision that the decision of the Minister shall be final and conclusive. These arbitrary powers should not be vested in the Minister or the permanent head, save where there has been some violation of a law of the Commonwealth.
.- I cannot agree with the conclusion arrived at by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster), who spoke of a shipment of goods which were sold before arrival here, and who considered it to be a great hardship that the importers were called upon to pay an increased rate of duty because the value of such goods in the country of origin had increased between the date of their purchase and the time of shipment. The honorable member urged that, in the interests of consumers, the excess duty so collected should be refunded to the importers. If he could guarantee that the consumers would be benefited in the shape of reduced . prices to the extent of the money so refunded, there might be some reason in his argument. It seems to me, however, that an importer who purchased in a low market would take advantage of any subsequent increase in values, and would sell at the higher rate, so that the general public would receive no benefit if a refund such as the honorable member suggests were made.
– My reply to that is that the particular goods to . which I have referred were sold at a rate corresponding with the price at which they were purchased, and that the importers had to bear the loss of the increased duty levied.
– These people take risks, and the Government should not be expected to guarantee them against loss when they buy six or twelve months ahead of their requirements.
With the general principles of the Bill I largely agree, but I regret that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) has not availed himself of this opportunity to take more power to control exports. Yesterday, I asked him a question relating to the high cost of. boots and leather,but he denied that there was any increase in prices. In to-day’s newspapers, there -appears a report of an inquiry in which it is shown that the prices of military and other boots have considerably increased, and that these increases are likely to go on. By means of this Bill the Minister could take power to protect the users of bootsand leather just as he is taking power to protect the Customs revenue. He could provide for the regulation of the export of leather and raw hides.
– The honorable member would protect Australian industries, and in addition would reduce the value of the raw material to the producers.
– The producers of the hides apparently should not get anything for them.
– Quite a number of cattle raisers who have died recently were exceedingly wealthy men. If they could make moneyat the pre-war prices, we might wellask whatsuch men are making to-day. Unfortunately, we have in this House men who shut their eyes to the fact that users of boots and shoes, as well as other goods, are beingexploited. It is not my desirethat the producers of hides, or any otherraw material,should not get a fair price,but we ought to have some regard for the consumers. American agents are touringtheCommonwealth buyingup all the leather and hides they can secure. Thatbeing so,we are only at the beginning of high prices for boots and leather.
– This is the only National Parliament of which I know in which a member is prepared to . ask that the value of exports shall be reduced.
– I want a fair thing for the people of this country, and the people will insist upon getting it. The price of boots has gone up to the extent of 50 per cent., or more. Even children’s boots have increased in price to the extent of 100 per cent. There is a screw loose somewhere, and the Minister, by means of this Bill, should try to tighten it up. These increased prices are not confined to boots and shoes. They apply to everything we use and eat. If the Governmentcontinue to ignore thisfact,thepeople will arise up in their wrath at the next general elections, and make a change.
I have in my electorate a large number of boot manufacturers, many of whom tell me that the priceof leather used by them has recently increased to the extent of 50 per cent. To-day the price has risen 50 . per cent.
– Look attheir balancesheets.
– I would like to see the honorable member’s balance-sheet.
– It will show a largeloss in these days.
– A person who pays such a large income tax as the honorable member is reported to pay, must be doing very well.
– Not necessarily.
-The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) reminds me of a story I was told about a pie merchant. A customer said to him, “ These are really good pies.” The piemerchant replied, “ They ought tobe, because on every one I sell I lose one farthing.” “ Then,” said the customer, “how do you make the business pay? “ The pie merchant replied,. “ By the number of pies I sell.” Apparently,the honorable member for Hume loses on his stations, but makes the business pay by the number of stations on which he loses. The position is that a numberof boot factories cannot get supplies of leather, to keep them going. They are unable to compete with the buyers from America., and we are given to understand . that’ the leather they purchase is re-exported from America to Germany.
– But we are getting back the money.
– That willnot keepour manufacturing industries going. Boot manufacturers have.been making goods of a very high quality, but because America is prepared to pay , a big price for the best hides, the bootmaking industry must be shut down. I donot blamethe man who has hides to sell for gettingthe best price, but we mustdo something to save the bootmaking industry,and toconserve the interests of the people who, at the present time,are compelled to pay high prices for footwear.
Mr.FLEMING (Robertson) [2.48].-
The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) has tried toimpress upon the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) the desirability of prohibiting to a certain extent the export of our raw products. He says that the necessity for that course arises from the fact that the consumers have to pay more for their goods, and will soon be causing a disturbance. The man in Australia who has most reason to rise in hiswrath is the producer on the land. The honorable member referred to the income tax which some landholders’are paying. Under the present system of taxation- man who is raising stock- might easily, and very often does, pay substantial income tax, although- his operations for the year, have shown a loss. Very frequently he’ pays taxation on the natural’ increase of his flocks and herds upon which he never realizes: Under our absurd method of taxation- a- man is charged- taxation on what the Department’ calls the average value of his stock, but in many cases that stock dies before the grower has an opportunity of turning- it into cash.
