8th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Do the Government intend to give the Federal Government servants an opportunity to visit the Royal Agricultural Show at Flemington?I ask that they may be allowed to do sowithout any deduction from their annual leave, so that they may be placed on the same footing as the Victorian public servants?
– Speaking from memory, our Act entitles the Federal public servants to a certain number of holidays in the year. Some of these holidays are uniform throughout Australia, butthere are other days in regard to which the public servants in each State can make their choice. It is not the intention of the Government to add to the number of Public Service holidays.
-Do the Government intend to take steps to protect the maizegrowers of Australia from the ruinous competitionto which they are now subjected by reason of the large importations from South Africa of cheap maize grown by black labour?
– Parliament definitely expressed an opinion in favour of a duty of3s. per cental on South African maize, and the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene), who was then Minister for Trade and Customs, communicated with the Government of the Union of South Africa advising it of our intention to impose this duty. The South African Government replied immediately that if the duty were imposed it would put an end to the trade agreement between South Africa and the Commonwealth. The balance of the trade between the two Dominions is overwhelmingly in favour of the Commonwealth, the trade from Australia to South Africa in one year being valued at £3,900,000, as against a value of £400,000 for the trade from South Africa to Australia; and it was, therefore, felt that we could not take a step which would mean the ending of the trade agreement between the two countries. The present duty on maizeis insufficient to protect the Australian growers of that cereal, and, in my judgment, action should be taken to put them in a proper position. We are now negotiating with the South African Government to bring about reciprocal trade relations between the two countries, and it would be an act of bad faith, at this juncture, to reimpose the duty. But the Government, in making a new arrangement with South Africa, will take into consideration the protection of our maize-growers, and I ask them to accept that assurance. There may be a short interval in which they may not be sufficiently protected, but we shall, as quickly as we can, cometo an effective arrangement with South Africa.
– What is to become of our stock-owners in time of drought ?
– The Country party took no action on our behalf.
– Some weeks ago, the Minister was good enough to promise favorable consideration to the suggestion that employees in the factories of the Defence Department should be granted furlough pay when compulsorily retired.
Has the honorable gentleman arrived at a definite decision on the matter, and, if bo, what is it ?
– The matter is still under investigation.
– I ask the Minister in charge of the House when we may expect the resumption of the Budget debate?
– There are one or two Bills with which the Government is anxious to proceed; but I hope that when they have been disposed of the Budget discussion will be taken up, and carried on without interruption.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs noticed a report in this morning’s Age to the effect that practically the whole of the island trade in copra, excepting a little from Papua, is being lost to Australia. If it be a fact that this trade is going to England and America, can the Minister tell us why that is happening, and whether he is taking steps to regain it for Australia?
Mr.RODGERS. - I have not read the article referred to, but I shall do so, and answer the question to-morrow.
Mr.RILEY. - Are you aware, Mr. Speaker, that there is being exhibited in the basement of the Senate building the model of a contrivance for getting over the break-of -gauge difficulty; and have you refused to allow the inventor of that model to exhibit it in the Queen’s Hall, where honorable members could see it more easily?
– I did not know that a model was now being exhibited in the basement of the Senate’s portion of this building; but applications have been made to me for the use of the Queen’s Hall for the displaying of models By various inventors, and, in accordance with the rule that the Hall is not to be used for purposes other than those connected with Parliament or its activities, I refused permission for its display there. The President and myself have conferred on the subject. Applications are frequently made for the use of the Queen’s Hall for various purposes. If a departure is made in therule in favour of one applicant, trouble arises from the fact that a flood of applications immediately, comes fromother persons, who ask for similar privileges. The only safe course to follow is to recognise that the Queen’s Hall is not intended for such purposes, but, as part of the parliamentary building, should be kept entirely for uses associated with Parliament. Many honorable members have complained to me from time to time of the use of the Queen’s Hall for other than parliamentary purposes.We have occasionally lent it for displays, and people have taken advantage of the opportunity to exhibit advertising matter, and to place persons in charge of the exhibits to point out their merits, and to take advantage of the occasion for commercial purposes. In declining to allow the Queen’s Hall to be used for the display of the break-of-gauge model which has been spoken of, I informed those who had made the application that we would be prepared to allow them to exhibit the model in the basement of Parliament House.
Mr.Riley. - It is too dark there to see it properly.
– I think not. I have seen various exhibits there quite well, and the honorable member will recognise the unwisdom of departing from a rule which has been laid down when any departure is liable to abuse which it is very difficult to correct. When the Tariff schedule was under discussion, manufacturers wished to display all kinds of wares in the Queen’s Hall. You cannot single out one applicant from others for specially favoured treatment.
– As the making uniform of the railway gauges of Australia will cost from £30,000,000 to £50,000,000, and the work is of national concern, cannot you, sir, on this occasion, waive your objection to the use of the Queen’s Hall for the exhibition of the model referred to?
– Queensland would like to make a sugar exhibit in the Queen’s Hall.
– No doubt; and other industries would like to have similar facilities. Theproper persons to whom to show models like this would be the expert railway engineers concerned, who, if they thought sufficiently of any of them, might very well invite honorable members who maybe interested to inspect them in some suitable place.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he intends to place proposals for the amendment of the Constitution before Parliament so as to enable the same to be submitted at the forthcoming election to the people for approval or otherwise, in accordance with the terms of the Constitution?
Mr. GREENE (for Mr. Hughes).This question refers to a matter of Government policy, and it is not customary to disclose matters (relating thereto in answer to questions.
asked the Prime Min ister, upon notice -
Mr. GREENE (for Mr. Hughes).The answers (to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Discontinuanceof Use of Road Mail Bags
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– I have not had time to get the information. I shall try to get it for the honorable member tomorrow.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Will the Minister furnish particulars showing -
– The Commonwealth Government has no jurisdiction over moneys raised for patriotic purposes, except that under the Repatriation Act returns are required to be furnished of moneys raised and disbursed by Local Repatriation Committees. It is not, therefore, in possession of the information desired.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mir. GREENE (for Mr. Hughes).The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Proposed New State
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will introduce legislation for the formation of a new State comprising the territory known as Central Queensland immediately the Parliament of the State of Queensland announces its consent to the formation of the said new State?
