8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– On Saturday I informed the Minister for Works and Railways that it was my intention to ask today the following questions, which I now put to him : -
Will the Minister for Works and Railways advise -
If livestock traffic on the TransAustralian railway is developing to a considerable extent?
If so, the number of stock that has been trucked over the railway during the past two years?
The number of stock trucked from the 1st July to the close of last month?
The trucking orders now with the Department awaiting fulfilment?
– The honorable member having given me notice of his intention to ask those questions, I obtained the following replies to them : -
– Has the Prime Minister yet received the report of the Basic Wage Commission, and, if so, will he make it available to the House?
– I have not received it.
– Seeing that the New South Wales Board of Trade has fixed a basic wage for that State, will the Commonwealth Government see that their employees in thevarious Departments have their salaries raised to that wage ?
– The honorable member knows that a Basic Wage Commission has been appointed to inquire into the matters covered by the New South Wales Board of Trade investigations, in reference to not only New South Wales conditions,but also the conditions in every other State. When Ministers get the Commission’s report, we shall seize an early opportunity of making it available to the House, and take such action as may be deemed proper.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the statement that Judge Higgins intends to resign? If so, what steps, if any, does the right honorable gentleman propose to take to secure the retention of the services of that gentleman for the Arbitration Court?
– My attention has been drawn to the statement. The Government will take such steps as may be necessary and proper in the circumstances to enable the Court to continue its business.
– I wish, by leave, to move the following motion, which I understand will be accepted without opposition: -
– We should have notice of this motion. I cannot understand the honorable member saying there will be no objection to it.
– Then I give notice for to-morrow.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice - 1: Whether commercial aviation firms already established in Australia will be given an opportunity of tendering for the Defence Department’s requirements and for mail and other services ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
I stated recently in the House that should the Government receive a definite offer from any civil aviation’ company stating exactly the route over which they proposed working,” proposed time-table, type of machine and engine to be used, the number of machines to be used in the service and in reserve, the places at which they will establish landing grounds, hangars, and workshops, the amount of mail matter they are prepared to carry, and the remuneration they desire for the service, it would no doubt be seriously considered by the Government.
asked the Minister for theNavy, upon notice -
Whether he will inform the House -
From whom he recently contracted to purchase fuel oil at £7 10s. per ton?
The quantity of oil purchased and the duration of the contract?
Where the oil is that is to be delivered in Australia?
Is the price mentioned the amount to be paid for the oil (a) at the well’s mouth; or (b) at some place in Australia?
If the former, what will be the cost of transport from the well’s mouth to the port of delivery in Australia?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What steps have been taken for the establishment of the Postal Institute in States other than Victoria, particularly in New South Wales?
Mr.WISE. - The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows:-
New South Wales. - The Institute Organizer has just completed an investigation of the facilities available at Sydney, and £2,050 has been included in the Estimates now before the House to provide an adequate Institute so far as the existing conditions will permit. It is tlie intention to provide a complete Institute when the General Post Office has been remodelled.
Queensland. - The Institute Organizer has also just returned -from Brisbane, where he has been conducting a similar investigation, and the matter of establishing an Institute there under present conditions is under consideration.
South Australia. - Provision has been made in the Adelaide building proposals for the purpose of an Institute, and steps will be taken to establish, it as soon as circumstances permit.
Western Australia. - Provision for Institute, accommodation has been made in the new General Post Office, Perth, and the matter will be taken in hand as soon as the building is completed.
Tasmania. - An Institute will be established as soon as opportunity offers.
Mechanical Branch Resignations
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Whether he will inform the House how many officers of tlie mechanical branch of the Department have resigned their position during the last two years?
– During the period 1st October, 1918, to 30th September, 1920, 125 officers of the mechanical branch of the Postmaster-General’s Department resigned their positions.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The Government have already announced its intention of proceeding with the Federal Capital. It 13 proposed to generally observe the design furnished by Mr. Griffin, subject, of course, to the obligations of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act. With a view to an early occupation of the area, consideration is being given to a scheme for the provision of works, temporary and permanent. Meanwhile, the initiation of certain preparatory work? is being authorized.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the presence in Australia of Sir Arnold Gridley, formerly controller of electric power supply in Great Britain during the war, the Government will consider the advisability of obtaining a report from him on the best methods of securing a comprehensive power supply scheme for Australia that would insure economical development and maximum benefit without overlapping?
– This is a matter for consideration by the State Governments.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will appoint a Committee of musical experts to decide upon or compose a distinctly national song for Australia, so as to bring about uniformity in the matter ?
asked the Acting Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 14th October, the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), asked the following questions: -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following replies to the above questions: -
– On 15th October, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) on behalf of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham), asked me the following questions: -
Is it a fact that one, Ernest Till, permanently resident in New Guinea, but for some months past, for health reasons, temporarily resident in Sydney, has been refused permission by the Public Trustee to operate on his banking account at Rabaul, on the ground that he was an enemy alien?
I then promised to make inquiries into the matter; andI arn now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following replies : -
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s message) :
Clause 23 -
Section 88 of the principal Act is amended by inserting in sub-section (1) after the words “ otherwise than in accordance with the terms of his agreement “ the words “ or the provisions of this Act.”
House ofRepresentatives’ Amendment. - Omit the clause and insert the following new clause : - “ 23. Section 88 of the principal Act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead : - 88. (1) If anyseaman, employed on a ship registered in Australia, is discharged -
elsewhere than at the port of discharge specified in his agreement;
otherwise than in accordance with the terms of his agreement or the provisions of this Act;
without fault on his part justifying his discharge; and
without his consent, the provisions of sub-sections (5) and (6) of section 50 of this Act shall apply as if the seaman had been discharged in pursuance of sub-section (3) of that section.’ “
Senate’s Message. - Amendment disagreed to, and the following amendments made in the clause: -
After” amended,” line 1, insert “… (a)”; and at end of clause add “ : and
by omitting from sub-section (2) thereof the words ‘ the master or owner shall provide him with a passage to thatport or such other port as is mutually agreed to with the approval of the proper authority ‘ and inserting in their stead the words ‘ the provisions of sub-sections (5) and (6) of section 50 of this Act shall also apply as if the seaman had been discharged in pursuance of sub-section (3) of that section.’ “
.- I move -
That the amendment bc not insisted on, and that the amendments made in the original clause by the Senate be agreed to.
Honorable members will recollect that we forwarded to the other branch of the Legislature twenty-one amendments to this Bill. The amendment which we made in clause 23 referred to certain privileges which the seamen were to obtain if they were discharged prior to the termination of their agreement. But we made that amendment in such a way that inadvertently it deprived them of those advantages if they were discharged at the end of their agreement at other than their home ports. That was not the intention of the Committee. Our intention was to give them exactly the same advantages if they were discharged prior to the termination of their agreement at other than their home ports as they would obtain if they were discharged at the end of their agreement. All that the Senate’s amendment does, therefore, is to give effect to the intention of this Committee.
Motion agreed to.
House ofRepresentatives’Amendment. -
After clause 33 insert the following new clause - “ 33a. Section 135 of the principal Act is amended by adding the following paragraph: - (e) make provision, where such can be provided without detriment to the safe navigation of the ship, for a wheelhouse or, if such is not practicable, such temporary shelter as may be prescribed.’ “
Senate’s Message. - Amendment agreed to, with the following amendments: -
.- I move -
That the Senate’s amendments be agreed to.
The amendment made by this Committee in section 135 of the principal Act provided for the equipment of steamships operating on the coast with a wheelhouse to protect the man at the wheel from the weather. But it made that portion of the vessel’s equipment appear as an alternative, whereas in truth it was an addition.
Motion agreed to.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
If honorable members will glance at the Bill, which has been circulated for some time, they will see that it is confined to one subject only. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) and other honorable members have drawn attention cn several occasions to the difficulties which importers were experiencing in dealing with goods from various countries, but particularly France and Italy, which had a depreciated exchange position. They have also drawn attention to the fact that the Customs Department, collecting duty - and carrying out the law as we believe it to be - at the mint par rate pf exchange on the value of the invoice in the currency of the .country from which the goods came, were thereby making it practically impossible for those countries to trade with us under existing conditions. I propose this afternoon to try to set out, in regard to a subject which is somewhat complex, but as clearly as I can, the principles upon which the Bill is framed, and the reason that it has taken this particular shape, which honorable members will see is somewhat new in Customs procedure. I think I shall be able to show that, owing to the abnormal condition of affairs which exists, we must apply a somewhat abnormal remedy. It may assist honorable members somewhat to appreciate both the reasons for the introduction of the Bill and the form of the Bill itself, if I set out briefly the broad principles underlying the theory of the foreign exchanges, and the causes that have led to the present abnormal condition of affairs. I shall then endeavour to show how we propose to get over the difficulties which these abnormal conditions present, and the reasons for the form of the Bill itself. I do not propose to weary the House with a long dissertation on the complexities of the foreign exchanges which, however interesting it might be, would probably take us a long way from the consideration of the particular subject before us. I shall confine myself as much as possible to the broad principles of the matter, and show why the Bill has been presented in this form. Let me state the position as it exists to-day in comparison with pre-war days, when the exchange position, generally speaking, was normal. Taking the three countries, Prance, Italy, and Belgium-
– Do you mean by themselves, or as compared with Great Britain.
– I am comparing the currency of those countries with our sterling currency, and the figures I am giving are for sight bills drawn on
London. The pre-war par rate of exchange on London per £1 sterling was : France, 25.23 francs; Italy, 25.23 lire; and Belgium, 25.23 francs. To-day the rate of exchange on London for the £1 sterling - I got these rates from the Commonwealth Bank yesterday, so that, presumably, they are up-to-date - for sight bills is: - France, 52.85 francs; Italy, 89 lire; and Belgium, 52.85 francs. For reasons which I shall give directly, the rate of exchange in pre-war days never varied very much above or below par between London and those countries which practically, for purposes .of international exchange, traded on a gold basis. That is why I have given the par rates of exchange. It was not necessary for my purpose to state the exchange on any particular day. It is sufficient to say that, for reasons which I shall give later, the exchange rates never varied very much above or below par in pre-war days. Consequently we can say that, speaking broadly, in pre-war days £100 worth of English bills on France could be exchanged for 2,523 francs worth of French bills on London, the same number of lire on Italy, and the same number of francs on Belgium. To-day £100 worth of English bills on France can be exchanged for 5,285 francs worth of French bills on London, 8,S00 lire worth in the case of Italy, and 5,285 francs worth in the case of Belgium. It will be readily seen that, presuming - this is a presumption, and I am not stating it as a factthat the relative increase in the cost of manufacture, such as the rates of wages, raw material, cost of coal, plant, &c, has been the same in England and France, all other things being equal, if to-day for gome reason or other a French merchant wished to exchange £100 worth of British goods for identical French goods, he would have, at the present rate of exchange, to ship more than double the amount of French goods, if there was to be an equality in the two bills of exchange drawn as between the two countries. That is the position to-day, presuming that the cost of the articles, had risen proportionately in both countries.
– Taking, for instance, French silks and British heavy woollens ?
– I was taking absolutely identical goods. If France and England, for instance, were both making blankets of the same weight and using the same class of wool, presuming that all things were equal, if Paris drew a bill on London, and London drew a bill on Paris, as between different importers, the French importer importing British blankets and the British importer importing French blankets, you would have to get twice as many blankets from France if the two bills were to balance. I shall show directly why this inequality does not exist in reality, and I hope to show also how and why the inequality is not necessarily coextensive with the variation in the rates of exchange, even when full allowance is made for the purchase of raw material abroad by a country whose exchanges are adverse to it. When I deal with the question of raw material, as I must later, I shall show to what extent the raw material, which is being bought by France and every other country with an adverse exchange position, must necessarily cost it more in the currency of that country, as compared with sterling, than it is costing British manufacturers. But I shall also be able to show, I think, that, owing to the fact that these countries are establishing long-dated credits for the purchase of raw material at the present time, this does not enter into the calculations to anything like so great an extent as might be otherwise anticipated.
– But it will do so in the event of the exchange being the same when the amount is due, as it is to-day.
– Yes, if it is; but those credits vary from three to five, and up to seven years, and, of course, we hope that long before those credits become due and payable, the French position, and the exchange position generally, will, if not quite normal, more closely approximate to normal than it does to-day.
I should like to say this before passing on: it ‘has been said over and over again in the press that the exchange position in which France and other countries find themselves makes it difficult for them to trade. I do not believe for a moment that that is so; because, if the exchange position of France and other countries with a depreciated exchange be made more difficult, it necessarily follows that a country with an appreciated exchange position, as America, for instance, will have its position made easy for it ; if it be difficult for France to-day, under the existing exchange position, to trade,, then, with an appreciated exchange, it must be necessarily more easy. Of course, that is absurd. In the case of America, while before the war, £100 would buy 486 dollars worth of goods, to-day £100 will buy only 343 dollars worth.
I wish to turn for a moment or two to a consideration of the position in’ those days which now seem so far removed, when the rivalry of nations was practically confined to trade, and the only battlefield on which they met was the field of commerce. Exactly the same procedure which takes place in any ordered state of society between individuals, or groups of individuals, in the buying or exchanging of goods, services, or products, takes place as between nations ; that is to say, it is carried on very largely on the same principle. The only difference is found in the distance, variations of currency, the magnitude of the transaction, the time elapsing between points when exchanges can be balanced; and all these make the transactions more complex and a little more difficult to follow. It is common to talk of the balance of trade, and point to the export and import figures, which relate only and entirely to goods as if they formed the totality of what constitutes the financial relationships of nations to one another. Of course, there are many things which, go to make up the credit and debit sides of the balance-sheet between nations. Besides the debts and credits for goods - that is, the .visible exports and imports - there are the invisible exports and imports of every country, such as national securities, coupons, the hundred and one monetary transactions of a private nature - such as the sale of stocks, bonds, and monetary transactions of all sorts which take place between individuals - and all have their place in and effect on the international exchange position. Then, above and beyond this, we must not forget what I might term the export and import of services rendered, which equally play their part in the balance of international figures. For instance, there is Britain in her capacity as the world’s sea-carrier. Probably the tremendous amount of work which Britain does for the nations of the world as the international sea-carrier, is one of the main factors which enables Britain to overtake the balance of trade which would otherwise ‘be against her. If honorable members turn to statistics for quite a number of years, they will see that England has imported more than she has exported. But all these things help to balance the international exchange position. Honorable members will see, therefore, that the international or foreign exchange depends on the totality of all the debts owing and payable as between nations.
