8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Hon, J. M. Chanter) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Is it the intention of the Government to sellthe vessels, or any of them, Belonging tothe Commonwealth line of steamers? There is a report in the press to that effect.
– I have seen the report in the newspaper this morning, and, so far as I know, there is no justification for it. I think’’ it reprehensible that a responsible newspaper should scatter broadcast statements of that kind, whichmust do infinite damage to the line of shipping concerned. ‘
– In regard to the
Conference which President Harding proposes to conveneforthe discussion of disarmament, a matter of vital importanceto the civilized world, will the Government make representations to the President, through the proper channel, so that arepresentative of each political party in the Parliament of each country affected may attend, in order to insure the success of the project!
– I do not see my way to do what is suggested, because I do not. think it would be proper to take that course. It is for each Government that accepts President Harding’s invitation to say what form of representation it will adopt. I should be very glad if something could be suggested somewhere in the world which would lead to the representation of the various political parties for the consideration of the matter, which, in its essence, is nonparty, and of wide-world interest.
Mr.HIGGS.- Is it not a fact that the Council of the League of Nations has issueda book of questions, or a questionnaire, regarding the naval and military expenditure of the nations which are members of the League, with a view to ascertaining whether it is possible to reduce armaments consistently with the preser vation . of national safety? Can the Acting Prime Minister place on. the table a list of these questions? If not, will he be good enough to obtain the list as soon as possible.
– My impression is that a questionnaire of the kind has been issued, though I am not clear about it. I suggest that the honorable member should put his very importantquestion on the notice-paper.
– In view of the importance of the proposed Washington Conference, will the Acting Prime Minister give the House an opportunity tocarry a resolution approving of it, on- behalf of the people of Australia.
– I do not think thatsucha resolution is needed.
– Itwould be published throughout the world.
– The world alreadyknows the sentiments of Australia in this matter. It knows that every country isseeking anxiously and nervously for a way to get rid of the terrible burden of armaments that oppresses it to-day.
– In view of the inability of the Federal WoollenMillsto undertake orders which have beenplaced there, particularly by the Returned Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Imperial , League, for civilian suitings, owing, it is alleged, to the fact that themills are fully occupied in manufacturing the clothing needed for the Naval and Defence, Departments, will the Assistant Minister for Defence endeavour to ascertain whether itwould notbe possible to work a second shift in older to get thework done? During last year some 40,000 yards per month of tweed were supplied from the mills, but this year the quantity has been cut down to 15,000 yards per month, although the demand for the cloth is increasing, because of thepopularity of the material that is manufactured .
– I shall inquire again whether another shift could be employed at the factory, and let the honorable member know the result; but the question has been threshed out in consultationwith the manager of the factory, and it is considered doubtful whether the employment of a second shift is advisable or possible.
– Is there a regulation in force which prevents the printing of newspapers or other literature in Australia in a foreign tongue?
– There is a regulation governing the matter - I am not sure that it is not of very recent date - but it does not prohibit the printing of newspapers in a foreign language. What it does is to require the printing of an English translation in parallel columns with whatever may appear ina foreign tongue. Had I known that the question was to be asked, I would have furnished myself with the regulation. We do not object to the printing of newspapers in a foreign language, but we object to the printing in Australia of anything that our own people cannot understand.
Mr.RYAN.- I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether his attention has been called to the report in a leading Melbourne daily newspaper that a resolution has been passed by certain members of the House with regard to the ending of some truce, the particulars of which we have not got, and which has never been made known officially.
Mr.RYAN.- What were the conditions of it?
Mr.RYAN. - Are all the conditions in Hansard? I understood “ that no undue advantage would be taken of the absence of the Prime Minister,” from which I assume that due advantage may be taken of his absence. My principal reason in asking the question is to ascertain whether the Acting Prime Minister has official knowledge of the resolution thathas been passed, and, if so, whether he will communicate it to the Prime. Minister, and make known his reply.
-I have no knowledge of it, and if I had, I would not communicate it to the Prime Minis ter. I have no doubt that he will read it in the London newspapers to-day. That is the pity of it.
– It is well known to every honorable member that many returned soldiers . have been robbed when dealing with theirwar bonds. In last Saturday’s Age this advertisement appears -
War bonds purchased or for sale. J. W. Dagnall, bond merchant, 285 Collins-street..
When I purchased some soldiers’ bonds I was told that they were not transferable, and that I should have to hold them, which, I am willing to do. I ask the Treasurer if he will look into this matter ?
– I shall certainly do so. I am surprised at the advertisement, and do not understand it. If the kind of thing which it suggests is going on, it is very regrettable.
Disqualification of Aliens
– Yesterday the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) asked a question about the disqualification of aliens for old-age pensions and maternity allowances. I am now prepared with the following reply:-
In 1918 the Government decided that persons ofenemy origin who were applying for maternity allowances or invalid or old-age pensions should, in addition to fulfilling the conditions required by law, possess the three following qualifications: - (a)Residence in Australia for ten years prior to the outbreak of the war ; (b) Pre-war naturalization;
The Government has now given further consideration to this question, and it has been decided in the case of invalid and old-age pension claimants to waive the conditionthat claimants’ naturalization should have been effectedprior to the war, and, in addition, to dispense with any residential qualifications other than those already contained in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
In the case of claimants for maternity allowances, the requirement of pre-war naturalization has been waived ; but it will still be necessary for the claimant (or her husband if. he was of enemyorigin) to have been naturalized prior to the birth of the child in respectofwhichtheallowanceisclaimed. The qualificationoftenyears’residencepriorto thewarwillnolongerbe insisted upon.
If will still be necessary for claimants of enemy origin to satisfy the authorities as to their loyalty.
This decision will takeeffect as from 9th July, 1921.
-Can the Acting Prime Minister inform the House when the payments will he made in connexion with the Wheat Pools, from that of 1915-16 tothelastofthem? There have been grave delays in the payments in connexion with the old Pools; but, I understand, all the States have now completed their returns, and the holders of scrip are desirous of knowing when payments will be made?
-IamafraidI cannot tell the honorable member. There is some difficulty, I understand, in regard to the realization of the assets connected with the old Pools, and some difficulty in connexion with the bonds of some of the wheat that is sold. As to cash ob-, tained in the ordinary way, I understand that that has been cleared up long ago, and that it is the realization of these assets that is causing the trouble and delay.
-I understand that realization is complete.
-If so, I do not know, why there should be any further delay. If the realization has been completed the money will be promptly handed over, but I doubt very much if it has been completed.
-It has not been.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he furnish a return showing the number of picture shows in each State from which his Department collects amusements tax?
-The details desired by the honorable member are as follow. -
New South Wales, 400; Victoria,. 221; Queensland, 204; South Australia, 72; Western Australia, 62; Tasmania, 26; total, 985.
Statement by Mr J.Collins.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The following papers were presented : -
Customs Act - Proclamation , (dated 23rd June, 1921) revoking the Proclamation (dated 29th January, 1915) which prohibited the Exportation of Vessels, &c.
War Service Homes Act -Land acquired under, in New South Wales, at -
In Committee: (Consideration resumed from 14th July, vide page 10124).
Clause 14 - .
Upon which Mr. Gregory had moved, by way of amendment -
That the following words be inserted after the word “Tariff” in paragraph (h) : -“or that the consumer is being charged unfair prices for protected articles.”
– I support the amendment that has been moved by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory). This, it seems to me, is the vital part of the whole Bill. The Tariff Board is to be appointed to prevent Australian manufacturers in protected industries taking undue advantage of the duties recently passed by this House; and charging unnecessarily high prices for their products. We had last night a very long discussion on the constitutional aspect of this question. It seems to me that we can sweep aside the constitutional question, and achieve our object in a very simple way. We should place upon the Australian manufacturers in all protected industries the onus of seeing that the goods produced by them are available to the public at reasonable rates. By way of illustration I would refer to what has been done by the Australian DriedFruits Association, which is engaged in a protected industry, and has been very successful. The Association fixed the price of its produce for local consumption, but found, some years ago, that although it had fixed a reasonable price to the retailer, the retailer was charging exorbitant prices to the public. The matter was discussed at its annual conference, with the result that it now fixes, not only the price of its products to the retailer, butthe price at which the retailer shall sell to the public.
– The honorable member does not suggest that that should be embodied in the law.
– No. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Dampier covers my suggestion. It would throw upon the manufacturers in our protected industries the onus of showing that their goods were made available to the public at reasonable prices. We need not set, out in the clause what steps shall be taken by them to achieve that object. We have simply to place upon them the onus of taking such steps, failing which they may suffer a reduction or abolition of the Protective duty enjoyed by them. If we did that I am convinced that they would find means of giving effect to our desire in this direction without any legal pressure being brought to bear upon them. This sort of thing is done everyday. That international enterprise, the Ford Motor Company, for instance, fixes the price to the retailer, and also the price at which the retailer shall sell to the public.
– It does not.
– In very many instances it does.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I have evidently stirred up a hornet’s nest by what was quite an innocent remark. I shall withdraw my reference to the Ford Motor Company, and say merely that the procedure outlined by me is frequently followed.By throwing this responsibility upon manufacturers in protected industries I believe we may, in some measure, be protected from the rapacity andgreed of those who show a tendency to take undue advantage of high duties. The contention of honorable members of the Country party in the course of the recent Tariff debate was that the high duties imposed on many commodities had opened the door to commercial dishonesty, and proof of the soundness of that contention is afforded by the introduction of this Bill. The Tariff schedule, however, has been passed by the House, and as Democrats we are prepared to abide by the decision of the majority. There is still one ray of hope left to us with the creation of this Board, provided that it is required to do what the honorable member for Dampier proposes.