Mr. GREENE (for Mr. Hughes).When the provisions of the Constitution havebeen complied with by the State of Queensland the Government will be prepared to consider this matter.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 26th September, vide page 2681) :
Clause 67 -
The president and other members of the Board shall he paid such remuneration respectively as the Governor-General from time to time determines.
– This clause makes provision for the remuneration of the members of the Board, but it does not set out what the remuneration is to be. The measure under consideration is one which will inevitably lead to a great financial outlay, and its results are very doubtful. In this clause, however, we might ask for some certainty as to the expenditure involved. I hope that the Attorney-
General (Mr. Groom) will be prepared to tell the Committee what salary the Government propose to pay to the president and other members of the Board.. We know that a measure of this kind is necessary, and we are all in favour of something of the kind. But we do not desire to see the Commonwealth landed in a financial welter such as is quite possible under this Bill.
– No definite salaries for the president and members of the Board have yet been fixed, but it is obvious that the man who is to be given charge of the administration of this measure should receive a salary commensurate with the heavy responsibilities which will be placed upon him. I indicated last night that the Government desire, if possible, to avoid the appointment of full-time men to these positions. Perhaps it will be some guide to the Committee if I inform honorable members that the man in charge of the New South Wales superannuation scheme receives £950 a year, and the two men associated with him on the Board receive £625 and £500 respectively.
– Does the Minister propose to be guided by that?
– No. I am not suggesting that we should blindly follow the course adopted in New South Wales. I am indicating to honorable members what we may reasonably expect to have to pay, and that should be some help to them. Honorable members who have any experience of the initiation of large undertakings will agree that it is not possible, at this stage, to fix arbitrarily what should be the salaries paid to the members of the Board. My own opinion is that the salaries paid should be in the neighbourhood of those paid in New South Wales. We do not want a cheap man at a low salary. What we want is efficiency and not cheapness. It is impossible, at this stage, to say exactly what salaries will be paid.
Clause agreed to. ,
Clause 68 agreed to.
Clause 69 -
.- This clause is not drawn in the most effective way,. It provides a rather cumbersome way of settling any matter upon which, at any meeting, the voting is equal. If, at any meeting, the voting on a particular matter is equal, it would be far better to have the three members of the Board present at the next meeting to decide it rather than have a third meeting of two of the members and give one of them a casting vote. Where two members of the Board fail to agree upon a matter I see no difficulty in the way of summoning a meeting of the full Board, when there must be a majority voting in one way.
– If the whole of the members of the Board are attending to their duties there cannot be an equal vote.
– I remind the honorable member that the clause just passed provides that two members of the Board shall form a quorum. If, for some reason or another, the whole of the members of the Board are unable to attend a meeting, and the two present cannot agree, under this clause the matter in dispute is postponed to the next meeting, and if the members still disagree it is postponed for a third meeting, at which one of the members is given two votes.
– The matter in dispute should be referred to a full meeting of the Board.
Mr.CHARLTON. - I think so.
– It might bebetter to permit a vote in writing from the member who is unable to be present.
– I do not care what plan is adopted so long as provision is made for the decision of any matter by a majority of the Board. It will not tend to the harmonious working of the measure if one of two members disagreeing upon any particular matter is given a casting vote at a third meeting. The Minister would be well advised to have this clause re-drafted.
– I do not think that the clause presents such serious diffi culty as the honorable gentleman imagines. There must be occasions when there will be only two members of the Board present at a meeting. The clause provides that if on such an occasion there is an equal vote on any matter the decision must be postponed. Provision is then made that notice of the question about which the members have disagreed and the fact of their disagreement must be given with the notice of the next meeting.
-Suppose there are still only two members of the Board present?
– Then the matter has to stand over. It may be some matter of minor importance.
– It may be, on the contrary, a very important matter.
– In that case the president has the power to postpone the decision upon it until there is a full meeting of the Board. I promise the honorable gentleman to look into the matter during the morning, and, at all events, before the Bill is passed through the Senate, to see whether his objection to the clause cannot be met in some way. The provision seems to me to be a reasonable one, and I believe it follows the procedure adopted under the New South Wales Act.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 70 and 71 agreed to.
The staff of the Board shall be appointed under and be subject to the provisions of any Act for the time being in force relating to the Public Service of the Commonwealth, and shall include a secretary and an actuary, or an officer who is both secretary and actuary.
.- I do not know what staff will be required for the Board, but I do hope that the cost of the administration of this measure will be minimized in every possible way. Honorable members are often under the impression that the administration of measures passed in this Chamber will involve but limited expenditure, and it is discovered later that it has involved the establishment of what in a short time becomes a large Department employing a considerable number of clerical and other hands. I see nothing to prevent that result following the passing of this Bill, and it is a thing that should be guarded against. The clause provides for a secretary and actuary, or an officer who is both secretary and actuary, and I trust that one officer will be appointed to fill both these positions. I hope the Minister will not take it for granted that, because we have agreed to the creation of a small Department for the administration of this Bill, that will justify him, or the Board, in appointing a large number of officials. It may be that, in the initial stages, it will be necessary to appoint a number of temporary hands, and I suggest that they should be taken from some of the other public Departments. After the office for the administration of the Bill is organized, there should be a considerable falling off in the work to be done, and it should be possible to carry it on at very small expense. I hope that the Minister will keep that in mind.
. -I quite agree with what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). The staff created forthe administration of this Bill will become a big Department unless the Government take action at the outset to make that impossible. I think that the Public Service Commissioner’s office, or the Statistician’s Branch of the Home and Territories Department, might very well administer this Bill. In that way we might minimize the expenditure involved in the appointment of the staff. I hope the Government will not set up a new Department entirely for the purpose of administering the Superannuation Act. It is bound to grow and to become more and more expensive. This costly scheme, for which the people at large will pay half, will be for the exclusive benefit of the Public Service. I do not think that in addition, the taxpayers should be called upon to maintain a costly administrative Department.