– The man on the land is the only person in the community who, when he is obliged to keep his stock until it has depreciated with age, is not allowed to write it down.
– Is there no remedy?.
– None. For years when I was in the Parliament of New South Wales I fought the Income Tax Commissioner on this matter. Finally, I received an assurance in writing from the Commissioner that natural increase would not be taxed until it had arrived at the age of maturity, which, in the case of) sheep, was fixed, at twelve months. But that promise has never been carried out.; taxation- is still- collected on. unrealized natural increase. To my certain knowledge’ men in. New South Wales., including some in, whose family the freehold has been for generations-,, are selling out owing principally, to this iniquitous; form of taxation..
– But when the stock; dieis not an allowance made by the Taxation Commissioner’?
– No. The grower pays his taxation on the natural increase, although he may never geta penny from it. I intend on another occasion) to suggest what I consider a fair system of taxation for the man on the land. We are told that’ this measure will stimulate primary industries, and that it is necessary to do that in order to meet Australia’s enormous debt. What are the industries that will enable us to bear the burden of debt? According to the Commonwealth Y ear-Bookthe added value of manufactures in 1916 was £67,000,000, and the total actual return from primary production was £201,000,000- exactly threetimes the return of the value of manufactures. Yet we are told that the primary industries are to.be kept in check by not being allowed to export their products at the world’s value. Our national debt will be a considerable- burden on. Australia, and how- are we to meet it unless we encourage wealth production? Can we encourage wealth production under the present iniquitous system of taxation, and if effect is given to the ideas that have been enunciated by the honorable member for South Sydney and. others on the Opposition side?
– Why complaint If they had not those ideas they would own our stations.
Mir. FLEMING.- Unless something is done to alleviate the position of the man on the land, primary production will’ not increase at anything like the rate it should do. In addition to the taxation which he has to pay he must lock up in his business a far greater amount of capital in proportion to his production than any other class of trader. The manufacturer has a turnover annually of the greater part of his capital. Every bank in Australia is anxious to. get commercial business, but very few are willing to extend their operations in connexion with land propositions. The reason is plain. Whilst the commercial man. has a. quick and frequent turnover of his capital, the man on the land, especially if he owns freehold, has the far greater part. of his capital locked up.
– And themanufacturer often is merely a leaseholder.
– The primary producer also is a leaseholder at times. The primary producer on freehold land is the best asset that this country has, because he has a greater inducement to improve his holding than has any leaseholder. But under the present system the freeholders with large capital locked up are getting a smaller return for their capital than are any other men in Australia. The consequence is that they are becoming tired of “ carrying the baby,” and many of them are trying to sell out. That is a very serious state of affairs, having regard to the present financial position of Australia. Frequently these men must continue buying land in order to save their stock, or to cut down the managerial and overhead expenses of their blocks. They have about reached their limit, and unless some relief is afforded there will be no necessity to place any restriction on the export of primary products, because there will be a very much reduced quantity available for export.
I desire to suggest to the Minister what seems to ‘me a very proper extension of the trade of this country. At present we are practically ignorant of what the British Empire as an Empire can do. The various Dominions are all at a loss to know what position they bear in relation to each other. This country would do . well to establish a Board of inquiry and adjustment to ascertain exactly what commodities Australia can produce to greater advantage than any other part of the British -Dominions. If every other Dominion throughout the Empire did the same, and a free interchange of goods between the various parts of the British Empire were arranged, we should then be in something like a sound position to frame a Tariff.
– Have we not a Board of Trade ?
– I am told that the Board of Trade is trying to carry out this policy to a certain extent, but it is overwhelmed with a multiplicity of activities, and there is no body whose specific duty it is to ascertain what we can produce to more advantage than any other part of the Empire, and vice versa. The time has arrived, as the. result of the recent world-wide upheaval, when if we are to maintain our leadership in the trade- of the world, we must find out exactly where’’ we stand, instead of continuing to beat the air as ‘we have’ been doing for many years.
I wish to impress upon the Minister the desirability of promoting commercial relations with Canada. In that Dominion there is a marvellous ignorance of the production of Australia.’ There are great opportunities for reciprocal trade between
Canada and the Commonwealth, but there is nobody in authority there to instruct the Canadian people regarding the openings for trade with us.
– We are very little better off in England.
– That is true. I suggest to the Minister that it is advisable to establish in Canada a Trade Commissioner who would be able to advise the people pf the Dominion of what trade can be done between them and us to our mutual advantage. I assure him that many of the leading men of Canada hold the idea that the British Dominions, should trade amongst themselves to the best advantage, that we should know more of each other, and work together more than we have done’ in the past to promote the stability of the Empire. As a pri-mary producer I say that Australia stands to benefit by that movement as much as, if not more than, any other part of the Empire. We are the most happilycircumstanced country in the world for primary production except for the lack of sympathy on the part of the Government. There is no question that the city interests overshadow us here to a larger extent than they do in most of the Dominions. Yet the same problem confronts them all. But in Australia we have presented to us the finest opportunity which could be presented to a country of primary production, such as this undoubtedly is. Under our present system we .are breeding the best men who have ever been seen in the fighting line. Yet we have been told that we must divert population from the lines of natural production into the channels of manufacture. When I hear speeches such as were delivered by the honorable member for South Sydney, and realize where they would lead us, and when I know how the country interests are suffering at the present moment, I cannot too strongly endeavour to convince the Government that if the existing drift be allowed to continue, we shall have very little chance indeed of progressing along that upward road which we have -hitherto travelled.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Section 80 of the principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead : - “ 80. The fees payable by licensees for warehouses shall be as prescribed, and shall be paid within such period or at such times as are prescribed.”