For the purposes of my argument, it is not necessary to deal with the influence that the time at which future debts fall due has on the rate of exchange at any particular moment. Students of foreign exchange know well that the balance of trade may be temporarily against any particular nation. The fact that it is well known that debts falling due within an appreciable time, will become due, will very often keep exchanges at par, when otherwise they would not be. For my purpose, it is sufficient to say that, in prewar clays, the business of buying and selling those debts between the countries of the world - which was done for the most part through London, for reasons which I need not enter into here - was carried out at rates that never varied very much, at all events, above or below the specie point. It is perfectly evident that, as with individuals, so with nations, if you buy more than you sell you must in some way balance the ledger or go insolvent - you must either draw on reserves, or borrow to meet your liaibliti.es. Consequently, if there are more bills drawn on any given country than the country has drawn, the competition for the few by the many leads to a premium being offered. This premium can never exceed the specie point very much, because once it reaches a point where it pays better for an importer to buy gold and ship it in payment of the debt, rather than buy a bill, he will buy gold. I do not say that that actually happens; I am merely putting the position in its simplest form. We know that bills which form the subject of foreign exchange pass through quite a number of hands; but, a3 the simplest way, I am putting the matter as between the importer and the exporter. In pre-war days, the moment gold began to move in any appreciable quantity, the usual method of checking it was by a rise in the bank rate, which acted in a double way by checking trade and attracting investments from abroad. The moment the bank rate went up to a particular point, money began to flow in to take advantage of the high interest rates, and, as a consequence, exchanges were rectified. Foreign loans and the establishment of temporary credits, which were drawn against in many instances, all had the same effect of re-establishing the balance of exchange, and stopping the outflow or the inflow of gold, as the case might be. The fact is worth recalling that, although Germany was nominally a country which for international purposes traded on a gold basis, it rarely, if ever’, allowed the export of gold for many years prior to the war. Frequently, when it would have paid her merchants over and over again to export gold, the Government insisted on the bank rate being raised in Berlin, and this at once brought into Germany that loose money which waa always ready to take advantage of a temporary rise in the rate of interest in any quarter. In that way the outflow of gold was prevented. “lt was, in fact, the method Germany invariably adopted to hang on to her gold.
Nevertheless, these variations, such as they were, above or below par, asbetween one, country and another, never altered to any great extent, and the fluctuations in the foreign exchanges were never very great of recent years as between countries whose exchange for international purposes was nominally, at all events, based on gold. With regard to silver-currency countries, of course, inasmuch as silver was in London no more than a marketable commodity, the rate of exchange between Great Britain, and those countries necessarily fluctuated over and above and beyond the extent to which the balance of” debts would have caused it to fluctuate as the price of silver rose or fell in London; but beyond making the calculations very much more complicated, these variations do not affect the general truth of the statement that of recent years the pre-war fluctuations in foreign rates of exchange were not marked, but ranged within a few points of the specie or gold point, either above or below. That is to say, the variation as between the mint par rate of exchange for foreign bills converted into sterling and the bank rate of exchange was never very great, and was confined within certain well-defined limits. Thus the position in pre-war days was that the mint par rate of exchange, which never varied very much, could be taken as a fair basis of calculation, and for that reason the exchange rate had at that time practically no effect on prices, except as regards silver-currency countries.
What are the reasons which have led to the extraordinary departure from these conditions, and to the enormous gap which has arisen as between the mint par and the bank rate of exchange for foreign bills ? While the mint par rate of exchange remains constant, the figures which I quoted at the beginning of my remarks show to what an enormous extent the bank rates of exchange have moved in an adverse direction against France and Italy. The causes which have led np to this position may be summarized under four principal heads -
Depreciation of the currency in certain countries;
Heavy importations of debtor countries;
Cessation of gold settlement; and
Loss of credit or confidence.
How much these respective factors have individually contributed to the general result it is impossible to say with any accuracy, but the cessation of gold movements and the loss of credit and confidence are, I believe, the greater factors, although it is probable that the principal causes will be found in the depreciation of currency and in the heavy importations by debtor countries. In any case, all four factors are so intimately related that it is a little difficult to discriminate between cause and effect. It is well known that no factor reacts on the rate of exchange as between one country and another with greater speed or more certainty than does the depreciation of the currency of one country in relation to that of another. If the currency of one country becomes depreciated in relation to another, and the balance of indebtedness sets against the former, which is almost the invariable tendency, for reasons which I need not go into now, it follows that the sum of the respective debts mush balance somehow. Consequently, in settling the rate of exchange as between those two countries, whatever the extent of the depreciation of the currency of the one in relation to the other may be, just so much more in proportion of the debts of the one is required to balance the debts of the other. If the French currency be depreciated 25 per cent., and the British currency remains at par, France is obliged to find 25 per cent. more than the equivalent value in francs at their par value to settle the exchanges. In other words, provided gold is free to move - and that is the point I wish honorable members to keep in mind - the depreciation of the currency of a country can always be measured by the amount at which gold stands at a premium there. I am not taking into consideration the actual cost of the movement of gold, which arises from other causes, and need not be calculated for the purposes of my argument.
Nothing contributes so much to the depreciation of the currency of any country as does the overissue of paper money, which is either not at all or not readily convertible into gold. We all know that this has been going on at a great rate in Europe for some years past.
– Colonel Onslow says that it has been going on here at a great rate.
– I shall deal with that particular phase of “the question in a moment. We do not, perhaps, realize the extent of the issue of paper money in Europe. At the outbreak of war the maximum note issue of the Bank of France, as fixed by law, was 6,800,000,000 francs. On the 5th August, 1914, immediately, after the war broke out, the maximum was raised to 12,000,000,000 francs, and on successiveoccasions it was further increased until on the 17th July, 1919, the maximum was fixed at 40,000,000,000 francs. Asa matter of fact, at the end of 1913 the actual amount of paper money issued by the Bank of France was 238,015,520 francs. By 1920 that amount had risen to 38,355,755,000 francs. In Italy, State notes and bank notes together, at the end of 1913, amounted to 2,772.578,545 liretoday the amount is 13,874,254,775 lire In Belgium in 1914, the note issue amounted to 958,021,000 francs. To-day it is 4,991,765,000 francs. We talk about the increase of the Australian note issue, but it must be admitted that, in comparison with the French and Belgian figure? notwithstanding the enormous pressure upon, and temptation to, the Treasury tr issue paper money, our note issue has been managed with consummate skill.I obtained from the Commonwealth States tician to-day some figures which show the gold reserves behind these enormous note issues. The Bank of France has issued £1,500,000,000 worth of notes, whilst the cash reserves of the bank amount to £223,000,000. That reserve is against the whole of the bank’s liabilities. The note issue of the three banks of issue in Italy, viz., the Bank of Italy, the Bank of Sicilv,. and the Bank of Naples, in September, 1919, was £560,000,000, and the cash reserve amounted to £87,000,000. There was also £90,000,000 worth of Treasury notes. I am unable to say whether there was any gold reserve against them, but as the statistics given by the Supreme Economic Council do not quote any gold reserve, I think I am safe in assuming that there is none. Having regard to the comparative smallness of our note issue, and the fact that it has a gold backing of nearly 50 per cent., which puts into the shade the reserves behind the note issues of other countries, it can have little effect upon the currency position, and is, in comparison with the others, perfectly sound. I do not believe for a moment that our note issue has led to any depreciation of our currency.
– It may have had other effects.
– I do not believe it has. In proportion to the other figures I have quoted, our note issue hardly represents more than a streamlet flowing into a mighty torrent. I have very little doubt that the actual currency of the other countries I have quoted has, by reason of the huge note issues, been depreciated in relation to Great Britain. I shall quote just one other example of what has been taking place in Europe. From what we are able to learn, Russia has been using the printing press, and turning out notes with the characteristic recklessness that has distinguished every phase of the Bolshevik Administration. What is the result? Not only has theRussian currency no value whatever amongst the civilized nations of the earth, but even in Russia itself, all goods have risen in the value of the currency of the country to an extent that is simply grotesque. One could auote instance after instance of what has been written of the prices paid for goods in the currency of Russia, owing entirely to the fact that there has been an enormous overissue of paper money, which has depreciated the currency until it has practi cally no value at all. I have quoted these illustrations, because the fact of the matter is that goods, or services, or whatever is saleable, or becomes the subject of an exchange in any country which has a depreciated currency, must sooner or later adjust themselves in price to the same extent as the measure of their value is itself altered. To whatever extent currency becomes depreciated, prices must increase in proportion. Assuming that the effect of the note issue in France, Italy, and elsewhere has been to bring about a depreciation of the currency of those countries, prices must rise in proportion. As we have seen, the extent to which gold advances to a premium, invariably measures the extent of the depreciation of the currency.
– Does the Minister say that that is the cause of the rise of prices in Australia?
– I have already said that I do not believe that is the cause of high prices in Australia. What I am endeavouring to show is that, assuming that there is a depreciation of currency, prices will rise accordingly, and the price of that depreciation is necessarily the extent to which gold is at a premium, provided that the movement of gold is free and the premium can be ascertained. The invariable tendency with a country whose currency is depreciated is to become a debtor country. That is to say, through the inherent causes which bring about depreciation of its currency, the tendency is for imports to exceed exports, and inasmuch as the balance of the exchanges is against the debtor country, we at once get a prohibition of the export of gold. It will be found that in every case, without exception, where there is a depreciated currency there is an embargo on the export of gold, although, of course, embargoes have heen put on the export of gold for other reasons in other countries. At once we get a new factor in the exchange situation, the nature and extent of which it is impossible to place limits upon. So long as the supply of bills drawn on such a debtor country largely exceeds the supplies of bills from that country drawn on other countries, so long will the rate of exchange, already made adverse by the depreciation of the currency, be still further pushed in an adverse direction, the extent of which will be determined only by the extent to which the debts owing exceed the debts owed and the urgency of their settlement. That is to say with the prohibition upon the export of gold the balance of the exchange rate being against the. country, the result is that there is an enormous Competition for bills, for debts owing to the country, leading to a depreciation of the exchanges, to which there is practically no limit, and which can only be measured by the urgency and the nature of the settlements to be effected. I should like to quote an authority in support of the statements I have just made, because this is a complex and difficult subject, upon which one does not like to dogmatize. My authority is one whose views I am sure will commend themselves to honorable members, because his reputation has for a long time stood very high indeed in regard to matters relating to international finance. I refer to the late Lord Goschen. In his work, The Theory of the Foreign Exchanges, . 1903 edition, pages 69 to 72, will be found the following. I have omitted from the quotation certain words that are irrelevant and unnecessary for the purposes of my argument, but if any honorable member cares to look up the reference he will find I have omitted nothing which in any way alters the sense of the text. Lord Goschen says -
The examination of the nature and tendency of the fluctuations just described serves to lead us conclusively enough to their limits, which is the special object of our present investigation’. The bills on a given country fluctuate in value, in proportion to the extent to which the prices of all purchasable articles - bullion included - are affected by the depreciation of the currency; in other words, in proportion to the discount of the paper money, or the premium on gold. Beyond that proportion the fact of the depreciation of the currency cannot cause them to deviate…..
This is where we get to the exact position as it is to-day, namely, a country with a depreciated currency and the prohibition of the export of gold.
What, however, will be the case if the export of bullion from the country where the depreciated currency exists is prohibited?
How is the holder of a claim on such a country to encash that which is due to him? ….
If, as is often the case, debtors are bound at any cost to place funds in English money into the hands of their creditors by a given day, there would be no limit to the price which might be exacted from them - in’ other words, no limit to the fluctuations in the exchange.
Supply and demand alone determine the price. And if the exports of such a country do not equal the imports (and this is by far the most general case), so that the demand for bills to pay for the imports exceeds the quantity of bills which is supplied by the exports, the balance which the country has to pay can only be settled by an enormous sacrifice.
In certain parts of the quotation, as it appears on page 72, I have substituted the word “ debtors “ for a phrase used by Viscount Goschen, not because of any altered sense, but because the phrase, as it appears in the work, would not convey any meaning to honorable members. I do not suggest, of course, that I understand the exchange position any more than does any other honorable member. I have substituted the word “ debtors “ because the phrase to which I refer relates to something which I have omitted, and, therefore, if retained in the quotation, it would not convey any meaning to honorable members. If honorable members have been following me they must realize that whilst we have here a factor which exerts an immense influence on the rates of exchange, it is not one, and this is the important point, which necessarily must be reflected in the price of goods. In regard to the depreciation of the currency itself, the measure of it must be reflected in the price of goods. Lord Goschen says in the first part of the quotation I gave -
Beyond that proportion -
That is, the premium on gold - the fact of the depreciation of the currency cannot cause them to deviate.
This difference in the exchange position ls in proportion to the extent to which the price of articles, bills included, are affected by a depreciated currency. But when you come to the other side of the question, the influence which the actual prohibition of the export of gold has on the exchanges, you are touching a factor which, though it has immense influence on the exchange position, need not necessarily be reflected in the price of commodities in the country from which those goods are exported. There is no doubt that this factor, this influence upon the exchanges of which I have just been speaking, is being felt to a large extent in the exchange position to-day. During the war European countries financed themselves by borrowing very largely abroad to pay for the enormous importation of goods of one sort and another that were used throughout the war. Their own source of production being cut off, they naturally had to import; and exchanges were balanced by the export of securities. Since tlie termination of the war the dislocation of their trade, and their lack of exports, combined with the heavy importations of coupons - the results of foreign debts incurred during the war - food and raw materials, throw a still heavier balance of trade against them, which they find it more difficult to meet, whilst the high rates of interest and the difficulty of getting credit abroad make their position more and more serious. The consequence has been the advance of the exchange rates to a figure probably far in excess of any. that depreciation of tha various currencies would have effected by and of themselves. The exchange rates to-day are not due entirely to the depreciation of the currency, but to that plus other influences, of which this is one.
I desire now to pass on to another factor, the fourth of the four which I have enumerated. I refer to the matter of the loss of credit and confidence. I believe that the disturbed state of Europe has a great deal to do with the present exchange rates. This, again, is an influence which need not necessarily reflected in the price of goods in those countries where there is a depreciated currency when those goods come to be exported. I will quote one more reference from the work of Viscount Goschen, *o which I have alluded. Upon page 123 will be found the following words, addressed, in effect, to the student of foreign exchange - »So, too, lie will not forget the influence of credit or discredit, and at any time of panic i>r other temporary derangement of confidence, the discount at which bills are sold will not be mistaken for the result of an adverse balance of trade or a depreciated currency.
I came upon a notable example of this in the Melbourne Harold, when the following paragraph was reported on the 11th inst., being a quotation from the Times of the day previously: -
There has been a fall in the value of Italian securities, in consequence of the decision of the Fiat Motor Company to close’ its workshops, on the grounds that the scheme of cooperation us advocated by the Government, is Impossible. The lira is now quoted at 90 to the fi, compared with 35 to the fi a year ago.
