8th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) -took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. PROWSE presented, on behalf of the . Chairman, an interim report of the Public Accounts Committee upon sugar.
Ordered to he printed.
The business of the day being called on -
– Mr. Speaker-
– ‘Honorable members who wish to ask questions without notice should rise before the business of the day is called on. I looked round the Chamber before instructing the Clerk to read the first notice of motion and no honorable member was then on his feet. Members should be more prompt in rising.
– My excuse, Mr. Speaker, is my native modesty and the fact that it is ‘not always easy to know whether other members have finished their questions.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister if he will furnish us with the name, or one of the names, of the person who is being doported from Australia and is described as a dangerous Bolshevik ? I am the more anxious because a personal friend of mine,a member of this House, is absent from hisplace.
– Friday being one of my unlucky days, I shall not attempt to pronounce the name of the friend of the honorable member who has been deported or of the other men on the proscribed list.
– Not my friend. I disclaim that honour absolutely.
– I amend my statement by saying that I cannot pronounce the name of the gentleman the honour of whose friendship the honorable . member does not as yetclaim, nor can I pronounce the names of the other gentlemen whose friendship he does not yetclaim, but who are on the proscribed list. Besides, I do not know that it would do any one any good to be told the names.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answer supplied by the Postmaster-General’s Department is that inquiries are being made, and replies will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers, to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Post- master-General, upon notice -
– The answers furnished by the Postmaster-General’s Department to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 13th July, the honorable member, for Parramatta (Mr. Pratten) asked me for . information relative to the number of persons now employed in various governmental activities not under the control of the Public Service Commissioner. I now make available the following information: -
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Ballarat asked me a question relating to local Repatriation Committees at Ballarat, Bendigo, and Geelong. In connexion with the Repatriation Committees in the more populous provincial centres, the Commissioner opened branch offices, and provided a paid secretary. The work has so diminished that the retention of these branch offices is no longer justified; but it is not intended to disband the local Repatriation Committees, whose patriotic services have proved of great value to the Department. They will be continued in an advisory capacity.
– I move -
That, unless otherwise ordered, the House shall sit on each Tuesday at 3 o’clock p.m.; on each Wednesday and Thursday at half-past 2 o’clock p.m. ; and on each Friday at 11 o’clock a.m.
I hope that the motion may commend itself to honorable members. The state of public business is fairly obvious. An almost criminal waste of time has been indulged in by certain honorable members-
– Then, I will say quasi-criminal.
– I ask that that word be withdrawn.
– I withdraw it, and will characterize the action of those honorable members to whom I refer as a misdemeanour, not a crime. One cannot have his cake and eat it. These honorable members are like the prodigal. Having spent their substance in riotous living they now come home, and we propose to kill the fatted calf and do what we can to entertain them. To put the matter more prosaically, the notice-paper must be cleared. I do not say that it contains all the business with which the Government intends to proceed, but it contains same of the measures that must be dealt with. Others have been mentioned by me orby my colleagues. I do not wish to reveal matters which a due regard for decency demands should be veiled, but it is plain that the country is crying out for certain measures. There has been, for example, an insistent demand for the reduction of taxation. Yet immediately we introduced measures to reduce taxation, members who had been calling aloud for such reduction promptly voted against them. Undeterred by this appalling inconsistency, Ministers propose to go on. There is the measure in charge of my honorable colleague - who was, by the way, referred to last night by one of his critics in a very airy, and not ait all proper, manner - the entertainment tax. There is the Superannuation Bill, a measure demanded by the public servants of the country.
– Honorable members are pedantic this morning. I substitute the word requested. That Bill will be passed into law before Parliament is prorogued. Then, there has been a demand by the citizens of Australia for the placing of the Public Service on a more effective footing, and provision for that is made by the Public Service Bill. We have passed a measure remitting duties on certain articles used. by the man on the laud, but provision has to be made for the granting of bounties to encourage the local manufacture of those articles. The measure relating to the unification of railway gauges must be pressed on with. Then there is the Budget. Year after year the discussion of the Budget was postponed until all interest in it had vanished. Usually that was the kind of treatment that the Budgets of the past deserved. But we have now before us a Budget which is sui generis. Opportunity must be given to those members whose solitary claim to public notice is that, in and out of season, they have demanded the discussion of the Budget. They are going to have an opportunity quite soon to discuss it thoroughly. Then the Estimates must be passed, and there are other measures which escape my memory for the moment.. But the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is looking at me as the sheep looks at the butcher, and, being humane, I shall not mention anything more that is likely to create unpleasant thoughts among members. I hope that the motion will be speedily passed.
Mr.CHARLTON (Hunter) [11.15].- I am not opposed to our meeting on Tuesday, but the Prime Minister has cleverly camouflaged the reason for asking for extra sittings. The state of the businesspaper is not the reason for the submission of this motion. If the Prime Minister will take the trouble to look at the businesspaper he will see that, with the exception of one measure, there is nothing debatable on it - that there is no proposal that would cause any lengthy debate. As a matter of fact, the business could be cleared in a week. The Prime Minister mentioned two matters arising out of the Budget, but these will not occupy a great deal of our time.
– I am glad to hear that.
– The only measure likely to engage our attention for any protracted time is the Public Service Superannuation Bill, and yet the right honorable gentleman is very careful to present this motion as one of urgency, on the ground that he desires to get the business cleared off so that we may get into recess. Why cannot he be more frank with the House and the country, and say that the real reason is that he desires to get to the constituencies? If he will not say that himself, I say it for him. In view of the small amount of business to be done, I consent to an extra sitting day only on the ground that the Prime Minister does go to the constituencies, for the sooner that is done the better it will be for Parliament. That suggestion does not seem to me to meet with unanimous support. However, the Prime Minister, in an endeavour to justify this motion without giving the real reason, states that it is submitted because of misdemeanours on the part of the Opposition - because we have obstructed business. But I venture to say that no fair-minded person acquainted with the work that has been done since the commencement of the session would say there has been any obstruction; indeed, there has never been what might be called a lengthy speech. I do admit, however, that it has been necessary for the Opposition, in order to focus public attention on the misdemeanours of the Government, to submit several questions for consideration.
– One good misdemeanour deserves another !
– I submit that in taking the course we did we wasted no time. Of course, we can quite understand the Prime Minister being desirous to create the impression outside that because of obstruction by the Opposition he is compelled to abandon certain measures. I assured the Prime Minister yesterday that, so far as concerns the measures on the business-paper, there would be very little time consumed, and no obstruction by this party. I wish to repeat a question that I asked yesterday as to whether the Prime Minister intends, according to his promise in the Governor-General’s Speech, to introduce the constitutional amendments, and have them submitted to the electors about the 9th December next. Either the Prime Minister does not intend to do that, or, if he does, he has not taken the House into his confidence. It is obvious to every honorable member that if we are to keep faith with the public in regard to these amendments they must be dealt with next week, or, otherwise, there will not be the interval of two months before we appeal to the people.
– There will be if the election is in March next.
– The honorable member speaks with his “ tongue in his cheek “ ; as Government Whip he knows whether or not the elections will be held before March.
– I wish I did !
– Nobody knows better than the Prime Minister when the election will be.
– No, they do not tell me anything about it!
– The right honorable gentleman has made every preparation for the election, and he asks for an extra sitting day to get the business cleared off as early as possible.
As to the Budget, I said, when six weeks’ Supply was granted, that it was sufficient to carry the Government over until we went to the country, and I repeat that statement now. Inside six weeks the measures on the business-paper will be all passed. What is the use of talking about the Estimates, and there not being time to discuss them? As a matter of fact, the Government will have a job to keep a quorum by the time the business is through, for all will be off to their constituencies. If our friends in. the Corner wish to move any amendments on the Budget they will find themselves left “ on their own,” and the Government will not care so long as they get the Estimates through. There will be no trouble when the Government once make it known that they are going to the country, because then the fight will be in the constituencies, and not in the House. The Government will be acting wisely if they take the people into their confidence now, and let it be known that an election is intended this year. It is obvious that an election is going to take place.
– Then why do the people wish to know if they know now?
– They are waiting for the Prime Minister, who might change his mind and fix the election for March next. Once the right honorable gentleman makes a declaration, the people will know what is to be done.
– The Prime Minister may change his opinion as often as he changes his constituency.
– Quite so. We have no objection to an extra sitting day in order to facilitate business, but we do expect the Government to introduce the constitutional amendments in time to submit them to the people, so that this
Parliament may be given the enlarged powers that are necessary.
– The other day, when we were in Committee, there was some objection raised to the use of a foreign tongue in this Chamber. To-day we have had more instances of the use of a foreign tongue here. The Prime Minister has described the Budget as sui generis, but we need not resort to a foreign tongue in order to say what the right honorable gentleman means. The Budget has all the characteristics of “chop-suey,” and it is generous in every respect - it is like a bunch of carrots for the stock to eat. The Prime Minister has referred to the business that has to be done, and to certain misdemeanours that have been committed by parties in this Chamber in the conduct of public business. I can only say that the Country party have never been guilty, during the whole life of this Parliament, of any obstructive tactics. On every measure introduced this party have, as far as lay in their power, brought constructive criticism to bear, but if they thought a given measure was altogether beyond repair, then, of course, the criticism became destructive. As to the business that has yet to be done, the Country party, whatever may be done by members of other parties, intend to remain at their posts right to the finish.
– You will lose your seats if you do.
– That may be, but that is what we intend to do. However, we should like some definite statement from the Prime Minister regarding the introduction of the constitutional amendments. Last year, when the Convention Bill was brought down, we had a definite statement from the Prime Minister in response to the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) that we should have ample time to discuss those amendments to be submitted to the people at the next general election. In view of the constitutional difficulties that surround this question, we should like a definite statement now as to whether it is the intention of the Government to give the House an opportunity to discuss the amendments.
.- I quite fail to gather the real reason why this motion is necessary. I cannot see how an extra sitting day will assist the Government. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) tells us that the extra day is to enable Parliament to get into recess, but I remind the honorable gentleman that Parliament has only recently met, after a recess of some months. When Parliament meets, and honorable members take the opportunity to ventilate some of the gross misdeeds of the Government.
– Misdemeanours !
– I prefer to call them misdeeds, and I think that is the way in which the people of the country would describe them. When honorable members take advantage of their opportunities here to direct attention to the misdeeds of the Government, we find the Prime Minister airily saying that on account of obstruction here the Government arecompelled to ask for an extra sitting day. That strikes me as the most serious reflection the Prime Minister could cast on his own Government. It is a clear indication or admission that the Government is hopeless and helpless to control the affairs of the House. The Government have a majority, and yet it is so helpless that a minority is able to block necessary business.- If that be the position, the Government are unworthy to occupy the Treasury bench.