.- I would likethe Minister to tell the Committee exactly what he wants in the matter of the fees to be charged under this Bill, and to ask him to include them in schedule 2 of the principal Act.
– It has been found in practice that it would be to the benefit of the commercial community, as well as of the Customs Department, if we had something upon which we could come and go with a little more freedom than we can under schedule 2 of the principal Act. For instance, it has been found that, if through any inadvertence on behalf of a licensee, the licence-fees are not paid on the prescribed date, and in the prescribed way, we have no option but to cancel the whole of the securities and to enter into a new agreement. In this clause we are merely seeking to do what we have already done under our Excise Act.
– Did we not alter the existing procedure in a Bill last year?
– Yes; and we left the matter to be prescribed by regulation. The Department has no intention of doing anything which will be detrimental to the interests of the commercial community. We merely want a little more liberty than we have under existing circumstances, and we also desire to bring the provisions of this measure into line with legislation which we have recently enacted.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 -
Section 119 of the principal ‘Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead : - “ 119. (1) Before any certificate of clearance is granted -
the master or owner of the ship shall deliver to the Collector an outward manifest in duplicate;
the master and owner shall severally answer questions relating to the ship and her cargo, crew, passengers, stores, and voyage; and
the master and owner shall severally produce documents relating to the ship and her cargo. “ (2) If, within a period of twenty-four hours after the provisions of sub-section (1) of this section have been complied with, the master has not received from the Collector an outward manifest and certificate of clearance, be may, at any time within fourteen days after the ex- - piration of that period, apply to the Minister for a certificate of clearance, and the decision of the Minister upon the application shall be final and conclusive. “ (3) No action or other proceeding shall lie against the Commonwealth, or any officer of the Commonwealth, by reason of the non-granting of any certificate of clearance, or of any delay in the granting of a certificate of clearance.”
– I move -
That after the words “ clearance,” line 33, the following words be t inserted : - “ and such clearance shall be granted unless the ship and/or the master and/or the owner has violated the law of the Commonwealth.”
At an earlier stage in the discussion of this measure I outlined the reasons which have prompted me to submit the amendment. I will not repeat those reasons now, but will content myself with saying that I object to the arbitrary powers which this clause proposes to vest in Ministers.
– I understand that the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) objects to the decision of the Minister being final. In my opinion ‘ it is better for the commercial community that that should be the posi-. tion. Otherwise a man may have his whole business hung up until he can resort to litigation and obtain a decision from a Law Court. The practice proposed in the clause is that which is already in existence, and, in my opinion, it is a good one.
– I do not think it would be found practicable to do what the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) suggests. In any case,, it would depend upon the Minister whether a clearance was ultimately given. If he decided that no clearance should be granted until some requirement had been complied with, under this amendment the owners would probably be obliged to have recourse to legal proceedings before a determination could be arrived at. In this clause we simply declare what is the practice which obtains to-day. Whilst all the provisions, of the Customs Act. may have been respected, there may, nevertheless, be harbor dues, or some law in connexion with the States which has not been complied with.
– In that case the Minister can refuse a clearance.
– It is not the practice to refuse the clearance of a vessel unless’ there is some requirement of the law which has still to be complied with. The clause is perfectly safe in its present form, and I cannot accept the amendment.
.- I move-
That sub-clause 3 be left out.
The Minister’ already has. authority practically to do what he likes in the matter of clearance, and under this provision he seeks to take to himself power to say that irrespective of whether he does right or wrong, no action shall lie against him. That seems to me to be an extraordinary power. For the Government to say that if they do a private citizen an injury, that citizen shall have no Tedress-
Mr.Flemining. - Some officials, are. afraid that they may make mistakes.
– Surely if the Government do an injury to any individual he should have the right to redtess. That’ is one of the fundamental principles of the British Constitution-
– Of a Christian community.
– One of the fundamental principles of the British Constitution is that’ an individual shall always- be protected’ against the organized force of the community, acting through its Government. This is the right of the’ individual’ against the Crowm The clause we arenow considering seeks to’ take- from the private citizen a right: which he has at law to-day Why have our Courts’ been’ established? Ina British- community they are constituted for the purpose of determiningr the- rights of private- citizensagainst the Government and against’ eachother.
– They are not Courts of justice but Courts of law..
– They may be Courts; of law, but their duty is- to” administer justice.
– We never- get justice.