The month before that day exchange with Italy stood at 72 lire to the £1. In the course of a few days it had risen to 81 lire; and, when this fall in value of Italian securities occurred the rate went up to 90. These decided influences in the present exchange position in Europe, I emphasize. need not necessarily be reflected in the price of goods in that country where the goods are produced. For instance, in Italy when, owing to the action of the Communists,, the exchange rates went from 72 to 90 lire in a month, the goods which Italy had for sale did not thereby cost so much more to produce. Still, owing to the fall in the international value of the lira, every £1 would buy 90 lire instead of’ 72. So long as the root causes of the present position remain unchanged, so long will foreign exchanges remain in their present unsatisfactory state; and, not until there is a substantial, reduction in the redundant paper issues, a growth of exports from the countries with an adverse balance of trade, and the possibility of free gold movements being re-established, can we expect to see that renewal of confidence, which will lead to the removal of those causes which, acting and reacting upon one another, are responsible for the present unhealthy position. However that may be, it is important for us to realize that, apart from the causes which under normal conditions would lead to fluctuations in exchange rates, apart from the variations caused by depreciated currencies, there are potent factors at work which are exercising very great influence on the exchange rates, which- I repeat - need not necessarily be reflected in the prices of goods produced in the country. In other words, while depreciation of currency does not make it any easier for a country to sell its goods, any further movement of the exchange in an unfavorable direction makes it possible for that country to sell its goods at prices below those of its competitors. I want to interpolate here that what I have said in relation to these two last factors - namely, the influence upon exchange of the prohibition of export of gold and the loss of credit, and that these factors need not necessarily be reflected in the price of goods - is entirely true, I believe, in relation to goods manufactured entirely from the raw products of a country which, foi our purpose, we will suppose, is exporting its goods in those circumstances. But it is not entirely true in regard to that country if it is importing the rawmaterials for its manufactures. At the same time, it is to be remembered that this difficulty has been overcome, to a very large extent, by the establishment of credits abroad.
I have endeavoured briefly to trace the main considerations which account for normal fluctuations in exchange rates’ in normal times, and the principal factors which have contributed to the acutely marked adverse position of the international relationships of certain countries and the violent fluctuations of foreign exchange rates at the present time. And I have tried, as far as possible, to steer clear of the by-ways and to stick to the high road. But, if honorable members have been able to follow me, they will have seen that such fluctuations as took place in normal circumstances in pre-war days were so small that, with the exception of silver currency countries - and then only in the event of an abnormal move in the price of silver - they had no material effect upon prices at all. But when one comes to the question of buying and selling today, the exchange position makes an enormous difference. I have endeavoured to show that, beside the factor of depreciated currency, the full extent of which must be reflected in the cost of commodities, there are other powerful agencies which play a material part in the adverse exchange position of countries whose currency is depreciated, but which need not necessarily be reflected in those countries in the cost of commodities at all. From this fact arises the danger that advantage may be taken of the position to dump goods at prices which would make it impossible for our manufacturers, or for British manufacturers either, to compete; and it is for that reason that the Bill has been introduced in its present form.
Now I invite honorable members to turn their attentions to the Bill itself. If honorable ovembers will refer to the Customs Act of 1901. they will find that section 154 provides -
When any duty is imposed according to value -
the value shall be taken to be the fair market value of the goods in the principal markets of the country whence the same were exported in the usual and ordinary commercial acceptation of the term, and free on board at the port of export in such country, and a further addition of 10 per cent. on such market value.
Section 155 of the Act reads -
The genuine invoice means -
Section 157 provides -
Where the genuine invoice shows the value of the goods in any currency other than British currency, the equivalent value of the goods in British currency shall be ascertained according to a fair rate of exchange to be declared in case of doubt by the Minister.
Section 154, paragraph a, lays down the principle of what we know as the home consumption value as being the basis upon which all ad valorem duties are levied. Section 155 lays down the principle that the genuine invoice must set out the actual money price of the goods in the country whence the same were exported. Section 157 relates to the rates of exchange as between the value of the goods in the currency of the country whence the goods were exported and the equivalent value of the goods in British currency. It has been held that, as the value for duty must be the homeconsumption value in the country of export, the genuine invoice must set out the actual money price paid for goods in the currency of the country whence the goods were exported. Section 157 simply relates as between currency and currency to the proper rate of exchange, which in case of doubt is to be declared by the Minister. The only cases of doubt that could arise were those that related to the rate of exchange with silver countries, or to some similar cause which might lead to doubt as to the par value of exchange between currency and currency. I do not believe it was ever intended that that section should go any further. Customs Order No. 643 lays down the rates as between currency and currency.
– Is that a recent Order?
– No; so faras I know, it has been in force for many years.
– Can the Minister say when that Order was issued ?
– I cannot. It is a very lengthy Order, which I would like included in Hansard, and I therefore ask, Mr. Speaker, that I may be allowed to put it in without reading the whole of it.
– It will be sufficient if the Minister quotes a portion at the beginning and at the end.
– It is as follows: -
First of all, the law as it stands lays it down that we must ascertain the home consumption value, and that the genuine invoice must set out the price paid in the country of manufacture. It has been held that that means the currency of the country of manufacture. Section 157 provides that the rate of exchange as between currency and currency must be a fair rate of exchange, and. that if there is any doubt the Minister must declare it. We believe that the law compels us to collect these duties to-day on the home consumption value converted at the mint par rate of exchange as be- tween the currencies of the various countries. As honorable members know, this matter has been the subject of considerable controversy, and is now being tested in the Courts. I do not intend to discuss the subject any further; but merely to say that what we are doing is in accordance with the law. As honorable members know, we are collecting duties on the mint par rate of exchange.
– Not on the bank rate.
– That is so.
– You regard that as compulsory.
– Yes. If it were not so we would not be doing it. I believe two or three persons have brought actions against us, and a test case will be heard to ascertain if what we are doing is right or wrong. It is a question of an interpretation of the law. This practice has led to some extraordinary results, and there is no doubt that duties now being collected on some goods makes it- absolutely impossible to profitably sell them. When speaking on this subject on a former occasion I stated that manufacturers of those classes of goods for which there is a world demand have raised the home consumption value of their goods in the currency of their country to the world’s parity converted at the bank rate of exchange. In other words, French, Italian and other manufacturers are demanding and receiving the world’s parity for their goods in their home market. When they sell to Australia and we commence collecting duty on their goods, and, in the case of France, converting their bills into francs at the mint par rate of exchange, and’ these goods come into competition ‘with other goods sold at the world’s parity, and in regard to which we are collecting the duty at par, the procedure simply puts them out of court. This Bill is an attempt to remedy that. It is also an attempt to prevent the exporters of France and Italy, when the world demand for their goods may be not quite what it is to-day, using the exchange position to dump these goods in our market at prices at which neither British nor other manufacturers could compete.
I have taken so much trouble to state the causes of the exchange position, and to discriminate as far as possible regarding the influence of these causes, because I wish to show that it is possible to use an exchange position for the dumping of goods should it be thought desirable to do so. I have endeavoured to show that, whatever the depreciation of a currency, it must be reflected in the price of goods exported from the country where it exists; but there are other influences, potent factors in the existing exchange position, which need not necessarily be reflected in those prices, of which it will eventually be possible for such countries to take advantage, if they so desire, unless, of course, in the meantime, the exchange position drifts back to its normal pre-war state: If, as is quite possible, the tendency be for prices to fall suddenly, these countries can use their exchange position to dump their goods in Great Britain and in Australia.
Our fiscal policy rests ‘on two’ principles, namely, preference to British goods and protection of Australian manufactures. I should be falsetto the principles in which I believe, and: the Government would be unfaithful to the ^promises which it has made to the country, if the Bill enabled countries in an adverse exchange position to take advantage of it -by dumping their goods into Australia without any safeguard or protection at all.
– I think you have stuck to your principles pretty firmly. 1
– If honorable members will turn to the Bill, they will see that we take advantage of the existence of the Board of Trade to provide for the reviewing of the position, and clothe that body with the powers of a Royal Commission, because it .may be necessary that it shall get at the truth of. particular representations, an extremely difficult, if not impossible, thing to do by only the ordinary forms of inquiry.
– Is the Board of Trade a body of officials?
– The Board of Trade is not composed of officials, though there are officials on it. Its members are Senator Russell, the Vice-President of the Executive Council ; Mr. Herbert Brookes, the representative of the Associated Chambers of Manufactures; Mr. J. M. Elder, the representative of the Associated Chambers of Commerce-
– Was not the Board created during the war for certain purposes?’
– We used it during the war, and have also used it since the war for various investigations which we have desired to carry out.’ Then there is Mr. Reading-
– He is the B.A.T.C. man ?
– Yes. He comes from Sydney. There are also Mr. C. J. McRae, the President of the Primary Producers’ Union; Mr. Stirling Taylor, the Director of the Bureau of Commerce and Industry; the Acting ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, Mr. Percy Whitton, and myself.
– An exceptionally able body of men.
– All from one side. No worker need apply !
– The particular business with which the Board will be concerned is the ascertaining of facts. Having ascertained the facts of the case, the Board will be asked to make recommendations to the Minister. I direct the attention of the House to clause 4, which provides for the insertion in the principal Act of the following provision: -
When the bank rate of exchange of any country is more than 10 per centum -
I have taken 10 per cent. because that, I think it will be generally admitted, will cover the specie point - below the mint par rate of exchange, the Minister shall refer to the Board the question whether the bank rate of exchange should be used as the basis of the computation of the value for duty of goods imported from that country. “ (2.)Upon receipt of a reference made in pursuance of the last preceding sub-section, the Board may recommend to the Minister that the bank rate of exchange be used as the basis of the computation of the value for duty of ‘ goods imported from the country specified in the reference :
Provided that the Board shall not make a recommendation under this sub-section which, if adopted, would, in its opinion, be preju dieinl to -
the manufacture of goods in Australia or the sale in Australia of those goods ; or
any preference given to goods imported from the United Kingdom.
All the facts, so far as it is possible to give them, will be putbefore the Board of Trade.
– And its determinations will be determinations of fact, not of policy.
– The question for it will be, What are the facts?
– Why do you say, “ When the bank rate of exchange is more than 10 per cent. below the mint par rate of exchange “ ? Why not say “ above or below “ ?
– The honorable member has in his mind the position of countries with an appreciated exchange.
– America and Japan.
– Certainly. I hold that you should say “ above or below.”
– If honorable members desire that alteration, I shall not object to it.
– Is not this the procedure of the Customs Department, that, instead of charging on the dollar as at, say, 3.87, it charges on it as at 4.87, so that nothing is lost in duty ?
– Under the present arrangement we lose about £1,000,000 in duty.
– America, with her appreciated exchange, has her own peculiar difficulties in regard to her exports, which are very real. What would happen if effect were given to the. suggestion of the honorable member for Kooyong, and the Board of Trade were to recommend that duty should be charged on the bank rate of exchange so far as exportations from America were concerned ? I think the result would be that American goods would be shut out of this market, or that American goods would be much in the same position as are French and Italian goods to-day when duty is charged on the mint par rate of exchange. Probably, however, the Board, after taking into consideration all the facts would recommend that things be left in statu quo. I have no objection to the alteration should it be generally desired, though I do not think that it would have any appreciable result.
Power is taken in the Bill to allow the Board of Trade to review the position from time to time, because anything may happen. There have been three very decided moves in the appreciation of the German mark, the last one a pretty big one, bringing it up at one jump almost a third in value, though there is still room for great improvement. As the exports of these countries tend to balance the exchange position, it may be necessary for the Board of Trade to move pretty rapidly atany particular time. That is one of the reasons why we propose to make use of a body, such as the Board of Trade, which can get together rapidly, and which can consider the whole position as it presents itself at the time,
– Under this Bill will the members of the Board be able to move only in respect of the basis of computation of the value for duty of all imports from a country, or will they be able to deal with any specific item?
– They will have to look at a country’s position, by and large, and if they decide that the bank rate of exchange can be adopted without any general detriment, either to Australian industry or to British industry, they will” be able to grant it by means’ of their certificates. Later on in the measure, power is given them to deal with any particular class of goods.
– To revoke upon an item?
-They will be able to revoke in regard to any country as a whole. It is quite possible, indeed I think it is probable - that after a certificate has been granted in regard to a country as a whole, it will be found that there is some particular class of goods which it is desirable to draw back upon, and in respect of which that country is taking advantage of the exchange position to do a bit of dumping. There may be instances of that sort. As soon as they are able, after granting the original certificate, to review the whole position, and to ascertain if any classes of goods are coming in at lower rates, or that the certificate will enable them to come in at those rates, the Board may meet and determine, in regard to those classes of goods, that the mint par rate of exchange, and not the bank rate of exchange, shall apply.
– But in the first instance they will look at the position of the country generally?
– It is difficult to speak for the Board as a whole. But that is the intention of the Bill. It is intended that the situation as it exists in regard to the whole of the range of importation shall be reviewed. If it be found that that is the general position, the Board can then say that the bank rate of exchange shall apply in regard to the whole range of importations, and after it has granted its certificate, it can proceed to pull up particular items.
– The general position is subject to the qualifications imposed by proposed new section 157d in regard to any particular description of goods ?
– Yes. By these means we shall endeavour to meet the abnormal exchange position which exists to-day, and at the same time to observe the principle of granting a preference to British goods, and affording protection to Australian industries.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
– This is a Bill to extend the Treaty of Peace Act to which this Parliament has assented, to the Territories taken over under the Mandates. Inadvertently in the drafting Bill, the Peace Treaty was not extended to those Territories, and this is a measure which is designed to repair that omission. There is no new principle involved, and I do not think that I can give the House any information which is not already within the possession of honorable members. I shall, however, be very glad to make such information available to them as is in my possession. But the measure is merely intended to effect what I have already indicated, and, therefore, I move without further comment -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- There is just one matter that I wish to mention at this stage. I desire to know exactly when the war will end, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, and whether we can fix a date for its termination by any amendment in this Bill.
– That matter is not affected by this Bill, but will be affected by the next measure upon the businesspaper.
– Very well.
– Does the Bill refer to the Territories previously possessed by the Commonwealth, or to the new Territories which it has acquired under mandate ?
– To the new Territories.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the remaining stages to be passed without delay.
.- I did not have the opportunity of hearing the Prime Minister’s remarks upon the motion for the second reading of this Bill.
– He delivered a most eloquent speech.
– It was most eloquent, but it was also unusually brief. The measure is one of some importance, dealing as it does with our international relations, and the effect of the Peace Treaty upon our mandated Territories. I suggest, therefore, not as the leader of a party, but in my own right, that the third reading of the measure may well be postponed till to-morrow.
– If there were any principle involved in it I should be only too pleased to adopt that course.
– Would the right honorable gentleman mind telling us shortly what is the object of the Bill ?
– I have already had the honour of explaining its provisions to the House. It is merely intended to extend the PeaceTreaty to the new Territories.
– Then I suppose that it is useless for me to plead my ignorance.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time. It will be within the recollection of honorable members that the Treaty of Peace with Germany did not put an end to a state of war with the other belligerent countries.
– I beg to draw attention to the state of the House. [ Quorum formed.]
– It, therefore, became necessary that separate Treaties of Peace should be made with the other Powers with whom the Allied and Associated Powers had been at war. Treaties were made at different times with Austria and Bulgaria. The terms of those Treaties have been duly laid upon the table of the House, and, doubtless honorable members are thoroughly acquainted with them. This Bill is intended to give effect, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, to those Treaties, and forthat purpose only.
Honorable members will note that the omission to which I referred in a previous measure has been repaired in this, so that the Act applies to the Territories under the authority of the Commonwealth as well as to the Commonwealth proper. It would serve no useful purpose to expatiate at length on the provisions of the Treaty with Austria, or with Bulgaria, for it so happens that the interests of the Commonwealth are not directly affected by them. Austria, as it exists to-day, is a very different kind of power from that which existed in August, 1914.
– What is the difference between this Treaty of Peace and the Treaty with Germany?