– Apparently the secretary to the Board will be also an actuary. The Bill provides, further, that one of the members of the Board shall be an actuary. These will necessarily be highly-paid officials. Shall we not be overloading the Board by appointing two actuaries? Surely there are qualified officers in the Public Service who could perform the duties attaching to the administration of the Superannuation Act.
– The Government are quite in accord with honorable members with respect to keeping down administrative expense, particularly in view of the fact that the cost will not fall upon the fund, but must be borne out ofthe Consolidated Revenue. I do not think that administrative expenditure will involve large sums; it certainly should not do so. At the inception of any such scheme, however, there is inevitably an accumulation of work which must be promptly put in hand. It would be a mistake if the Government were to make permanent members of the Public Service do what may be but temporary work. But a staff of its own will be, necessary.
– Will the Treasury make the payments ?
– Pensions will be paid out of the fund.
– Then there will need to be a paymaster.
– The actuary on the Board will be required to consider matters of administration; but the actuary-secretary will be an official constantly on the job, working side by side with the president of the Board. There will be actuarial investigations constantly in hand as part of the administrative work involved by the very nature of the Act. Thus, it will be essential to have an official with actuarial experience. I can give the assurance that every effort will be made to keep down costs.
– If there are two actuaries, shall we not have another instance of two experts disagreeing?
– Not necessarily. Three actuaries were in collaboration upon the scheme originally, and they were unanimous in their conclusions.
– I see the necessity for appointing a secretary-actuary, but I am not impressed with the need for appointing another to the Board.
– Undoubtedly it will be of the greatest assistance in tie administration of the Act to have the best possible expert advice available.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 73 to 75 agreed to.
Clause 76 (Settlement of Disputes).
– This clause provides that any dispute shall be determined in the first place by the Board, but that any person aggrieved by its decision may appeal to the High Court, constituted by a single Justice of that Court. Does the Attorney-General consider that such procedure provides the readiest and cheapest method for dealing with an appeal ? Will not heavy expenditure be involved in the event of an aggrieved person carrying on his appeal from the Board?
.- Under the New South Wales Act aggrieved persons may have their case referred to a Judge of the Supreme Court for an opinion. The late Mr. Justice Wade, whose death only within the past few days is deplored by every one who had come into contact with him, gave a number of valuable opinions to the State Board in this connexion. Under the Federal Constitution, however, advisory views may not be secured from our Judges. They have power only to decide judicial questions properly brought before them.
– We have tried to secure opinions, but have not succeeded in getting them.
– That is so.
– The Judges went on strike, did they not?
– No; they gave a judicial interpretation of the Constitution. This clause provides the simplest method of settling a dispute.
– Will not appeals before a Justice of the High Court involve lengthy and costly arguments?
– Not necessarily.
– The appellant would probably have his case presented by his association.
– The point is, that there must be some method, some tribunal, for the settlement of appeals; and this clause sets up the simplest and most direct.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 77 (Returns).
.- This clause appears to me to be awkwardly expressed. It provides that “ The Board may at any time require the Commonwealth to furnish such returns with respect to its employees as the Board decides. . . .” It would appear that the Board may require the Commonwealth to furnish returns with respect to the Board’s employees. I suggest that the clause be made to read, “ The Commonwealth shall at all times furnish such returns in respect of its employees as the Board decides. . . .”
– Obviously, “ its employees” must refer to the employees of the Commonwealth. The Board would not request the Commonwealth to furnish particulars regarding the employees of the Board. I think the phrase is quite clear.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 78 and 79 agreed to.
The Governor-General may, on the recommendation of the Board, make regulations, not inconsistent with this Act, prescribing all matters required or permitted to be prescribed, or necessary or convenient to be prescribed, for carrying out or giving effect to this Act, and in particular: -
for prescribing in respect of contributors suffering from invalidity or physical or mental incapacity to perform their duties, all or any of the following matters: -
conditions of retirement;
pensions or other benefits;
provisions for cancellation of pensions or other benefits; and
conditions of compulsory reemployment;
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That the following new paragraph be inserted - “(aa) for prescribing the data in respect of mortality, conjugal condition, dependent children, invalidity, and rate of interest to be employed in determining actuarial equivalents for the purposes of this Act, and for prescribing the incidence on the several benefits of the commutations involved in determining such actuarial equivalents;”.
Clause further verbally amended, and agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That the following new clause be inserted - “ 37a. ( 1 ) Where any employee who has been in the Service for at least ten years has died or dieson or after the thirty-first day of December, One thousand nine hundred and twenty, and before the date notified in pursuance of sub-section (1) of section twelve of this Act, pension shall be paid to his widow as follows: -
during her own life, one half of the pension in accordance with salary as set out in section thirteen of this Act, but not exceeding two units:
Provided that if she re-marries her pension under this paragraph shall thereupon cease and determine; and
in respect of each of her or the employee’s children (except children of her re-marriage) who are under the age of sixteen years, a pension at the rate of Thirteen pounds per annum until the age of sixteen years has been attained.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted - “50. Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, an employee who has a vested or contingent right to a pension, superannuation allowance or gratuity under any other Act (not including the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act 1920-21) or State Act shall not be required or permitted to contribute for units of pension under this Act, except in pursuance of the provisions of this Division, nor shall pension under this Act he payable to or in respect of any such employee except in pursuance of those provisions.”
– Would not that provision, “Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act,” cover a. man who had been dismissed for a serious offence?
– No. The proposed new clause deals with men who have existing rights under a Commonwealth or State Act, and it says that those persons are excluded from the provisions of this Bill except where the Bill allows them to come in. The Bill allows them to come in by commuting their pensions, and, in. return, giving them new rights.
– Will the retrenched officers of the Defence Department come, under this provision?
-The honorable member refers to those included in recent legislation ; they have nothing to do with it.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be added : - “75a. Whenever any question arises under this Act as to whether a contributor is an in valid, or is physically or mentally incapable of performing his duties, and whether the invalidity or incapacity is due to his fault, the question shall be determined by the Board (whether before or after the retirement of the contributor) upon a report from a medical officer appointed for the purposes of this Act.”