– No. If the honorable member had received justice he would have been strung up years . ago. His safety lies- in- getting law. I repeat that, in this; sub-clause, it is- proposed that; the Government shall be able to do an injury to a! private individual, but that individual shall have no right to redress. I see no justification for a provision which takes away from a man who is suffering an injury through the. action of any Minister the right of” appeal to a Court for redress.
– I can-, assure the honorable member that there- is a. reason for thesubclause:
– Of. course there is. TheMinister: -wants to get the whole of. the, power, into his. own. hands. When a liberal-minded man suddenly acquires, the. desire, to. aggregate into his..- own hands the real, destinies, of individuals who may be unf ortunate enough, to comet under his. Department, it shows ‘ how quickly even a genial Minister may become tyrannical. When this sub-clause, came, before the- Minister (Mr. Greene) he should have regarded it’ as his’ duty to draw the blue: pencil through it. and. I appeal to. him now to consent to its elimination. It is a vicious principle to, by Statute, deprive, anyman of the right’ to appeal to- a Court to say whether he has done light or wrong. No Minister, for Tirade and Cusr toms should attempt: to usurp; the functions of a Court”.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 -
Section 154 of the principal Act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead-: - “ (2.) ‘ Fair market value in this section means the sum of the following : -
the price for which any cash purchaser could at the time of shipment purchase for home consumption such goods in the principal markets of the country whence the goods were exported, but not being in any case less than the actual money price shown in the genuine invoice ….
– I wish’ to place before the Committee certain communications I have received from the Brisbane Chamber of Commerce expressing their views upon this clause. I may say that they also express my own views upon the matter. On the 11th August I received the following telegram : -
Wired Minister Customs following. Please support. Customs Act Amendment Bill. This Chamber strongly objects to new clause declaring duty must be paid on home consumption value at date of shipment, making it impossible to know landed cost of goods in some cases for year. Enormous details required will prevent manufacturers selling to Australia choosing ‘easier markets. No necessity now as shipments will be prompt and markets not likely to rise.
On the following day I received another telegram, as follows: - ‘
Further to our telegram yesterday : Bris bane Chamber emphatically protests against Customs having two separate bases of Charging duty, also object to indefinite basis which leaves landed cost unknown before sale.
These telegrams were succeeded by a covering letter, as follows : -
I enclose copies of telegrams sent to you on the11th and 12th inst., which I now confirm.
I have also sent similar telegrams to the Chambers of Commerce in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide, and Messrs. Mackay, Bayley, Corser, and Groom, asking them to support’ the action of this Chamber, because the view my Council take of the matter is that the basis of duty should be definitely fixed, and that the importer should not be put to the risk of being made to pay further duties, which, in most cases, are levied by the Department after the goods have been sold and paid for, consequently the importer has to bear the loss without any possibility of redress.
As I consider that the new arrangement provided for in this clause is unnecessary and will act detrimentally to the interests of Australia in its trade relations with other countries, I shall vote against it.
. - I move-
That the words “ but not being in any case less than the actual money price shown in the genuine invoice,” lines 11-13, be left out.
If this amendment is agreed to it will mean that the Customs Department will be obliged to resort to the practice followed since the war began. The Customs Act already gives the Department the power to ascertain at the port of shipment the price of any goods for which invoices are presented. If the price at the port of shipment is found to be higher than the value shown on the invoice, duty can be charged on that higher price. On the other hand, if a reduction ‘has been brought about in the price of the goods by the collapse of the war - the goods may have been held up in. dock in Great Britain for a considerable time - the Department, with a knowledge of the value at the port of shipment at the time the goods were entered for clearance, merely charges duty on that value. The Customs Department promised the importers that this system would be continued, and if thepromise is not redeemed, it will amount to an attempt on the part of the Department to keep up prices, and so indirectly swell the cry of profiteering. If this clause is levelled against Japan, why should not the Minister (Mr. Greene) inform honorable members? Surely the time has gone when we must hesitate to open our mouths in regard to Japan. The Parliament of that country does not scruple to express its views concerning other nations. Is not our trade our own business?
– Do not forget that Japan’s Navy is bigger than ours.
– True; and. if there was the slightest fear of our being compelled to match our Navy against that of Japan, in a matter oftrade, we might be justified in speakingwith bated breath. But the war is over, and Australia is still part and parcel of . the “Empire. In time of war the British and Australian Navies are one. Remembering that, therefore, it will not be argued that the Japanese Navy is a match forour ships. If we should be called . upon to defend our country, I think Australians would be capable of doing so. That argument, however, is not appropriate to this. discussion. On a matter of trade solely, if there is any risk in regard to . Japan, if there is urgent reason why this clause should be passed, why does not the Minister supply the whole of the facts?
– I regret thatI cannot accept the amendment. Although this clause will . assist us materially in dealing with difficulties experienced by the Department regarding Japanese trade, it will also apply to quite a number of other countries which are exporting to us lines of goods for which there is no consumption value within those countries. There are numerous items exported to Australia which have been made–especially for the Australian trade.
– In which case you accept the invoice value.