– What penalty would the honorable member prescribe?
– The penalty for which the clause already provides - the reduction, or total withdrawal of the duty.
– Would not that be very hard on those who were doing the fair thing? Why should they be ruined for the sake of one “crook” in an industry.
– If complaint were made that the products of a certain protected industry were being retailed at an exorbitant rate, then under our proposal the Tariff Board would hold an inquiry, and the evidence of the manufacturers concerned would be taken. They would produce their invoices, proving, let us say, that they were selling to the retailer at a reasonable rate, hut under our amendment something more would be required of them. They would have to show, not merely that they were selling their goods at a reasonable rate to the retailers, but, if they desired to retain the existing duty, that these goods were reaching the consumer through channels that would not profiteer.
– Take the case of an industry in which only two firms were engaged. If one sold to the consumer at a reasonable rate, would the honorable member withdraw the protective duty from him because the other manufacturer was charging exorbitant prices ?
– Obviously, if there were only two firms engaged in a protected industry, the firm that was charg-‘ ing an exorbitant price would do no business, so” that what the honorable member suggests is not likely to arise.
– I think it must follow l-b’ab unless there is a combination one cannot charge excessive prices as against the other.
– Yes, they must all bo in the same boat. The amendment moved by the honorable member for Dampier on behalf of the Country party will meet the situation. It was argued last night that we had not the constitutional power to do what we are aiming at. If that is so, then the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) and the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) were right when they said that the wastepaper basket was the proper place for this Bill. If the clause is amended as proposed by us it should do some good.
– The honorable member and his party believe that legal provision should be made whereby consumers will obtain their commodities at reasonable rates ?
– That is quite another thing - that is price-fixing straight out.
– We believe that the effect of the amendment will be to secure that the consumer shall get his commodities at a reasonable rate.
– The amendment sets out that any complaint that the consumer is being charged unfair prices for protected articles shall be inquired into. Surely that is plain enough. I advocate the principle that we should place upon Australian manufacturers, in return for protecting them from outside competition, the onus of showing that the goods produced by them under protective duties are available to the public at reasonable rates. I hope that the amendment will be carried.
.-‘ The extraordinary attitude taken up by honorable members of the Country party on this amendment brings me to my feet, because they lay down certain propositions which, so far as I have been able to gauge their actions in this House, they honour more in the breach than the observance. They lay down the proposition that consumers must get their commodities at reasonable rates, and that there should be legal provision to that effect.
– Nothing’ of the sort. Our amendment simply gives scope for inquiry.
– Then does not the honorable member contend that consumers should get things at reasonable rates, and that legal provision should be made to secure that?
– We are not discussing that phase of the question.
– The honorable member either does or does not contend that the consumer should get the products of protected industries at reasonable’ rates, and that provision should be made in the Bill to that effect.
– We say that if it is found that a combination is charging unnecessarily high prices for its goods, then on report to that effect–
– I am making a plain statement to which the honorable member can assent, or from which he may dissent. I say that he has laid down a proposition.
– Not on the lines the honorable member just indicated. I have not laid down any proposition.
– Then the honorable member ought to have, done so. Any one who aspires to be deputy leader of a party should be prepared to lay down a proposition to which he will adhere. I propose to show that the attitude of the honorable member is ridiculous and cannot commend itself to this House, much less to the public. I agree that there should be legal provision in order to give effect to the proposition that consumers should he able- to get goods at reasonable rates. For that reason I supported the amendment of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) that the Bill should be recast to provide that primary producers and genera] consumers should - obtain manufactured articles at reasonable rates, while, at the same time, those engaged in industries should receive proper conditions and fair wages.
– You were defeated upon that. Now help lis to secure this.
– We were defeated by the votes of honorable members in the Corner, who now contend that they want to do something effective in the same direction. I desire to show that they prevented us from being able to do anything to see that the consumer got a manufactured article at a reasonable rate. They do not intend to secure that now. Certainly, the move which they have made cannot effect such a purpose. The proposition of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) means giving a free hand to those who may choose to form combines or monopolies to do exactly what they like. The honorable member would impose an obligation upon the manufacturers of articles in Australia to see that those to whom they sold retail the goods at reasonable rate. But he gives the manufacturers , absolute discretion concerning the persons to whom they may sell. That is the very thing we want to prevent. We desire to insure that manufacturers shall sell to every person who is willing to pay a reasonable price for their goods; and the conditions governing a reasonable price must be laid down by the law. Once we affirm the principle that the manufacturer may sell to whom he desires we establish the very conditions of which we have most to complain. A striking example Avas given last evening when an- honorable member related the case of a retailer in a country town who was* a shareholder in a certain factory, but was unable to buy the goods which it produced in his own town, and had to send to Sydney for supplies.
– Have not the brewers and the Tobacco Trust been doing that kind of thing for a long time?
– rAnd does the honorable member approve?
– Nor do I. We want to end it. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) has prepared an amendment which, I think, will prevent any such state of affairs as that continuing. But my main objection to the amendment under discussion is its absurdity. The only power that Parliament has under the Bill is the power to reduce or remove the duty. If one retailer is selling an article at an unreasonable price it is very unfair to remove the duty, and so take away protection from manufacturers who may be selling to retailers, who are distributing at a reasonable price. It is of no use to destroy the whole industry in that way.
– The manufacturer should get another retailer who will not profiteer.
– If the honorable member thinks that that kind of reasoning will appeal to an intelligent public he is considerably mistaken. I would not have risen, but that I wished to drive home the patent fact that the honorable member who moved the amendment is not only incompetent to deal with a subject of such importance, but that those who support him are similarly incompetent.
– I sympathize with the aims and objects of the mover of the amendment, but I cannot perceive that his method of procedure is likely to bear result. .1 wish to point out where a considerable practical benefit might accrue. The only effective way in which any material good can be gained for the people under this Bill is by widening the field of distribution with as little intervening profit as possible to themanufacturers who have been protected.
– That is the object of the amendment.
– But it cannot hope to secure the best results. There are very few woollen mills in. Australia which are not bound by agreements to. a very narrow system of distribution. Nearly all the mills are compelled to sell to the big warehouses. I know of only one, namely, the Lobethal Mills, in South Australia, which make their output available to every distributor, in the trade.
– The honorable member says that among other distributors there is a combination in restraint of trade and commerce.
– In effect, that is so. Possibly, there are good reasons, since I wish to be fair. Perhaps it does not pay the manufacturers to be distributors also. It may be that an agreemententered into with the wholesale houses to undertake distribution proves as profitable to the manufacturers as undertaking distribution direct; but I ask the Minister . (Mr. Greene) to make it incumbent upon the manufacturers of a protected article to see that that article is available for distribution to the entire trading community. The only penalty I would impose is that provided in this Bill. If the manufacturers are to continue to benefit from the protection which has been afforded them,their goods must be made available to the whole trade. In the woollen mills, there are two profits. If one profit will secure distribution, instead of thetwo, why should it not be possible to conduct activities in that manner? I know, of course, that there are practical difficulties. It has been amatter of grievance to the retail trade that they have not been able to go to the manufacturers direct and pass on the benefit to their customers. I am asking for more than the mere power of inquiry by the Board.
– If a manufacturer makes an agreement with a limited number of distributors, and that agreement is in restraint of trade, an inquiry can be held under the terms of this Bill.
– I want more than that, namely, that the manufacturer should be made to throw open his articles for general sale throughout the trading community.
– This Parliament cannot pass a direct law to say expressly that any individual shall sell his goods to certain persons.
– I am not asking for price-fixing, but that the Government shall make really effective the penalty which it is possible to impose under this Bill. The way to do that is to say that goods shall be made available for sale to the entire trade. I am not asking the Minister to provide that every factory shall be a distributing agency for its own goods, and send travellers all over the country. But I do ask him to provide that those goods shall be available to the whole trade. The manufacturer could be told that if his goods were not supplied to the consumer at lower prices the duty would be reduced or removed. That is the only penalty for which I ask.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
– I ask the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) to explain in what way the provision I am suggesting would be legally impracticable.
– This Parliament cannot directly impose any obligation on a manufacturer in Victoria as to how he shall conduct his trade within that State. But the Board can, under the terms of the Bill, inquire as to whether he is acting in restraint of trade in the way indicated by the honorable member, and if it is reported by the Board that he is doing so this House can’ decline to continue the duty.
– I desire some provision inserted that themanufacturer of goods supported by a highlyprotective Tariff shall make such goods available to the entire distributing trade of the Commonwealth.
– That is attempting to impose an obligation on a man who, perhaps, is operating in only one State.
– At present we are giving protection to manufacturers who are acting in restraint of trade.
– If it is thought that a manufacturer is acting in restraint of trade, ample” power of inquiry is provided in the clause as drafted, and the Board can report to the Parliament that such restraint of trade is detrimental to the public.
– This is a very important Bill, and should be discussed before a full Committee. I call for a quorum.
– The honorable member was absent from the chamber a few moments ago.
– I was. I tried to count out the Bill. [Quorum formed.]
– I am disappointed with the view expressed by the Acting Attorney-General, because this matter affects the public interest very closely. A close corporation acting in restraint of trade does not deserve protection, and I should have fought the Tariff very keenly indeed if I had not thought that we could insure that goods manufactured under a high Tariff would be distributed to the people with less intervening cost. If that is legally impossible, we are apparently restricted to the power of getting the Board to inquire and report to Parliament. The intention of the Bill seems to me to be that the inquiry shall not go beyond the factories.