– We have been far too lenient, and I reproach myself bitterly.
– Indeed, I think that it is the Opposition who have been altogether too lenient. We have not taken advantage of the opportunity to half the extent we might have done to assail the Government. We have allowed the Government to dodge on the question of sugar, which they have completely shelved by referring it to a Committee that in all probability will not submit any definite report before Parliament is dissolved. There is no necessity for an extra sitting day. If the Government have certain business to do, they have a majority behind them, and it is their duty to see that the business is carried through, as it can be in the ordinary course. The greatest admission of weakness and helplessness on the part of the Government is the submission of this motion to-day by the Prime Minister.
.- I do not agree with the closing observations of the last speaker (Mr. Mahony). I think that this motion will meet with the almost unanimous acceptance of the House. That is chiefly because of the intimation which was conveyed some fortnight ago by the Government to the Chamber, that it would be necessary, if expedition was to be resorted to in the discharge of public business, to give time allowance to measures; in other words, to use the guillotine if more progress was not shown. Some of us then thought the proposition to have an extra sitting before that extreme measure was used was infinitely preferable, and we said so. I still regard it as a better proposition than for the Government to mark out the time which the House may consume on individual issues.
– Shall we not get both?
– There are signs of ‘that. As I said before, I think that the guillotine is an objectionable measure, unless absolute urgency is demanded.
– It is an admirable machine, if properly used.
– It is a splendid machine, if used with discretion, and in fairness to all concerned.
– We shall have to wait a long time for that!
– The honorable member will have to wait a long time, particularly if the allusion of the Prime Minister to the appearance of his face, at the time the Prime Minister was speaking, has any element of truth in it. It is clear, I think, from what we see in the press, and what we hear whispered, that the Government’s object, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) said, has not been fully disclosed to-day. If this were an ordinary session, and it was proposed to get into recess in order to allow members to reach their homes by Christmas, it is true that the state of the business-paper would not justify the introduction of this motion. It is perfectly clear that if the Government desires are not frustrated this Parliament will go to the country as early as possible, and certainly before the end of the year; and I think the Government would be wise in directing such a course. I do not mean wise for their own sake. That remains to be seen; I mean wise for . the country’s sake. I do not think, however, that the Government are animated entirely by that consideration. The most patent fact about this Parliament is that it ought to return to the people, for it has run its course. Without desiring to employ terms of impropriety, I would say that, in a political sense, this Parliament is demoralized, and that the sooner the people are given a chance to decide on the policy and personnel of a new Parliament the more likely are representative institutions to be restored topopular favour. If the Government, however, hurry to the electors and decide not to consider important matters which were promised at the opening of the session - whether they be on the notice-paper at this stage or not - the people will be rightly resentful. If, for example, Parliament were to give but slack consideration to the finances of the country by scurrying through the Budget debate, or if the Government were to ignore their repeated promises to adopt means for the amendment of the Constitution, such conduct would be an improper use of their opportunities. I join with other honorable members in asking the Government to intimate as early as possible their intentions regarding the amendment of the Constitution. It is true that the Public Service Superannuation Bill is an important measure, but it is not so important as the basic or foundation law of our whole parliamentary system. The eagerness with which the Government have promised, not only to introduce, but to finalize the Superannuation measure before the close of this session proves, to me, at least, that the Prime Minister is out of focus in respect of that matter; that is to say, he will have proved himself so unless he follow it up immediately by announcing that the Government will deal also this session with the question of constitutional amendments and will afford the people the constitutional period, and opportunity, in which to decide regarding them.
The remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) should receive consideration at the handsof the Prime Minister. It will be of no use for the Government to introduce the subject of constitutional amendments at too late a stage. If the necessary Bills were introduced at once the present moment would be early enough for Parliament to deal with it; but if this opportunity to give the people the necessary two months’ consideration required by the Constitution is let slip, the fault will be that of the Government. The Government have been insistent all along, ever since the taking of the Fisher referenda, upon the necessity -for changes in the Constitution. The proposed Convention Bill failed by reason of its own weight, through its own faulty construction. It was obviously doomed to failure from the first. Honorable members almost unanimously expressed the view that such must be its fate; but that expression did not and does not end our duty. If we believe that Australia cannot become a great nation until the National Parliament shall have been endowed with wider powers, the matter immediately ranks as more important even than finances at this particular stage. It is more important, indeed, than anything else in the Government’s programme and in the promises contained in the Governor-General’s Speech. I trust that the Government will give this House an intimation, as early as may be possible - if not to-day, then, at least, on Tuesday next - regarding the actual programme which they intend to pursue; and that they will announce, particularly, whether they intend to go om with the Constitution amendments.
.- - I do not wish to be as scorching as th« honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), but I protest against the Prime Minister making his appeal for an extra sitting day each week on the pretext or excuse that honorable members have been wasting time. There are very important matters still to be dealt with. The Electoral Bill is one of these; but the proposed amendments to the Constitution will necessitate the presentation of the most important Bills of all. There are still other weighty matters to be dealt with, such as, for example, the necessary legislation to deal with the railway gauges. Th* work of bringing about uniformity will run into £57,000,000; the first instalment alone will’ involve a huge sum. Are honorable members to be expected to rush the necessary Bill through at a moment’s notice, without consideration or debate? Are they to commit the people to enormous expenditure without ordinary legislative care and forethought? Then there is the Public Service Superannuation Bill - another very important measure, and one which will involve the taxpayers in an expenditure of still more millions. Is that to be forced hastily through Parliament?
– With only half the members present.
– This place is absolutely disorganized. A hint has now been dropped that honorable members will not be given an opportunity to discuss the Budget, or that if they take the opportunity they will be compelled to remain here “ on their own.” If suggestions of that kind are “ playing the game,” I must have only a very slight knowledge of honorable members’ responsibilities to their constituents. If the Prime Minister would definitely announce when the elections are to be held, honorable members could settle down to business. The Prime Minister laughs. My remarks are matter for laughter also to some of his supporters. I warn them that it will be no laughing matter for many of them when the election results are announced. The tactics of the Government in bludgeoning business through after the fashion now proposed will receive critical consideration at the hands of the electors. In this chamber to-day Government supporters are gagged and bound. They are told not to dare to open their mouths; they are threatened with all sorts of happenings if they disobey. So, presumably, they do not intend to utter a word upon matters of the gravest importance. But do they really propose to permit the Superannuation Bill, and the measure for the unification of railway gauges to be rushed through without debate or the slightest examination? Do honorable members behind the Government actually propose to commit the taxpayers to the expenditure of millions of pounds without word or thought ?
– Hear, hear!
– The right honorable gentleman may say, “Hear, hear!” on the other side of his face before long. He certainly would continue to do so if he had remained at Bendigo; but, having removed, he will probably come back here and smile again. However, quite a number of his supporters will never return if they show the people that they propose to carry on the business of the country as it appears that they are about to do.
– I would like to hear a definite promise from the Prime Minister. I wish to know, specifically, if he is going back on his undertaking to place before the people the proposed alterations of the Constitution. Will the right honorable gentleman tell me whether or not the extra sitting day is intended to afford the Government time and opportunity to deal with the Bill for the suggested referenda? If such is their purpose I will support and assist them in that direction. I do not think that the measures will prove contentious. The Labour party has indicated that it desires the proposed amendments to be placed before the people. Members of the Country party have intimated the same. The Commonwealth cannot be properly governed unless full power is given to the responsible authorities. Since this House, apparently, will unanimously agree to the taking of Constitution referenda, I urge the Prime Minister not to delay in making a definite announcement. The present opportunity is a golden one. Honorable members are about to go before their constituents. This Parliament will have ended before many more days. It is urgently necessary, therefore, that the Bills to provide for the referenda should be immediately presented. I suppose that if the Government refrain from taking the necessary steps the proposal for holding a Convention will again be raised. If that course is adopted the Commonwealth will be put to the expense of selecting delegates from every State. A costly Convention will be held, and the results of its labours will eventually come before Parliament, which, if it accepts and ratifies them, will then submit the proposals to the people. Why should that devious course be adopted in view of the forthcoming elections? The matter is not a party one. All honorable members must agree that the huge expense involved in calling together a Convention, and in eventually taking a special referendum, should be obviated. The Constitution must be amended. The people should not have to submit to be governed by decisions of the High Court. At present the Parliamentary Accounts Committee is investigating the sugar question. When its report comes to hand it will be found that the Committee had not the power to secure complete information from the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. It will be learned that witnesses representing that company declined to give information. There is no power under the Constitution, according to a decision of the High Court, which can compel those witnesses to do so. I look for a candid announcement by the Prime Minister on Tuesday that ‘ the Constitution Amendment Bills will be immediately introduced.
– I was one of those members who, last year, opposed the Constitution Convention Bill ; and I think the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) was another.
– I opposed that measure because it contained not one word of earnest intent. If the Government and Parliament truly desire to amend the Constitution, the opportunity is about to be afforded. The necessary referenda can be taken at practically no expense. I strongly oppose the calling together of a special Convention and throwing the whole Constitution into the melting pot. If referenda are not taken at the forthcoming elections, a special election of delegates to the Convention will be entailed, at a cost of, probably, £100,000, and if its proposed amendments are subsequently submitted by Parliament to the people by means of a special referendum, another £100,000 will be involved. The alternative is, nothing being done for at least three years. Probably the whole business would cost the country a quarter of a million sterling. Last year, when the Constitution Convention Bill was withdrawn, the Government promised that the matter of constitutional amendments would be given consideration during this present session. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech indicated that this course would be adopted. Any amendment of the Constitution must be referred to the people, and a general election gives an opportunity of doing that at a cost of only a few thousand pounds.
– Order! This discussion is quite irregular.
– I merely wish to point out that if the Government do not proceed with these amendments of the Constitution now the whole matter will be held up for three years, unless a referendum is taken in the meantime, and at an ultimate cost of probably a quarter of a million pounds. The Prime Minister in closing this debate should announce whether it is the intention of the Government to proceed with the amendments of the Constitution during the present session. The House and the country have a right to that information, and there can be no reason for it being withheld. If the Prime Minister will state the intentions of the Government in this regard we shall know exactly where we are.