– Exactly ; and that is what is implied here. We take the genuine invoice value; we say, “ But it shall not be less than that. The Department is constantly dealing with invoices whichdeclare the home consumption value to.be less than the figures set out in thoseinvoices; but the point is that there is no home consumption value. There are no means of determining the home consumption value, for the-reason that the goods in question are not consumed or employed in the country of their manufacture.
The situation at present is somewhat abnormal, but we are rapidly returning to ordinary conditions of trade,when these difficulties will disappear. No party to-day will enter, into a contract for a long period for the supply of goods without having a “ fall “clause in that contract There may be a very small range of contracts -still in existence to which this clause will apply, and in regard to which it may bear,apparently, rather harshly. ‘ What we are doing, however, isnot only just, but -absolutely necessary for the -protection of our trade and commerce.
– I have been considerably influenced in my views by the speech of . the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Poster). His remarks were devoted at lengthto this particular clause. The honorable member is a practical man; he obviously knew what hewas talking about, and yet he was unable to offer a suggestion - for surmounting the difficulty. I have personally consulted Customs officials, and have sought an -explanation of this clause. I ask honorable members to imagine that the pen which I hold in my hand was made in Japan, or in some other foreign country. I want it to be understood that it is an article which is not used in the country of its manufacture. It would be competent for theforeign manufacturer to assess its home consumption value at 3d., for the reason, that it has no home consumption value whatever. I had hoped that the Minister (Mr. Greene) would offer some obvious way out of our difficulty, but he has failed to do so; and . I certainly can see no solution. ..We are told that a similar provision is to ‘ be found within every Customs Act throughout, the world, and that it is the only effective . safeguard against dumping. We have, therefore, no . alternative. We- are up against a stone wall. The Minister assures the Committ.ee that we are putting altogether a wrong interpretation on the Bill, and “that when we reach normal conditions in regard to shipping, and other matters, the purchaser will be able to ship at once, and.the clause will not apply, except when dumping is indulged in. If that is so, we have no alternative but to leave the measure . as.it stands.
– That is hot.the question. It is the home consumption value.
– If that is the difficulty, I see the necessity for still further safeguards, and an amendment should be moved, if not at this stage, certainly later, to protect us much more strictly than. we ‘are protected by this clause. . If there’ is no home consumption value for an article, what the honorable member for’ Denison says can be an actual fact: Eor ‘the purpose of defrauding the Customs: here, the- value of an article not used in the country of production might be fixed almost at nothing.
– Take harvesters, which are not used in North America.
– They are used in South America, including a large number of Australian stripper harvesters.
– But what is the value of a genuine invoice if there is no home value?’ They can put anything in.
– That is so. .
– No, they cannot.
– If there is no -home consumption, and we use in our legislation ‘the words “home consumption value,” we are practically cheating ourselves of our own p-rotection.-
– They want the right to declare the invoice value, then. Mr. FENTON.- But the invoice value may be exceptionally ‘ low. Customs officers were sent, abroad to examine the books of merchants in other countries so as to- protect our Customs. Department. We have accumulated millions of pounds through that inspection being made abroad. When the merchants took exception to it, they were told that if they did not allow our -officers to examine their invoice values there prior to the shipment of’ the goods we would place our own values on them here, and tax them accordingly. It- is a most peculiar- position for an Australian Legislature to be in if it cannot protect itself in a. Bill of this kind. Is. there any quiet or mild way of telling, the. people of other countries that we are determined to-, protect ourselves ? If we cannot express - our meaning in proper language, in our own Act, what are we coming to? Are we to speak only with bated breath, as the honorable member for Denison suggests, in dealing with a country which has been our- Ally for some time, but which to-day -is our most bitter competitor-in the world’s markets? Rather than use mealy-mouthed language for that purpose, it is time we came out into the open, because, whether we do it by subterfuge or otherwise, other nations know what we are doing. The people we are trying to deceive arrive at our meaning very quickly, whatever language- we: use in our Acts of Parlia ment. I would go further, and, in order that we might know exactly where we stood, enact’ that no goods which we- can produce or manufacture ourselves shall be. imported: here unless they are made under conditions, similar: to those of A-us; tralia. Before the Bill goes, through, I shali endeavour to have an.amendment of that kind inserted.
– Do you: think, that we could maintain, such a position in these days:?
– Yes. If we cannot, we shall go to the wall. It will be impossible for us to preserve our industries. Whatever Acts we pass in regard to our Customs, administration or our Tariff, unless they have that tendency and effect, we shall not save our industries. If I cannot obtain: redressi under this clause, I give notice of my . intention to move a further amendment on the. lines I have indicated.
. -I favour strengthening- the Customs Act so as to make- it- impossible for persons who endeavour to defraud ‘ the Customs to do so. I wish to put every person on a fair footing, so that all, may pay 20s. in the £1, and L believe- that 95 per cent, of the traders desire that. It is to protect that 95 per cent, against the unscrupulous 5 per cent, that we should make the Act as strong as possible. Some of them have no objection to putting in a home consumption value where- there is none. In- 1904 or- 1905, when we were fixing the duty on stripper harvesters, the. MasseyHarris people made it appear, that they were selling in the United States at an entirely different price from what they were prepared to export their goods to Australia for. They wanted to have the duty fixed on what they alleged to be the market- price there. Another phase of the question is that plenty of firms have factories-in’ one country and a selling branch in another country. They have -what: are known as house-to-house transfers. They sell their goods without any- profit in the! country of export, and make the- whole of their profit here.