– I think I know what the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) desires to do, and I am just as anxious as he is to do it. What I have been striving for is a measure framed in such a way that there can be no doubt as to the constitutionality of the remedies we are proposing. We want to be sure that we have definite power to do what we set out to do, and that the law will be effective in achieving our purpose.
-Is the Minister assuming that we have not constitutional power to do what I have suggested?
Mr.- GREENE. - I am advised that it is extremely doubtful that we have such power. When a trade is carried on entirely on competitive lines, the consumer, generally speaking, is not charged too much for his goods, but when there are close corporations and rings, and trade arrangements which prevent free competition, the consumer probably is charged too much. The clause, as drafted, enables the Minister to refer to the Board of Inquiry, and report, inter alia -
any complaint that a manufacturer is taking undue advantage of the protection afforded him by the Tariff, and in particular in regard to his -
I shall move to add after sub-paragraph (ii) certain words which’ I think will be effective in doing what the honorable member for Dampier wants to do.
– If the Minister does what the honorable member for Dampier wants to do, he will kill the Bill. If he does not understand that, he is not fit for his job, and I am damned if I will stick withhim! I am remaining in my place here to save this Bill and the Tariff, and the honorable member for Dampier is trying to kill both.
– If the idea of the honorable member for Dampieris to kill the Tariff, no one can accuse me of cooperating with him in that endeavour. After the amendment now before the chair is disposed of, I shall move to add after sub-paragraph (ii) the words “or (iii) acting in a manner which results in unnecessarily high prices being charged to the consumer for his goods.”
– That implies what I want.
– There is no doubt that we can link up very definitely with the manufacturer, and the amendment will cover the particular point mentioned by the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Poster), while also substantially meeting the position as put by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) . I feel confident that the latter gentleman has no idea of setting out on a general policy of price fixing.
– I have never beenassociated with any such policy.
– Would the fact that a manufacturer sold to a retailer in the ordinary course of business, and that the retailer sold at an exorbitant rateto the consumer, constitute a cause for inquiry under the suggested amendment? ;
– No; it would not. After all is said and done, we have to recollect that we are not giving power to an outside body to act, but merely power to report. The report must come to Parliament as the finalCourt for judgment.
– The amendment will not throw the responsibility on to the manufacturer, as suggested by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), to follow up the retailer?
– It is merely a matter of inquiry and report.
– In other words, the amendment does no more than the Bill already does?
– Yes; I think the amendment widens the scope of the Bill.
– What does it cover other than what is already covered?
– Well, it covers those classes of trading agreements which, from their very nature, lead to the consumer being charged unnecessarily high prices.
– That is already provided for under another sub-paragraph.
– I am doubtful whether it is covered to the same extent; in my opinion, the amendment widens the basis of the inquiry.
– The Minister says that if a manufacturer of agricultural machines refused to supply machinery to a firm in a country town he would be acting in restraint of trade; supposing the manufacturer had one distributing firm in a country town who refused to sell, would that be in restraint of trade?
– Yes, I think it would; but it does not necessarily follow that it would be a detriment to the public. The final test of whether or not any action in restraint of trade can be properly taken cognisance of, is whether it is to the detriment of the public.
– Is there any reason why a manufacturer should not sell to any distributor who cares to place an order with him? Could that be provided in the Bill?
– I do not think we can do that; I feel pretty confident that constitutional limitations would render such a provision null and void. What I propose,I think, is within our power.
– I do not think it matters whether the amendment is carried or not; and if it pleases the members of the Country party, they are easily satisfied. After all, it simply means that the Board will inquire and define what are unnecessarily high prices, and then report to this Chamber. We know how the parliamentary machine works, and months, or years, may elapse without anything being done; it certainly does not mean cheap goods for consumers. The only proper method would have been to test our constitutional powers by adopting the amendment of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr.. Fen ton). The members of the Country party, who have taken up hours with their camouflaging amendments, were those who voted, practically in a body, against that proposal. If that amendment had been agreed to, the High Court would be given another opportunity of. deciding the constitutional question, and, in view of the recent decision, there was every reason to believe the constitutionality of the amendment would have been upheld.
– That is just what the Country party do not desire!
– The proposal of the Country party to-day is merely a pretence.
– The effect of the amendment of the honorable member for Maribyrnong would have been to increase the price of everything.
– We were prepared to take the risk of that; in any case, the amendment before us will neither increase nor decrease prices. I shall vote neither for nor against it.
.- After listening to the arguments of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) and the honorable member for Dampier (Mr.Gregory), and to the legal arguments by lawyers on both sides-
– One of those members has not read the Bill - at any rate, he knows nothing about it.
– In my opinion as a layman, the honorable member for Grampians does not realize the powers we lack.
– You could express the same plain conclusion in a homely way !
– The honorable member for Grampians suggests that the onus of responsibility of selling goods at unreasonable prices is on the manufacturer. Why, in the same sense, we mightsay that the onus for selling milk at an unreasonable price in the cities rests on the dairy farmer!
– Or on the manufacturer - the cow!
– Yes, or the cow itself. It has been said that the manufacturer controls the industry, but in 99 per cent. of cases the manufacturer has no moreto do with the disposal of his goods than I have. My father was a manufacturer in New South Wales for forty-four years, and he never controlled the selling of his goods. On the contrary, every retailer controlled him ; it was the retail houses which told him where he had to sell. There is not a manufacturer in New South Wales who has any more to do with the selling of bis goods to the consumer than has this House.
– There could be inquiry and report as to what was going on.
– Even if there were a report that a retailer was charging more than he had a right to do, what power would this Parliament have to act? If the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, or any other of the big controlling influences, sells at an exorbitant rate, we have power to wipe out the Protection, but when a company sells through five or six subsidiary channels, the public ultimately may have to pay 500 per cent. above the manufacturing costs. What could this Parliament do in such cases? If there is any doubt as tothe accuracy of what I have just said in regard to the percentage ultimately paid by the public, I am prepared to bring proofs next week.
– If a retailer made such charges he would soon lose his business.
-But the cost is added to because the goods go through so many channels. When the Tariff was under consideration, we’ were told by Queensland representatives that Queensland timber, sent to Melbourne, was first handled by the man who distributed it to the various yards, and charged21/2 per cent., and then’ distributed by the yards to the builders at a cost of 25 per cent. If we add the charges made by the builder and others until the timber reaches the consumer we find about 100 per cent. added to the cost of production in the forest or at the mill.
– In what State does that take place?
– In every State in the Commonwealth.
– Not in South Australia !
– It is said that the manufacturer of the Ford car controls the selling price in Australia; but that is not correct.
– I say it is!
– What the manufacturer says is that the car shall not be sold for less than a certain price.
– The price is arranged in America by the Ford Company.
– That is not so. I have been in a place where it was possible to buy Ford cars by the hundred at £36 each, but where could you buy one in Melbourne for £136? Can we compel the public to pay less or more than a certain amount? We cannot compel the retailer to sell to the public as our friends in the Corner suggest.
– We can penalize the manufacturer.
– I have already explained the position of the manufacturer, and illustrated my argument with a reference to the distribution of milk.
– The dairy farmers should themselves distribute their milk.
– With that I agree; indeed, the high cost of living is largely due to lack of system in distribution.
– Do you suggest that if thedairy farmer does not see that the retailer sells at a reasonable price his cows should be confiscated?
– I do not think I would go as far as that.
– The interjection is very sarcastic - and foolish.
– I understand the Country party toargue that if a dairy farmer knows that a retailer is selling his milk at an unreasonable price heneed not supply that retailer with any more. But can any one saythat there is a dairy farmer anywhere who ever says where his milk shall or shall not be sold? The whole business is controlled by the distributing agencies.
– Could not the dairy farmers be their own distributing agents ?
– Certainly .
– What is there to prevent them under the Bill?
– What power has the Government to say that the dairy farmer shall be his own distributing agent? I hope the clause will remain as printed. In my opinion, the amendment will make not the slightest difference in the selling prices of commodities.
.- The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) has expressed my idea of what it is possible to do in the way of insuring that goods are distributed to the public at reasonable prices. We are told, however, by the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) that what is proposed cannot be done under the Constitution. Unlike many other lay members, I do not profess to be able to interpret the Constitution better than the High Court has already done. There is an old saying that a man who is his own lawyer ‘has a fool for a client, and although we may interpret the Constitution to out own personal satisfaction we are not likely to do so in the way acceptable to the Court. We are, therefore, face to face with trouble directly we endeavour, by Act of Parliament, to insure that goods are sold at prices that will give satisfaction to the public generally.
– In Canada there are special arrangements under the Tariff Act to enable all protected goods to be followed up.
– In Canada, unlike Australia, the trade and commerce power is complete. We have not the power we would like.
– We ought to try to get as nearly the same power as possible.
– The Acting AttorneyGeneral has said that we have no power to tell a manufacturer how he shall distribute his goods within one State. So I should think we have not the power to interfere when the selling transaction is confined to one State. ‘
– The Federal power is over Customs matters ~ and Inter-State and oversea trade. Trade - and commerce within a State is not within Federal jurisdiction.