– Despite a little superficial criticism, there has been a surprising unanimity in regard to this motion, and it is most refreshing to find honorable members at this stage in the history of the present Parliament so full of recognition of the Government’s wisdom and foresight in this matter. A number of questions have been put to me about the date of an election of some sort. My acousticon is not working very well this morning, but I think “ election “ is the word that was used. That information I am not able to supply. Honorable members have told me their own views upon this matter; as to my own, I say frankly that I have, and always had, a rooted objection to elections. But in regard to this matter one is only as a cork tossed in a maelstrom. What can one poor man like myself do when this Parliament has taken the bit in its teeth, as I understand it has done?
I was disappointed with the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), who said that “ The sooner we have an election the better.” The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) also said, “The sooner we go before the people the better.” I am quite overwhelmed by these opinions. What can I da against the united wisdom of all parties manifested in this way? If honorable members are determined to go to the country, let them go; I will not attempt to stop them. That is that.
As to the proposed amendments of the Constitution I must say that I am a little amused at this newborn zeal on the part of some honorable members. Weeks and weeks have passed during which we have dealt with everything under the sun, in the bowels of the earth, and in the depths of hell, and in all that time there has not been one mention of the Constitution. Suddenly it is discovered that the Constitution goes to the very foundation of our political being, and that amendments are urgently necessary. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), who usually treats the House to portentous deliverances about finance and its vast importance, now says that nothing is worth a snap of the fingers in comparison with these alterations of the Constitution in regard to which he has been silent almost, I believe, since a time beyond which the memory of man does not go. I am the man who should talk about the amendment of the Constitution, for it was I who urged amendments upon this Parliament and upon the reluctant and conservative factions sitting in opposition. But all my efforts were in vain. The people persisted in rejecting the amendments I pressed upon them. It comes as a shock to me, therefore, that the stone then rejected by the builders has now become the corner stone of the temple. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) said, “If it is to be done it should be done now.” What should bo done? I would like to see the amendment of the Constitution for which the honorable member would dare to vote, and I would like to see that amendment put before the Leader of the Opposition, and made acceptable to him also. A nice kind of hotchpotch it would be. However, I do not intend to say anything about this matter. To be perfectly in order, my remarks must be confined to the motion. It is that the House shall meet on Tuesdays. Time to deliberate is what we want. I agree with the honorable member for Balaclava, that we should not rush through the Budget discussion. We should have time to discuss it. Honorable members will have time, but they must attend here; they must not waste time. I waa surprised to hear first the Leader of the Opposition, and then the Leader of the Country party say that they had not been guilty of obstruction. If that be so, who has been ?
– The Government.
– The honorable member who interjects said that because we did not bludgeon things through, because having a great power we did not use it tyrannically, we are to be condemned. Liberty is the very soul of Democracy; we allowed the honorable member to speak; if we had sandbagged him as we should have done he would have admired us as men of inflexible purpose. However, I am glad that the House is in such a frame of’ mind that it entirely agrees with me in regard to the motion. Those indecent revelations for. which I have been asked, I decline to make, because they would be quite out of order. In any case honorable members seem to know more about what is in store for us than I do. The honorable member for Balaclava referred me to the press; evidently he reads the newspapers, because he said “ I saw it in the press.” If he saw it in the press, whatcan I tell him about it ? I am glad that the motion meets with approval, and I shall satisfy the curiosity of honorable members so far as to say that at the first possible moment we shall place upon the business-paper all the measures we propose to introduce. That will afford honorable members an opportunity of seeing what is on the Government’s programme. For the rest, time will disclose.
Question resolved: in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Land Tax Act 1010-1918, and to repeal the Land Tax Act 1918, the Land Tax Act 1919, and the Land Tax Act 1920.
Bill presented and read a first time.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
In ascertaining “ a reasonable price “ for the purposes of the imposition upon any goods of dumping below cost duty under section 5 of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1921, there shall be added to the cost of production of the goods and free on board charges, in lieu of 5 per centum of the cost of production of the goods, such addition, not exceeding 20 per centum of that cost, as is determined by the Tariff Board.
In ascertaining “ a reasonable selling price “ for the purposes of the imposition on any goods of dumping consignment duty under section 6 of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act. 1921, there shall be added to the fair market value, freight, insurance, landing and other charges and duty payable under the Customs Tariff on the goods, in lieu of 5 per centum on the aggregate of all the items mentioned, such addition, not exceeding 15 per centum on that aggregate, as is determined by the Tariff Board.
In ascertaining a “ reasonable selling price “ for the purposes of the imposition on any goods of dumping consignment duty under section6 of . the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1921, the Minister may, where, in his opinion, the evidence of fair market value is insufficient, in lieu of substituting for the fair market value the ascertained cost of production plus 5 per centum of such cost, substitute for the fair market value the ascertained cost of production plus such addition, not exceeding 20 per centum of such cost, as is determined by the Tariff Board.
Where the cost of production mentioned in the last preceding clause is not ascertainable, the Minister may, in lieu of substituting for the fair market value, the cost of production estimated from such information as is available, plus 5 per centum of such estimated cost, substitute for the fair market value the cost of production estimated from such information as is available, plus such addition, not exceeding 20 per centum of such estimated cost, as is determined by the Tariff Board.
Notwithstanding anything contained in the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1921, when the currency of the country of origin or export of any goods dutiable under section 8 of that Act depreciates to less than one-twelfth of its normal par value as compared with the pound sterling, the duty which shall be charged collected and paid under that section on the goods shall be such amount as represents the difference between -
the landed cost in warehouse in Aus tralia (including duty calculated in accordance with the provisions of the Customs Act 1901-1920) plus a percentage of profit to be determined by the Board, and
the Australian wholesale price of similar goods of Australian ‘manufacture.
For the purposes of the last preceding clause the normal par value of the currency of any country shall ‘be such as is determined by the Minister.
Notwithstanding anything contained in the Customs Act 1901-1920, the value for duty under that Act of goods dutiable under . clause 5 of this resolution shall be the value ascertained in accordance with the Customs Act 1901-1920, plus the special duty imposed under that clause.
Notwithstanding anything contained in the Customs Act 1901-1920, or the Customs Tariff 1921, the duty payable under the Customs Tariff 1921 on goods dutiable under that Tariff otherwise than ad valorem which are dutiable also under clause5 of this resolution, shall be the duty calculated in accordance with that Act and Tariff, plus 20 per centum of the duty so calculated.
Nothing contained in the last two preceding clauses of this resolution shall affect the calculation, for the purposes of paragraph (a) of clause 5 of this resolution, of duty in accordance with the provisions of the Customs Act 1901-1920.
Notwithstanding anything contained in the Customs Act 1901-1920, the value for duty under that Act of goods dutiable undersection 9 of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1921, shall be the value ascertained in accordance with the Customs Act 1901-1920, plus the dumping preference duty imposed under section 9 of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1921.
If the Minister is satisfied after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, that the duty imposed by section 8 of the Customs Tariff (Industries’ Preservation ) Act 1921, is likely to be evaded by the consignment of goods to Australia for sale, he may direct that there shall be payable on any goods specified by him, by notice published in the Gazette, which have been consigned to Australia for sale, a duty on an amount which will, in his opinion, assure that the goods will not be sold in Australia at less than a reasonable selling price, as defined in section 6 of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1921, as proposed to be amended in pursuance of this resolution, and duty in that amount shall thereupon be charged, collected, and paid to the King for the purposes of the Commonwealth on such goods.
In lieu of the provision in the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1921, that the duty payable on any particular goods under sections 4 to 7 inclusive of that Act, shall not either severally or collectively exceed 15 per centum of the value for duty of the goods as ascertained in accordance with Division 2 of Part XIII. of the Customs Act 1901-1920, there be substituted a provision that where duty has been imposed under section 8 or section 9 of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1921, upon any particular goods, duty shall not be imposed upon those goods under the other of those sections.
This motion precedes a proposed amendment of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation.) Act 1921. The experience gained by the Government and the Tariff Board, whose duty it is to advise the Government in regard to the working of the Act shows that certain amendments are vitally necessary. When the Industries Preservation Act was introduced last year, the House was told that there was no precedent for such legislation, and that there must be a good deal of experimentation about it, because it was impossible to gauge the trade vicissitudes that were ahead at a time when the world was receding from five years of great upheaval, during which all economic laws and normal conditions had been set aside. By general acclaim, the Commonwealth has adopted a policy of Tariff Protection for its industries, and it was felt that the Protection afforded by the Customs Tariff, if unsupported, would be of little avail, owing to the economic conditions obtaining in certain countries, and the depreciation in the exchange value of the currencies of those countries, which gave -to their manufacturers a tremendous advantage in the cost of production. Accordingly, the Industries Preservation Act, which was passed in December of last year, was an attempt to maintain our national policy of Protection of Australian industries. At that time, exchange was nearer to normal than it is to-day. When the Act was passed, the mark had depreciated from 20 to 240 to the £1 sterling, but to-day it is quoted at 7,025 to the £1 sterling.
– Does the Minister consider that that gives an advantage to German manufacturers?
– The greatest economists in the world are perplexed in regard to the question. The advisers of the Government in this matter are the members of the Tariff Board, who have had a wide experience in trading and commercial circles, and command the respect of the Australian trading and commercial community and producing interests. Having had the opportunity of conferring with the Australian business world, and of visiting most of the capital cities of the Commonwealth, and many provincial centres, they have learnt a great deal of the working of the Act, and have gathered information concerning the economic conditions of countries which have a depreciated currency, and as a result of their experience, and of the information they have thus gained, they have submitted recommendations to the Government for amendments of the main measure. It will simplify the position if I read their report, which is dated 22nd August, 1922. It is as follows: -
In a separate memorandum submitted herewith under the heading “ Protection of Australian Industries - Proposed Amendment to Section 154 of the Customs Act,” the Tariff Board has submitted proposed amendments to the Customs Act. In the course of the inquiries which gave rise to the submission of that report there came under the notice of the Board the necessity to also amend the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1921, to insure that the intended effect of that Act shall be achieved.
The Board wishes to particularly emphasize the fact that in the unanimous opinion of its members it will ‘be necessary that effect be given to both the recommendations hereinafter made, and the recommendations for the amendment of the Customs Act. Neither the amendment to the dumping provisions, nor the amendment to the Customs Act alone, will give sufficient power to adequately protect Australian industries.
Explanation to the Proposed Amendments.
Section 5: Sub-section 4 of section 5 reads: - “ In this section ‘ a reasonable price ‘ means such a price as represents the cost of production of the goods, plus five per centum, plus free on board charges.”