– Many companies have a manufacturing establishment and a- sellingcompany . That is what Singers-do.
– Yes. The International Harvester Company may have- a manufacturing company in America and a. selling- house here. It may cost them £40 to manufacture ‘ their -harvesters. They may decide to make no profit there; and fix the price at £40, so as to get the advantage of the ad valorem duty here, letting their Australian houses make the whole of the profit. If, on the other hand, it is advantageous to them to reverse the procedure for income tax purposes, they will make the whole of their profits there and none here. That is what the Customs Department has continually to watch. This clause is much shorter than the section which is being struck out of the original Act, and which was framed, I think, by Charles Cameron Kingston. It ran - 154. When any duty is imposed according to value -
There ‘were a great number of cases under that section. This bound volume of Acts has no fewer than three foot-notes to that section, showing that cases have already ‘ been decided upon it, and there is an eternal fight between the Customs officials and importers as to the true value on which duty should be paid. I would go much further than the Minister. I would compel every importer to lodge with the Customs Department a duplicate invoice, so that if a dispute arose at any time, a copy of the genuine invoice would be available to the Department, and there would be no fear of its destruction by fire. On one occasion, while I held office as Minister for Trade and Customs, it was proposed to make a raid on certain premises at 10 a.m. next day. Only four persons were aware of that intention; but a few hours before the time fixed for the raid a fire took place. It might have been ourelv acci dental, but it was a curious circumstance. Cases have occurred where the Department has asked permission to examine the books of a firm. A Customs official has visited the firm’s premises, perhaps on a Saturday morning, and has been told, “ We are about to close, up. You had better come round on Monday morning, and we will fix- up the matter with you.” Before Monday there has been a fire. I would strengthen the hands of the Department in the interests of the great majority of traders, who are endeavouring to do the fair thing. I do not think the clause, as it stands, will lead to any inflation of prices. If, because of it, onetenth of the goods coming in were given an inflated value, I am convinced that the price of the remaining 90 per cent, would go up in proportion. I shall support this clause as it stands. My only regret is that the Minister is not prepared to make it even stronger.
Question -That the words proposed to be left out stand, part of the clause (Mr. Boyd’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 12 -
Section 155 of the principal Act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - “155. - (1) When entry is made of goods upon which duty is imposed according to value the owner shall deliver to the Collector with the entry -
the genuine invoice for the goods;
a declaration by the owner in the prescribed form verifying the parti-‘ culars in the entry; and
a statement in the prescribed form showing, in the currency of the country of export, the fair market value of the goods as defined in subsection (2) of the last preceding section.
.- Under this clause, when entry is made of goods liable to duty according to value, the owner, is required to deliver to the Collector, with the entry, a statement in the prescribed form, showing, in the currency of the country of export,, the fair market value of the goods. I move -
That the following words be added to paragraph e: - “ such value to be made public by the Comptroller-General.”
I move . this amendment with the object of enabling the public to ascertain what is really paid by importers for goods which they bring into this country. The time has arrived when there should be no further secrecy in this regard, in view of the extortionate prices which’ the consumers are now being charged. -During the debate on this Bill, a good deal has been said as to the need for protecting importers against the payment of increased duty as the result of an increase in the price of goods in the country of origin between the date of purchase and the time of shipment. Nothing has been said, however, as to the need of protecting the public from the high charges imposed upon them by importers and others. In view of what is happening, and the clamour on the part of the people generally for an investigation as to the reasons for the increased cost of living, it is time for this Parliament to take action. We have here an opportunity to do something in the- desired direction. If this amendment be agreed to, the public will be able to know exactly what these goods cost to land, and to compare those costs with the prices which they have to pay. They will thus be in a position to determine whether or not the retail prices are exorbitant. We have in the community to-day men who contend that prices are not excessive - that there is no profiteering going on - but that the increased prices ruling here for various goods are due to the increases paid for them in the country of origin. If that is so, let us clear the public mind of any suspicion that profiteering is going on. No one objects to any man getting a fair return on his caoital, however it may be employed; but the Labour party urge that no man should be so protected as to be . able, with impunity, to make exorbitant charges. At present we have no means of ascertaining what prices are paid by those who import goods, and I think it is reasonable that ‘the Committee should say that, in view of what is taking place, the Comptroller-General should make public what is the declared value of goods upon which duty is imposed.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
.- (Some time ago a return was asked for by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley), on behalf of the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson), of prosecutions under the War P-recaution3 Act and the Unlawful Associations Act. The honorable member for Brisbane expressed some surprise that it should have taken so long to -submit the Teturn. I find that the matter had to go through three different Departments and to all the different States. I have the return now, and will lay it on the table. I ask honorable members, when they ask for these returns in the future, to consider what is likely to be the cost of their compilation. This return, I may say, was completed only to-day.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) this morning asked a question to which I promised that an answer would be given, if possible, later to-day. The honorable member asked - 1; Are there any Inter-State steamers being recommissioned for: immediate service in the Western Australian trade?