– I understand that, and therefore agree with the Minister and others who say that the amendment of the honorable member for Dampier cannot be effective. His object is the same as that of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), though the methods differ, and the members themselves differ in their views of our power to enforce what they think should be done. If the Minister’s proposal is as near as we can go towards attaining our end, I shall support it; but I should like a closer definition of “ restraint of trade.” The Board might make inquiries as to, among other things, the conduct of a certain manufacturer,- whether it might reasonably be considered in restraint of trade, and might report to the House on .the subject, and we could then debate the question here for weeks and for months without coming to a satisfactory conclusion. The difficulties of doing so are illustrated by the discussion on this clause. It appears to me that, although we wish to do what is right, we -shall probably not attain our ends by this Bill, or -by any other. However, J am willing” to give the method a trial. The inquiries of the Board, and its reports to Parliament, will be wholesome in their effect; but whether the methods of distributing manufactured goods can be regulated, and penalties imposed for the charging of unreasonable prices, is another matter. I have grave doubts on the subject. If the Attorney-General and the Minister for Trade and Customs think that the suggestion of the honorable member for Wakefield is impracticable and unconstitutional, I shall not support it. But, in my opinion, it is the best that can be done, and goes as far as we can go under the Constitution.
– We have discussed this matter with the Solicitors-General,’ and he agrees that there is the grave doubt about the constitutionality of the amendment of the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory). Ministers: desire that the fullest investigations should be made into everything directly or indirectly connected with the Tariff, so that no one may take undue advantage of the Tariff. The honorable member proposes that any complaint that a consumer is being charged unfair prices for protected articles shall be investigated. But suppose that a Sydney merchant were selling an agricultural implement, manufactured under the protection of the Tariff, to a farmer in the Wagga district, and that the farmer complained that he was being charged an unfair price for that implement. If the Board made an investigation, and called upon the merchant to answer its- questions, he, like in the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, in a case in which a Royal Commission wished to obtain evidence some time ago, would say, “ I shall not reply to your questions, and you cannot- compel me to do so, because I bought the article in question within the State, and sold it within the State. No Customs duty was collected on it, and the transaction was wholly a State matter, with which you have no constitutional power to interfere.” In those circumstances, the investigation might not be possible.
– The Board would report that it was complained that unfair prices were being charged, and that the merchant concerned refused to give evidence on the- subject.
– But it could do nothing more.
– Could not the duty be reduced ?
– Would that be fair to the manufacturer of the article, who, perhaps, was in no way responsible for the conduct of the merchant?
– The effect would beto require him to make a better choice of distributors.
– There would beprima facie evidence in the. conduct of the merchant that there was something to hide.
-Parliament should not; in Federal legislation, assume powers and a jurisdiction that it maynot possess: But we have tried , to meet the honorable member, and also tomeet the honorable member forWakefield (Mr.Richard Foster). The protection of industry and the general regulation of distribution throughout thecommunity are two distinct matters. There is no power to deal directly with distribution, and the honorable member for Dampier has asked us to dealwith a matter concerningwhich serious doubts exist. The honorable member for Wakefield contends that a manufacturer should, in effect, be willing to sell his goods to every person who is ready to buy from him. But it is conceivable that aconcern might wish to gave distributing costs by making arrangements with outside firms. Some of the big companiesinAustralia are providing their workmen with goods, and saving the cost of distribution by buying direct from the wholesale merchants. This Parliament could not impose on any individual, as an express and positive duty, that he should do what the honorable member for Wakefield suggests, because it cannot dictate to an individual in any State to whom he shall or shall not sell. If a woollen manufacturer were making a trade arrangement, resulting in higher prices being charged, the Minister’s proposal would permit an investigation. He is willing to widen the scope of inquiry. It is the consumer who is entitled to make the complaint. He maysay, “ I was charged an undue price for the goods which I purchased, owing to some arrangement, agreement, or understanding which had that result “ ; and an investigation may be made into that complaint. The honorable member for Wakefield wishes to interfere in a case such as that in which a man in a country town applies to a manufacturer to buy his goods, and cannot get supplies, al though he finds that the . manufacturer has arranged to sell to other persons,, and, as the result of that arrangement;the would-be purchaser finds that he has ultimately to pay, buying indirectly, unreasonably high prices.
– But the Minister’s . proposal does not allow the Board to get into touch with the consumer.
– Yes; the consumer would be the complainant under the Minister’s amendment. The inquiry would be into the complaint that unnecessarily high prices were being charged to the consumer for goods.
– What is the difference between the Minister’s proposal and mine ?
– The honorable member’s amendment includes purely retail transactions, in which the manufacturer is not concerned; but under the Minister’s proposal the manufacturer who is protected must be brought in. The Minister’s proposal meets the honorable member to a great extent, and tries to apply undoubted constitutional powers, with a view to doing to some extent what the honorable member desiresto have done. If the consumer has been charged unnecessarily high prices he can make his complaint, and the Board can report on it.
– So far as I can see, the only difference between the proposal of the honorable member for Dampier. and that of the Minister is that one speaks of unfair prices, and the other of unnecessarily high prices.
.- We are right in endeavouring to protect the consumer in every possible way, and the amendment of the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) opens the way to doing that. In my opinion, the proposal of the Minister would not remedy the charging of unduly high prices, because the manufacturer of the goods may not be responsible for the prices charged to the consumers of them. I recognise the constitutional difficulties in -the way of the acceptance of the amendment of the honorable member for Dampier, but there is always a difference of opinion among lawyers, both in this Chamber and outside, as to the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth. When the last appeal was made to the people to agree to certain amendments in the Constitution, there were constitutional lawyers, who urged that the Parliament already had the power to do that for which those amendments of the Constitution were sought. The Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) has said that he has discussed this amendment with the SolicitorGeneral, and that both are convinced that it goes beyond our constitutional authority. There are other lawyers who take a different view, and it seems to me that we could do no harm by giving the consumer the benefit of the doubt. The amendment simply provides that the Board shall be called upon to inquire and report as to any complaint that the consumers are being charged unfair prices for protected articles. I approve of the amendment, whereas it seems to me that the suggestion made by the Minister amounts merely to a repetition of something already appearing in the clause.
– Assuming that the local manufacturer of spokes, about whom the honorable member has been so much concerned, sold them at a reasonable rate, but that some retailer of those spokes in an outback district charged unreasonable prices for them, would the honorable member punish the manufacturer by taking off the protective duty?
– I recognise that it is difficult to control prices throughout the States. We cannot exercise the control we desire unless we have a uniform fixation of prices throughout the Commonwealth. We can, however, throw upon manufacturers the onus of showing that they have set up a system of distribution that will avoid exorbitant charges to the consumer. During the Tariff debate it was suggested that high duties might give rise to monopolies and combines, but if the people of Australia have to deal with a combine it is better that it should be within the Commonwealth, where we can control it, rather than overseas, where we could not hope to control it. We have to make the best of a bad job, and I am inclined to think that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Dampier will show the people of this country that we are sincerely anxious to protect the consumer. Where complaint is made that unfair prices are being charged, the Tariff Board, under the amendment, would be called upon to investigate and report, and on receipt of its report it would be for the Parliament itself to determine whether or not the protective duty affecting the industry concerned should be reduced or abolished. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment.
.- Throughout the Tariff debate, when we suggested that the imposition of high duties would mean increased cost to the consumer, it was pointed out again and again by honorable members on both sides of the House that the Tariff Board would be able to take action to insure that reasonable prices were charged for the products of protected industries. The Minister said that legislation would be brought forward to protect the consumer from unfair prices. That legislation is now before us; but in submitting this amendment, apparently, I have touched upon a very sore spot. I do not think it would have been out of place had I asked that the Board should havepower to inquire into the collection and distribution of moneys for the purposes of Tariff reform, or how such funds have reached various political ogranizations.
– That must be a subject about which the honorable member knows a good deal.
– Some grave insinuations, and, indeed, libellous statements have been published with regard to the Country party, and I challenged the Minister (Mr. Greene), in the earlier stages of the debate on the Tariff, to go into that matter.
– If the honorable member’s party is free from any. taint of that sort–
– It is absolutely free.
– I do not suggest that it is not free from such a taint; but, if it is, the honorable member should be the last to throw such an insinuation at other parties.
– It is best to ignore such insinuations.
– The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) was. anything but generous in his remarks concerning the Country party a little while ago.
– I did not suggest anything improper.
– I was not referring to the honorable member or his party when I alluded to this question of distribution of moneys collected for the purposes of Tariff reform. But I cannot help realizing the extent to which three or four big organizations in this country have been obtaining control during the last three or four years, and the great danger attaching to such a development. We are told that it is impossible, under the Commonwealth Constitution, to take action similar to that for which provision is made in the Canadian Tariff Act. That Act contains no reference to “ restraint of trade,” but provides that if there is anything in the way of a combination or arrangement-
– I think thisTariff Board should have power to investigate the question of whether any contribution is made to party funds. I will support the honorable member up to the hilt if he will move an amendment to that effect.
– It would be a very good thing if that could be done. Libellous charges have been made as to contributions to our party funds by certain interests.
– I do not think any manufacturers would contribute to the funds of the Country party.
– Hardly .
– I have seen no such charges published.
– Then the honorable gentleman does not read the Age or the Industrial Australian. We have had high legal opinion that the statements of which I complain are grossly libellous.
The Canadian Tariff Act makes it clear that if, in regard to any article of commerce there exists any conspiracy, combination, agreement, or arrangement of any kind among manufacturers of such article, or dealers therein, action shall bo taken. Although we have not the wide power enjoyed by the Canadian Dominion Parliament, we certainly have the power of inquiry. All I am asking in my amendment is that the Board shall have specific authority to inquire into complaints that consumers are being charged unfair prices for protected articles.
– The Acting AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Groom) says that we have not that power.