In the opinion of the Board, this proposal will not provide a reasonable price. The evidence obtained on every hand is that the proposal to add only 5 per cent, to the cost of production of the goods will make the protection in this section of no value whatever. The Board, after closely investigating the matter, agrees with the representations made, and recommends that the Board should have power to fix a reasonable addition, but that the maximum addition be fixed in the Act at 20 per cent. It is considered that . the present provision unduly favours oversea exporters, and is entirely opposed to the interests of local manufacturers.
Section6: Sub-section 4 of section 6 reads: - “ In this section ‘ a reasonable selling price ‘ means the price ascertained upon the following basis, namely: - To the fair market value of the goods there shall be added the freight, insurance, landing, and other charges, . together with the amount of duty payable under the Customs Tariff, together with five per centum on the aggregate of all the items mentioned.” ‘
The Board recommends that instead of 5 per centum in the sub-section there be inserted a provision allowing the addition of a percentage to be fixed by the Tariff Board, but not to exceed 15 per cent. It is difficult to state the definite rate which should be applied, but the Board is satisfied as the result of careful investigation that 5 per cent, is wholly insufficient. The reason why 15 per cent, is recommended in this instance as against 20 per cent, in the preceding section is that the percentage in this case is added to the fair market value, plus freight and charges, whereas in the preceding section the 20 per cent, is added to the cost of production only.
In’ sub-section 5 of section 6 “ 5 per centum “ is again mentioned in two places. In conformity with the recommendation to amend section 5 (4) the Board recommends that this be altered to provide for an addition determined by the Board, but_ not to exceed 20 per centum. In this case it is the cost of production, which has to be plussed up, and the figure recommended is, therefore, consistent with the previous recommendation.
Section 8: Owing to the rapid depreciation of the currency of some European Continental countries since this Act was dealt with, the present provision of a maximum of 75 per cent, is altogether insufficient to meet the competition likely to arise from such countries, and, further, the Board considers it would be practically impossible to accurately arrange a series of advances on the present maximum to meet the present position of the exchanges.
The effect of such wholesale depreciation cannot be properly estimated, and it appears to the Board that it would be better to arrange for a method of protection’ similar to that laid down in section 9. If such a course were followed, the penalty duty would be imposed on the difference between -
the landed cost in warehouse in Australia (including duty calculated in accordance with the provisions of the Customs Act 1901-1920), plus a percentage of profit to be determined by the Board, and
the Australian wholesale price of similar goods of Australian manufacture.
The ordinary Tariff duty would then be imposed, in addition to this penalty duty, and would be calculated on a sum equal to the value for duty under the Customs Act, plus the penalty duty. It will be necessary to insert a clause providing for this.
This provision will, of course, only be effective when goods are dutiable according to value. As importations may come under notice of goods subject to specific duties (that is, so much per ton, per gallon, or per pound) it will be necessary to insert a clause securing an equal protection to such goods as would be afforded to ad val. goods.
It should be pointed out that the protection at present afforded in section 9 to British goods is greater than that afforded under section 8 to Australian goods.
The Board, whilst recognising that Parliament has endeavoured to give adequate protection to British industries under this Act, cannot believe that it was the intention of Parliament to give greater protection to goods the produce of the United Kingdom than to goods manufactured in Australia, but the depreciation of the currencies since the Act was. passed has brought that position about.
In view of the very unsettled state of the exchanges, and of the uncertainty as to the effect they will have on the selling price of goods, the Board considers that the better course would be to adopt a similar provision in section 8 to that followed in section 9, and accordingly recommends that, when the figure denoting the rate of exchange is greater than 300 francs to the £1 (i.e. for French or Belgian currencies) or 240 marks to the £1 (i.e. for German currency) or relatively for other currencies, provision should be made for a penalty duty on the lines suggested in paragraph 9 above.
Section 9: The amount of dumping duty under this section is at present provided for in sub-section 3 as follows: - “The amount of the dumping preference duty in each case shall be the sum which represents the difference between the fair market value in the United Kingdom and the export price.”
It is rcommended that this section should remain as printed, but that an addition should be made of the following words: - “ Notwithstanding anything contained in the Customs Act 1001-1022, the value for duty of goods dealt with under this section shall be the value as ascertained in accordance with that section, plus the penalty duty under this section.”
If this amendment is not made, the benefits of the British Preferential Tariff rate will be insufficient to equalize the advantage that the, say, German goods will derive from paying duty only on the value for duty, as provided in the present law. It will be clear that the ordinary duty should be calculated on the value after it has been brought up to the British level.
Section 11: Owing to an oversight, the word “two,” appearing in the second line of this section was not altered when section 9 was inserted. It is necessary, therefore, to delete the word “two,” and in its place insert the word “ three”.
Section 12: This section reads as follows: - “ The various duties imposed by this Act shall be separately charged, notwithstanding that more duties than one may apply to any particular goods;
Provided that the duty payable on any particular goods under sections 4 to 7 inclusive of this Act shall not either severally or collectively exceed 15 per centum of the value for duty of the goods, as ascertained in accordance with Division 2 of Part VIII. of the Customs Act 1901- 1920.”
The Board very strongly urges that the proviso (i.e., the second paragraph) be deleted.
It has been repeatedly suggested that certain dumping is likely to take place, which should be dealt with under section 4 of the Act. In every instance it was shown that the 15 per cent, would be wholly insufficient to meet the needs of local industries, and would be far below the difference between the fair market value of the goods at the time of shipment and the export price.
The Board considers it only reasonable that, should deliberate dumping take place, the penalty should provide that Australian industries should be protected to the full extent of the value involved. It will bo readily understood that exporters desiring to defeat the provisions of section 4 will reduce their dumping difference to more than 15 per cent., when they will immediately have the local market at their mercy.
it is recommended that the following proviso be added to section 12, in lieu of the paragraph deleted: - “ Provided that, where duty has been imposed under section 8 or section 9 of. this Act upon any particular goods, duty shall not be imposed upon those goods under the other of those sections.”
Although the wording of sections 8 and 9 might be considered at present to indicate that the two sections are not to be applied to the same goods, it is possible that section 12 . might sug gest the opposite intention. The proviso is, therefore, suggested to remove any possible doubt.
Mr.Watt. - What would be the effect if that proviso were substituted for the existing one, seeing that no maximum would be provided?
– Some traders contend that they would be entitled to the accumulated effect of the protection afforded in sections 8 and 9 - that is to say, to the benefit of the Australian protection plus the British protection. But that was never intended, and the proposed amendment will make the position perfectly clear in that respect. I cannot expect the Committee to follow quite clearly the effect of the proposed amendments offhand, and as this is a business measure, with definite business provisions, I think that I should afford honorable members an opportunity over the week-end of studying the main measure and the effect of the proposed amendments, and of perusing the Tariff Board’s recommendations.
– Will the matters that have to be determined’ by the Tariff Board be determined in respect of each particular line? Take, for example, German pianos.
– Yes. Each article has to be separately listed and gazetted, and there has to be an examination in regard to each. The proving of depreciation in the currency of the country of origin which, under the terms of the principal Act would do injury to Australian industry, will not bring about the automatic scheduling of every article imported from that country. Each item is to be dealt with on its merits. Some of the importations may be goods of a kind not manufactured in Australia, and it is not proposed to penalize them.
– Will the Minister explain how depreciation in exchange affects the position when we are dealing with goods the value of which is fixed by our own sterling ? What does it matter, when we have the landed price fixed in pounds, shillings, and pence, and it discloses that there is no unjust competition?
– That is the whole point.
– It seems to me that the phrase “ depreciation of exchange “ means nothing when the equivalent of foreign money in English money has been ascertained.
– Experts have not yet determined the point at which depreciation -affects the economic position.
– There is a general agreement that depreciation assists to some extent, in its foreign competition, the country where that depreciation exists.
– Section 5 of the principal Act reads as follows: -
It is proposed to omit from sub-section 4 the words “ five per centum,” and to substitute for them the words “ such addition, not exceeding twenty per centum, as is determined by the Tariff Board.” Traders and manufacturers generally are of opinion that 5 per cent, is an absurdly low margin to allow.
– The consumers are to be considered in this matter.
– That is not the point with which I am now dealing. My predecessor in office, the present Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene), provided in his draft Bill for a profit of 20 per cent., but honorable members thought otherwise, and the amount was reduced to 5 per cent.
– With the Minister’s consent, I think.
– The Minister himself brought the proposition down.
– There was a good deal of discussion before the alteration was made. The Tariff Board, after investigation and an inquiry in the trading world, is satisfied that 5per cent, is not a reasonable margin. Section 6 is to be similarly amended. Then we come to section 8, which provides the main protection for Australian industry. That section reads -
The schedule provides a penalty duty in. the case of the mark up to 75 per cent, on a depreciation of 240 to the £1. At the time when that penalty was agreed to, the value of the mark was less than 240 to the £1. On to-day’s quotation, it stands at 7,025 to the £1. Thus, the protection originally provided is quite ineffectual. It is, therefore, proposed to add to the section this provision -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, when the currency of the country of origin or export of any goods is depreciated to less than one-twelfth of its normal par value, as compared with the £1 sterling-
That was the case with both franc and mark at the time the duty was first proposed - the special dumping duty to be charged shall be an amount representing the difference between -
There may be violent fluctuations in the value of a currency in the space of one day, and it will be for the Minister, on the advice of the Tariff Board, to determine the value of the currency of a particular country on any particular day.
– That will be hard to do.
– Yes, but there must be some settled basis.
– Still, the stock exchanges of the Continent are very unsettled at present.
– Would it not be better to put the value on a par with our own in all eases ?
– No. The banking institutions have a system which will probably be adopted by the Government.
– For registering exchange?
– Is it proposed to apply the provisions of the measure without regard to the fact that the goods affected may have come from an enemy or late enemy country?
– Yes. The Act is not aimed at any particular country. Broadly speaking, it is a further instalment of protection - an attempt to protect protection.
– An extra plaster.
-No. What would be the value of our national policy if it could be destroyed by unforeseen and unobviable conditions? Honorable members know the woeful state of Central Europe to-day. In every case, detriment to Australian industry must be proved; that is the foundation of the measure. Full opportunity will be given to both local manufacturers and importers to state their views, but when the Tariff Board is satisfied, after inquiry, that detriment would accrue to a local industry, the item concerned is gazetted. All parties affected will be heard by the Board, which will come to its determinations only after investigation.
– Is it not a fact that in some instances a penal duty of 75 per cent, is being imposed upon imported pianos that are actually being sold here at a much higher price than locally-made pianos of the same kind?