– They differ profoundly. Honorable members will perhaps appreciate the difference better if I emphasize a point that was, I think, sufficiently clear during the five years of war. The war was, in effect, a war between Germany and the Allies. No doubt, Austria,Bulgaria, and Turkey were Germany’s allies, but the main strength of the enemy was Germany. It was Germany, for example, that had oversea colonies; and it was Germany whose ambitions were directed towards the disruption of the British Empire, and the uprooting of that form of civilization in which we believed. Austria and Bulgaria were but pawns in her Imperial game. I had the honour of being present when the Treaty of Peace was presented to the Austrian plenipotentiaries, and there is nothing in that Treaty, so far as I know, that affects this Commonwealth as a whole in the remotest way.
– I beg to call attention to the state of the House. - [Quorum formed.]
– Whatever may have been the position that Austria occupied during the war, her position to-day is very different. There have been carved out of the former Austria no less than four nations - Hungary, Czecho-Slovakia, Austria itself, and Jugo-Slavia ; while some portion,I think, but am not sure, has been ceded to certain of the Allied Powers. The purpose of this Bill is to enable us to make regulations to carry into effect the provisions of the Treaty under which Austria agrees to do certain things. We are not concerned with, any of her territorial obligations, for her territories, or the territories of those countries which are contiguous to her, are very remote from the Commonwealth. But we are concerned in her obligations with regard to repatriation, finance, and economic relations, particularly new obligations relating to enemy debts and property rights. These articles provide, inter alia, for the establishment of clearing offices for the settlement of debts due by or to enemy nationals, and for the retention and liquidation of enemy property. These provisions apply not only to the Austrian Treaty, but to the Bulgarian Treaty. The treaties with those two countries are grouped together under this measure, by which it is proposed to carry them into effect.
Honorable members have from time to time asked when the condition provided for in the War Precautions Act will be created, three months after which that Act will expire by effluxion of time. These are two of the Treaties to which reference is made in the Statute to which I have referred. We have not yet had before us the Treaty of Peace with Turkey, but, so far as I know, that is not covered by the War Precautions Act. Speaking subject to correction, I should say that the expiration of the War Precautions Act depends upon the ratification of the Treaties of Peace with Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Bulgaria. By passing this measure, the Commonwealth will ratify the Treaties with Austria and Bulgaria, and place itself in the same position as every other belligerent country with whom Austria and Bulgaria were at war. I know of no other matters that need explanation or -emphasis, but if honorable members desire to address themselves to any point, I shall have an opportunity to deal with it when speaking in reply.
.- I tried to follow the Prime Minister carefully, but am not sure now whether he said it was not necessary for a special Treaty to be ratified with Turkey before the War Precautions Act could lapse. Turkey is the last of the four belligerents, but, so far, no Bill has come before us to ratify peace with her. She seems at present to be in the position of a snake that has been chopped into about a. dozen pieces. They have all wriggled into: different corners. There is, apparently, an Old-Turk Government in- Constantinople, the Young-Turk party under Mustapha Kernel Pasha is in rebellion in Asia Minor, while Enver Pasha is supposed to- be somewhere in the Caucasus,’ so that the prospects of securing any definite peace with Turkey at present seem rather doubtful.
– It is not necessary to make peace with Turkey in order to give effect to that section of the War Precautions Act to which the- honorable member alludes. Turkey is not included. The powers included are - I said before that I spoke subject to correction - the German Emperor, the King and Emperor of Austria, and the King of Hungary. We have made peace with Austria and with Germany, but not with Hungary.
– That statement is not satisfactory to me regarding the particular point which I desire to bring under notice. I am doing so during the debate on this Bill, but not with any intention to “ cry over spilt milk,” or to raise any contentious question which would create ill-feeling or bitter feeling amongst any sections of Australians. The matter I am interested in, and which affects a great many citizens in the electorate of Moreton whom I am in honour bound to protect, is the Commonwealth Electoral (War-time) Act, which is to expire six months after the end of the war. I wish to raise, on this measure, the question of when the period of “ the end of the war” will be definitely fixed. The Prime Minister now says that it depends upon a separate Treaty with Hungary, and he even seems a little in doubt as to whether it may not also be necessary first to ratify peace with Turkey as well. He says he believes that Turkey is not included, but that he speaks subject to correction. This matter is continually hanging on, waiting for the final definite ratification of peace with all our enemies.
– The War Precautions Act related only to Germany, Austria, and Hungary.
– I am not particularly concerned with the War Precautions Act at the present moment. What troubles me is the Commonwealth Electoral (War-time) Act of 1917. I am anxious that that Act shall terminate. I said both during the elections and at other times that’ it should never have been passed. I was away at the Front when it was passed, but had I been here I should have made one to oppose it. However, that is not the point at issue. Will the Prime Minister give us some definite assurance in regard to the repeal of this electoral measure? Will he definitely fix a date, if possible, when it shall cease to operate, so that the people whom I represent may know where they stand? If the Prime Minister cannot see his way to do that, it may be necessary for me to ascertain whether I shall be in order in moving an amendment in the measure now before us. I should prefer, however, to see the Prime Minister fall in with my point of view, and try to assist those people to whom, I think, an injustice is. being done.
.- I regret that I did not hear the whole of the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in moving the second reading. The honorable rember for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) has raised a point which ought to be settled- as soon as possible. Apparently, it is much easier to get into a war than to have peace declared after an armistice has been signed. We, as it were, automatically enter a war, but it seems impossible now to ascertain when the War Precautions Act’ and other measures which, in our opinion, contain many obnoxious provisions, are to be repealed. Last week, I was asked to arrange for a deputation to wait upon the Prime Minister on the question of the Electoral (War-time) Act and the War Precautions regulations generally; but, as the noconfidence motion was then under consideration, no arrangement could be made, it not being usual for Ministers to receive deputations under the circumstances. Cannot the Prime Minister tell the honorable member for Moreton and others when we shall come to the end of the period during which these Acts shall continue to operate? If it is desirable to prevent certain persons doing certain things, let definite legislation be introduced, so that we may have an opportunity of voicing our opinion. The War Precautions Act, with its regulations, is a sort of dragnet, and may be used for purposes for which it was never intended. I say unhesitatingly that that Act and certain regulations have been used for pur poses that were never dreamt of when the measure received, the approval of this House. I am anxious to assist in the passage of this or any other measure which will bring us nearer peace with any country, but we ought to know how long these different regulations under the War Precautions Act are to operate. The Electoral (War-time) Act disfranchises certain persons who would be prevented from voting if an election occurred in the near future. The Prime Minister knows my feeling in regard to an election; he knows that I would like to see an election for both Houses as soon as possible - I am a double-dissolution man.
– You are very coldblooded !
– That is not so, but I desire that the voice of the people of Australia should be heard, not only in this chamber, but in another place.
– You ‘ have just heard the voice of the people.
– It is nearly twelve months since the people had an opportunity of expressing their opinion at an election. There was an election in Victoria last week, and my prophecy that the Nationalist party would lose, and our party gain, seats, proved absolutely correct. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) told me at the time that I ought not to prophesy; and the result of the election shows that I must have been “ on something good.”
– That point is not dealt with in the Bill.
– Quite so; but I desire to speak on the point raised by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) in regard to certain legislation passed as a result of the war. We seem to be getting peace a little bit at a time, and the position would appear to be hopeless if the War Precautions Act and the Electoral (War-time) Act are to continue to operate until we have complete peace with Hungary and Turkey.
– Not Turkey. T am speaking only as a layman, and not as a lawyer.
– Not as the AttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth ?
– I do not know where the King of Hungary is just now; he is mentioned in the Act, but I do not know where he is.
– If the law adviser of the Government does not know, how can laymen, like the honorable member for Moreton and myself, know ?
– I do not say that I could, not interpret the section. I say that I do not know where the King of Hungary is.
– I do not know any lawyer who would not profess to interpret any section of any law.
– Lawyers are the only people who realize how difficult it is to interpret the law; laymen interpret everything.
– I ask the Prime Minister, in his reply on the second reading, or at some future stage of the Bill, to give us some idea as to how long the War Precautions Act and the Electoral War-time Act are to continue in operation. May we look for their repeal in the near future, or have we to wait until this mythical King of Hungary is found ?
– I have asked several questions in regard to the continuation of the War Precautions Act, and I take this opportunity to protest against the continued operation, not only of that Act, but also of the Electoral (War-time) Act. I do not pit my authority against that of lawyers, but I understand that the Electoral (War-time) Act is not now operative, and that if there were an election to-morrow, or if there had been one even in May last, the people affected by that Act would not have been disfranchised. In my opinion, it is lowering to the dignity of Parliament to remain here week after week, and month after month, and permit the War Precautions Act to remain in force. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has jocularly said that he does not know where to find, the King of Hungary; but that is not” the question. The question is whether or not the Government find it convenient to continue the operation of that Act. We are not now dealing with the King of Hungary: and, in any case, it is doubtful whether we shall see another monarch in that country. Surely the Prime Minister does not suggest that we should wait until some King is appointed in Hungary ? Unfortunately, the ‘Government do not seem to desire to repeal the War Precautions Act. I do not know whether they are keeping it in operation until they can pass legislation making permanent some of the powers they are now able to exercise; but I think that the time has arrived when it should be removed from the statute-book. No doubt the War Precautions Act is a very handy weapon which a dictator may easily use to suit his own ends. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), if he has not threatened, has intimated that, unless some move is made towards a repeal of the Act, he and those associated with him are prepared to do something; and now we have the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) intimating that he may find if necessary to submit an amendment on the present measure in reference to the Electoral (War-time) Act. If we are to be a Parliament worthy of the name, we ought to honour the promise made when that Act was passed. It was definitely stated then that the measure would not be used in an arbitrary way- But it has been so used; and I appeal to honorable members not to allow the Prime Minister to fool them much longer by saying that he does not know where the King of Hungary is. We ought to make a concerted move, and remove this blot on our legislation.
.- I was hoping that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) would let us know something definite in regard to the repeal of the War Precautions Act. The right honorable gentleman will remember that, in 1918, when an amending measure was before us, the Government were induced to agree to an amendment reducing the period of its operation from six months to three months after the Declaration of Peace. At that time almost all honorable members thought that when Peace was made with Germany the Act would automatically cease to operate three months later. I know that in the interests of good government, and the welfare of the country, certain legislation should be passed giving the Government certain powers which the war has shown to be necessary. In that legislation I am prepared to help the Government, but I think that quite sufficient time has elapsed to justify us in asking that the War Precautions Act shall cease to operate. It is not fair to ask us to allow an Act of this sort, which was primarily introduced to give the Government special arbitrary powers during war-time, to remain any longer in force than can be avoided. There is no reason why the Electoral (War-time) Act should not be repealed; indeed, in my opinion, the section to which the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) refers, was a blunder. If the Prime Minister cannot say anything definite in regard to the War Precautions Act, he might repeal that section of the Electoral (War-time) Act which prevents any naturalized alien voting exceptunder certain conditions. If the Government desire that section to remain in force they ought to introduce special legislation to that end, and allow the House to determine the matter. As I said, it is essential that new legislation should be introduced to confer certain powers on the Government, but there is no necessity to wait until the King of Hungary is found before we repeal the War Precautions Act.
– I am glad the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) has raised a point on which I feel very strongly. There is no doubt that certain powers should be permanently possessed by the Government, and I hope that, before the period elapses during which the Acts referred to are to remain in operation, these’ powers will have been conferred by legislation.
– You wish to expedite that legislation ?
– Very much so. I desire, as soon as possible, to have a Statute that would give us the protection that every other country is finding necessary.
.- , This Bill, which gives the Prime Minister ‘ (Mr. Hughes) the opportunity for the repetition and republication of some of those notable phrases and pompous utterances that during the war were productive of so much mischief, has moved the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt), and certain other honorable members, to raise the question of the permanency, or otherwise, of the War Precautions Act. If the Government were sincere in their desire to get rid of that Act it might have been removed, with all its deplorable consequences, long ago. But I hold the Government absolutely guilt less of any desire to repeal it, and I think it is beyond question that by the time it automatically ceases, this Government, if they last so long, will have taken good care by fresh legislation to have given effect to its most objectionable features.
– But it is a thousand times better to do something now so that we may have an opportunity of dealing with the whole question.
– Much better. And that is the reason that the Government, instead of taking the better course, have availed themselves, as long as possible, of the technical excuse that we have not yet made peace with our late enemies. We made peace with Germany in 1918. That peace was subsequently ratified. We made peace with Austria and Bulgaria, and that peace, too, has been ratified. But peace with Hungary has not yet been ratified. Those who had hoped that three months after the expiration of the ratification of peace with Austria, the War Precautions Act would come to an end, are now met by the technical objection, which the Prime Minister advertised here a few weeks ago, that ,we have not yet ratified the peace with Hungary, and now he tells us cynically that he does not know where the King of Hungary is. Of course he does not.
While the second reading of this Bill has afforded, the honorable member for Moreton the opportunity of raising the question of the disfranchisement of so many Australian-born representatives of the race from which he springs, I venture to point out to him that his consistent support of. the Government, which imposed that iniquity upon his fellow- ‘ countrymen challenges, in a very sinister manner, the sincerity of a gentleman who now pretends to be so great a champion of their cause. I do not like to have to say it, but this seems to me so obvious a rejoinder to his expression of interest in the representatives of his race at this late hour of the day. I speak, perhaps, with greater feeling on this subject by reason of the circumstance that the men on whom this outrage was committed were men, not born in the country from which the honorable member for Moreton comes, but born in my country; that is to say, in the country in which I take a particular interest. The fact that these men, because of the blood that flowed in their ancestors’ veins and their own, were disfranchised by men who came to this country, by men who found an asylum here, as in the case of the right honorable the Prime Minister and the honorable member for Moreton, makes me entertain occasional indignation. I am glad, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that, by your indulgence, and by the indulgence of Mr. Speaker, honorable members have been permitted to discuss with generality the question of the “War Precautions Act, the question of the disfranchisement of my fellowAustralians, the question of the injustices that have been perpetrated upon the people of this country by the misuse of power given to the Government in the War Precautions Act. But, having said so much, I do not wish to appear to be ignorant of the fact that the Bill has nothing to do with the War Precautions Act. It is a measure to enable the Government to pass regulations to give effect, if you please, to the Treaty with Austria and Bulgaria. It is a curious thing that while members of the party to which I belong have frequently had occasion to protest against legislation by regulation, it has always been in connexion with power to make regulations to give effect to an Act of Parliament then before the House. But in itself this Bill does not contain one single positive provision enabling the country or the House to do anything at all beyond giving the Government power to legislate by (means of regulations to give effect to the Treaty of Peace with Austria and Bulgaria.
– Do you suggest that we should alter the peace which has been so solemnly made?
– No. What I suggest is that we do not invest this Government with any further power to deal, by regulation, with our international relationships. Whenever we wish to deal with this important subject, the proper method should be by a proposal brought down for the consideration of the House.
– This has been here for a long while. ..
– I know _ that theTreaty has been here for quite a long time, but that is not a matter for regulations; it is an instrument for the ending of the state of war’. No doubt, the Treaty contains provisions open to criticism, and I have ventured to criticise them. I am content that we should end the state of war with Austria and Bulgaria, but I am not content to give an affirmative blank cheque to this Government to pass regulations as they think fit dealing with our international affairs.