The following replies have been submitted in answer to the honorable member’s questions: - 1 and 2.. The following requisitioned vessels have been recommissioned to take general cargo toWestern Australia:-
Dimboola, leftSydney 27th August; leaves Adelaide 2nd September.
Mallina, leaves Sydney direct, probably on Monday next.
Wandilla, loaves Sydney 6th September; leaves Adelaide 13th September.
Dilkera has. also been fixed to lift a quantity of general- cargo from Newcastle. No vessels have been fixed to take Western Australian cargo from Melbourne, as the wharf labourers have not yet resumed work. Immediately the Melbourne men resume, vessels to -lift general cargo from Melbourne will be fixed.
So far- as coal supplies are concerned, the Ashbridge and Chronos have already left- with full cargoes of coal for Western Australia. The Dilkera loads coal in addition to her quantity of. general cargo, and sails this week. The Lammeroo will sail early next week.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Government to a matter that is in course of development in Australia to-day, and which, I think, they should look into. In their desire to establish new industries in. Australia;, the Government made some concession,’ in the shape, I think, of a reduction of duty, to a company known as the Australasian Films Company, who undertook to enter upon the production of picture films in Australia. As honorable members are aware;the industry has attained immense dimensions in the United States of America. In Australia, with facilities in the shape of the best possible climate for photography and the possession of plenty of artistic talent, it was hoped: that the company would begin the business of picture-film production. T. regret that they -have. not. done so, and I wish to direct the attention, of the Government to. the’ fact that there appears tobe a move on foot to form nothing less than a Trust, which, will Have complete control ofthe Australian picture-theatres and the films screened in them. I find that the Australasian. Films Company are practically agents for big picture- production companies in the United States of America. They are distributers of films, and make profits from that business; but at the present time the proprietors of picture-theatres may obtain their films direct from the producers if they, please. I have here a copy of an agreement that is: being submitted to picture-show proprietors, with a view to forming an association, first, in New South Wales - the head-quarters, of the Australasian Films Company - and, later, in the other States. One of the conditions proposed is that picture-show men joining the association undertake to take their films from the Australasian Films Company.I shall supply the Minister who has control of the business with a copy of the agreement I have here, but I may quote-from one article of the agreement to give honorable members some idea of what is proposed. I find this condition proposed -
The company agrees to hire to the exhibitor the motion-picture film service, more particularly described in the second schedule hereof for a period of consecutive weeks, commencing on the day of One thousand nine hundred and nineteen, and terminating on the day. of ‘ One thousand nine hundred and , and all such films as shall be selected by the company from the product of the following manufacturers, or all such other films as the company may from time to time own or control.
Then follows a long list ofcompanies and names’ of recognised picture-film artists.
– The honorable member should read the list.
– The list includes the Selznick Select pictures, and artists who are named”; the Metro pictures, with another list of artists; the Goldwyn pictures; Jewel productions-, including the artists Dorothy Phillips and Mrs. Charlie Chaplin ; the Sessue Hayakawa films; the Apollo pictures; Vitagraph Blue Ribbon Features ; the Pathe films ; and All Stars Series, the chief stars including a number of the higher-priced artists,- such as- Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford’ and so -on. There is nothing in the agreement referring to any Australian pictures’. I am informed on reliable authority that the Australasian Films Company- have an understanding with producers in America to form what practically will be a Trust in this business, and that they are not to be engaged in the production of pictures in Australia.
I will read to the House a paragraph which was published in a Sydney newspaper in order to bluff . the public and keen quiet certain people who are desirous of producing films in . Australia.
The directors of Australasian Films Limited and Union Theatres Limited have issued instructions for a proportion of the pictures released, and shown by them to be manufactured in Australia, with purely Australian talent where possible.
The company owns, perhaps, the finest studio in the Southern Hemisphere, lt is at Rushcutter’s Bay, and its cost is said to be £10,000. In this studio every possible facility for producing pictures is installed. In addition, a large agricultural holding has been secured at Bindanoon, as well as depots at Black Heath, on the Blue Mountains; and at Wagga, in the Riverina District. The company proposes to produce pictures of purely Australian interest, on a scale hitherto not attempted locally. The full resources of the companies’ organization will be placed at the disposal of the scheme.
Australian producers will be employed if available, and the scenarios will be written by Australians around stories of Australian romanee . and history. The intention . of the directors at present is to turn out six pictures a year, the first of which will be put in hand almost’ immediately.
It is not the intention of Australian Films Limited to import either producers or actors, as every effort will . be made, to use Australian talent throughout the. companies’ productions.