-‘ That has not been proved. Pianos present a test case, and they have been gazetted. Representations have been made to the Board by importers, one of whom I have particularly in mind. He was asked to make out his case, and he prepared a most elaborate statement, which I have not seen fully, though I know the material parts. In his statement he showed that he had got into touch with the producing costs at the other side of the world ; and naturally those who desire to do business will not take what might be called chance risks of the loss of money, but will, through their principals, ascertain all the facts in regard to the producing costs.
– Australian importers have gone further, and have sent men throughout the Continent on a special mission to find what they can buy.
– That is so; and I have told those concerned not to ask me to interpret what penalty willi be imposed, but to ascertain the economic conditions in the exporting country. That applies not only to one country, but to many with depreciated currencies. Nothing would delight the world better than to see a stabilizing of the world’s exchanges. It would be preferable if Australia had not to introduce measures of this description, though I am afraid we are a long way from that happy state. Not many men have made endeavours in this direction more than Lloyd George, and he presents a worthy spectacle in his negotiations to establish . a new working basis in Central Europe for a “ down and out world.” Nothing would please me more than to see the stabilizing of exchanges, and, as I say, no necessity for measures of this kind. But we are faced by present conditions, and we should be recreant to our duty if we allowed the national policy of this country to be practically wiped out by economic conditions over which we have little control at this end. It is for that reason that the Tariff Board, with the experience gained up to date, say that important changes are still necessary. At present we have difficulty, not only with countries with depreciated currencies, but with countries with appreciated currencies. Recently I was requested by a body of primary producers to impose absolute prohibition against the entry into Australia of certain primary products from a country with an appreciated currency. The ground of the application was that the local market was being ruined, and these producers claimed that they and their families were being hounded off the land.
– It would be very much better to control the local markets, with both secondary and primary industries.
– Does the honorable member desire the Government to take control of all industry?
– The importation of machinery might be prohibited provided the local manufacturers gave a supply equally as good.
– One of the largest machinery corporations in the world is considering the starting of business in Australia. This is a flattering result of our national policy of Protection, inasmuch as it- means bringing to our shores the brains, enterprise, capital, and skill of captains of industry.
– Bring people here and industries will follow !
– But we have to protect the industries that are now here, and there never was a time when we were more called upon to do so. I now come to paragraph 7 of the resolution. At the present time the actual working effect of the Act is that the penalty duty is limited to 75 per cent, ad valorem on the goods imported. Under the proposed alteration, the same principle or protection will be applied to Australian industries as is applied in the parent Act to industries of the United Kingdom ; that is, the penalty duty is to equal the difference between the home consumption price in Germany and the home consumption price in Britain. The new proposal is that a similar penalty shall apply to Australia. It has been found . that 75 per cent., with a depreciated currency of 240 marks in the £1, as provided in the main Act, is not effective protection when the mark has reached 7,025 in the £1. We, therefore, . propose to apply the principle I have indicated, not only to the mark, but to the currencies of all countries where the depreciation exceeds that set out in the schedule to the Act. Let me give an illustration, taking as a unit goods valued at £100. To that must be added f.ob. charges, freight, insurance and exchanges, ordinary duty, and estimated profit not to exceed 20 per cent. In such a case the penalty duty will be the difference between the total of those charges, and the Australian wholesale price. It is, of course, somewhat difficult for honorable members to follow figures of this description, and, therefore, I propose to put the case in another way, taking the same unit of goods, valued at £100. We take the export selling price in the country of export at £100, and to that we add the approximate charges of f.o.b., £5; freight £10; insurance, exchange, &c, £2; duty £50 ; and the trade profit^ of a maximum of 20 per cent., thus making a total of £187. With the Australian wholesale price for the same article at £200, the penalty duty will be the difference between £187 and £200, or £13.
– What has depreciation got to do with it?
– It is considered that depreciation of exchange must result in the importer paying fewer pounds sterling to meet the charge which is based on value in German marks. If depreciation is not a factor, it will not be present in the calculation. Unless there be an economic advantage by depreciation, it is clear that there will not be much to pay in dumping duty. As the German or any other depreciated currency improves and becomes normal, this measure becomes inoperative in regard to it - the Act is operative only so long as depreciation exists, and so long as export prices are thereby reduced.
Section 9 of the principal Act is amended by the proposed addition of the following sub-section -
Notwithstanding anything contained in the Customs Act 1901-1920, the value for duty under that Act of goods dutiable under section 9 of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1921 shall be the value ascertained in accordance with the Customs Act 1901-1920 plus the dumping preference duty imposed under section 9 of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1921.
This country has declared a policy of preference in regard to the good’s of the United Kingdom, and, as the Act stands, there is a danger of the preference not being maintained if the penalty is imposed only upon the difference between the current export price, say in the case of Germany, and the home consumption price in Britain. It is now proposed to add the amount of the dumping duty to the ordinary value for duty of the goods, and thus maintain a margin of preference to the United Kingdom.
– Is the £100 at which you start the price the goods are sold at in the country of origin ?
– Then what is there wrong about that?
– I have explained that it is proposed to add the charges, and even then the landed duty-paid cost is less than the price of the Australianmade goods.
– And if you then find that the goods are still under the price at which they are sold locally, the difference is added ?
– That is so.
– It seems a case of “ heads I win, tails you lose.”
– The honorable member has not listened to what I have said, or has not mastered its purport.
– If £100 is a fair cost in the country of origin, it cannot ba called dumping.
– That is the production cost, and the normal trading costs are added. Australian industry cannot live against such competition.
– I take it that dumping means selling at a price less than cost.
– This provision not only covers what may be called dumping, but also seeks to protect us against depreciation and exchange. I shall, as promised, give honorable members an opportunity over the week-end to examine the report of the Tariff Board, and to study the terms of the motion which I have submitted. Section 11 is proposed to be amended formally. It has to do with evasion of duty, and the intention is that -its provisions shall cover the imposition of duty by any of the preceding three sections rather than of the “ last two preceding sections.” ‘ It is proposed to omit the proviso to section 12, which has to do with the duties to be collected separately, and to insert a new proviso, as follows: -
Provided that, where duty has been imposed, under section 8 or section 9 of this Act, upon any particular goods, duty shall not be imposed upon those goods under the other of those sections.
I repeat that the view has been held that penalties might possibly be imposed cumulatively. Such, however, is not intended. A manufacturer must take advantage either of the protection afforded to British manufacturers or of that given to Australian manufacturers of similar goods; he may not avail himself of both. He cannot have them in their cumulative effect. The manufacturer’s application will require to be in respect either of the British or of the Australian protection. Previously, these differed in principle; it is now proposed to make the principle uniform, where the depreciation of currency is greater than that set out in the principal Statute. The local manufacturer, and the importer also, will now know the basis upon which, the provisions of the Act will be applied. I have already mentioned that the Government did not fear any great immediate inrush of goods to this country. That attitude has been borne out by experience. It would be very wrong, however, to expose manufacturers and business men generally to the possibility of a flood of foreign products settins in. Were we to take the risk of permitting matters to stand as they are today, there might be a sudden recovery of trade, some unexpected surge of business, the effect of which would be to wipe out certain of our industries at a time when Parliament was not in session. It becomes necessary, therefore, that the Bill should be passed into law forthwith. The Government will seek to amend the Customs Act so that the whole situation may be considerably strengthened by the provision of necessary legislative machinery should necessity arise for its operation.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to provide superannuation benefits for persons employed by the Commonwealth and to make provision for the families of those persons.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Groom and Mr. Hector Lamond do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Groom, and read a first time.
Sittinq suspended from 12.54 to 2.15p.m..
Debate resumed from 14th September (vide page 2284), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That this Bill be now read a second time. [Quorum formed].
.- This Bill proposes a few small alterations in the method by which elections can be conducted, but most of all it deals with a new method of electing the Senate, and it is to that principally I intend to address myself. There have been several alterations in the method of electing senators, and apparently each one has produced a result less satisfactory than its predecessor from the point of view of the public. There is no doubt that if alterations are to be continually made, the Senate will ultimately commit hari-kari, and the public will declare that, as the characteristics of the Chamber are not what the founders of Federation intended, as the Chamber has become merely a replica of the party character of the House of Representatives, as it has no power and is not performing any necessary function, it would be better to abolish it altogether. Other matters dealt with in the Bill include the deposit by candidates. I think that the deposit to be made by a senatorial candidate should be dealt with liberally. A candidate who intends to canvass the whole of a State must necessarily incur a great deal of expense, and the possibility of being mulct for not polling a certain proportion of the total number of votes cast deters many people from submitting their names to the electors. With regard to postal voting, the suggested amendment will restrict to some degree the present system. I would like some liberality to be shown, especially to aged people and those living far outback. Many of them are not able to avail themselves of even the present method of postal voting. The third matter dealt with by the Bill is the secrecy of the ballot. I should like a little more definite information from the Minister as to how far the secrecy of the ballot will be secured by this new provision.
– I have already indicated that I propose to drop the. numbering clauses for the present.
– I am glad to hear that. The main purpose of the Bill is to remodel the method of electing senators, and the alteration suggested is the adoption of the old American ticket system of grouping candidates according to the parties to which they belong. That involves a very radical departure from any previous system in operation in Australia. I do not think that the proper time for the consideration of an electoral alteration of that character is immediately before an election, when it is difficult, indeed, to give the amendment that impartial consideration which all matters affecting the electoral laws should have. On the last occasion when an alteration was made in connexion with senatorial voting exactly the same procedure was followed. The Bill was brought down a short time before the House was dissolved, and without adequate consideration was rushed into law. li we are to have continual alterations in the method of electing senators, changes which apparently will only unsettle the public mind and make it more difficult to procure an intelligent vote, the proper time to do so is in the middle of a Parliament, so that there may be ample time before the elections for the alteration to sink into the minds of the electors, and for the various party organizations to get busy in instructing their supporters as to how the new machinery must be worked. At the last election there were in New South Wales alone 67,000 informal votes due largely to the fact that there was too little time in which to acquaint the public of the alteration in the .method of voting. That some alteration is necessary in connexion with the election of the Senate everybody will, agree. That body is not performing the functions which it was intended to perform by the founders of Federation. Never at any time has it had the characteristics of a States House except in its form. It certainly has never acted as a States House. It has become a party House, and the proposed system of grouping will intensify its party character to such an extent as to nullify the spirit of the Constitution.
– The Senate cannot be made more of a party House than it is at the present time.