– But you have not objected to this power in connexion with Northern Territory Ordinances.
– I hope the honorable member does not accuse me of having agreed to that course of action. I was strongly opposed to it, and spoke against it when the matter came up for consideration a short time ago.
– I was not aware of that.
– I quite acknowledge the necessity for power in a Bill to effect by regulations to its purposes,, and although this power has been grossly, gravely, and secretly misused during five or six tragic years, still I grant that the power is one which should accompany any Act of Parliament, because without it we cannot give effect to its details. But this Bill deals with international problems. Our relations with Austria and Bulgaria will, no doubt, be few and far between, but, at all events, they will be of sufficient importance, if any, to warrant their being brought before the House by Bill or resolution for consideration. If we are to affirm the principle that the Government may come down with a Bill which contains nothing whatever - and this Bill doe3 not contain anything whatever except the power to make regulations - we shall be handing over our privileges as the representatives and custodians of the people’s rights to the Government to legislate secretly by means of regulation.
– Do you not read clauses 2 and 3 together ?
– The power to make regulations relates to the Treaties.
– More particularly to the mandated Territories. I think.
– It does not relate to the mandates at all.
– Clause 2 states, “ This Act shall apply to the Territories under the authority of the Commonwealth.”
– Yes; and the. Territories referred to are those Territories which we had before the mandate came under consideration at all. I doubt very much if the Bill applies to the mandated
Territories at all. I do not think it intends to.
– They are not specifically exempted.
– The phraseology of clause 2 -
This Act shall apply to Territories under the authority of the Commonwealth; is inserted in all Acts of this kind to cover the existing Territories of Norfolk Island, Papua, andthe Northern Territory.
– But in the other Bill it includes any Territory governed by the Commonwealth under a mandate.
– That is a different matter. This Bill is analogous to a measure which we passed relating to the Treaty of Peace ratified with Germany; and on that Bill I spoke, as I am endeavouring to speak now, in opposition to this unbridled exercise of the Tight to make secret regulations. The point I wish to emphasize, in regard to the present Bill, is that it is not a measure affirmatively dealing with certain matters, but asks for authority to pass regulations for the wide international purpose of giving effect to the Treaties which we have made with Austria and Bulgaria.; and I say that the question of peace with Austria and Bulgaria, or the question of our Treaty with Germany, or, indeed, any question which affects our relationship with any country, is sufficiently important to warrant its being brought before this House by resolution or Bill. I oppose the principle contained in the Bill for this reason, and I hope it will not be accepted.
– I cannot understand the statement of the Prime Minister, that the King of Hungary cannot be found. I believe that when the war started the Emperor of Austria was also King of Hungary. If the Allies can find the Emperor of Austria, why should they not use him as King of Hungary in order that peace with that country may be ratified 1 Is the statement that the Allies cannot find the King of Hungary merely a trick in order that the Government may continue the War Precautions Act?
– I was only quoting from the section which refers to the King of Hungary. I say there is no such King.
Some honorable members need to have their heads bored with a gimlet before they can see a joke. But I suppose the honorable member thinks that one must notmake a joke about a King.
– There are times when I am Scotch. What is the reason for delaying the carrying into effect of the Treaty of Peace with Hungary as well as that with Austria?
– The Treaty of Peace with Hungary has not yet been ratified.
– I do not blame the Prime Minister for this, because he has enough sinsalready, but will he explain the reason why that Treaty has not been ratified ?
– The honorable member must ask the Supreme Council. Directly that body ratifies the Treaty we shall follow the same procedure as we are adopting in regard to the Treaty with Austria and Bulgaria.
– Cannot the Prime Minister inform us why the ratification of the Peace Treaty with Hungary is delayed ?
-The Supreme Council makes the Treaty of Peace, and then submits it to the various Governments in turn, but, in effect, it is the principal powers which determine when the peace shall be ratified.
-Is it not a fact that when peace was made with Austria and Germany, our two principal enemies, the war was over ?’
– That being so, why continue in operation the War Precautions Act, so that Australia is governed under regulation instead of under legislation? The statement has been made over and over again that the Prime Minister used the War Precautions Act for purposes for which it was never intended. In 1915, when the right honorable gentleman, as Attorney-General in the Fisher Government, submitted an amending War Precautions Bill he promised his own party, after a “ stone-wall “ lasting over a week, that the measure would be used only for the defence of the realm. We all know that it was u6ed for other purposes, and I cannot see why it should be continued in operation a day longer. To all intents and purposes the war is over; therefore why not repeal all that legislation whichcreated so much illfeeling in Australia during the war? We shall never get back to the feeling of prewar days until we wipe out the War Precautions Act. The country has enormous problems to face, and why not remove all causes of bitterness so that we may approach these problems as a united people? Germany was our principal enemy, yet at no distant date weshall be trading with her as other countries are already doing. What is the need for any pretence in this matter? In common with every other man, I wish to get backto the conditions of pre-war days, and to fight out political battles under the Constitution and Acts of Parliament ; but the bitterness which was created by the War Precautions Act will not be removed so long as that measure remains on the statute-book.
Australians should give close consideration to the causes which brought Bulgaria into the war. That country became an opponent of the Allies through the biggest bit of blundering that international diplomacy could possibly perpetrate. Bulgaria should never have come into the war as an enemy of the Allies; but, unfortunately, there was an Economy party in. Great Britain, as there is in other countries. The entry of Bulgaria on the side of Germany and Austria was one of the principal factors in prolonging the war, because if Bulgaria had not been our enemy, Servia could not have been attacked in the rear, and there could not have been a continuous line of communication between Turkey and Middle Europe. We are often told that it is a great advantage to Australia to be under the British flag; but the blundering with Bulgaria is an illustration of one of the disadvantages of being associated with the Mother Country. The Bulgarians are almost Eastern in their natures; they like a lot of glamour and show. When, like Roumania, they were uncertain as to whichside they would support in the war, Germany sent plenipotentiaries extraordinary to Bulgaria to influence the feeling of the people in her favour, so that the Central Powers might get access to Turkey and be able to attack the Allies in the rear. The diplomats of Germany, in the fulness of their knowledge of the Bulgarian, sent ambassadors to Bucharest in smart motor cars and with a great amount of ostentation. They entertained the people in the capital with champagne and turkey, and did many things to impress the Bulgarians with the idea that they were the richer and stronger power. What did Great Britain do? A British plenipotentiary was also sent, but the Government haggled as to whether they would allow him £60 or £100 for his expenses. Surely the diplomats of the Allies ought to have known that their policy was suicidal. The display made by the Germans completely won over the Bulgarian people, and the consequences were disastrous to the Allies.
– Still, I suppose,the Bulgarian newspapers said that it was a war to end war and to put down might by right.
– They did more than that. I know the statement I am making is correct, and the Prime Minister must know as well as I do that it would have been better for the world if Bulgaria had not become our enemy, and that it was only through the blundering of Allied diplomacy that Bulgaria sided with the Central Powers. I mention this as an illustration of the difficulties which surround us under the existing circumstances. I was reared under such conditions as to impress me with the glamour of the British flag; but I say that the Mother Country blundered in regard to Bulgaria as it has done on many other occasions, and that her mistake considerably lengthened the war. We havestatesmen in Parliament, and we have politicians. I am one of the politicians; but statesmen have shown that they can blunder more than the politicians. The mishandling of Bulgaria was one instance of the kind. I hope the Prime Minister will assist us in getting back to pre-war conditions. He must see that there is no further need for this pin-pricking legislation.
– There are the Unlawful Assemblies Bill, the Passports Bill, and the Aliens Registration Bill.
– Is this legislation required in order to prevent an enemy alien from injuring Australia or the Empire? It can have no possible effect in that way. The Prime Minister ought to know as well as I do that most Germans in Australia were Socialists in their own country, which they left in order to get away from the German political system.
They were treated during the war as if they had strong German sympathies, but they had not; I have worked with many of them. There may have been amongst them a few men who were paid to come to Australia to cause trouble, but the majority of them had come to Australia as refugees from the German system of government. Here they proved themselves good citizens, as we understand the term under our present political and economic systems. Instead of being democratic in their political ideas, they were as Conservative as any men in the country. The Prime Minister knows that, so why keep in existence the legislation that was introduced as a protection against them ? It cannot possibly be a political factor to-day. Those German citizens, resent the treatment they received, and the existence of that feeling does the country no good. I hope the Prime Minister will not wait until the King of Hungary is found, but will immediately, wipe out the War Precautions Act, and all the regulations made under it, and other legislation that he considered necessary while the war continued.
– I shall endeavour to direct my remarks to those criticisms of the measure which have been made by various honorable members. Perhaps I may be first permitted to say a word as to the extraordinary attitude adopted by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). I do not understand what he wishes us to do. That we should bring down a Bill to give effect to these Treaties, but should be deprived of any power to do so is a most extraordinary suggestion. He said, in effect, if not in so many words, that whatever action we were to take under this measure to give effect to the Treaty, should be taken by virtue of Bills or other resolutions of the House. The honorable member cannot have considered the matter seriously. The main operations of this Treaty in Australia have reference to the settlement of debts owing by Austrians to Australians ‘and by Australians “to Austrians. There will probably be five or six thousand separate debts requiring adjustment under the economic clauses of the Treaty. Does the honor-, able member suggest that we should bring down each one of them to be settled in this House? The honorable member assented to a Treaty with Ger many giving us the very power which is sought in this Bill. It is now in operation,, but the Government have handed over to a Public Trustee the responsibility of adjusting these debts, and, outside the reparation ‘clauses and the control of the Islands, which are matters for this Parliament, there is little else which concerns us in the ratification of peace with Austria. Therefore, I pass by the honorable member’s suggestion as one that is impracticable, and as one that I am unable to understand, let alone accept.
The honorable members for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt), Dampier (Mr. Gregory), and Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) are very anxious to know when we may expect that day which is the condition precedent to the expiry of the War Precautions Act. They are not at all satisfied with my reference, by way of interjection, to the King of Hungary, which I did not intend to be an answer to their statements. I intended to quote the section of the War Precautions Act, and, now that I am on my feet, I gladly take this opportunity of explaining the position. The War Precautions Act says -
This Act shall continue in operation during the continuance of the present state* of “war, and no longer. “ The present state of war “ is defined as continuing “ until the issue of a proclamation by the Governor-General that the war between His Majesty the King and the German Emperor, and between His Majesty the King and the Emperor of Austria King of Hungary has ceased.” So far as Germany and Austria are concerned, the condition precedent has been satisfied. There remains Hungary, which is now divorced from Austria, and, as I explained by way of interjection, peace with Hungary has been agreed to, but has not yet been ratified by tho different Parliaments of the Great Powers. I am sure honorable members will not censure me for any delay in making peace with Hungary.
I had the honour, if it be an honour, which seems very doubtful, of introducing the War Precautions Bill of 1914, when circumstances were somewhat different from what they are now in the arrangement of parties and in other directions. At that time a good deal of criticism was directed against the Government from tlie benches behind the Ministry, on which some of my honorable friends who are now opposite were then located. Speaking as the result of the experience of five years of war, I regard the passage of that measure as having been absolutely necessary; but I entirely agree with those who think that it is bad for a country that delights to boast that it is governed by a Parliament elected by a free people, that it should be governed by regulations. Before the Christmas recess I hope the Treaty with Hungary will be ratified, but, if it is not, I shall do my best to give the House the opportunity of repealing the War Precautions Act. I make one reservation in that regard. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) has pointed out how necessary it is that this Parliament should have certain powers conferred on it by Statute, and as I agree with the view put forward by the honorable member, I wish, therefore, the House to clearly understand that whether the War Precautions Act expires by proclamation or as the result of legislation passed by this Parliament, the Government will introduce, if it considers it necessary, which I do in the present circumstances, legislation that will give it. statutory power to deal with certain conditions. Otherwise the Government would have no authority to deal with a position that might menace the safety of the Commonwealth. However, the circumstances will then be entirely different. We should be administering an Act of Parliament.
When the Electoral (War-time) Bill was introduced I am sure it was necessary. No one can accuse me of being halfhearted in this matter.
– No one can.
– There is one thing I like about the honorable member. From the very first day of the war until now I have known exactly his attitude towards it, and I think he will do me this credit, that he has known all the time where I stood. I was for the Allies, for Britain, and for the side Australia took in the war, but at the same time I could understand the attitude taken by Germans in this country. As I said when I was speaking to the Electoral (War-time) Bill, nothing was more natural than that a German, no matter how long he had been in Australia, should in a struggle between Germany and Great Britain, sympathize with Germany. I said that if I had been living in Berlin for fifty years it would make no difference to me. If a war broke out between Great Britain and Germany I would be for Great Britain. I agree with what the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) has said. Now that the war is over, we have to deal with a new set of conditions. It was necessary, in the interests of the country, when the war was raging to prevent those who were the friends and supporters of Germany f rom dominating the political life of Australia. I do not know what their views are. One thing is certain, that in Germany there are at least two sections of thought as widely set apart as are the poles, as to what should be the policy for the world and even for Germany. I do not know to which section those who are in Australia belong; but I am not one of those who believe in life-long vendettas. While there was a war I fought. Now that the war is over I want to create conditions that will make for peace, and I agree that this part of the electoral law to which the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) has referred has outlived its usefulness. The honorable member will hardly expect me, without an opportunity of consulting my colleagues, to make a definite statement on the matter ; but, speaking for myself, I can see no reason why the Electoral (War-time) A.ct should not be repealed.
I hope that the Treaty with Hungary will be ratified. As soon as it is it will be laid on the table, and not an hour will be lost in asking the House to assent to it, so that the War Precautions Act will automatically disappear, because the proclamation of the termination of the war will at once issue. If there should be delay, and negotiations are dragged out unduly, steps must be taken to wipe out the War Precautions Act in another way. I have been asked to make a statement on these two important matters without having been . afforded an opportunity of consulting my colleagues. Therefore, I am speaking for myself only; but, of course, I am the head of the Government, and am dealing with the situation as it seems best to me. I want it to be understood quite clearly that whenever the War Precautions Act expires, or is repealed, we shall introduce whatever legislation is necessary to enable the Government and this Parliament to deal with circumstances which now exist in this country, or which may hereafter exist, and we shall have te ask this Parliament to pass this as complementary to the repeal of the War Precautions Act. Of course, the effectwould be to wipe out government by regulation under that Act, and introduce government by Statute, in determining and shaping which every man in this. House will have an equal voice. I think I have covered all the points that have been raised during the debate. I hope I did not misunderstand the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), who said something, I think, about Australians who were disfranchised.
– I did.
– There are no Australians who have been disfranchised under the law to which he referred. The honorable member cannot have read the measure. I am talking about this (measure which I hold in my hand, and I assure him that there are no Australians disfranchised under it. However, if I misunderstood him, I apologize.