– That is absurd. May I remind honorable members of the powers that we conferred on the Inter-
State Commission. Section 16 of the Inter-State Commission Act provides that-
The Commission shall be charged with the duty of investigating, from time to time, all matters which in the opinion of the Commission ought in the public interest to be investigated, affecting -
the production of, and trade in, commodities ;
the encouragement, improvement, and extension of Australian industries and manufactures;
markets outside Australia, and the opening up of external trade generally;
the effect and operation of any Tariff Act, or other legislation of the Commonwealth in regard to revenue, Australian manufactures, and industry and trade generally.
– But not as to prices.
– And also as to prices. We gave the Inter-State Commission power alsoto inquire into -
– But ever since the decision of the Privy Council in the case of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company the extent of the power to require evidence on oath as to those matters has been the subject of doubt.
– We have had before us the balance-sheet of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, which shows that, although the mine was closed down for two years, its net profits in respect of all its activities over a three-year period, amounted to £1,800,000, or £600,000 a year. The Minister (Mr. Greene) slipped a duty throughtheCommittee late one evening, and we did not have time to consider it. I do not know whether he realized at the time what would be its effect, but it was subsequently reported to us from Perth that, under that duty, £18 per ton was being charged on 14-gauge wire. That was an ad valorem duty. If we found any company taking the fullest advantage of the protection granted them, and making enormous profits by chargingunfair prices, surely we should be able to call upon the Board to make inquiry and report !
– The . Board has full power to inquire into questions as to the profits of companies that are charging unnecessarily high prices for their goods. The clause as it stands covers the whole question of profits.
– We gave the InterState Commission power to inquire into, not only the subjects I have already enumerated, but wages and social and industrial conditions. In support of my desire1, I quoted last night the Canadian Act. My objectis to get as near to that legislation as possible. Heavy duties have been imposed by this Parliament. Although it may be difficult to prove, we feel satisfied that there are combinations in existence in connexion with many forms of trading interests in Australia.
– The same remark applies tothe importers.
– I do not desire that the proposed Board shall worry over trifles. Its duties should be turned to the bigger things. For example, if it is found that an important manufacturing organization of the calibre of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company has entered into a combination to fix prices, or to deal only with certain persons.
– There is complete power of inquiry afforded in the Bill.
– It would not be possible to punish a manufacturer unless the responsibility could be sheeted home to him.
– All I am asking is that the Board should have the power to make inquiries, and, if the party concerned refused to furnish any information, that should be taken asprima facie evidence of a case for submission.
– I am with the honorable memberup to that point, but we must see that we do not punish an innocent person for a guilty one.
– The matter would come before Parliament. The Board would report that it considered that there was something in the nature of a combination, and that unfair prices were being charged for a protected article.
– Then, does not the compromise offered by the Minister (Mr. Greene) meet the case?
– I contend that my proposal would do so. I want to bring the dealer in as well. I am only asking that there should be a Board of Inquiry through which Parliament should be made conversant with anything in the nature of a combination, or an attempt to unfairly fix prices.
– I am afraid that the honorable member will be setting up an unsound principle, which some unjust Government may apply to primary producers, and make them responsible for following their primary product right to the consumer.
– I am not afraid of that. It is the duty of every member to try to protect the consumer. Honorable members have been doing their best to aid the manufacturer. Now, having put him on a good wicket, they should insure fair play for the consumer. I believe that my amendment will tend to effect what is necessary, although it does not go as far as I could wish. But I am disappointed with the Bill. It contains next to nothing, after all the fine promises of the Government.
– The honorable member voted against the proposed alteration of the Constitution, which would have given the Government power.
– And the honorable member voted against the amendment of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) .
– Most decidedly! I am opposed to the principle of the New Protection. I want nothing, so far as the primary producer is concerned. He is going to be pretty well ruined by the Tariff. I take with a grain of salt anything which the Minister (Mr. Greene) may say about his keen desire to help the producer.
– I agree with the honorable member that this Bill is only camouflage; but I point out that he helped to put it in its present form.
– If the honorable member will assist me we will throw the Bill out altogether.
– I shall vote with the honorable member to do that.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. Gregory’s) be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 8.15 p.m.
.- I think the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), as a lawyer, will support me in saying that any words that may be added in definition to what is restraint of trade will be a limitation of that term.
– Of course.
– Although probably the words suggestedby the honorable member for Dampier cover everything that is restraint of trade–
– They would if to them wereadded “or otherwise”.
– I want to prevent anything in the nature of gentlemanly agreements to maintain high prices.
– The Board will have to determine whether a gentlemanly agreement came within the various qualifications of restraint of trade which the honorable member has mentioned, and it might determine that it did not. I think it is better to adhere to the wider language employed in the clause as drafted. I have no objection to the amendment which the honorable member suggests, but I think it -will have the effect of limiting the clause.
– The addition of the specific words ending with “general” in the amendment which the honorable member for Dampier has suggested would, under the ordinary rule of interpretation, refer back to the preceding words and imply some action in the nature of conspiracy or combination. That is the doctrine of ejusdem generis. The clause, as drafted, covers any restraint of trade whether by conspiracy, agreement, combination, or individual action. The word “conspiracy” means several persons acting together with a certain intention. Agreement and arrangement ‘ also suggest a number of persons, but restraint of trade might be an individual act. Suppose that one company has a monopoly of the manufacture of certain goods, there could be neither conspiracy nor agreement, and the honorable member’s suggested amendment would probably enable that company to escape.
Amendment (by Mr. Greene) proposed -
That after sub-paragraph (ii) the following words be inserted: - “or- (iii)acting in a manner which results in unnecessarily high prices being charged to the consumer for his goods.”
– This amendment will only apply to goods protected under the Tariff, but there are many manufactured commodities upon which there is a certain amount of duty, but which are not protected by the Tariff at all.
– The offender must be a manufacturer taking undue advantage of the protection afforded him by the Tariff.
– But many of the duties are not protective.
– In such cases, the manufacturer cannot take advantage of the Tariff.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move-
That the following newsub-paragraph be inserted after sub-paragraph (iii) : -
refusing to sell to any person goods to the value of fifty pounds at current market rates.
The purpose of the amendment is to compel manufacturers to accept small orders: I realize that the high cost of living is largely due to the present extravagant methods of distribution, which may render ineffective , any legislation we attempt against profiteering. I heard a gentleman say the other day that clothproduced at a woollen mill in Geelong was sold in Flinders-lane at 12s. per yard, and re-sold to tailors in Geelong at 32s. per yard. That discloses an exorbitant cost of distribution, and I am informed that tailors in Geelong are unable to get any of the cloth locally manufactured for making up into suits, and I know that the same difficulty is experienced in other centres where woollen mills are operating.
– What about the manufacturer who makes a contract to sell his whole output?
– If the amendment is carried, a number . of consequential amendments will be necessary, and Ave can easily deal with cases of that character. We can refuse to allow a manufacturer to accept an offer for the whole of his output. This Parliament particularly desires to assist the woollen industry, and at the same time give an opportunity for the locally-manufactured article to be sold at reasonable prices to the consumer. I understand that to-day not one mill will supply a tailor with any quantity of sloth he requires. The amendment, if agreed to, will compel the manufacturer to sell to any tailor any quantity of cloth not less than £50 in value. I realize that it might not be fair to compel a mill to sell a length of cloth to an individual - although the difficulties in the way of doing that are not very great - but I can see no objection to one portion of a manufacturing establishment being set aside to supply the distributing trade.
– What about the financial aspect of such sales?
– The only financial aspect I see is that from 50 per cent. to 75 per cent., and in some cases 150 per cent., profit is being made by those who handle the cloth between the factory and the user. It is not the manufacturer who gets the very high profit. If any woollen mill sells less than a certain quantity of cloth it is boycotted by Flinders-lane.
– Would you compel the small purchaser to pay the £50 in cash, or should he have extended terms ?
– I do not ask the manufacturer to sell to an uncertificated insolvent or to give credit to the small purchaser. All that I require is that he shall be prepared to sell, and that means to sell for cash. The more we examine the matter the more we are forced to the conclusion that uneconomical methods of distribution are largely at the root of the high cost of living. For instance, one baker’s bread cart will arrive in a street to deliver bread to one house, and then depart for the house of another customer half a mile away. Ten minutes later another baker’s cart arrives to serve the neighbour of the first customer, and so on. In regard to boots, the retailer makes a profit of from 8s. to 12s. per pair on a pair of men’s boots. Yet the retailers are not becoming wealthy, because there are so many shops and such a large number of people employed, who are only working two or three hours a day, that big profits must be made. The amendment provides an opportunity of dealing with one phase of distribution, particularly in regard to clothes. It will compel the manufacturers to at least supply todistributors. It is true that the Board can only report to the Minister any infringement of the law, but my intention is that interference with the duty shall not be the only penalty. By that method we might seriously injure fifty millers who were prepared to observe the law, and I therefore desire to provide for severe fines and penalties.
-We cannot do that.
– I am not at all satisfied that we cannot. We have for a long time believed that the powers conferred upon us by the Constitution are very limited by certain decisions given by the High Court, but the personnel of the Court has changed in recent years, and that tribunal has given very different decisions recently. If we are honestly desirous of protecting the consumer, we shall insert this amendment and let it be tested in the High Court. If it is not upheld we shall have an added reason for seeking an amendment of the Constitution immediately.
– If we cannot enforce fines we can remit the duty.
– Quite so. It seems to me foolish, when we know that in most cases, for some time at any rate, the added duties will increase the cost of living
– Suppose there are half-a-dozen factories, and four of them commit an offence, if the duty is removed the other two are penalized also.