– It can. At the present time the Labour party has two representatives in the Senate, but the proposed system may mean the election of a Senate comprising thirty-six members of one party. The present condition of affairs is recognised by everybody throughout Australia to be ludicrous, but it i* a good thing that it has been brought about. The previous election, which yielded a Senate comprising thirty-one members of one party and five of another, was bad enough, but when the composition was altered to thirty-five of one party and one of another, and now thirtyfour and two respectively, a condition of affairs was created which does not commend itself to the public. In my opinion the object of this proposed legislation is to consolidate the position which has been created, and to insure that the oneparty character of the Senate should be perpetuated. Of course, if the pendulum should swing to the other extreme there would be just a reversal of the present party representation. These amendments, if carried, will entrench the party machine more firmly in the position it has already obtained. This grouping will tend to encourage the system of pre-selection which was recently decried by the National Federation of Victoria, and which a prominent Labour man in Sydney said was provocative of nearly all the trouble that arose in connexion with elections.
– Of course, the Country party is quite harmonious on the subject of elections.
– In New South Wales, every man who is indorsed by the Country party may run as a candidate. We ran twelve men for one seat, and as many men as choose to offer themselves can contest any seat so long as they subscribe to the party’s platform. That is one step towards a cleaning up of the party machine, and giving an opportunity to the public to say who should be returned to Parliament instead of their representatives being selected beforehand by cliques and coteries. The system, proposed by the Government will not merely intensify the evils of the party system, but will practically insure that a block vote will be given for candidates. That must have a deleterious effect upon the public life of the Commonwealth, and lower the calibre of the men returned to the Senate. Our object should be to return to Parliament men who have some claim- to distinction or attainment. The proposed system will merely accelerate the present vicious method by which any men who- are indorsed by a party, no matter how obscure or lacking in qualifications they may be, will be able to be returned to Parliament because they have a solid party vote behind them. The tendency of a party, too, will always be to look for men whose names begin with some letter of the alphabet before M “ in order to insure that its candidates are near the head of the ballot-paper, thus getting a better chance of securing the No. 1 votes. Anybody with a name such as I have will be relegated to the ranks of the independents. There will be a general rush on the part of prospective candidates to change their names to others commencing with A, B, or C. The Senate should not be a mere resting place for men elected in the way I have stated, and whose qualifications are only that they stand well with the party machine. As far as possible the Senate should be a non-party House and a House of review, and I think the public are getting thoroughly sick of the existing condition of affairs. In the United States of America, which has a Constitution similar to our own, the Senate, instead of having depreciated in importance, has gradually become probably the most important factor in American public life.
– The senators there are directly representative of the States.
– It is true that the system of electing senators there differs from ours; but at the beginning the Senate itself started under handicaps similar to those in Australia, and until the year 1825 there was a constant fight, in which the Senate was sometimes the loser and sometimes the winner, between the two Houses as to which was to have the bigger say on certain matters of public policy. Since 1825 “it has been universally admitted that the intellectual leadership of the United States of America has passed into the hand of the Senate. That body is regarded as a place where intellectual experience is conserved, and the tendency is for men who spend one or two terms in the House of Representatives to seek a senatorial place as the blue ribbon of Federal politics in America. Here in Australia, however, we find senators seeking, as the honorable -member for Parramatta (Mr. Pratten) has done, to leave the Senate and come -into, the hurly-burly of the House of Representatives.
– The honorable members for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), and
Boothby (Mr. Story) and Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) were also formerly senators.
– Yes, they apparently regard the securing of a seat in the House of Representatives as a step upwards, instead of downwards, and this is due in a very large degree to the method adopted in the past for selecting and electing candidates for the Senate. The block system under which the elector’s choice is indicated by crosses, as was the case before the last election, or by numbers, under the bastard preferential system in use at the last election, has not tended to give the best results.
– Why not call it a composite system ?
– The term I have used is applicable so long as Mr. Speaker does not object to it. A method by which better results could be obtained, and under which the Senate could be made mora thoroughly representative of all classes of the people, and be given a better non-party complexion and flavour, would be to adopt the proportional system of voting for the election of candidates. That system could hardly be adopted while the Government are hanging hard and fast to the principle of grouping candidates; but it would be well for us to apply the machinery for proportional representation and leave the candidates absolutely free in the places they have occupied on the ballot-papers in the past. I suppose that, roughly, 50 per cent, of the people are not in any political party, We have found from our experience that the votes of 10 per cent, or 15 per cent, of the electors sway any Senate election. As a matter of fact, the character of the Senate has been determined by 3 per cent, or 4 per cent., and, in some cases, even less than 1 per cent., of the total number of electors voting, and the effect of the action of a small number of individuals has been to deprive huge minorities of representation in the Senate. That was the case at the last Senate election. The first preference votes were cast for the New South Wales Senate candidates at the last election as follows: -
Despite the fact that he secured about 46 per cent, of the total of first preference votes, it was practically by a chance that Senator Gardiner was finally elected.
– I am inclined to think that his name was mistaken for that of Senator Garling.
– It would not be surprising if that were the case, and that just by pure accident a proper result accrued. It would have been most ridiculous to have a Chamber of review in which the whole of the members were representatives of ‘one party.
– Why would it be ridiculous if the people were of that view 1
– They were not all of that view. I have shown that there were 46 per cent, the other way, and yet they might have had no say at all. It is bad for a country to have only one party represented in its legislative halls. The very essence of representative government is that all sections of the community should have their spokesmen in Parliament. The very fact that they are given that opportunity, although they are sometimes represented in fairly small minorities, makes the public of all British speaking countries accept defeats at the poll with good grace, and without any feeling of resentment, and enables parliamentary government to be carried on. But if we are to perpetuate the present system and make it more difficult to change, as will be the case if the new proposals of the Ministry be adopted, we shall be taking a retrograde step, and one which must ultimately lead to the abolition of bi-cameral government in this Parliament as we know it at this time. In order to allow honorable members to express an opinion on the point, I propose to submit amendments in Committee to delete clauses 10, 11, and 31, and insert new clauses’ to provide for the adoption of the machinery of proportional representation designed on the lines which are regarded as the best in use at the present time. To do so, it will be necessary to amend certain other clauses, not because they are bad in themselves, but because they would be in conflict with the new provisions. I have spoken on the second . reading in . order that I could thoroughly explain the position before honorable members proceeded to the discussion of the clauses in Committee. If this Parliament decides to adopt the proportional system it will be in very good company, as shown by the following list of countries and bodies which have adopted proportional representation: -
It can be seen that the more intelligent people are the more readily they adopt proportional voting. In any case it seems to be the tendency to elect representatives to second Houses in this way. If we adopt the system I suggest we shall be following the most approved practice in other countries, and acting thoroughly in accord with Australian public opinion, which is now dissatisfied with the existing condition of affairs. Furthermore, we shall he helping to put the Senate in a better position to enable it to fulfil its functions in the best possible way for the nation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Mr. Speaker-
– The honorable member is too late.
– Do I understand that you, sir, have declared that the question is passed ?
– Yes. The honorable member did not rise in time.
– I did not rise because I saw that the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) had risen, and I waited for him to get the call.
– I have declared the question passed.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section thirty-nine of the principal Act is amended by adding at the end of section 3 the following provisos : - “ Provided that an elector whose place of living is not actually in the division.” ….
– I move -
That after the word “ whose “ the word “ real “ be inserted, and that the word “ actually “ be omitted.
These are drafting amendments to make the wording of the clause conform to that of clause 14.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 3 (Grouping of candidates).
– I propose to make sub-section 2 of the proposed new section 72a read -
A group shall include the names of those candidates only each of whom notifies the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State in the prescribed manner after he has been nominated . . . that he desires to have his name included in that group. . . .
The original clause was amended in the Senate, and as it . is now worded its legal effect is not expressed with sufficient clearness.
– Suppose that other candidates object to the grouping of a name with theirs?
– Then it cannot be so grouped. If candidates A, B. and C wish to form a group, each of them must notify the Commonwealth Electoral Officer for the State of his desire to be grouped with the other two. You cannot get. a group unless with the consent of all concerned.
– Then all that has to be done to smash a group is to nominate a dummy.
– That would not have the effect desired.
– Can a candidate running under a banner similar to that of other candidates be grouped with them ?
– Not unless the others consent.
– Is there any limit to the number of the candidates whose names may be in the group?
– Two or more names may be grouped. Honorable members will see how the grouping system will operate by referring to the amended Form E in clause 31.
Clause verbally amended.
– I am totally opposed to the grouping of the names of candidates, and shall vote against the clause. The party system has certain advantages, but many evils are associated with it, and these the adoption of grouping would intensify. The clause would enable a candidate to be blackmailed by two others selected by the same organization, who might exact terms from him before permitting his name to be grouped with theirs, because if his name were not so grouped the electors would say, “ There must be something wrong with this candidate, as the other candidates in his party will not allow his name to be grouped with theirs,” and he would thus occupy an invidious position. I hope that the Committee will not sanction the grouping of names. This method has been in operation in America for many years, but it has been abandoned in many places there.
– The American system is quite different. The system that the Americans have abandoned permitted the voting for a whole group at once. That is not contemplated here.
– The ‘ results of the last election showed plainly that when the electors set the figures 1, 2 and 3 against the names of candidates they intended their second and third preferences to have the same value as the first. The proposed arrangement is a fraud on the public.
– Why not print on the ballot-paper the names of the parties to which the groups belong, instead of lettering the groups A, B, C, and so on?
– I do not know. Something between 200,000 and 300,000 informal votes were cast during the last Senate election, and the arrangement now proposed will make the ballot-papers more complicated.
– How can the Government get back if that happens?
– What is proposed is a retrograde step, and I hope that the Committee will negative the clause.
– The reasons given by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) for the rejection of the grouping system incline me to favour it. It will allow candidates to discard persons who try to hang on to their tails.
– The honorable member might be one of those discarded.
– I will cross that bridge when I come to it. The honorable member objects to the members of a group refusing to recognise some candidate who wishes to join with them. The party to which I have the honour to belong will select three candidates to represent each State, and those candidates will be grouped. Under the present system some other candidate might say, “ I am as good as a Labour man,” and try to associate himself ‘ with the Labour candidates, but the grouping system will prevent this. The Labour candidates will be grouped together, and will dissociate themselves from all who are not members of their organization. I think that it is net sufficient to mark the groups
A, B, C, and D. It is unfortunate that at every election we have to explain some new method of voting.
– Because we pass illconsidered measures.
– The Government built stronger than they knew when framing the last Electoral Bill. My desire is that the first, second, and third preferences should be of equal value. That is what the public wishes, too.
– The honorable member’s party, not the public.