I have set cut my views clearly and fairly, I hope. I trust, further, that I have left no ground for misunderstanding concerning where my sympathies lie, while at tha same time stating - just as I did in the midst of the war - that I have quite understood why Germans adopted the attitude they did, and that I should have thought very little of them if they had not.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Is it the pleasure of honorable members that the Bill be taken as a whole?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
.- I am particularly pleased to hear the words of the Prime Minister. I am quite satisfied with his announcement. He remarked that he did not know to which group belong those Germans who have been naturalized out here - that is to say, our settlers and their descendants. I beg leave to remind him that I am a returned soldier, and that I would not be here, representing an electorate such as Moreton, if its constituents belonged to the section which the Prime Minister may have had in his mind.
– I had no section in particular in mind, except that the people of
Germany are themselves divided into two or three camps; I meant the Monarchists, the Independent Socialists, and the Majority Socialists.
– I am content with what the Prime Minister has said. It is not my wish to rake up ah old trouble, but the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) continually referred to those whom he called my countrymen. I do not know whether the honorable member would think that any one whose people had been British for nearly three centuries, and for something like eight generations, should still be regarded as a ‘German. The honorable member, although he accuses me now of bringing up this matter for political advantage, did not oppose the Bill when it came before this House, and did not vote against it or even call for a division.
– To which measure does the honorable member refer?
– I am speaking now of the Electoral Act. I have this satisfaction, too, namely, that, although the honorable member apparently wishes to repudiate me as a fellow-Australian, I am able, in that case also, to repudiate him.
.- Do I understand, Mr. Chairman, that the consideration of this measure in’ Committee is being undertaken as a whole?
– That is so.
– I protested against that course, and I am under the impression that the voicing of one protest is sufficient. However, I presume that the reiteration of my protest is now too late. Clause 3 is really the only operative clause in the Bill. It is one which enables the Governor-General to make regulations to give effect to the provisions of the Treaties of Peace with Bulgaria and Austria. A precisely similar Bill came before this House some time ago. relating to the formal Treaty of Peace with Germany.. In that measure I, and, I think, other honorable members of my party, opposed an exactly similar clause. I took the view, which I repeat now, that we should not pass a Bill whose sole purpose is to enable the Government to make regulations upon international matters.
If, in discussing the second reading of this measure, I did an injustice to the honorable member for Moreton-
– Not a bit!
– If I did so, I regret it. But in the reference which I made to his countrymen, I would not, as an internationalist, admit that I did him any injustice whatever, although I may have been labouring under a misunderstanding. Everything I said in relation to his view regarding the Electoral Act, which has disfranchised many Australian born, is - notwithstanding what the Prime Minister has stated - borne out by the facts, I have opposed all measures of that kind when I have been able to be present in this House. I do not understand, therefore, why it should now be said that I did not oppose the disfranchisement of Australians in the circumstances alluded to by the honorable member for Moreton. I do not undertake to recall precisely everything concerning all phases of our legislative activities three years ago, but I have consistently opposed the War Precautions Act and the various illegitimate children of which it was the dishonoured parent. For the reasons I have mentioned, I intend to vote against this Bill. I am not at all convinced by the arguments of the Prime Minister that a Treaty of Peace involves masses of detailed negotiations which require the passage of regulations. These Treaties of Peace deal with many important matters of principle to which I am entirely opposed. They have to do with a large variety of stipulations which are in flat and flagrant violation of the principles for which we allegedly entered and fought the late war and, because they are full of these inconsistencies with the terms on which we eventually decided we should enter upon negotiations for peace, and because they violate also the fundamental principles of right with respect to relations between nations, I do not propose to give general power to the Government to make worse a set of conditions which are already too bad. The Prime Minister knows perfectly well that the matters to which he has referred are purely departmental. That is to say, the giving effect to a treaty, in so far as the property of Austrians in this country or of Britishers and Australians in Austria is concerned, is carried on depart- mentally without recourse either to regulation or to an Act of Parliament. And, if there is a matter of sufficient importance to require the framing of a statutory rule or regulation, it becomes ofsufficent international importance to warrant its debate in this chamber. I am in opposition, therefore, to clause 3 ; and since it has been decided that the Committee must consider the measure as a whole, I am bound to raise my voice against the Bill.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended; and Bill read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.27 to8 p.m.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The measure has been in circulation for a considerable period, and doubtless honorable members have made themselves fairly conversant with its provisions, which, I believe, are the most liberal ever introduced into the Commonwealth Parliament. Prior to 1903 naturalization laws were framed by the State Parliaments, and, therefore, operated only within a State. Under those circumstances, a Swede, a German, or an Italian naturalized in one State immediately became denaturalized the moment he crossed the border of the State in which he had taken out naturalization papers.In 1903 the Commonwealth Parliament passed an Act which covered the whole Commonwealth; but even under that, if an alien were to go to New Zealand, Canada, or any other part of the British Empire he would be treated as an alien. A number of Imperial Conferences were held in which such anomalies were discussed, and after careful consideration it was decided that a broader principle should be adopted within the Empire, and that naturalization in any part of the Empire should be provided for, assuming, of course, that Great Britain and the Dominions adopted a similar law.
– And yet you deported a man who was naturalized in Great Britain and not in Australia.
– Even if this measure becomes law I want honorable members to understand that we are claiming the right to deport men from the Commonwealth, even though they may be naturalized. We claim the right, as every other part of the Empire is doing, to keep out undesirables, even though they are Britishers.
– Are you claiming the right to deport them without a trial ?
– No; and this Bill will meet that objection. While there was a unanimous decision in -regard to having more comprehensive provisions for naturalization within the Empire, there was a great difference of opinion as to who should give effect to them. At one stage, it was suggested that Great Britain should legislate for the whole Empire; but as that raised the question of sovereign rights, it was thought that the British Parliament should deal only with Great Britain, and that other parts of the Empire should pass their own legislation. In 1914, the Imperial Parliament passed an Act somewhat similar to this measure, and it was then necessary for the Dominions to enact a similar law. Owing to the war intervening, action in the Commonwealth was delayed ; but I do not know whether we have lost anything because, as the result of experience, it has been shown that there were many defects in the Imperial Act passed in 1914. In 1917, an amending measure became law, and the Bill now before honorable members is based on that Statute. The measure is entitled a Nationality Bill, because it deals with nationality in general, and it is Empirewide in its scope
Part 2 of the Bill is an exact copy of section 1 of the British Consolidated Act 1914-18, and Part 3 is, in effect, the same as Part 2 of the British Act. Honorable members are probably aware that, under our present law - apart from war conditions - an alien has to be resident in the Commonwealth for two years before he is entitled to become naturalized. Under this measure, it will mean five years, but the previous residence need not all have been spent in Australia. Residence in the Empire is sufficient, provided that the last twelve months of such residence shall have been in the country granting the certificate
– What would be the position with a foreigner - say a German?
– There is a special law at present relating to Germans. I am now naturalizing Germans who have been here for a number of years, and the limitation has been twenty years’ residence..
– Does he have to reside here?
– For at least twelve months.
– Can a deported German come back in twelve months if he has resided here for four years?
– How long will be required ?
– It all depends. Canada has already passed a measure similar to this.
– We do not want naturalized people consisting of yellow, black, brindle. and green, such as, Canada has.
– Naturalization under this Bill does not give the right of free access to any Dominion of the Empire, neither will its provisions place a man in a better position than if he were a naturalborn British subject. It does not follow that because this measure becomes law Chinese, Indians, or any of those prohibited under our Immigration Act can come to Australia. That law remains as it is at present; but we are broadening the scope of our naturalization laws to cover those whom we ‘ consider are fit people to become citizens of the Commonwealth. Quite recently I have heard a number of complaints from people who come from Mount Lebanon, and who are placed at a great disadvantage under our Commonwealth laws. Mount Lebanon is a small principality which, since I860, has been under French and British rule, and is surrounded by the Turkish Empire. Under our laws there is no power to naturalize these people, and quite a number of them, with whom I have come in contact, are as good citizens as we have in the Commonwealth. If this measure becomes law, it will give the Minister the power to naturalize them.
– What about the Syrians ?
– They are the people to whom I am referring.
– Then, there are those from Beyrout.
-So far as my experience goes, all the Syrians in Australia come from Mount Lebanon.
– There are also a number who were born in Egypt.
– Not those of whom I speak.
– It is unwise to give the Minister the power to determine who shall be naturalized.
– To whom would the honorable member give the power?
– To Parliament.
– Would the honorable member favour the case of every individual being considered by this House?
– If you are going to exclude Asiatics, you should exclude the lot.
– I do not look upon them as Asiatics. I know quite a number of them who are as honorable and straightforward as is the honorable member himself.
– And so are some Chinese.
– The .Chinese are in a different category altogether. Would the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. James Page) like to see Chinamen admitted ?
– If you are going to admit other Asiatics, I see no reason why you should not admit Chinamen.
– The Bill does not in any way interfere with existing rights.
– You have taken away rights by the War Precautions Act.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) dealt with that matter this afternoon. He said that he had not consulted his colleague, referring to me-
– What do you say about it?
– I say that it is a fair and proper thing that the Act should be repealed. The honorable member “for Batman (Mr. Brennan) was wrong when he said that that Act disfranchised Australianborn persons.
– I did not say so. My reference was to the Act, which is still on the statute-book, preventing the
Australian descendants of certain. Germans from voting at referendums and elections.
– I hope to be able, at an early date, to present a Bill for the repeal of that Act.
Under this Bill the Government has power to deport, and to revoke certificates of naturalization.
– Surely those are two very different powers.
– They are differentpowers.
– Do you say that the Minister will have power to revoke any naturalization certificate?
– The Government will have that power, but it will be exercised only after a judicial inquiry, for which provision has not hitherto been made. Clause 12 provides for revocation, after an inquiry by a Justice of the High Court or a Judge of a Supreme Court of a State, and the inquiry is to b.e conducted in such a manner as the Governor-General may direct.
The Government still retains the right, notwithstanding anything in the Bill, to refuse admission to Australia to any naturalized person, and I venture to say that Parliament would agree that that right must be retained.
– That is not a right given by this Bill.
Clause 3 protects the rights and status of any person’ naturalized under the Naturalization Act 1903-1917, but should such a person desire naturalization of a wider character than that given by his certificate, he may apply to the GovernorGeneral for a certificate for naturalization under the Bill, and the granting of his application will be in the absolute discretion of the GovernorGeneral, who may refuse to grant it if he thinks fit. There would, of course, be a refusal of the application only in those cases in which it should not be granted. I venture to say that in very few cases would those now naturalized under the Naturalization Act be refused naturalization under the Bill.
– I understand that the Government has the right to exclude any one from admission to the Commonwealth .
– It is an inherent right of the Government of Australia to refusepermission to any one to land in the country.
– I do not think that that right could be exercised in regard to an Australian.
– I would not be dogmatic on the point. Certainly we have a right to exclude from the Commonwealth any other person, though it is rarely that the right is exercised.
The Governor-General may revoke a certificate obtained by false representation, or fraud, or concealment of material circumstances, or, if the person to whom the certificate is granted has during a war unlawfully traded with or communicated with the enemy, orhas within five years of the date of the grant of the certificate been sentenced by- a Court to imprisonment for not less than twelve months, to penal servitude, or to a fine of not less than £100, or was not of good character at the date of the grant of the certificate. But provision is made for an inquiry by a committee presided over by a person who is, or has been, a Justice of the High Court, or a Judge of a Supreme Court, and this inquiry is to be conducted in such manner as the GovernorGeneral may direct.
Very liberal treatment is given to British-born or Australian-born wives of denaturalized persons, who, under the Bill, will retain their British or Australian nationality unless they signify a desire for the nationality of their husbands. As the law stands, a British-born or Australianborn woman who marries a foreigner takes his nationality, and so do their children, and should the husband be naturalized, and subsequently denaturalized, the wife and children, of course, follow him. Under the Bill, however, the wife of a denaturalized person may, if she is British or Australian born, retain her British or Australian nationality. On the other hand, if she desires to follow her husband, she can apply to take his nationality. Her children will have the mother’s nationality, and should she elect to be denaturalized, will have the right to apply,within six months after arrival at the age of twenty-one years, for Australian naturalization. Since I took office, quite a large number of persons whose wives by their marriage had lost their British or Australian nationality have been naturalized. I do not think that there is a case in which I have refused naturalization to a person of good character who has resided in Australia for a reasonable length of time.
– What about the Italians who did not go to the war ?
-I do not know what cases the honorable member has in his mind.
– Does the Minister say that he is granting naturalization to Australianborn women married to aliens?
– No ; but when the husbands of such women are naturalized, the wives re-assume their Australian nationality. There was never a more liberal nationalization measure introduced into this Parliament.
– Why must an Italian who applied for naturalization get a reference from the Italian Consul in addition to references from three Australians ?
– I do not know to what case the honorable member refers. Ihave had letters from a number of persons complaining that I am naturalizing too many Italians; but I draw no distinction, if the character of the applicant is good.
– The persons to whom I refer do not possess birth certificates, and have no documentary evidence of the fact that they are Italians. It is extremely difficult for them to get evidence from Italy.
– Why is that? Many Italians were naturalized under the State laws, and many more under our Naturalization Act. Many arestill being naturalized.
– But I do not think that theyhad to produce that evidence previously.
– I am not aware that more evidence is required to-day than previously. My policy, and indeed the policy of the Government, in connexion with this matter, is to deal with applicants for naturalization as liberally as possible, so long as they are of good character. I have even gone farther than that. I recognise that during the war period panic ideas were sometimes prevalent, with the result that the reports which we obtained in regard to certain applicants for naturalization were not as reliable as they might have been. Since peace conditions have obtained I have made it a practice in cases where men were alleged to have been associating with the enemy, or to have said something, perhaps in a public-house bar, which was derogatory to the Empire, to secure fresh reports concerning them, and in quite a number of cases I have found, that the first reports were a little biased, and in others that they were the result of family feuds.
– It was upon those wicked prejudices that men were victimized without trial. I hope that the Minister endeavoured to be fair; and if the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) had followed his example he would have done better.
– I am speaking for myself. I endeavour to hold the scales evenly as between all subjects of the Commonwealth. All that I require of applicants is good character and good citizenship, and quite a number of honorable members will support me in that statement.
In Committee we shall come to much closer grips with the measure, and I shall then be able to. explain any portion of it to which my attentionmay be directed. Its broad principles are those which I have indicated, and I ask honorable members to give it fair consideration. I believe that it is the most liberal Bill connected with naturalization that has ever been submitted to this Parliament. Unless for some very special reason, I ask honorable members not to amend it, because its amendment will mean stultifying its operation to a very great extent, seeing that it is a copy of an Imperial Act. The whole Bill is based upon uniform legislation by the Imperial Parliament, and if we alter it in such a way that it will not conform to the Imperial Act, I cannot guarantee that it will be acceptable to the Home authorities.
– Then why does the Minister desire to amend it so as to permit of the admission of Assyrians ?
– Because that amendment will not infringe the Imperial compact.
– Will the Minister show us the provisions that we may amend, and those that we may not?
– I am sure that the honorable member is not serious in his suggestion. In Committee we shall be able to deal with any of the points that I have not touched. I trust that honor able members will assist me in getting the measure through the House, seeing that it will confer considerable benefits upon a large number of people who are deprived of them to-day.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Tudor) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 1st July (vide page 2510), on motion by Mr. Poynton -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- Some two or three months have elapsed since the Minister introduced this Bill.