– I have already said that I realize the difficulties in that direction. I am not urging that manufacturers are getting high profits. In the woollen industry the manufacturers did pretty well during the war, but so did every other manufacturer right throughout the British Dominions. I submit the amendment ought to be accepted.
.- There is certainly much to be’ said in favour of the amendment which has been submitted, but there are great difficulties in the way of carrying it into effect. The whole trouble is our system, or lack of system, in distribution in all our industries. In the woollen industry the position is very difficult indeed, and the only way of overcoming it is by extending the industry. The supply of woollen garments is very small as compared with -the public requirements. If we manufacture only 20 per cent, of the public demands, and supply the 80 per cent, by means of importations, we make it possible for one set of tailors to be given preference over another, some being compelled to pay British prices.
– They will have to rely on the local industry.
– But that is not sufficient to supply the demand. No one would be better pleased than myself if we were able not only to meet the local demand, but also to export.
– At any rate, the amendment would get over some of the existing evils.
– A specific case has come under my notice in New South Wales. In York-street, Sydney, which is the Flinders-lane of that city, one warehouse was taking about 10 per cent, of their requirements from local manufacturers at 10s. a yard, importing the balance from England at 45s. a yard. Instead of supplying the local tailors with the Australian article, and, perhaps, giving preference to one set of tailors over an other, they lumped the two classes of cloth together, and sold it at an average price of 42s. I admit that the difference between 10s. and 42s. seems a big profit, but when we consider that the warehouses remitted 3s. a yard on the imported article, the price is not so large.
– The warehouse loses 3s. on one transaction, and makes 32s. on another.
– Something like that, but the total profit is not great. I commend” that plan, because it avoids the giving of preference to one set of tailors as against another. I hope the time is near when Parliament and the people will co-operate to establish more woollen mills, for these would prove a veritable gold mine for this country. If that were done, we should be able to reduee to a large extent the excessive cost of clothing in Australia to-day.
.- I hope the Minister will try to meet the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath). In New South Wales it is admitted that York-street controls the price of tweeds and woollen goods, an4 such a provision as that now moved would do much good. Master tailors have told me that if they could’ biiy direct from the mills the result would be better for the public.
– I cannot see my way to accept this amendment. I have inserted a provision which enables the Tariff Board to inquire and cover the whole of the ground that is covered by this proposal. The Board by that provision has power to inquire in regard to anything done by a manufacturer that results in an added cost to the consumer ; consequently, I say the ground is covered. All the Tariff Board can do is to inquire and report, and it can report to the House in regard to such matters as come within the proposed amendment as they can in regard to -the other matters. It then rests with the House to determine whether a case has been made out for a reduction in the duty.
– The small men will not gut any consideration.
– The amendment will not compel a manufacturer to sell this £50 worth to anybody. In any case, I cannot accept the amendment in the form in which it is moved.
– As it stands the amendment says, “A manufacturer refuses to sell a person goods of the value of not less than £50.” There might be a good and sufficient reason why a manufacturer should not desire to sell, or why he should not sell to any person.
– That would not prevent an inquiry.
– The Board has full power of inquiry. , ^ Mr. Ryan. - That is another point.
– I do not think this amendment should be accepted.
– I desire. to point out the fallacy in the argument of the Minister (Mr. Greene) that his own amendment already covers the ground. Of course, if that be so, there is nothing more to be said - it does cover the ground. My point, however, is that it does not. The amendment that has been inserted by the Committee deals with manufacturers who act in such a way asto put up the ultimate price to the consumer.
– As to have the result of the consumer paying an unnecessarily high price.
– Quite so. Supposing that .a firm -in Flinders-lane “ put “on the screw “ in such a way as to compel a manufacturer to sell to them only.
– Which is done now.
– In such case the Flinderslane firm will not buy from the manufacturer unless they are allowed to take his whole output, and he could not sell to any one else to the amount mentioned in the amendment. But it cannot be said that the manufacturer is acting in such a way as to ultimately raise the price to the consumer. It could not so raise the price; the people doing that” are the Flinders-lane merchants.
– The amendment speaks of a manufacturer refusing to sell.
– That is the difference. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) desires the Board to inquire into, all cases where a manufacturer refuses to sell quantities of not less than £50.
– Suppose, as is often the case, a manufacturer can get a reasonable sale of a large lot, can it be said that he should not be permitted to do so, but must supply other people with small lots?
– In such a case the manufacturer would certainly be justified in selling; but a manufacturer with goods in stock at his factory must not refuse to sell direct to the small retailer. The circumstances are to be discovered during the inquiry. It may be discovered, for instance, that he is justified in refusing to sell - that he has not the goods or has to supply them to some one else. The whole genesis of his reason for refusing would be laid bare, and we could act or not as we thought fit. It does not mean that because he refuses to sell he is necessarily penalized - that depends on circumstances. The honorable member for Ballarat simply desires the Board to have power to- conduct an investigation. Is there any reason why the Board should not have that power? The Minister has not shown that his amendment covers the same ground, while I submit that I have clearly shown that it does not. The honorable member for Ballarat has made it clear that his amendment would serve a useful purpose in the direction of investigations conducted by the Board. I hope the Minister will accept the amendment, or, if he does not, I hope it will be approved by the good sense of the Committee.
– I should like honorable members to consider the effect of this amendment, which provides that a manufacturer who refuses to sell to any person goods of the value of £50 at current market rates, shall come under the provisions of the Bill. This amendment, I point out, does not aj>ply only to woollen mills and manufacturers in the cities; it applies also to butter factories, cheese factories, fruit-canning factories, possibly dried fruit associations, and all manufacturing concerns of the kind.
– They will not be afraid of investigation.
– I am merely showing the scope of this amendment.
– You are trying to raise a bogey.
– Does the honorable member suggest that I should keep_ this information back?
– No; but you are only trying to raise a bogey.
– Surely the honorable ‘ member will allow me to state the effect of the amendment. It might, for instance, have very serious results on co-operative associations.
-*- What dealings of the kind have co-operative concerns?
– Speaking subject to correction, I believe that in some of the States there are co-operative distributing agencies, which take the whole of the output from the factories.
– That is so.
– According to the amendment, any co-operative company trading in that way, if it refused to sell to any person within the terms of the amendment, might be doing something reprehensible.
– Not necessarily reprehensible.
– That is the- contention.
– They would not have the goods to sell.
– According to the amendment, that is no excuse.
– The goods are not sold, but consigned.
– The amendment only asks for an investigation.
– The object of the amendment is to make it practically impossible for a manufacturer to refuse to, sell goods to the value of £50 at current market . . rates. If that is not the intention of the amendment, why is ‘it proposed ? There is this objection : The Tariff has been passed for the encouragement of local manufactures; but the problems of distribution within the country are entirely another matter, and it would be unwise to assume a jurisdiction in regard to them which does not expressly belong to this Parliament.
– You think that it should be done in a separate Bill?
– It is not a Tariff matter at all. Distribution within a State—buying and selling - is essentially a matter for the State authorities. What we have to do is to ascertain whether local manufacturers are taking undue advantage of the protection given by the Tariff. If it is complained that they are doing so, the Bill provides for an investigation, and, should that investigation show that there is just cause -for complaint, this Parliament may, if it thinks fit, remove or reduce duties, and subject the offending industry to the competition of the world.
– If in an industry in which half-a-dozen factories were engaged there were one or two offenders only, would you remove or reduce the protective duty?
– Not necessarily. The action to be taken would be for Parliament to determine.
– If only one or two manufacturers out of a number were offending, the public, as a whole, would not suffer, because its interests would be secured by the competition of the others.
– If manufacturers attempt to form associations or combinations to take advantage of the Tariff, there is here machinery for investigation for the protection of the public. The intention is not to deal with isolated cases. To pass a Bill to do that would be like using a steam hammer to crack a nut. The real danger against which this Parliament has to guard is the association of manufacturers who are protected by the Tariff to prevent the public getting a fair deal, and the Bill contains machinery for that end.
– A shopkeeper may be stocking imported articles of a certain kind, and articles of the same kind which have been manufactured locally, playing off the imported against the locallymanufactured goods for his own advantage. To safeguard against that we might prohibit those who stocked locallymanufactured articles from’ selling imported articles, but that is hardly practicable. The tailors, for instance, would object to it. The proposal of the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) may be called crude, but it would be effective if it could be applied. Of course, it would not be fair to say to a manufacturer, “You must sell £50 worth of assorted goods for the same price proportionately as £50,000 worth.” A man giving an order for £50 worth of cloth would toe ordering about . sixteen suit lengths, and these the manufacturer would have to cut from sixteen different bales, and it would not be unfair, therefore, to allow him, at least, 10 per cent, more on such an order than he would get on a bulk order very muchlarger, and perhaps entirely for one class of goods.
– We could allow that.