This new clause is necessary because it has been discovered-
– The Minister will discover quite a lot of things wrong with this Bill later on.
– The principal thing that will be discovered will be that this is an equitable and very desirable piece of legislation, and probably some of those who have been casting doubt upon it will then say, “ We helped to pass it.” Honorable members will remember that in previous clauses the Committee struck out a reference to the determination of the question of invalidity or physical or mental incapacity. The proposed new clause will make the provision regarding this question quite general. The question of invalidity or physical or mental incapacity will he determined by the Board which, before giving its decision, must obtain a medical report.
– Will the examination be by a. medical man attached to the Board?
– The Board will have power to appoint its, staff. Obviously one medical officer will not be able to do the whole work, and there will have to be officers in different pants of Australia.
– Would the Minister propose to have one medical officer in each capital ?
– The difficulties of that situation will have to be faced in administering the Act. Under the Public Service Act there are already a staff of medical officers.
– Will all the medical officers throughout the Commonwealth be available for the purposes of this Bill? Will applicants be able to be examined by a medical officer in their own locality, or will they have to travel to the capital city?
– I believe that medical men will be asked to make examinations, and will be paid fees. We cannot, in this Committee, settle every administrative detail; we must leave much tothe administrating authority.
.- I raise no objection to the proposed new clause, but I desire to point out that it is doubtful whether it will give the satisfaction that the Attorney-General (Mr. Groom) expects. At present there is much dissatisfaction in connexion with medical reports. In this connexion, I do not wish to make any complaint, because I know how difficult it is in a continent like Australia to have medical testimony available throughout the different centres. Whilst the Board will be able to avail itself of the services of Government medical officers for the purpose of examining different civil servants who desire to take advantage of the provisions of the Bill, there appears to be no provision, either in the amendment or the Bill itself, to permit a dissatisfied applicant to appeal.
– Would not that be covered by the general right to appeal?
– -I do not think so.
– The decision would be the decision of the Board.
– I admit that; but the Board must ‘be governed in its decisions by the medical testimony, and by. that alone.
– The Bill does not say so.
– It does not matter what the Bill says ; a Board of laymen must be guided entirely by medical testimony. It will be the doctor who will decide whether a certain individual should be allowed to retire and come under the provisions of the Act. I consider that, in connexion with old-age pensions, invalid pensions, and workmen’s compensation, the applicant should have a right of appeal against a doctor’s decision. The medical report may not be satisfactory to him, and he may know that the doctor’s opinion is wrong, but he has no remedy. I suggest that applicants should have a right of appeal to another medical man, or to two medical men.
– The honorable member desires that applicants should have a right to challenge the correctness of the medical report.
– That is all I want ; and I raise the point because of my experience of medical reports in connexion with other matters. Honorable members know that, in many cases brought under their notice, there is a doubt as to whether the medical testimony is satisfactory. Doctors often differ materially from one another, and the proposal submitted by the Minister leaves the matter entirely in the hands of the medical officer appointed by the Government in the particular district in which the applicant resides. A dissatisfied applicant could be brought to another district and examined by one or two of our medical officers. This concession would not be costly, and it would prevent the possibility of the Board acting unjustly. If it was found that the second medical report was at variance with the first, the Board would have to look into the matter very closely. No sane man sitting on a Board would go beyond the medical testimony.
– If the correctness of the diagnosis were challenged by the applicant, the fact that.it was challenged would come before the Board, together with the medical report.
– Yes; but we have made no provision for the Board to secure a further medical report.
– If the Board so decided, it would be a subject for general appeal.
– That may be so; but what would be the use of a general appeal unless the applicant were submitted to further medical examination ? I think my request is a very fair one.
– ‘The superannuation scheme provides for a pension in case of incapacity or invalidity. Before an employee can reach that stage, he must have been retired from the Public Service. This is now done on medical evidence after sick leave has been exhausted. Section 65 of the Public Service Act provides for a Board when necessary. It enacts -
If an officer appears to the Commissioner, after a report from the Permanent Head or an Inspector, to be unfit to discharge or incapable of discharging the duties of his office efficiently, the Commissioner, or any Inspector, may refer the question to a Board of Inquiry, and if such Board finds that such officer .is unfit to discharge or incapable of discharging the duties of his office, the Governor-General’ may, on the recommendation of the Commissioner, deal with such officer, either by calling upon such officer to retire from the Public
Service, or by transferring him to some other position; and every such officer, if called upon to retire, shall retire accordingly.
When an application comes before the Board for an invalid pension, the matter will have been thoroughly investigated and reported on by a medical officer or by the special Board appointed under the Public Service Act, and the Superannuation Board will have to satisfy itself further, by appointing a medical officer, that the man concerned comes under the provisions of the Superannuation Fund. I do not think that any injustice is likely to arise. There is no necessity to have a medical examination or a Board for retirement, a Board to consider his fitness for service, and a further Board of appeal. It is such a serious thing to deprive a man of his pension that I cannot imagine any Board, with a sense of its duty, acting in an arbitrary way or excluding reasonable evidence.
– If a man . is still employed by the Government, he receives his salary.
– That is so; and it is an important fact to remember.
– What would happen if the applicant made the first move himself because he felt that he was unfit to continue at work?
– If an officer feels that he is incapable of remaining in the Public Service, he must apply to his permanent head to be retired.
– But the decision will be based on the medical testimony.
– Yes, and if the medical testimony is that the officer, is fit to continue in the Service, it will be a matter for the Public Service administration, and not for the consideration of the Superannuation Board.
– An officer must first get out of the Public Service before his case can be dealt with by the Superannuation Board:
– That is so.
– Can an officer get out of the Public Service and not receive a pension?
– Only by resignation or retirement.
– -If an officer, anxious to retire, produces a medical . certificate as to his invalidity, surely it will be considered ?
– Certainly, and the records of the office would show the appli cations made by him for sick leave. I think that the public servant’s position is fairly safeguarded by the provisions proposed to be inserted in the Bill.
– Can the Superannuation Board give an officer a pension after a medical officer has declared that he is still in good health?