That statement reads very well, but the places at Bindanoon and Black Heath, to which reference is made, are merely little week-end huts owned by two of the directors. The firm does own a place at
Rushcutter’s Bay, and the statement about the intention to produce pictures in Australia is only intended to bluff certain people who . are manifesting opposition to the Combine and threatening an exposure of its operations. The land at Wagga is not intended to be used for picture purposes, but merely came into the possession of the firm through alawsuit. There is no intention on the part of the Australasian Films Limited to produce pictures locally. Such a venture would be less profitable and more risky than their present business of conducting an agency for American firms. This announcement is designed to fool the public and stave off any action that may be taken.
Some men in Australia had the courage to commence the production of moving pictures in theCommonwealth. One producer is likely to go right out of the business because of the opposition ofAustralasianFilms Ltd. The author of the Sentimental Bloke has written a very fine scenario’ of that book, “but the company which is prepared to produce the film is blocked by the Picture Combine. Encouragement should be given by the Government to local producers. I understand that Australasian Films Limited made a definite promise to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that theywould encourage local talent, but they are ignoring that -promise when they are attempting, by the formation of a Combine, to prevent the establishment of the film-producing industry in Australia. For that industry Australia possesses every advantage. The climatic conditions are excellent for photography, and we have . amongst our people some of. the best histrionic talent in the world. As this is a matter of very great importance, I ask the Acting -Leader of theGovernment (Mr . Groom) to make careful inquiry into it. I do not know whether it can be dealt with under the Industries Preservation Act. Honorable members are aware no doubt that at the present time there is an association of picture show managers, but what I am condemning is the attempt of the Combine to force all these people to take their supplies only from the Australasian Films Limited, which is merely the agent of foreign picture-making . firms. The Government should place a check upon any Combine or Trust if it is legally possible to do so, and should insist that if Australasian Films Limited intends to do anything for local products, some evidence of that intention should be given. I ask the Government to seriously consider the . matter in order that every facilitymay be given to those who have the courage to engage in the manuf acture of films within the Commonwealth.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Government ‘a complaint that has been made to me this afternoon b.y public servants engaged in the Defence Department. I have been informed that officers of the Defence Department who have been on active service abroad have been notified that they are granted leave of absence for the whole of to-morrow on full pay, for the purpose of participating in the welcome home to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). Certain of those returned soldiers have represented to me, very naturally, that they regard this permission as being objectionable to them, and as constituting a precedent in the Service which is to be deplored. Those of us who have even meagre information are aware of the somewhat ostentatious effort that is being made by the Prime Minister to court the support of the returned soldiers by all sorts of absurd ‘ and extravagant promises, to which no sane person imagines that he intends or hopes to give effect. This deliberate division of the Public Service into civil and military parties respectively in order to serve political ends cannot be too strongly deprecated. Our soldiers are essentially citizen soldiers, and we have always been told that it is the desire of. the Government and the people that when they had finished their service abroad they should be re-assimilated by the community and their soldier character shed in the discharge of their civil duties. That is an object which all wise people will keep in view. My particular object in speaking is to voice the feeling of returned soldiers who have expressed to me the view that it is repugnant to them to be asked to leave their work in order to perform functions in which they have no desire to take part, and that in their absence their work should be done by their fellow officers, to whom the concession of leave is not granted. We cannot too strongly reprobate this form of political favoritism, because the granting of leave is a sort of bribe to these men, for whom we all have every respect, to give their support to the Prime Minister and his policy. I do not think that such a thing has ever been attempted, or even heard of,before in connexion with the administration of the Public Service. I mean the offering of special advantages to one branch of the Service in order that they might manifest their sympathy with the head of the Government. I hope itwill not be persisted in, but that if the matter has proceeded too far to be withdrawn, such a course will not be followed again.
– The matter mentioned by the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Spence) comes within the jurisdiction of the Department of Trade and Customs, which deals with inquiries into the operations of Trusts and Combines. It is open for anybody who feels aggrieved to make’ a complaint to the Comptroller-General, setting out in writing the ground of complaint. The matter can then be investigated by him. I suggest that this proceeding be adopted in the case referred to.
It is much to be regretted that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has made a complaint this afternoon. His remarks show how utterly he has failed to comprehend the circumstances under which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is returning to Australia. Our soldiers have been abroad fighting for the preservation of the Empire, the freedom of nations, and the destruction of military autocracy. The war having ended, it was necessary to secure in the Peace Treaty the fruits of victory obtained by those brave heroes on the battlefields of Europe. It is admitted by all who are impartial judges of the events of the past few months that the Prime Minister has done magnificent work at the great councils of the nations, which drafted the Peace Treaty.
– That is absolutely denied.
– The honorable member utterly fails to understand that thousands of our soldiers who went across the seas to fight for the liberty . of this country desire to pay some tribute to the man who has done his bestto consummate their work. The leave granted to the men is not for political purposes at all, but purely to give them an opportunity which they desire, and which is granted . at their own request, to pay a tribute in a non-political way to. the Prime Minister. It is much to beregretted that at this time the honorable member cannot allow his feelings of prejudice to abate in order that the nation may express, in a whole-hearted manner, its gratification at the conclusion of “the war, and its appreciation of the men- who fought so courageously and successfully in that conflict.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.25p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 August 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1919/19190829_reps_7_89/>.