– The community is prejudiced, not by the profits made by the” manufacturer, so much as by the profits made by the distributors, 100 or 150 per cent, often being added to the manufacturers’ prices. But it being the desire of the Committee to make Protection of benefit to Australia, we should do our best to frame legislation which will secure this end. The Minister has made a suggestion which has been criticised by certain honorable members, and other members have made suggestions which have likewise been criticised and regarded suspiciously. This, of course, is natural. I, myself, am always suspicious of suggestions emanating from certain quarters, my motto being, “ Beware of the Greeks when they bring gifts.” What we need to do is to get down to bedrock, and ascertain what our constitutional powers in this matter are. This is a’ question that will have to be tested in the Courts. It is not too much to insist that the manufacturers whose industries we protect shall deal fairly with the public, and sell small parcels to small men. We shall always have small men in business, and their interests must be considered. At the same time, it is bulk production and distribution that reduce costs. If I thought that the Bill did all that was desirable for the protection of the community, I would accept it; but the Minister, if he desires to study the interests of the community as they should be studied, should, with the aid of his officials, endeavour to devise some method of making operative the suggestion of the honorable member for Ballarat. We shall not have a perfect Tariff until some such suggestion is applied. Personally, I am a Prohibitionist. I would keep out all importations that might compete against a protected industry, and I stood alone at one election, so far as my own party is concerned, on this point. In my opinion, this debate has been protracted uselessly. What we need is a provision that will protect the consumer, and the suggestion of the honorable member for Ballarat, if it can be applied constitutionally, would help to do that. Mr. RICHARD FOSTER (Wakefield) [2.53] -I think that the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) should accept the statement of the Government. I am as desirous as he is that our manufacturers shall sell openly to those who apply to them for goods ; but it would be impossible to enforce the amendment literally. Our mills are limited in number and capacity, and cannot supply the demands of the local trade. You could not, therefore, compel a man to sell £50 worth of goods if he had already customers who were unsupplied. All that we are likely to get out of the Bill is an inquiry and a report.
– That will be a good thing.
– Yes ; and should meet the honorable member’s wishes. When Parliament receives a report from capable men, it will be in a position to take what action it may think right. - Mr. CHARLTON (Hunter) [2.55].- In my opinion, the amendment is essential. We have been saying for a long while that it is necessary to clip the wings of the middleman as far as possible, and the amendment would have that effect. I do not see how the constitutional question arises. It is not as if we were interfering with trade. We simply say that the Board shall have the right to inquire- into certain matters which are affected by the Tariff. If a factory which is enjoying the benefit of protection given to it by this Parliament refuses to supply an order for £50 worth of goods, or more, sent to it by any firm or individual, the Tariff Board will be able to inquire the reason, and, on its report, Parliament can deal with the matter. The honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Groom) endeavoured to make it appear that that Would be a contravention of the Constitution, but I do not agree with him. We are not proposing to fix the price of any commodity. All we say is that protected manufacturers shall not refuse to supply an order for the value of £50 or more. Of course, if a1 manufacturer had not the goods, he could not be penalized. If we are to keep faith with the people, we must do all that is possible to protect the consumers.
.- It would be improper for me to make a second-reading speech now; but I would point out that everything that I said on the second reading has been justified by the Ministerial attitude towards those who have suggested amendments in -this clause. I said that the Government did not intend to do anything, and its conduct to-day shows that the Bill; and this clause of the Bill, are merely so much camouflage and deception. The Bill does not provide for anything being done, and the clause, of course, makes no provision for any exercise of power. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) has moved an amendment providing for an inquiry into certain facts. It may be that we have no power to do anything; but there is no reason why there should not be an investigation, or why publicity should not be given to the results of it. I cannot see any objection to that. If time has been unduly occupied in the discussion of the amendment the fault rests with the Government, since it refuses to agree to a simple proposal that the Tariff Board shall be empowered to investigate ordinary questions of trade. The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) says that there are certain manufacturers who for a variety of reasons will not sell direct to the retail dealer. There arc many typical cases. For instance, a storekeeper in Castlemaine may desire to purchase blankets from the focal manufactory, but he cannot do so. The blankets made in that factory are sent to warehousemen in Flinders-lane, so that the local dealer has to pay Melbourne “blood” money plus the cost of. returning those blankets to the town where they are manufactured, and where he proposes to sell them. In Sale and Bairnsdale there are large storekeepers who are prepared to buy direct from many of the big manufactories in this country. In no case, however, are they able to do so. The storekeepers must pay- “ blood “ money to the selling agencies in Flinders-lane. The Government object to any inquiry into these matters. They object to the public knowing the extent to which this practice is being carried on. They refuse to permit any investigation upon the ground that, even when such an investigaion had been made by the Board, they would have no power to do anything. There is no reason why in the public interest, however, such matters should not be investigated and full publicity given to the findings of the Board. I believe that the Government have power to deal with all such cases. They are prepared- to permit inquiry into the prices charged by manufacturers who directly exploit the public, because they say they can deal with them per medium of the’ Tariff. It is well known, however, that in very many cases the main instrument of exploitation is the selling agency associated with a manufactory. If the Government take up the attitude that they are powerless to deal with such practices, then I say that the Bill is a delusion, a sham, and a mockery. It is a sort of “rich uncle from Fiji “ piece of legislation. There are some big manufactories in this country which purport to sell direct to the public. Their goods are produced in one part of the building occupied by them, and in another part of the same building very often there is a selling agency carried on under a different name, although its directors and shareholders are the directors and shareholders of the manufacturing company. The company sells its products to the selling agency at a profit of 5 per cent., and that distributing agency in turn sells to the retailers at rates that insure enormous profits. The profits are then divided between them. In other cases, as,’ for instance, in the boot industry, there are manufacturers who have their own retail shops, and make their profits, not in the factory, but in the retail trade. They may make a loss in the actual work of production, but they make big profits through their retail agencies. The Government say that they can do nothing so far as these selling agencies are concerned. If that is so, then they might as well put the Bill into the waste-paper basket, because there is not an exploiting manufacturer in Australia who cannot evade the provisions of the Bill as it stands by the simple method of establishing a distributing agency to which he will sell at a reasonable price, leaving the selling agency to make the requisite profits. This attitude on the part of the Government shows that the Bill is a mere piece of camouflage. The Government propose by it to establish a Board and create a staff at a cost of thousands of pounds in order to permit of inquiries that will not touch the selling agents, and can be absolutely of no advantage to the general public. Some one has said that there are some manufacturers who are prepared to sell at reasonable rates. “We know that there are certain manufacturers who are prepared to break away from rings and deal fairly by the general public. But they are bound hand and foot by the limitations that the rings can impose - by the boycott which these rings can bring tn bear upon them. Yet the Government would say to such manufacturers, “ We will take away from you the protection which the Tariff affords.” It is absurd to say that the Government can deal with those who are exploiting the public only by taking away the protective duties and so penalizing the innocent as well .as the guilty. When the Government take up that stand they show they do not want to do anything. I am not speaking as a partisan or in condemnation of the present Government alone. I have made the same complaint regarding a Government behind which I have sat. Years ago, when I was supporting a certain Government .that was proposing to appeal to the people to agree to certain amendments of the Constitution, a doubt was first raised in my mind as to our constitutional powers being as limited as they were said to be, by hearing the present Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) and Sir William Irvine, who were then in Opposition, constantly reiterating the statement that the Government could do whatever they wanted to do if they chose to exercise their existing powers. It was such statements that roused in me the spirit of investigation. Mr. Glynn, who was then the representative of Angas, also claimed that the Government could do whatever it desired to do in the way of protecting the people from exploitation. There never was a Government, no matter how limited its constitutional power, that could not do what it wanted to do. What a Government may not do by direct legislation it may yet achieve through its various instrumentalities. The Government have unlimited power to license, and can impose licensing conditions. They can use the instrumentalities of Government to prevent exploitation just as they have used them against Tattersalls. Any institution or enterprise which is conducted to the detriment of the public can be dealt with effectively through the instrumentalities of Government. It can be deprived of postal, telegraphic, and telephonic facilities of communication.
– But all that has not been very successful so far as Tattersalls are concerned.
– Tattersall’s depends chiefly upon the receipt and delivery of letters sent through the post, or small parcels that can be sent through agencies.
Large commodities cannot be dealt with in that way. The Government cannot deal with a case of butter as they can with letters addressed to Tattersall’s; but they can control the instrumentalities of transport, and in that way deal effectively with every great industry that is being carried on in a way that is detrimental to the public interest. The Government can go further. They can create a public opinion and expose exploiters to public odium. There was never a Government that could not devise a means of doing what it wanted to do. There was never a Government that could not make an individual bend to its will.
– And never a Government that could not find an excuse for refraining from doing what it did not want to do.
– That is so. This is not the only Government that has shown a desire to shirk its obligations. Any Government that wants to do so is always ready with excuses. While I have been in this Parliament I have known Governments to declare that they had not the power to do something which a year or two later they actually did.
The Bill as it stands is a sham,- a fraud, a delusion, and a mockery. It provides merely for the expenditure of large sums of public money in making inquiries in respect of which no further action is to he taken. Many honorable members voted for high duties on the understand1 ing that the Government would bring in a Bill that would protect the consuming public from the rapacity df certain men who abuse the protection given them, and now that the Bill is introduced we have absolutely clear evidence that the Government does not intend to do anything in that direction.
.- Earlier in the day I pointed out that, in my opinion, it was necessary to have in the Bill a provision that would do exactly what the amendment moved by the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) is designed to dp, but the Acting Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) intimated that we had not the constitutional power to legislate in that direction. Since two or three days had already, been devoted to the discussion of the constitutional aspect of this question, I said I would not debate it, but the Government have not satisfied me that there is no power to give effect to this amendment, and I do not think any harm will he done by making it. After all, it will only mean that where a manufacturer refuses to sell to people in the trade who desire to buy directly from him inquiry may be made into all the circumstances. The only argument I have heard against the amendment is that where certain manufacturers are not in a position to supply direct to those who may desire to deal with them such a provision as this might operate harshly. After all, we are not going to judge to-day whether the whole of the manufacturers in any particular industry are in a position to do what we desire. The Board” will inquire and report to this Parliament, and the final determination of the whole matter will rest with us. I see no harm in the amendment, and shall support it.