– The Superannuation Board can grant a pension to a man only after he has retired from the Public Service.
– The Board will not necessarily be bound to accept the report of a medical officer?
– No, but should there be a conflict of opinion - if the Public Service Board declares that the man is incapable of fulfilling his duties on account of ill-health and the medical officer appointed by .the Superannuation Board declares that he is fit to perform his duties - it would justify tha Minister in having the matter investigated. However, I do nob think it is a case that is likely to arise.
.- I agree with a great deal that the Minister (Mr. Groom) has stated, but he has not touched upon the point I have raised, namely, the case of a public servant who knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that he must desist from work on account of incapacity to carry out his duties. If the Superannuation Board refers his case to a medical officer and he certifies that the individual is incapacitated from following his employment a pension will be paid, but if, on the other hand, the medical officer certifies that the individual is still capable of performing hia duties in the Public Service no pension will be paid, although the public servant may know that his health will not permit him to continue at work.
– But it appears that no such medical examination can take place until after the public servant has , left the Public Service.
– If a man’s health is such that he feels he cannot continue to perform his duties in the Public Service he practically leaves off work, and if he finds that his incapacity is permanent, he is not likely to resume his duties.
– That is a question for the consideration of the Public Service Commissioner.
– The Public Service Commissioner must be guided by medical testimony and if the certificate of the medical officer is to the effect that the man is capable of performing his duties, the Commissioner will declare that the public servant must resume his work. The latter, however, may have no doubt about his incapacity to perform his duties. He may be backed up by the testimony of other medical men, who declare that it is imperative that he should cease work immediately. Would not such a man be placed outside the provisions of the Superannuation Act?
– No man will come within the scope of the Superannuation Act until he is out of the Public Service.
– And the fact that a man is out of the Public Service is practical proof of his invalidity.
– But what happens if the medical officer appointed by the Superannuation Board does not certify to a man’s invalidity ?
– Then there would be that conflict of opinion referred to by the Minister, which would occasion the Minister to step in.
– It appears to me that the only way to safeguard the rights of the public servant in this respect is to provide a right of appeal to two or three other medical officers. It would not be a costly matter.
– If the medical officer appointed by the Board declares that a case under consideration is not one of invalidity, the Board will have power tocall into consultation other medical men.
– The Minister practically agrees with me, but says that there is no need to make provision in the Bill for what Iwant, because the Board already has power to call in other medical opinion. The question is whether the Board will exercise that power.There would be no doubt about its doing so if the right of appeal were provided in the Bill. I am certain that the time will arrive when it will be found to be essential to have the provision for which I am now asking. Difficulty has already arisen in New South Wales under the Workers’ Compensation Act. There is constant conflict between the Government Department and the various Boards and others concerned owing to the fact that there is no appeal from the certificate of a medical officer.
– Under this Bill the Superannuation Board will come to a de cision upon a medical officer’s report. If that report conflicts with the decision of the Public Service Board, provision can easily be made in the regulations to be framed under this Bill requiring that the Superannuation Board may call for other medical officers’ certificates. Even without such a regulation the Board would have power to do so.
– I quite see the position which the Minister takes up, and I am not opposed to providing by regulation for every facility for a man who is dissatisfied with the decision of the Superannuation Board, but I urge the inclusion of a few lines in this Bill giving the right of appeal to two or three Commonwealth medical officers. Such men are available in every city, so that an appeal would involve no expense. Where other qualified medical men hold opinions differing from that expressed by the medical officer appointed by the Board it is only fair that a case should be reopened.
– But all that is done before the public servant comes before the Superannuation Board. He is an invalid when he gets out of the Service.
– But the man who gets out of theService is not always regarded by a medical officer as an invalid.
– If he is not so regarded as an invalid, his appeal lies to the Public Service Board.
– If he appeals to the Public Service Board they take medical testimony for their guidance, so that it all comes down to a question of medical testimony, against which, in order to avoid any possibility of injustice, there should be a right of appeal. There is nothing to prevent the insertion of a couple of lines in the proposed new clause providing that an applicant for a pension may, if he so desires, have a further medical examination. I urge this because I know what has happened in other directions, and because I am afraid that if my suggestion is not adopted now, Parliament, in a couple of years, will be called upon to amend the Act, in order to make this very provision.
.- The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) appears to be arguing on a wrong basis when he claims that the provision of this Bill will operate in the same way as Workers’ Compensation
Acts. It is not until the public servant has been passed out of the Public Service on the ground of invalidity by the Public Service Board that his case conies before the Superannuation Board, which can then, if it thinks fit to do so, call for further medical testimony upon the matter of invalidity. There are one or two other matters I wish to emphasize. I want to know whether the medical officer will be paid out of the Superannuation Fund or whether- the applicants for pensions who go before them for examination will be obliged to pay the fees.
– I am afraid that that matter will have to be left to regulation.
– I think it should be included in the Bill.
– Every detail cannot be fixed in a Statute.
– This is’ not a matter of detail. I have already said that the measure stands a fair chance of being overloaded. It will be extremely expensive, and may be brought down by its own weight.
– Does the honorable member want the applicant to pay the medical officer’s fees?
– I think it would be advisable to make that provision. Furthermore, I want an assurance that the medical officers will be available in all centres throughout Australia.
– -I agree with the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) that every facility must be afforded to have public servants examined at localities reasonably close to their places of residence. I dare say that in this regard the provision made will be similar to that which is now to be found in the Public . Service Administration. Medical officers may be appointed, whose remuneration’ will be fees for services rendered when required. I ask the honorable member not to press, at this stage, the matter of who should pay the fees. It is a question still remaining to be considered, and will be dealt with by regulation. The attempt to include every detail of administration in a Statute allows no elasticity in administration. All that we can expect in a Bill of this sort is the inclusion of the main principles and main duties of the Board.
.- From my experience in connexion with invalid and old-age pensions administration, I feel disposed to support the request made by my Leader (Mr. Charlton). I have in mind six cases, including two returned soldiers, in which it was held by the Department that the men concerned were not entitled to pension privileges. In the case of one returned soldier, the medical officers declared that the disability was not due to warlike operations, but two other Sydney medical men who became interested in the matter differed entirely from the report of the departmental medical officer, who was proved to be in error. The Department is now paying pensions in four of those six cases. It is very desirable to have some means of appealing against the decision of a medical officer.