– The public is the Labour party, minus the silly ones who have been drawn away and the profiteers. There is no doubt some advantage in being in the first position on the ballotpaper, and that applies not only to groups but to individuals. Then there is a disadvantage in the alphabetical arrangement, and it seems to me a great pity that some other device, something in the nature of a round-robin, could not be’ adopted. The whole of our political life seems to tend towards grouping, but when there are only three seats to be filled, we never find a party desiring to put forward four men. The Conservatives of Australia may be divided into the Country party and the National party, but we know that they are all one, and that if they axe put into separate groups the destination of the second votes is inevitable.
.- I am sorry the Government have seen fit to adopt the principle embodied in this Bill. I refer to the grouping system on the ballot-paper of the several candidates. I am surprised, indeed, that the Senate, after considerable discussion, has assented to the principle, and passed it on tothis House. So far as I am able to understand the purpose of the measure, although I had not the privilege of hearing the introductory remarks of the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom), the idea of the Government is to simplify the work of the elector. I can see no other purpose to be served.
– The elector has to be considered.
– I am not arguing the matter, but stating a fact. I believe that, in certain circumstances, this would simplify the task of the elector, but not if the groups decided on are to be labelled with the mystic symbols A,
B, and C. The simplification, if we strive for simplification, should be certain beyond doubt. For example, if we are going to group, why not say plainly: these men are Nationalists? Let others say, “ We are the Official Labour party candidates,” while those who decline to group, but prefer to trail alone on their track, and win the race with, perhaps, very little under the saddle, may call themselves “ Independents “ or any other name. I can understand the elector’s task being much simplified if that is done; but I object to pay the price which the proposed theoretical simplification involves. And this is what it seems to me it does involve: It introduces in a more cohesive, definite, and tyrannical way the power of the party machine. I do not care much, in discussing this matter, whether the machine be that of the Labour party, the Country party, the Nationalists, or any other party. I believe that party organization has a fair and special use in the public life of a democratic community like this, but its exhibition and operation ought to have a very definite end and limitation. That is to say, a. party machine may be useful if worked without coercion on independent candidates or electors, but it may be the very reverse, and, in fact, dangerous or ruinous, if used beyond reasonable limits. The present party machines have been developed as far as it is safe to develop them, without coercion of individual electors or candidates. If we go the further step, we are then abusing the power which party can legitimately exercise, and are destroying the freedom the elector should enjoy. So far as I am concerned, that is what the whole thing boils down to. There are other questions associated with this which are important, but not basic. For example, if we pass clause 3, there is a clause which shows how we must group the candidates. If I read that clause aright, we put opposite each of the individuals who wish to be grouped a number signifying the initial of his surname and its place in the alphabet.
– That is only for thepurpose of ascertaining the relative position of the group to group.
– I know that. A man named Abrahams, for instance, is numbered “1,” a man named Brown is numbered “ 2,” and so on until we come to a name beginning with a Z with the number “ 26.” When there are three groups of three candidates each the numerals are added up, and the order of the groups A, B, and C is determined on the ballot-paper by the quotient derived from the totality of those numerals. Supposing that three men named Abrahams, Brown, and Clarke are nominated in one group. They will be numbered 1, 2, and 3; this gives a total of six, which; divided by three, gives a quotient of two, and that group goes into the first position on the ballot-paper. If, for example, there is a group composed of Smith, Thompson, and Robinson, because they happen to have these surnames, that group inevitably goes low down on the ballot-paper. That is the system which the Attorney-General has designed. If there is any advantage in being placed at the top of a ballot-paper - and that is the argument in a senatoral contest - instead of parties picking for grouping purposes the best men, they are likely to pick men whose’ names occur early in the alphabet. We desire in the Senate men who, because of their individualistic or party qualifications, will make suitable senatorial representatives in Australia. But if there is the desire to get the first place on the “ cab-rank,” parties will consider whether it is not advisable to take men the initials of whose surnames occur early in the alphabet. The idea seems to be almost Gilbertian.
– I do not think parties would resort to that plan.
– I remember succeeding, as the representative of one part of this metropolis where this Parliament House stands, a gentleman named Ephraim Lamen Zox, who went to a very meritorious reward long years ago. Mr. ZOX always said that he had suffered all his life from being last on the ballot-paper, and he regarded it as a penalty, especially when there were almost invariably six other candidates wooing the franchise of the electors. I am not likely to be a candidate for the Senate until I have arrived at the satisfactory condition of senility, which seems to entitle a man to claim admission to that political morgue.
– Are you referring to its constitution ?
– I am referring to the fact that the Senate has lost its way in the Constitution, and is not now what its framers, and those who sanctioned their work, designed it to be. I am hoping that Parliament, and the people as a whole, will wake up and effect such a reform as is embodied in amendments of which notice has been given by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). I do not think, however, that this Bill will exercise anything but an adverse effect on the character of the Senate. I am sure it will not make the Senate a States House as it was intended to be. It will not improve its chance of being a House of second thoughts - a House of Review. On the contrary, I think it will more than ever. - and this is one of the dangers - increase its party character, because it will make successful entrants into that Chamber under the grouping system more than ever the creatures of the machine or organization whose behests they must obey, and whose nod means success or. failure. I would sooner see a system of proportional representation introduced into the Senate, although I would not vote for such a system if introduced into this Chamber; and I shall tell honorable members why. Just as the Constitution has endeavoured to make this a National House representative of the people as people, and the Senate the House of the States as States, it also has endeavoured, and so far successfully, to confine the power over the Executive of the country to this House. That is why I believe we should have majority representation in this House, and perfect our own preferential system to give power to majorities to send representatives in for single seats. That maintains the power of the people over the Executive and’ over the purse; but T think that we ought to give minorities that are crushed out by this system a voice in the Chamber of second thoughts. We could, I think, successfully experiment with proportional representation in the second Chamber, and I am prepared to try it.
– We would never harness them!
– There are honorable members here who are not easily harnessed. As a matter of fact, without ever having been a faddist for proportional representation, although an ardent advocate of preferential voting for a single seat House, I believe that the world is learning that there is a great deal of force in the idea of electing upper Chambers on the former system. I am prepared to experiment for ten years with, proportional representation for the Senate, but I am not prepared at thi£ stage, when we should make less for party tyranny and not more, to vote for a system’ which will make creatures of members of another place and render them subservient to the will and power pf organizations outside Parliament.
– I do not desire to argue the question of possible alternatives to the proposal now before the Committee. I feel that if that proposal of the Government is now rejected,- we shall naturally revert to the old system. I think, however, that the proposal of the Government is another instance of how readily principle is made subordinate to expediency. For that reason I cannot see my way to support the system of grouping candidates. I am a member of a party, and I do not condemn, but rather support, party organization. I realize that it has undoubted merits - if party organization, indeed, is not essential to sane government. But it is unwise to carry party propaganda into the voting booth. Party propaganda should cease at a distance which the regulations have specifically fixed outside of a polling booth. It should not approach nearer. The ultimate choice of the elector should be untrammelled by any significant direction contained in the ballot-paper. There are practical difficulties, it is true, in the way of recording the vote desired by the electorate under the present system. Those honorable members who, like myself, have had much painful and dreadful experience of elections know that many persons go to the poll who have but hazy knowledge, if any idea at .all, concerning the individuals for whom they desire to vote, although they have a pretty wellsettled conviction concerning the party which they prefer to support. They know that they want to vote Labour, or that they propose to vote Nationalist; but they find a difficulty in discriminating as between individual candidates.
– Why should not the ballot-paper help them?
– For precisely the same reason that individuals are not permitted to help voters by going into the ballot-box and pointing to the names for which they should vote. The ultimate choice of the elector must be uninfluenced by any measure of assistance other than that specifically prescribed in the Act, in respect of the blind and illiterate and physically helpless.
– But it would be helpful to an elector if an official asked whether he or she desired to vote Labour or Nationalist.
– It would be helpful, but it has not been permitted, because the practice would lead the way to impropriety. A voter might be influenced’ against his deliberate choice. I am not an opponent of what is known as the party system. I am a believer in party organization. The Labour party, in that regard, is the pioneer. It has set an example which has become a pattern and model for all political parties, and it has been paid that sincerest form of flattery, namely, imitation. The principle at issue is that, in the last resort, the elector’s position in a polling booth should be held sacred from interference. There should be no sign or symbol to direct his attention to any particular candidate or group. There should be nothing on the ballot-paper but the actual names of candidates - with which names, by the time the elector has entered the booth, he must be assumed to have made himself familiar.
The whole system of voting for tho Senate is cumbrous; and the Senate itself is cumbrous. As the honorable member .for .Balaclava (Mr. Watt) has said, if it ever had any usefulness it has either outlived it or proved itself incapable of achieving it. I quite realize the difficulties incidental to that fact; but, upon reflection, I cannot consent to give my vote to support a proposal which carries party politics into the polling booth.
– In any election, where there are three or more candidates to be chosen, and there are large numbers of candidates, electors are faced with great difficulties. Where the election extends over the whole of a large State, and there are numerous candidates, voters’ difficulties are intensified. Electors do not know candidates, personally or individually, as they do in many of the small constituencies of the House of Representatives.
– Does the Minister suggest that electors do not know candidates as individuals or as members of parties?
– Either as adherents of parties or as individuals. Electors often find it difficult to ascertain to what party a candidate belongs. The desire of the Government is to simplify voting while allowing an elector to retain his right to make individual choice of candidates. The system of grouping will enable persons who are seeking tobe elected in a particular interest to be grouped together. It should reduce the chances of an elector rendering his votingpaper informal. It has been suggested that the grouping system is being introduced especially to serve the purposes of one individual party. Such is not the object. It should equally serve any and every party. There will be no question of according preference to any particular party in respect of the order of groups on a ballot-paper. Of course, there must be some system of determining that order.
– To draw lots would be better than to adopt the quotient system.
– The latter places the order of groups on a logical basis.
– Would not the Minister prefer to be certain of placing himself in the top group?
– Would the honorable member for Balaclava take it for granted that he would, be bound to be beaten by an opposing candidate if the name of the latter began with the letter “ A “? I do not believe that any organization would select its candidates with any such consideration in mind. There is never any thought of alphabetical preference. Organizations select candidates on their merits, or, possibly, their capacity to win. An honorable member has said that the grouping system will introduce party politics into the ballotbox. After all, the ballot-box is the interpreter of party politics.
– The criticism has been that the grouping system will introduce party politics upon the ballot-paper.
– How can it do that? The system will not give any direction or indication to an elector beyond grouping the various candidates so that an elector may know who are the persons embraced in the group for which he desires to vote.