– The honorable member ought to be well versed in its provisions, seeing that it was introduced more than two months ago.
– At that time I had prepared some notes upon it, but, unfortunately, I have since mislaid them. However, I take it that the Bill relates only to persons who are leaving Australia, and does not refer to any person entering the Commonwealth. To my mind it is what the Minister referred to just now as something in the nature of panic legislation.
– It is international legislation.
– It is nothing of the kind. It ie not an international compact in regard to the issue of passports. Every nation has acted independently in respect of that matter. Before the outbreak of war it was possible for men to leave this country and to land in any part of the world without a passport. For instance, the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith), who was a member of the Empire Parliamentary Delegation which visited the Old Country a few years ago, was able to land anywhere without a passport.
– I had a passport, but I had no need to use it.
– Exactly. When I was working upon the Continent, between the years 1889 and 1894, I had no occasion touse a passport. But since the war broke out certain nations have adopted the principle of denying any person the right to land without a passport.
– The issuing of passports is an international necessity..
-The honorable member has amended his statement three times, and he is now getting upon right lines. But- to my mind the passport system is not a necessity.
– It is a consequence of the diseased conditions which have arisen out of the war.
– I call it a bad attack upon the nations of the world of “ scare fever.”
– And this Bill is the poultice which it is proposed to apply.
– How are people to leave Australia in the absence of legislation of this kind?
– I am well aware that if we refuse to pass the measure we shall be penalizing nobody but Australians. Persons who come here at the present time are armed with passports from their country of origin. But the sooner we get back to pre-war conditions the better it will be for ourselves and for other people.
– I have made an arrangement with New Zealand under which the issue of passports will not be necessary.
– When the Minister (Mr. Poynton) delivered his secondreading speech upon this Bill, on 1st July last, he had not arrived at any such arrangement with New Zealand. At that time members of the Butchers Union, slaughtermen, and members of the Australian Workers Union were not permitted to travel from the Commonwealth to that Dominion, nor were New Zealanders able to come here without passports, although it is an advantage that they should be able to enter both countries with the utmost freedom. Since then the Minister has been able to make an arrangement with New Zealand under which this passport system will be abandoned.
– The first contingent from New Zealand under the new arrangement will arrive this week.
Mr. TUDOR. The sooner we can make a general arrangement of that character the better. I know that the departure of vessels has been hung up for some time owing to existing conditions. Some months ago several of the Orient liners were kept back because of the difficulty which passengers- experienced in obtain’-*, ing passports at the1 time.
If I thought that by so doing I shouldbenefit Australia and the world geneally, I should certainly vote against the Bill, because, as the honorablemember for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has said, it is a measure which has arisen out of the abnormal conditions caused by the late war. If people going from Australia to Great Britain, America, and Canada can be permitted to depart under an arrangement similar to that which has been made with New Zealand, it will be infinitely better than the present cumbrous passport system. Moreover, it’ is very expensive to arrange for passports.
– The authorities upon any part of the west coast of America charge twelve dollars, to look at one’s passport.
– I know that when he was in Canada recently, a brother of the honorable member for Batman wrote an article which appeared in the Melbourne Argus, in which he stated that the Canadian authorities were making the passport system a means of obtaining revenue. Whatever else honorable members opposite may desire, I am sure they do not wish it to be revenue producing. I would not even go so far as to say that it should be made to pay for itself. If the authorities upon the west coast of America are charging twelve dollars to look at one’s- passport, that is, roughly, equivalent to £3, and if that amount is to be charged every time a passport has to be inspected, the system is going to prove very expensive.
– For some time past I have been in communication with the authorities at Washington, with a view to the abolition of the system.
– That is a very, good idea., I am anxious that everything possible should be done to facilitate travel, because I believe that, the more we knew of persons in other countries, the less reason we shall have to hate them. I hope we shall arrive as soon as possible at a better belief in human nature, and take a more sane view of people living, in other countries as well as our own.
I am not sure yet whether it is not possible to amend the Bill in some other direction, but I- did not expect it to come on to-day.It was No. 11 on the noticepaper, and would not have been reached but for the postponement of six previous items.
– Clause 4 is the clause which permits arrangements to be made with other countries.
– I hope the Minister will begin to make those arrangements at once.
-Perhaps the Imperial Conference next year may discuss the question seriously.
– I have not much faith in the ability of conferences of the kind to do very much work. The Minister has told us that, without any conference, he has been able to effect reciprocity in this matter between Australia and New Zealand. It would be a good thing if we could effect it also with Canada.
– On the first occasion, New Zealand refused it.
– We have had difficulties with New Zealand before over pensions and other matters. I am a believer in reciprocity where it can be put into operation in this way. I am not satisfied with the Bill, because I believe it is only part of the aftermath of the war. The whole of the nations of the world have become panicky during the war, and we are passing panic legislation simply because we have had a very bad attack of “ scare fever.”
.- There was a happy time before the war, when people who were fortunate enough to be able to travel, went backwards and forwards unimpeded, unchallenged, unhampered, not interfered with, or interrupted, or insulted, or troubled in any of the numerous vexatious ways that are now made, not only possible, but inevitable under various classes of regulations, which limit the activities of men and women who hitherto thought themselves to be free. This is a Bill precisely of that kind to which I have referred earlier in the afternoon, introduced by this Government for the purpose of perpetuating in time of peace conditions which were thought to be necessary, but which I never admitted to be necessary, in time of war. I quite realize that saner counsels will prevail before many years go by. Even this Government, inflamed as it is with the utterly foolish notion that the people of this country must go through life in. astate of constant dread and apprehension, lest some foreigner or foreign country should inflict some injustice upon them, will recognise in a few years that Australia must drop back into the sane groove of every-day life, trusting the common sense and sense of justice of people in countries other than our own. It is because I wish to get rid of all these vexatious restrictions, which some people thought the war rendered necessary, that I desire to offer to the Bill some criticism, which will be very short, and some opposition, which, I fear, will be futile.
– Will the honorable member show me how any one can leave Australia and obtain entrance to another country unless he has a passport, except in the case of New Zealand.
– I cannot suggest any means by which he can leave Australia without a passport so long as this Government is in power, but if I were Minister for Home and Territories in a congenial Government, as I hope to be some day in the remote future, I should afford ample facilities for people to leave this country without a passport, with a cordial invitation for them to come back at the earliest possible moment.
– Where would they go in the meantime?
– What may be required of them in order to gain admittance to other countries is quite another matter. It is a matter for regulation by the Government of the country to which the person leaving these shores desires to go. It is not because we find, if we do find it so, that vexatious restrictions have been raised at other ports, over which we have no control, that we should, ourselves, not only condone, but encourage, the same kind of thing in our own country, and create objectionable and embarrassing restrictions having application to our own people who seek to enjoy the right of travel, or who have to go abroad on matters of duty or business.
I see, on reading the Bill, that no person of the age of sixteen years may leave without a passport. The testing of whether a person is sixteen years of age or not is in the discretion of that important person vaguely described as an officer. If, “ in the opinion of an officer,” a person is sixteen years of age, he is not to be permitted to leave these shores without a passport. I can see in the future, because I have seen it in the past, and have been on board ship where the thing has taken place, the passengers lined up, in military order, as the ship travels towards the quay, many of them dragged out of their bunks, for the purpose of parading, while this most important official, with all his gewgaws on him, comes on board in his leisurely way, to inspect the suffering company for the purpose of seeing whether they have these elaborate documents, with photographs attached, to authorize them to travel from port to port. Many of us hoped that we had left that state of things behind us, especially as we are now two years away from the odious conditions of war, and % it is about time we made some protest against the passage of a Bill such as this. I suppose it and a number of other Acts will be passed, so far as they are necessary to perpetuate the main provisions of the War Precautions Act, because there is in power in Australia a Government who cannot divest themselves of the war feeling, and the pleasure of indulging war powers and war restrictions, and, in a general way, if I may say so without giving offence, making themselves, as far as is consistent with true patriotism, public nuisances.
.- The Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) contends that this Bill is absolutely necessary, in order to bring us into line with the legislation enacted in other countries, and that unless it is passed it will be very difficult for citizens of the Commonwealth to travel. With the two previous speakers, I regret that, now that the war is out of the way, we should be bringing in restrictive legislation every day throughout the British Empire. I hoped that we would get back to pre-war conditions, and that our citizens would have the fullest possible liberty; but different measures indicate that we have got into a groove, and there appears to be little hope of getting back to the conditions that prevailed prior to the war. We are asked to pass a measure of this kind on the ground that our people cannot be permitted to land in other parts of the world without a passport. The Minister, in his second-reading speech, showed dearly that, so far as this measure is concerned, even if persons come here from other parts of the world armed with a passport, we should not permit them to enter Australia unless we so desire. In other words, the Minister says that the carrying of a passport is no guarantee to a traveller that he will be able to land in Australia. If it is necessary for people’s freedom to be curtailed in this way, and for them to be compelled before they can sail from Australia to England, or from England to Australia, to obtain a passport, then it ought to be equally incumbent on the Government of the country of destination to accept that passport in all good faith. If a person is armed with a passport we have no right to refuse to allow him to enter. If we can so refuse, the passport .is of no value. We must give some consideration to the trouble to which people are put. We try to simplify things in our own country as much as possible, yet many people have been put to great inconvenience in the endeavour to obtain passports in order to go away. I have had letters on the subject, and Senator Gardiner, in another place, quoted the case of a lady who found it difficult to obtain a passport within a reasonable time of the date for which she had booked to sail. If we are to pass legislation of this kind, every facility should be given to the citizens of Australia to obtain a passport within a reasonable period. I cannot understand why we should enact legislation of this kind. ‘Surely we have not become so panic stricken within the British Empire that we have to pass measures of this sort, which count for very little, except to harass people who desire to travel. That is about the only effect it has.
– And this Bill seems to impose severe penalties on any person who makes a mistake.
– Yes. Penalties are provided which a man cannot escape if he does anything in contravention of this legislation. Even if he does it by accident, and not wilfully, he is still liable to the penalties set out in the Bill.
We are enacting legislation which is not in the best interests of the citizens of the Commonwealth or of the British Empire. We are restricting their rights, and to a very large extent taking away ‘from them the freedom they enjoyed prior to the war, because of things which happened during the war. Something should be done an behalf of the Commonwealth by making representations to the British Government and other Powers with a view of doing away with passports altogether.
– I have already made arrangements with New Zealand.
– That is a step in the right direction; but if the Minister has succeeded in the case of New Zealand, why should he not succeed with Great Britain and other countries ?
– I have been for a considerable time in communication with the United States with a view to abolishing the $12 charged for looking at a passport, but I have not succeeded.
– It is a shame that the United States or any other country should (charge sa much for examining, a passport. This charge of $12 means £3, according to present values, though in normal times it is £2 8s. How many poor people, wageearners and others, are there who have no money to spare?
– Oh, they have no right to travel !
– lt would appear that such people have no liberty at all. Even after the passport is examined,” there is no guarantee that the traveller can go further, because, as the Minister says, every Government retains the right to refuse a person a landing even if he has a passport.
– That is an inherent right everywhere.
– Then it is an argument why we do not require legislation of this kind. Why should people be put to the inconvenience of getting passports ?
– How much does a passport cost in Australia?
– It costs 10s.
– Then there is the expense of the photograph as well.
– That is so, and in the United States a traveller is asked to pay another £3. It may be that some other country will demand an even higher fee for examining a passport.
I object to this legislation as quite unnecessary in a British community at the present day. We should get back to pre-war conditions as quickly as possible, and give people the fullest liberty consistent with the interests of the country.
– Clause 4 gives the Minister power to make arrangements with other countries for exemption.
– That is so. I can imagine that the Minister, while introducing this Bill, would rather be without such legislation, but because other countries have made provision of the kind, it is deemed necessary to do so here. Is the Minister availing himself of the power given by clause 4? This is restrictive legislation which interferes with the rights of the people; and the sooner it is repealed, so far as the Britishspeaking races are concerned, the better for all.
.- I am surprised to hear the Minister (Mr. Poynton) say that Britishers cannot land in any part of the British Empire without a passport. ‘How long have such provisions prevailed?
– For a long time. I know that when the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) went away he had to take a passport.
– No passports were insisted upon iu the case of the thousands of young men who left Australia for France, Belgium, Italy, and Gallipoli, but now, after they have done their duty in protecting those countries, they are called upon to provide themselves with passports if they wish to go there again. I think the Government ought to insist on free intercourse with those countries, if the war is to prove of any benefit to the Allied Powers. One would think, with such a Bill before us, that the peoples of the world were at one another’s throats at the present time. I suppose the next proposal will be to add fingerprints to the photos on the passports. This Bill, no doubt, is to assist people to get through the barriers that have been erected by other countries.
– The Bill is made compulsory by the action of other countries.
– That is no reason why we should follow their example; we should set an example to other countries. At the next meeting of the League of Nations it should be made a cardinal point to do away with passports in the European Allied countries. Even in the case of Germany and the other late enemy countries, T do not see that passports are necessary now that the war is over. I shall support the Bill, but I trust that the Minister will use his influence to get the pernicious system of passports abolished.
.- I did not hear the Minister (Mr. Poynton) when he introduced the measure, but the point that appeals to me is that, if any legislation be required, it is rather in connexion with people entering the Commonwealth than with those leaving it. I am somewhat in doubt as to the real purport of the Bill. I quite realize the necessity for great care in the case of immigration, but I cannot see the same necessity in the case qf emigration. The Bill would appear to be a measure to prevent emigration, imposing, as it does, many restrictions and heavy penalties on persons desiring to leave this country. It is to the undesirables who are coming into the country that we should give attention.
– They are dealt with under the Immigration Restriction Act.
– I notice that any person entering the Commonwealth shall, if required, give up his passport, but I do not know under what Act we can compel any person to have one. I am not speaking of the powers under the War Precautions Act.
– That is the Act under which the Government take power to-day to compel people to show passports.
– But we expect that Act to expire shortly. Under what power is the Government able to insist on a person coming here having a passport? I have tried, without success, to ascertain from the Minister what power he has at present, outside the War Precautions Act.
– There is no power outside this Bill.
– Clause 5 requires that a person entering the country who is required to be in possession of a passport shall, if required, give it up, but I know of no Act that, compels him to have a passport beyond the War Precautions Act. As I say, the War Precautions
Act, with its regulations/ will cease to be operative.
– The Government will make regulations under this Bill.
– Not for persons coming in.
– That, I think, would be ultra vires; there is no specific power given to demand a passport from’ persons coming into the country. We Ought to protect ourselves in regard to persons entering the country, but if any one chooses to leave Australia without a passport, that, to a great extent, is his own “look out.” In Committee I hope there will be some slight alterations made in regard to the penalties.