– In this case a in an must be invalided from the Service before he becomes entitled to- a pension.
– I know that some members of the Service are waiting for this Bill, because they want to get out. The Board might take the view that a person was not justified in asking for a pension because possibly of some ulterior motive. In view of the -magnitude of the issues involved it would be wise, and, I think, in the interests of the Public Service, to include some such provision as has been suggested by the honorable member for Hunter. i hope the Minister (Mr. Groom) will give this matter serious consideration. I realize, of course, that it would be hopeless to try and force the hands of the Government.
– I understand, of course, that before any member of the Public Service can secure benefits under this scheme he must be retired from the Service, and till Board should take into’ consideration the circumstances under which he may be retired. In ordinary circumstances there is quite enough trouble about the dismissal or retirement of a public servant. All sorts of strings are pulled, in some instances, to get a case reviewed. With pension privileges attaching to the Public Service there will be still more trouble over dismissals, and it is more essential, I think, that there should be opportunity to appeal against an adverse decision of the medical officer1 or the Board.
– The honorable member is really pleading for an amendment of the Public Service Act.
– I may appear to be, but I am not. Under this measure a member of the Public Service will be, required to contribute to the pension fund, and in case of dismissals from the Service there ought to be some provision for reviewing decisions.
– I appreciate the desire shown by honorable members opposite to safeguard the interests of those who will benefit under this Bill, but, with the Minister (Mr. Groom), I think that a mountain is being made out of a mole-hill. We cannot lose sight of the fact that before any person can benefit under this measure he must be retired from the Public Service. Therefore, I fail to see the necessity for the creation of an Appeal Board. It vis quite sufficient to know that before any person can benefit under the Bill his case will be thoroughly considered by the Public Service Commissioner or the Public Service Board.
, - If there is a doubt as to whether this suggested provision should be inserted or not, now is the time to settle the matter. If honorable members had had my experience of the administration of the Old-age and Invalid Pensions Act, they would not hesitate to request the Minister to insert this saving clause. It is possible that, otherwise, some injustice may be done to a member of the Public Service through, perhaps, the inability of a medical officer to properly diagnose his case. As the Bill stands, there is no recourse for the public servants concerned. Let me remind honorable . members of my experience in the Gunner Perry case. It was proved that Gunner Perry was brutally tortured in the military hospital by Dr. Mead, but, fortunately, he was saved when the matter was brought before the military court martial by the testimony of one of the most highly qualified physicians in Melbourne, Dr. Springthorpe, who gave him a letter from Egypt. Much to his disgust, Dr. Mead lost his case, for it was proved on sworn evidence that he had actually tortured this man. Sir Joseph Cook, who was then in opposition in this House, wanted to know why one of the Ministers did not make a personal inquiry into the allegations. I under stand that one did do so privately, and Senator Pearce, who was then Minister for Defence, desired an inquiry, which was held at great expense. Gunner Perry was really under observation for six months in the Lunacy Department, and even then he did not get justice. Subsequently he went to Queensland when there was a great desire for more volunteers, and I understand he was actually employed by the military authorities in that State. Where he is now I do not know. I believe he committed suicide. Neither he, nor the unfortunate girl whom he persuaded to marry him, has been heard of since. If this provision is not inserted in the Bill the only appeal which members of the Public Service will have will be to members of Parliament.
– But there must be some report before a public servant can be invalided and retired. If subsequently the report of a medical officer were unfavorable in regard to pension privileges, naturally the Board would ask for further medical testimony. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent this being done. It seems incredible that if a conflict of opinion ‘ arose between the departmental view and the view of the public servant other steps would not be taken. I remind the honorable member that of the three members on the Board one is to be a nominee of the Public Service.
– Without refusing to accept the Minister’s explanation, if my Leader wishes to carry his opposition further I shall support him.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Schedules and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the Bill be recommitted for the further consideration of clauses 4* 24, 56, and 69.
– A suggested amendment to clause 12 was handed to me yesterday, and. I brought it under the notice of the AttorneyGeneral at a time when he was very busy. I ask him now whether he will consent to the recommittal of that clause in order to allow this proposal to be dealt with. Sub-clause 2 of clause 12 provides that contributors retiring on and after attaining the age of sixty years, and prior to the maximum age for retirement, may contribute, in a lump sum or in smaller amounts, the actuarial equivalent of the amount necessary to complete his payments up to the maximum age, “ at such periods as the Board approves,” and it is suggested that these words should be added: “or by contribution at an age rate five years in advance of the contributor’s actual age.” The object of this portion of the clause is to provide for a contributor retiring earlier than the maximum age. He may retire at sixty and be entitled to a full pension under the Act provided he contributes the actuarial equivalent of the sum necessary to complete his payments to the maximum age, namely, sixty-five years. It would be impossible for the average contributor to pay this amount in a lump sum, and comparatively heavy payments by way of deduction from a small pension would not leave the pensioner adequate maintenance. The pensioner on a small pension would thus be unable to avail himself of this clause as it stands. The proposed amendment would enable the contributor to pay the additional sum required while he is earning, and would bring the section within reach of the small man at no additional cost to the fund. For instance, a contributor fifty years of age will be required to pay 12s. 5d. per additional unit. If he wished to retire at sixty, for the purpose of contributions to the fund his age would be advanced to fiftyfive years, and he would then pay 19s. 6d. per additional unit.
– I was very busy when the honorable member handed this suggested amendment to me last night, and I had not time to look into it but if the honorable member will leave the proposal with me, I shall have it investigated with a view to its submission when the Bill reaches the Senate, if it should prove acceptable.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Recommittal) :
Clause 4 (Interpretation).