An honorable member has asked, why not put the actual names of the parties on the ballot-paper? I invite a consideration of the number of parties existing today. There is, for example, the Official Labour party; there is the Majority - or Minority - Labour party; and there is the Independent Labour party. The fact is that the various parties group themselves outside just as they think fit.
– I would feel more comforted if the Minister really believed in what he is advocating.
– I would feel more comfortable - to apply the retort courteous - if the honorable member for Balaclava were honest in his opposition.
– I think the Minister has the Gladstonian faculty to-day, of convincing himself for the time being.
– A suggestion has been made that the grouping system will be used as an instrument of party tyranny. How can that possibly be so? It would not be the grouping which would bring that about. It could only be, if at all, the selection of candidates by the machinery of the party itself.
– A candidate who does not get into a group goes out, like Ishmael, into the wilderness of independence, at the bottom of the ballot-paper.
– A person who does not now get the nomination of his party goes out just the same. Perhaps the independent candidate would actually prefer to be placed independently on the ballotpaper.
– Will the order of those candidates who are not grouped be alphabetical ?
– Yes; just as will be the order of the names within the groups. The grouping system will in no way affect the actual method of voting.
Mr.Considine. - What will become of the Independent candidates? I shall be running as an Independent; but there will be other Independent candidates who are absolutely opposed to my politics. Under the grouping system, will not all Independents be grouped together at the bottom of the ballot-paper?
– They will not be grouped. The names of all the Independent candidates will be together at the end of the list, and the electors will know that those men are “ on their own.”
– If an elector went into a booth and said he desired to vote for symbol A, would his vote be effective if he marked the ballot-paper “A”?
– No, he must vote for the A group of men by marking the paper 1, 2, 3, &o. No doubt cards advising the candidates how to vote will be distributed outside the booth by party organizations, as is done in connexion with every election, and they will be of assistance to the people when they go to exercise the franchise. New South Wales has had as many as twenty-seven candidates for the Senate.
– And think of the number of informal votes.
– This proposal will help to reduce the number of informal votes. It will certainly help the people to vote more truly according to their intention. At the present time an elector may want to vote for a certain political party, but the names of the candidates are so mixed up that it is difficult for him to pick out the candidates for whom he should vote. There may be no difficulty for those of us who are intimately acquainted with politics, but I ask honorable members ‘to consider the problem that the ballot-paper may present to people living far out-back.
– Why do not the Government leave well alone?
– Because we desire to make it better. I ask the Committee to support the clause.
.- Of almost all the public questions I have heard debated during the five years that I have had the honour of representing the highly intelligent electors of Grampians, not one was more deserving of the fullest investigation and discussion than is the principle contained in this clause. I trust that no considerations of time will influence the Government to bring to a hurried end the discussion of this most important matter. If the clause had been put before us without any explanation from the Attorney-General, and it had not been supported by the exceedingly able and eloquent speech of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) it would have had an infinitely better chance of commending itself to the electors than it has now. As it is those two speakers have exposed to the Committee and the people the real purpose of the clause. The AttorneyGeneral made it perfectly clear that whilst he apparently is impartial as to the parties whose interests will be served, the intention of the clause is to facilitate electors voting for candidates who are selected by party organizations, and who agree to run in groups.
– There is nothing much wrong with that.
– The honorable member who draws his inspiration from the Soviet of Russia may find that there is nothing wrong in applying the “boot and the whip,” and even the sabre1 and the bullet, to those who do not agree with the views of two or three party organizations. I feel sure that the people of Australia will adopt a very different attitude. They are accustomed to believe in free and representative government, and they will resent very bitterly the attempt by the Ministry to diminish in this way the principles . and safeguards of representative government. No doubt, the proposed system will be a more efficient and handy method for use by the parties to deal out disaster and destruction to all those who do not choose to range themselves under their banner, but it will also impose a tyranny upon every elector.
– By grouping the names of candidates indorsed by certain parties.
– To-day a place on the ticket of any party is worth so much; it will be worth 30 per cent, or 40 per cent, more under the grouping system.
– Exactly so. If it is the desire of the people of Australia, who have been accustomed to free and representative government, to give more power to the party organizations, I suggest to the Government that the natural development of this proposal will be to follow the practice that is in vogue elsewhere in the world, of allowing electors to come into the polling booths with ballot-papers in their pockets already filled in by the political organization with which they were associated.
– I cannot conceive of any political organization in Australia being so dishonest as to do that.
– I would not have introduced the term “ dishonest “ into this discussion. But I am not prepared to say that it would be more dishonest than the proposal which the Government have submitted. This system of theirs has not a single virtue to recommend it. When a great and fundamental alteration in the method of election is proposed some justification for it should be advanced. We should be given some evidence that the present system of non-grouping has broken down or is inefficient. We have had experience of many elections in the various Australian’ States and in the Commonwealth, and in no instance has there been any doubt among the majority of the electors as to the identity of the candidates for whom they wished to vote. If fifteen or twenty candidates should nominate for the Senate, before election day arrived - unless it were unduly hurried, as some people seem to desire - every elector would be fully advised of the identity of the candidates belonging to the party he supported. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred there is no confusion in the mind of the elector as to the person for whom he intends to vote.
– The honorable member has had no experience of scrutineering.
– I have acted as scrutineer. No justification for this proposal has been stated. The alleged confusion in the mind of the elector is absolutely imaginary. If this clause be agreed to, it will be very badly received by the people of Australia. They will feel most indignant that any step should be taken to bring elections more and more under the influence of party organizations, which, as every one recognises, already have far too much power, and exercise it very tyrannically.
– I am entirely in sympathy with the amendment of which the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) has given notice, in the direction of so shaping this Bill that the present system of electing senators may be replaced by a system of proportional representation. One or two honorable members who have preceded me have fairly stated the present position of the Senate. With them, I regret that the original intention of the Constitution, that that House should be a States House, in contradistinction to this House as representing the people, has in the course of time been so deflected that the Senate has become almost as entirely a party House as this House is. We have to ask ourselves what this Bill is designed to do. I well remember in the last Parliament that, coincident with the incoming of the third party, the Government of the day introduced a new electoral law to govern senatorial elections. After very much discussion, the Minister of the day (Mr. Glynn), who pioneered the measure, and who was au fait with all electoral systems in use, admitted that he was not satisfied with the provisions of the Bill. He described it as a composite Act. I understand that the Minister wishes to report progress.
Message recommending, appropriation to meet amendments requested by the Senate reported, and ordered to be considered in Committee forthwith.
Motion (by Mr. Rodgers) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of amendments to be made upon Bequests by the Senate, in a Bill for an Act to provide for the payment of Bounties on the Export of Beef and Cattle from the Commonwealth.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s requests) :
Clause 4 -
The bounties under this Act shall be payable in respect of -
the export from the Commonwealth, on or before the 31st day of December, ‘1922, of standard beef (other than canned beef as prescribed) slaughtered on or after the 5th day of April, 1922, which is placed in cool store on or before the 31st day of October, 1922; . . .
Senate’s Request. - Insert the following new paragraph : - “ (aa) the export, on or before the 31st day of March, 1923, ‘ from the Common-wealth to a prescribed port, of standard beef, other than canned beef as prescribed, slaughtered on or after the 5th day of April, 1922, which is placed in cool store on or before the 31st day of October, 1922;”
Clause 8 (Bounties may be paid in advance of export).
Senate’sRequest. - At end of clause add - “ Provided that no refund shall be required under this section of bounty in respect of standard beef, other than canned beef as prescribed, exported to a prescribed port after the 31st day of December, 1922, and on or before the31st day of March, 1923.”
– I move -
That the requested amendments be made.
With the additional appropriation recommended by His Excellency the Deputy of the Governor-General, the purpose which the Government have in view in order to meet the case put forward by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) will be effected by making the amendments which the Senate have requested. The object is to extend the period for the export of meat to Eastern ports, as prescribed by regulation. The amount of bounty payable will not be substantially increased, but the amendments will permit of the storage in Australia until the end of March next of meat intended for the East, to Which, owing to the limited cold-store accommodation available, it is impossible to forward sufficient quantities to fulfil the very satisfactory contracts entered into by Australian exporters. Without this extension a refund would have to be made to the Commonwealth of the amount of the subsidy paid on any meat now placed in cool chambers, but not exported until after the 31st December next. The Government pay the subsidy to the cattle-owner or exporter, as the case may be, -when the meat is placed in cold storage and is approved of as suitable for export; and under this Bill, as it left this House, ‘if meat upon which subsidy has been paid is not exported before the end of December next, we rerequired a. refund of the amount of the subsidy as paid. The amendments now sought to be made extend the period in which the meat can be exported to the East, but not elsewhere. The purpose is to hold and extend the Australian meat export trade to the East.
.- I have no objection to the proposed amendments, but the explanation given by the Minister (Mr. Rodgers) puts the position somewhat differently from what We understood it to be when the matter was previously discussed in this Chamber. In answer to a question submitted by me, the Minister said that the extension of the period which was sought by the honorable member for Grampian’s (Mr. Jowett) would not increase the cost, but now he qualifies that statement by saying that the cost will not be substantially extended. I was under the impression that the meat had to be killed and stored, and that the exporters would be obliged to delay the shipment of it until it was required in the East, and that their difficulty was that if they did not export it before the end of December next they would be obliged to refund whatever they had got by way of subsidy on account of the meat remaining unshipped.
– That is perfectly correct.
– If that is so I am satisfied, but the Minister said that the effect of the amendments would not substantially increase the amount of subsidy.
– They will not increase the amount of subsidy, but will decrease the amount that would have to be refunded.
– If the purpose of the amendments is to facilitate the efforts of those who have contracts with the East to get their beef away, I have nothing to say against the amendments; but as the beef must be killed before the end of October, I cannot see how the amount to be paid by the Government will be substantially increased.
– The only beef thatwill benefit by the amendment is chat which is killed between the 15th April and the 31st October.
– That is what we have already decided to do.
.- I was unfortunately absent when the Bill went through this Chamber the other day, but as I have always taken a strong stand in opposition to the payment of this bounty, I do not want it to be said that, although I was prepared to take one course outside the Chamber, I was willing to take another when the Bill was actually passing through. Therefore, I take this opportunity of saying that I am absolutely against the principle of paying this bounty. It is unnecessary for me to go over the old grounds again, even if-I were permitted to do so, but I consider it a thoroughly unsound and vicious principle, which is against that which I advocate, namely self-help and co-operative reliance amongst stockowners themselves.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
That tha Bill, amended accordingly, be returned to the Senate.
House adjourned at 3.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 15 September 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1922/19220915_reps_8_100/>.