– I see no necessity for the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) to “ sool on ‘* the Government to prevent undesirable people, or those whom they may regard as undesirable, from entering the country. That has already been done under the War Precautions Act, and the Government will, no doubt, take care to retain the power when the operation of that Act ceases. I am sorry that any Government of a free and enlightened British community should feel it necessary to introduce a Bill of this kind. When we have a League of Nations, and there are efforts being made everywhere to bring the nations of the world nearer together in brotherhood, a measure of this kind should not be deemed necessary. I have carefully read part of this measure, and I am struck with amazement that it should be compulsory for a British subject - I can understand other arrangements for subjects of Asiatic origin - to have a passport to enable him to go from one part of. the Empire to another. We hear much said about Imperial Federation, and so forth; but if such measures as this are necessary we are not only a long way from Imperial Federation, but drifting in the direction of breaking up the Empire. I am going to vote against the Bill, and I again express my regret that the Government have, thought it necessary to introduce it.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . 17
Question soresolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ Passport “ means a passport -
which was, not more than two years previously, issued or renewed by, or on behalf of, the Government of the country of which the person to whom it relates is a citizen or subject.
.- During the second-reading debate, the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) pointed out that the Bill did not provide for persons coming into Australia, except in a subsequent clause, under which certain exemptions may be granted. Under this clause, it is fitting that I should raise the question as to the power of the Government, by virtue of regulations made under the War Precautions Act, to compel persons coming to Australia to produce passports. I have heard that a very eminent Britisher who had visited Australia was obliged to obtain a passport to return to Great Britain. It is an absolute scandal that persons, against whom nothing can be alleged, should be subject to this indignity. This system may be employed to keep out persons who, in the opinion of the Government, may be undesirable; but who, in every other respect, may be very desirable citizens. Under the War Precautions Act, certain things were done which would not have been tolerated in ordinary circumstances, and as we have got back to normal conditions, I hope the Government will abandon this practice as soon as possible. In Great Britain, the same course of action is, no doubt, being taken under the Defence of the Realm Act, but I do not know under what authority immigrants are controlled in the United States, where the charge, I understand, is about $12 per head. The immigration laws of the United States are very stringent, but I have found that persons travelling first-class or saloon get infinitely better treatment from the immigration officials there than do persons who travel second-class, or who, unfortunately, have to travel steerage. I enter my protest against the Government continuing the practice, authorized under the War Precautions Regulations, of examining passports of persons coming to Australia. There is no other authority, and the regulations promulgated under that Act were never intended to be used for this particular purpose. I hope the Minister will take an early opportunity of dealing with the matter.
– Do you say that we have no power, under the Constitution, to keep people out of the Commonwealth ?
– We have power under the Constitution to do that by legislation, and we passed the Immigration Restriction Act for that special purpose, but there is not one word in that measure to compel persons to produce passports. If Parliament decides that we are to have this system, which, not very many years ago, was denounced as the Continental system, the position will, of course, be different. Great Britain prided herself upon the fact that she offered asylum to people who were driven out of their own country, and who afterwards proved very good citizens of the United Kingdom. Of course, some honorable members may say that , she has now seen the error of her ways. I do not think so. We may say the same in Australia. Many people who have proved good citizens of the Commonwealth left their own country on account of the laws passed there.
.- I join with my leader (Mr. Tudor) in expressing the hope that these petty irritations will cease. About two years ago I drew attention to a scheme, not confined to the British Empire, but world-wide in its operation, for the interchange of photographs and copies of passports.
– It was called a black-list.
– It is purely a black-list, against the militants of the world, and so well has it worked that the Government have taken full advantage of the principle. I have not the slightest doubt that, under this Bill, the militants of America will be prevented from coming to Australia, and the militants from Australia will be blocked from landing in America. This Bill will only legalize what has been done for some years. The object is to preserve the present systems of government throughout the world. Heaven knows we already have plenty of laws; for every offence there are about ten different Statutes.
– The Government create offences and then introduce Statutes to deal with them.
– We are asked to create an offence in order to provide some scope for the operation of the measure. I object to the evil customs of Europe being transplanted to Australia. It will not be long before Australia is in the same position as some European countries, such as Germany and Austria, where a man cannot go round the corner, without a passport, which he must take to some official, who asks all sorts of impertinent questions. I foresee the time when a man passing from Victoria to New South Wales will be subjected to scrutiny by some meddlesome official, whose especial duty it will be to see that the working class agitators do not freely mix with the community. What, is the necessity for such restrictions? Are the Government afraid of a revolution ? Are a’ large number of people, who will seek to wreck the present system of government, trying to gain admission to Australia? If that is the reason for this legislation the Government should say so. I have held the opinion for some years that the capitalistic Governments adhere to the passport system because they have found it to work well in their interests. It keeps a tag on every militant man. I know that the record of one of The Worker staff is , contained in the American files. The record of ever)’ militant journalist and politician in Australia is known to the authorities in Europe, and if any of those men attempted to land in America, they would be watched, if not refused a landing. The Commonwealth Government have supplied the American- authorities with that information, and I have not the slightest doubt that the American Government has reciprocally furnished the- Commonwealth authorities with the names and histories of all persons who are likely to come to Australia and affect, not so much our system of society, as the jobs which Ministers hold.
– These, things are not true merely because the honorable member says so.
– I have not invented these statements. By reason of information I have received from America I know that my statements are true of several men who are well known in Australia, and I have not the slightest doubt that the names and the information were sent to America by the present Commonwealth Government. This is part of a reciprocal arrangement for keeping the existing Governments in power, and to maintain supervision over all people who are likely to cause inconvenience and anxiety to those Governments.
– Would the present Government allow Mr. Harry Holland, M.H.R., of New Zealand, to come to Australia ?
– I cannot conceive of his being allowed to land in Australia under the passport system. If the Government are afraid of revolution, and for that reason desire to prevent militant propagandists coming to Australia, they should speak their minds frankly, and not introduce this legislation under the pretence that it is necessary to keep out of Australia some chap of whom nobody knows - some anarchist, or nihilist, or person of that sort. At first it was thought that this measure might be required for health reasons, but that is not so; already we have enough laws to safeguard health, so far as arrivals from overseas are concerned. The Bill aims primarily at the militant propagandists of the world, and I shall oppose it at every stage and shall vote against every clause in it.
.- Passport is defined as a passport “which was, not more than two years previously, issued or renewed by, or on behalf of, the Government of the country of which the person to whom it relates is a citizen or subject.” What is the reason for the two years’ limitation? It will be hard, if a person who arrives from another country, and remains in Australia five years, is not permitted to return to his own country on the passport issued to him when he left. .
– There are very few cases of travellers remaining in Australia five years.
– There may be people who remain in Australia for two or three years in order to gain a thorough knowledge of our people and our resources, and who then decide to return to their own country.
– In such cases the passport would be extended.
– If that is so there can be no harm in broadening the language of the Bill. I move -
That the word “ two “ in paragraph (a) be omitted, and the word “five” inserted in lieu thereof.
.- There is a good deal to be said for the amendment. A person may get a passport with the intention of travelling to another country, but he may make a prolonged stay in some other land en route. If he remains there for two years his passport will be required to be renewed ; and how can that be done unless it is sent back to the country in which it was issued? The Minister (Mr. Poynton) should give careful consideration to this provision, for it may be placing an obstacle in the way of many bonâ fide travellers. A person leaving Great Britain for Australia with a passport may remain in America for two or three years, in which event his passport must be renewed by Great Britain before he can continue his voyage to Australia.
– Could not the passport be viséd by the British Consul in America ?
– If the Consul could renew the passport, the difficulty might be overcome. I support the amendment.
Question - That the word proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Subject to this Act, no person who is, or appears to an officer to be, more than sixteen years of age, shall embark at any place in the Commonwealth for a journey to. any place beyond the Commonwealth unless -
he is the holder of a passport or otherdocument authorizing his departure; and
his passport has been viséed or indorsed in the prescribed manner forthat journey.
Penalty: One hundred pounds, or imprisonment for six months.
Sub-section (1) of this section shall not apply to -
anybonâ fide resident or tourist travelling to Papua or Norfolk Island who holds a return ticket;
.- The Minister (Mr. Poynton) gave us to understand that this Bill was a benevolent measure designed to assist citizens of Australia to make arrangements to travel conveniently to foreign countries by taking with them a passport supplied to them by him for a small consideration ; but I find from a close scrutiny of the Bill that, if the Minister fails to be as generous as he promises to be, and does not kindly supply a passport, the tourist becomes liable to a fine of £100, or imprisonment for six months, for not having availed himself of the kindness of the Minister.
– The tourist is exempt.
– I understand that certain persons may be exempted by the Minister, but the only reference in the clause to tourists is to persons travelling to Papua or Norfolk Island. As it is a monstrous proposition to render people liable to a fine of £100, or imprisonment for six months, for having failed to avail themselves of a passport, I propose to move an amendment later to reduce the penalty to £1.
.- The Bill will create enough trouble without the discretion given in this clause to an officer to say to the passenger, “You are apparently over sixteen years of age, and will need a passport.” It is a discretionary power that should not be allowed. Trouble in this direction might be raised when a vessel is on the point of departure.
– The provision to which the honorable member relates has occasioned no trouble or hardship.
– If it has not operated I see no use for it. It is possibly some verbiage copied from an overseas Act. I see no reason why the age should not be fixed at sixteen years, and all discretionary power taken away from any officer. With the view of deleting this unnecessary and ridiculous provision, which is likely to cause a good deal of trouble, I move -
That in sub-clause ( 1 ) the words “ or appears to an officer to be” be left out.
– Of course, the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), being opposed to the Bill, lock, stock and barrel, is endeavouring to make it more difficult to work. If the words he asks the Committee to omit were struck out, it would render necessary a sworn declaration as to a person’s age; whereas now the simple admission by an officer that a person is, or is not, under sixteen years of age, is sufficient. The honorable member wishes the passenger to be submitted to all the difficulty of producing a birth certificate as to his age. Since I have been administering the Act, I have not heard of any hardship having been occasioned by this provision.
. The clause needs revising. It will cause hardship in many cases.For instance, persons who are travelling with their families will be obliged to secure passports costing 10s. each for their children between the ages of sixteen and twentyone years; and if they are visiting America the examination of each passport will entail a payment of £3. If we are not compelled by legislation of a similar character elsewhere to provide that every child over sixteen years of age must be furnished with a passport when travelling abroad, I see no necessity for this provision. There is also the case of persons who are leaving Australia to go to their friends” in other countries, and who, very often, are hard pressed to raise sufficient money to get away without having to incur this additional expense of providing themselves with passports. I am not inclined to move an amendment, but I think the Minister would be well advised to make the age twenty-one years.
– That would not help, because the age of sixteen years applies in legislation in other parts of the world.
Mr.CHARLTON. - It is a ridiculous provision, and the sooner it is amended the better.I am sorry that we are obliged to follow in the footsteps of Governments elsewhere that make mistakes of this kind. Additional expense will be entailed on the immigrants we are endeavouring to bring to Australia, or on the Government, if parents are compelled to supply their children between sixteen and twenty-one years of age with passports. Surely it should be sufficient if the parents themselves are provided with them. At any rate, whatever is done in other countries, we ought to be in a position to decide upon the conditions under which we propose to allow people to come into Australia. There is no need for us to make our laws in this respect identical with those in force in other countries. It is not fair to compel children under twenty-one years of age to have passports when their parents are already provided with them. The Minister (Mr. Poynton) would be well advised to look into this matter. I regard this as restrictive legislation, which we ought not to pass.
.- I consider the age of sixteen ridiculously low. This piece of legislation should not seek to gather in persons under twentyone. If the law means anything at all, it is intended to keep watch upon people arriving in and leaving this country. Who will say that any boy or girl sixteen and a-half years of agewas contemplating or instigating a revolution in Australia ? If there is anything at all in a measure of this character it should aim at keeping undesirables out of the country, and at keeping “ tab “ over the departure of persons for countries with which wemay have reciprocal arrangements in respect of undesirables. I move -
That the word “ sixteen “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ twenty-one.”
.- I strongly press on the Minister the uselessness of paragraph g. None of the steam-ship companies nowadays issue return tickets.
– But they may do.
– They do not. The return ticket has been abolished, just as on the railways. There has been too much trafficking in them, and the steamship companies have followed the lead of the State railway authorities. The provision is quite useless as it stands.
– What harm can it do?
– I think some of the steam-ship companies issue return tickets, and it is quite likely that they may do so in the passenger service to the islands.
– At any rate, the Minister has no information, and I assure him that what I say is correct. The paragraph should be left out.
.- I appeal to honorable members opposite to be reasonable with regard to the proposed imposition of a fine of £100. As the clause reads, an officer may decide that a young person who is not more than fifteen is, in his judgment, sixteen. The officer having come to his decision, the young person in question is deemed to be sixteen years of age and becomes liable to be fined £100 or to undergo six months’ imprisonment for having gone on board a ship without a passport. It is an astounding proposition. I move -
That the words “ hundred pounds or imprisonment for six months “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ pound.”
.- I strongly support the amendment. If a minor were proceeded against for this alleged offence, and were called upon to pay a fine of £100, that would bring the parents in. I admire the spirit of a young fellow who may desire to travel, and who refuses to be turned aside from his ambitious objective, even by the risks here to be imposed. It appeals to my sporting instincts that he should take the risks, realizing that, if his parents did not see fit or were unable to pay the fine, he might have to serve a term of six months’ imprisonment. Does not that point of view appeal to the Minister?
.- I also strongly support the amendment. Suppose that a lad goes on board a ship without a passport.
– One can suppose any number of imaginary cases. ,
– There have been one or two cases of stowaways.
– Of course. A boy may have no harm in his mind so far as his country is concerned, but may wish to do what hundreds of others have done. The amendment is altogether reasonable.
.- Why should the Government persist in its opposition to the amendment? They should not be so greatly concerned over persons desirous of leaving Australia. Their chief interest lies with the class of people who want to get into the country. Why should it be made obligatory on the part of those who desire to leave our shores to obtain a passport ? If a person appears to be sixteen years of age, even, though he or she is not, this clause provides for a fine of £100 simply because an officer has been guilty of misjudgment. That is monstrous. Why all this fuss if a youth desires to work his passage on a vessel in order to see a little more of the world, or even if he seeks to stow away ?
– He would be penalized at the other end of his journey.
– That would be his risk, and if he cared to take it, why not let him ?
– Would it not be his risk at both ends?
– Is it a fair thing to ask him to take such risks at this end ? What harm is such a person doing us in seeking to leave Australia?
– The penalty is not £100, but “ not exceeding £100.”
– If the honorable member were about to travel with a wife and somewhat numerous family, would he enjoy being put to the trouble and expense of securing passports for each individual in his party? This is a piece of drastic and entirely unwarrantable legislation. I have never heard of legislation being introduced to hinder the departure of people from a country, as it is usually to prevent undesirable persons coming in. If the Minister gives consideration to the penalty to be imposed hewill see that it is altogether unreasonable, and the amendment of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) to reduce the amount to £1 is one that I shall support.
– If the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) will withdraw his amendment, I am prepared to amend the clause by inserting the words “ not exceeding “ before “ One hundred pounds.”
– The Acts Interpretation Act already provides that.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- As the penalty provided in the clause is somewhat severe, I would like to know whether the Minister is prepared to accept an amendment providingthat the maximum penalty shall be £50, or imprisonment for three months.
– The Minister has no power to move in that direction, as the Committee has already decided that the penalty at present provided shall stand.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
House adjourned at 10.22 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 26 October 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19201026_reps_8_94/>.