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That after the definition of “ the Fund “ the following definition be inserted: - “ ‘ the maximum age for retirement ‘ means the age of sixty-five years, or, in the case of a contributor the age for whose retirement is fixed by law at an earlier age than sixty-five years, the age so fixed; “
– I move -
That the following sub-clause be added: - “ (3.) Where an employee has been or is appointed, whether before or after the commencement of this Act, for a term of years to a statutory office under the Commonwealth, he shall, for the purposes of this Act, be deemed, so long as he continues to be employed in the office (whether during or after the expiration of the term for which he was appointed) to continue to be an employee, and the cessation of his employment by the Commonwealth (otherwise than by retrenchment, discharge, dismissal, or resignation) shall be deemed to be retirement within the meaning of this Act, and, if it takes place at an earlier age than sixty-five years, be deemed to be, within the meaning of section twentynine of this Act, the retirement of a contributor the age for whose retirement isfixed by law at an earlierage than sixty-five years.”
The purpose of this amendment is to provide for men who were in the Public Service, and have since been appointedto positions created by Statute, as, for instance, the Director of the Institute of Science and Industry, and the Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner of Taxation. Such appointments automatically remove these men from the provisions of this measure, unless we preserve their rights. That the amendment will do.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 24- (1.) A contributor who has been in the Service for not less than ten years, and who is retired on the ground of invalidity or physical or mental incapacity to perform his duties shall be entitled to a pension…..
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) agreed to-
That the word “ ten “ be omitted and the word “ seven “ inserted in lieu thereof.
Clause, as further amended, agreed to.
Clause 56 - (1.) Any employee who has a right referred to in section fifty of this Act, may at any time within twelve months after the commencement of this Act, make application to the Board to transfer that right to the Board……
Amendment (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the words “right referred to in section fifty of this Act “ be omitted, and the following words inserted in lieu thereof : - “ right to a pension or superannuation allowance referred to in section fifty of this Act (not being a right to a pension under the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act 1920-1921).”
– Has the AttorneyGeneral given any further consideration to clause 36, with a view to making the Bill retrospective so as to include men who werein theService for many years, hut were compulsorily retired prior to the introduction of the Bill?
– The honorable member put those cases before me. We gave consideration to them both before and since the introduction of the Bill, and we cannot see our way to do what is suggested.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as further amended, agreed to.
Clause 69 amended to read as follows, and agreed to -
(2.) If the voting at the next meeting is again equal the question shall be postponed to a full meeting of the Board.
Bill reported with further amendments.
Standing Orders suspended; reports adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
– I refrained from speaking at the earlier stages of the Bill, but I wish to say that it has my approval, and I hope it will be given effect to as soon as possible. The Labour party welcome the introduction of the Bill, and hope it will prove successful from the point of view of the Public Service.
.- Mr. Speaker-
Motion (by Mr. Greene) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided.
Majority … … 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is not a very ambitious measure. It aims at remedying some of the defects which have been found in the original Act, and centres on three main proposals. First, it limits the powers which the Commissioner may exercise without reference to the Minister. As was explained the other night, most of the evils that have fallen on the War Service Homes Department are traceable to the fact that the Commissioner has had practically unrestricted power with regard to administration and the acquisition of land and property. The Bill before us restricts the Commissioner’s powers in several directions. In the first place, he is limited to expenditures not exceeding £2,000, and is prevented from realizing on properties of the Commission without reference to the Minister. Then the Commissioner is similarly restricted from purchasing existing houses, from building otherwise than by contract, from the disposal of surplus lands, and’ from compounding with contractors. On these phases of the Bill I do not anticipate there will be much difference of opinion amongst honorable members.
Another important feature of the Bill is that it proposes to relieve the soldiers from many of the restrictions that surround the occupancy of houses. Under the existing law, soldiers are unable to sublet, and in cases, of change of address, and so on, they have to realize the property and take their chances of getting other homes* when all other applicants have been satisfied. The Bill will relieve the soldier from all those obligations, and enable him to realize the property, if he so wishes it. In order that this may be done with safety, it is proposed ito ask that a deposit of 5 per cent, on the amount proposed to be advanced by the Commission shall bo made by the applicant before the application is proceeded with.
One of the most difficult questions that confronted us in the reorganization of the Department was. that of excess costs. This has proved very difficult of adjustment, and it is inevitable that the Commonwealth will be called upon to dispose of houses at less than the fair cost, if we take into consideration the time at which they were built. Unfortunately, they were built at a time of exceedingly high values for everything that goes into a house, and. far the labour which constructs it. I wish to emphasize that, in every attempt to adjust these conditions, we have endeavoured to act justly to the soldier, without regard to what the cost might be to the Commonwealth-.
– The Government propose to make those valuations as from the time the houses were erected?
– A heroic attempt has been made to do that; but I am quite convinced that the values we shall attach to the houses will approximate much nearer to the values to-day than the values at the time at which they were erected. The latter, of course, would have been the fair thing to charge to the soldier under the circumstances. In connexion with the adjustment of these excess costs, two or three difficulties arose. In many cases, the soldier had undertaken to pay more than the. statutory amount for his house, and. had not been given a definite amount. In order to meet those cases, wo had to disregard the law to the extent of adding to the capital cost of the houses the various “ amounts in excess of £.800, which is the” limit laid down in the Act. It would have been impossible for some of the soldiers to. meet an obligation of £50, £75, or £100 in excess costs; and, in order that their houses might be saved to them, in some cases the amount of extra cost was capitalized. In this Bill we seek authority to capitalize the excess costa in this way where the soldier is unable to meet his obligation to pay in the amount of excess in a lump sum.. In a few cases, and very few,, the excess cost of the houses has the effect of increasing the repayments to an extent that the soldier is unable to meet. In those cases, we hope to extend the term of the repayments, although, as a general rule, that is not a wise course to follow. I wish to make it clear that the powers conferred by the Bill in this respect are only to be used in connexion with the adjustment of difficulties arising from excess costs, and are not to apply to the future work of the Commission.
– Under what conditions do you say you will extend the terms?
– Where the applicant can show that his earnings, or his position, is such that to impose the higher rate demanded by the excess costs would make it difficult for him to keep his contract with, the Commissioner, we will, in those cases, and those cases only, extend the terms of repayment.
– That applies only to houses already erected?