Question - That the amendment (Mr. McGrath’s) be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolvedin theaffirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause,as amended, agreed to.
Clause 15 -
Upon receipt of a report from the Board in pursuance of the last preceding section, the Minister may, if he thinks fit, take action in respect of any of the matters dealt with by the Board in its report.
– I move -
That, after the word “ action “ the words “according to law” be inserted.
This will make it plain that it is impossible for the Minister to take any action which is not already provided for by Statute. Some doubt was raised concerning whether the wording of the clause, as it now reads, would not permit the Minister, upon a report of the Board, to do things which are not now legal for him to do. .
.- I am not satisfied that the amendment will bring about what I desire. I want to insure that when the Board makes a report it willbe brought before Parliament. I think that can be brought about by making sub-clause 1 read -
Upon receipt of a report from the Board in pursuance of the last preceding section, the Minister shall ask Parliament to take action in respect of any of the matters dealt with by the Board in its report.
– If the clause were so amended, the procedure would fee rendered unworkable. The Board must report in- regard to quite a number of things; for example, concerning the matters dealt with in the preceding section. If the Minister had to bring everything before Parliament before he could move, and had to get the House to agree, he would be invoking Parliament every day. With respect to certain things, such as increasing or decreasing duties, the Minister may not act without the consent of Parliament; but to ask Parliament to decide upon everythingsuch, for example, as the determination of the value of goods for duty under section 160 of the Customs Act - would be looking for altogether too much.
– I desired to be assured that, in regard to the variation of duties, the Minister would notbe able to take action independently. I am satisfied with his explanation.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreedto.
Clause 16 agreed to.
Clause 17 (Annual report).
.- I desire to enter my objection to the concluding portion of sub-clause 1, which states that the Board, in its annual report, shall - set out the recommendations made by the Board during the preceding twelve months, other than any recommendations whose inclusion the Minister and the Board agree is not in the public interest.
Every recommendation of the Board should be submitted to Parliament. There should be no secrets. The recommendations should be the property of Parliament. Of course, the objection of the Minister has been that, if it is proposed to introduce a schedule for the alteration of certain Tariff rates, traders might learn the proposals of the Government beforehand. But, since the reports of the Board would come before the Minister, and, through him, to the Executive Council, there should be ample time for the Government to consider what action to take, and then to simultaneously introduce the schedule and produce the report’ of the Board.
.- According to this clause, upon a certain date the Tariff Board must compile its annual report for Parliament. During the last week of the year the Board might agree to make certain recommendations to the Minister in regard to the increase or reduction of duties. It is essential that such matters be kept absolutely secret until the moment when it becomes necessary to take action in Parliament. The Board must be in agreement with the Minister; and, if the two authorities are agreed that it is in the public interest that a recommendation be withheld, then it is only right that provision should be made to that end.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 18 to 35 agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Greene) agreed to-
That the following new clause be inserted after clause ( 1 ) : -
This Act shall commence on a date to be fixed by proclamation.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Standing Orders suspended, and report adopted.
Motion (by Mr.Greene) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- It is my intention to oppose the third reading of the Bill. I was very interested to read in this week’s Industrial Australian and Mining Standard, which has been a great champion of the High Tariffists, a paragraph which, in pointing out the advantages which will accrue from the proposed Board, states that Parliament in building up the new Tariff has been working wholly in the dark. It is one of the most amusing statements I have ever read. In championing the proposed Board this journal shows clearly that this and previous Parliaments have been imposing duties without the slightest knowledge of what the effect of them would be. Now that the Tariff has been dealt with we can surely defer this proposal for some time, and endeavour to save a little money. I do not know that the Board will be particularly useful, although if the Minister appoints a good Board it may be of some value. I prefer no Board, but if we are to have one I desire one responsible to Parliament rather than to the Minister. This Bill merely provides for the appointment of a Ministerial Board. Therefore, I ask the House to reject the third reading.
.- I, too, shall oppose the third reading, because I consider it unnecessary to build up a now and expensive Department which will add to the waste of thousands of pounds which the people have now to bear. The tendency of the people today is to prevent the building up of new Departments instead of increasing them; as we seem to be doing almost every day. The Board, constituted as it will be, will have no effect as far as I can see beyond providing cosy billets for some of those who are now seeking employment.
.- The principal debate on this Bill was concentrated on clause 14, because of the difference of opinion amongst members as to the effectiveness of the provisions for preventing unfair dealing on the part of manufacturers, but as to the purpose of the Bill as a whole, I am hopeful that the Board will prove beneficial, and be the means of saving the Commonwealth hundreds of thousands of pounds per annum. In the Tariff which we have just passed there are some anomalies, and it will be the duty ofthe Board to inquire into and report upon the duties which we have imposed, some of which may be found insufficient and ineffective, and others far too high,and detrimental to other industries. For that reason particularly I shall supportthe Bill. Like other honorable members I am hopeful that the Board will be effective in eliminating the unfair dealing of manufacturers who are amply protected with the consumers. The Board will bo a useful body, I believe, and the cost will not be so great but that it will be amply repaid by the work the Board may be able to do within even the current financial year.
.- I have not had a chance of discussing the Bill in Committee. On the’ second reading I said that I was not enamoured of the Board, but if it was properly constituted and worked in the right way it might be capable of doing great good to the people. In dealing with the Tariff, which involves so much to consumers and the people engaged in industry and commerce, there is big scope for useful work. When the Tariff was first explained to Parliament by the Minister we were told that this Board was to be created, and a great number of the duties were passed with that in mind. Therefore we would be stultifying ourselves if we rejected the Bill now. I believe there is a good chance of the Board working economically, and at the same time conferring considerable benefits upon the community. If the working of the Board shows that it is not an effective instrument it need not be continued for any length of time. It is not, like the “ Old Man of the Sea,” hung about our necks for ever. One feature that appeals to me is that Parliament may be able to act quickly while the conditions reported upon by the Board still obtain. Having the recommendations of the Board before it a body like Parliament ought to be able to say promptly what is the fair thing to do in the circumstances. Having supported the second reading of the Bill, I feel that I am only consistent in voting for the third reading.
.- I enter my protest against the passing of this Bill at this present time. The Min ister would be well advised to withdraw it, and reintroduce it on a subsequent occasion. Less than a fortnight has elapsed since it was first introduced, and the minds of commercial men throughout the Commonwealth have not had time to concentrate upon it and formulate concrete opinions. I hope that even yet another place will see fit to take such action as will enable this House to have a further opportunity of reconsidering the whole question.
Question - That the Bill be now read a third time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- Will the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) tell us what is the business, and the order of business, next week? I wish to know what is the business for Tuesday, and also on what day we may expect the statement of the Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers) in regard to the War Service Homes scandal.
– “ Scandal “ ?
– Well, the War Service Homes matter, if that is more acceptable.
– Everything seems to be regarded as a “ scandal “ in these days. Really, the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) should not read so many of those head-lines in the Age, which do him no good, but quite the opposite.
– I would sooner rely on the Age than on the honorable gentleman.
– I am quite sure ofthat - just at present. So far as I know, the first business on Tuesday will be the consideration in Committee of Ways and Means of what is known as the “ Dumping “ Bill, and I invite honorable members to come prepared to discuss “ the curve of the third degree.”
– Would it not be advisable to leave that measure until about October, when we shall have a little more knowledge of what the effects of the Tariff may be?
– The honorable member’s is the only advice I would take on a matter of the Tariff and Bills of the kind.
– We are following your previous speeches.
– As I remarked the other day, the honorable member is getting old, and is “looking over his shoulder” all the while. When the “Dumping” Bill is disposed of, I hope to ask the House for two months’ Supply.
– On the same day?
– I do not know; but it seems at the moment as though we should take up the whole of Tuesday on the preliminary stage of the Bill I have mentioned, and some proposals which the Minister, for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) has to make. If, however, the whole of Tuesday is not taken up by that business, we shall deal with Supply. As to the War Service Homes, my impression is that the matter might very well be discussed on Supply.
– So long as that keeps the contract the Assistant Minister for Repatriation made with the House.
– I take it that it does. The honorable gentleman promised, and is ready, to make a full statement, and the sooner it is made the better.
– What the Minister said was that he would make a statement, and move that a paper be printed.
– That is so; but Supply affords the same opportunity for debating the statement as would a motion that a paper be printed.
– Except that a motion is open to amendment.
– I do not see that the House is under any disability whether we discuss the matter on Supply or on a specific motion ; and, under the circumstances, I think it would be betterto bring it up on Supply.
– It is only fair to let the House know whether the honorable gentleman expects to rise for a recess next week.
– We expected to finish the business this week.
– Have you resolved to finish?
– I should like the honorable gentleman to know that I am scarcely in the position to “ resolve “ anything just now.
– What has gone wrong?
– Before I can “ resolve,” I have to consult other people outside my own party - I may as well say that quite frankly - and therefore the matter of “resolving” does not altogether Test with myself.
– Will you do your best?
– We ought to rise next week.
– We are causing no difficulty about Supply - any difficulty iscaused by the new Bills the Government arc introducing.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister not a bit mysterious?
– I do not think so ; there is no intention to be mysterious. The honorable member should understand that the position now is not as it was when, as Acting Prime Minister, he had a big majority, and could determine his own course of action. I am not quite- in that position to-day.
– Cheer up! It. is all right, so far.
– Then supposeI say we “resolve” to get up next week - subject to contingencies.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 July 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19210715_reps_8_96/>.