– That Lj so, and only in connexion with the adjustment of excess costs.
– Apart from that, it is not intended to relieve the soldiers of the excess costs; it is only proposed to give them easier facilities for repayment?’
– It applies to all cases where the costs are in excess of the statutory limit - a fact, which may not have been anticipated by the soldier. But in other cases of excess costs, where it is evident that the book value of the house is an excessive one, it is written down, and naturally the soldier gets the whole benefit of that. Indeed, as a general thing, it may be saM that, owing to the way in which- the Department has been- administered, some of the soldiers will be given several hundred pounds’ worth of value in their house for which they will not have to pay. Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.80 p.m.
– Another important clause is that which indemnifies the Commissioner for any action he may have taken on the lines I have indicated to adjust excess costs on a basis fair to the soldier.
We provide, also, that the Commissioner shall have power to arrange with local governing bodies for the construction of roads,’ and the supply of water, sewerage, and other conveniences to properties that have been, or may be, sold.
– We cannot pass that off very lightly.
– The provision is not open to any objection. Under the existing law the Commissioner is powerless to act in regard to groups of houses where roads have not been made, or where sewerage, electric lighting, or any of the other services which local governing bodies of various kinds in different parts of Australia supply on terms to ratepayers has not been provided. The Crown being the owner of War Service Homes property, these local governing bodies are not able to enforce the usual processes for the recovery of arrears, and so on. The clause has been framed to place the Commissioner practically in the same relation to the occupiers of War Service Homes as the local governing body is in under the arrangement they make with those to whom they supply services. This is particularly needed where, by reason of the lack of proper drainage, and in districts which are yet to be sewered, the soldier is at a distinct disadvantage because the Commissioner has not the power which we now propose to give him. I have stated the main outlines of the Bill; its details will be more fully explained in Committee.
– Do you not think that the Commissioner has too much power now?
– The Bill will curtail his power in many directions, as honorable members will see when dealing with its clauses separately.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Debate resumed from 15th September (vide page 2330), on motion by Mr. Rodgers -
In ascertaining “ a reasonable price” for the purposes of the imposition upon any goods of dumping below cost duty under section five 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 five per centum of the cost of production of the goods, such addition, not exceeding twenty 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 six 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 five per centum on the aggregate of all the items mentioned, such addition, not exceeding fifteen per centum on that aggregate, as is determined by the Tariff Board.
In ascertaining a “ reasonable selling price “ for the purposes of the impositon on any goods of dumping consignment duty under section six 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 five per centum of such cost, substitute for the fair market value the ascertained cost of production plus such addition, not exceeding twenty 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 five 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 twenty 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 eight 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 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.
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 clause (5) of this resolution shall be the duty calculated in accordance with that Act and Tariff plus twenty 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 under section nine 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 nine 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 eight 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 six 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 four to seven inclusive of that Act shall not either severally or collectively exceed fifteen 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 eight or section nine 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.
.- The course that the Government is taking has been rendered necessary by the discovery that the Tariff Board does not possess the powers necessary for the projection of Australian industries from dumping, and for dealing with the exchange problem.
– It was evident when the original Bill was before Parliament that that would be the case.
– When the original Bill was before Parliament it was pointed out that, inasmuch as provision was made only for a possible depreciation of the mark to 240, the legislation proposed would not meet the position, and since then the German mark has depreciated rapidly, so that to-dav it is not very much under 6,500, and the Tariff Board has been unable to take proper steps for the protection of Australian industries against the competition of countries with a depreciated currency. Having given careful consideration to the matter, the Board has recommended certain amendments. The Minister has put before us this proposal -
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 -
It is contended that the adoption of that proposal will give the Board sufficient power to deal with the exchange difficulty. Possibly it may, but, as I said on a previous occasion, the effective way of dealing with the difficulty is, in my opinion, to bring the value of goods imported from a country with a depreciated currency to the par of British currency, and then to apply the Tariff to them. All imports, if that method were adopted, would be dealt with in the same way; and so long as the Tariff duties were high enough, Australian industries would be adequately protected. The Government proposal is somewhat different, though practically its effect is the same as would result from the adoption of my suggestion. I have no objection to this proposal, because I realize that it is absolutely needed. There has been a great deal of importation from countries with a depreciated currency. Before we recommenced to trade directly with Germany, a great deal of iron and steel, in the form of bars, rods, blooms, and so on, was imported from Belgium and Germany, where the currencies are depreciated, into Great Britain, given the finishing touches there, and then sent here to the detriment of the Australian iron and steel industry. This has had much to do with the condition of our industry to-day. Under the law as it stands, there is no power to prevent this importation, and now that we are trading direct with Germany, there is still more reason for amending our law, in order to give the Tariff Board power to protect our industries from unfair competition. We were told, on the last occasion when we discussed this matter, that the’ Customs Department has an organization throughout the world whereby it can gather information regarding costs and prices in countries of origin, and that this information could be used to prevent clumping; but the facts prove, either that that organisation does not exist or that the Tariff Board has been unable to take advantage of it. When we pass laws for the protection of our industries, we should take pains to see that they are not evaded or overridden. There may bc differences of opinion as to the wisdom of imposing certain duties, but once duties are passed they should operate until Parliament makes some change.. It has -been found in many cases that effect has not been given to the will of Parliament, because there has not been the necessary power. In the original Bill, the Minister proposed to allow, in relation to the cost of production, a margin of 20 per cent.; but, at the request of some honorable members, he reduced that margin to 5 per cent. Now ‘he proposes to restore it to 20 per cent., his proposal being as follows : -
Evidently the Tariff Board has found that the original proposal was necessary, and we are now being asked, to restore it. I think that that should be done. There may be room for amending the Minister’s proposal, but evidently the Tariff Board must have additional powers. Under the present legislation, all the Board can do is to inquire about the position of industries in Australia, the competition with which they have to contend, and whence it comes; it has not the power to prevent unfair competition. We should be careful not to pass legislation which will allow manufacturers or others to exploit the Australian public; but, on the other hand, we should foster Australian industries to find employment” for our own people. To-day thousands of persons are unemployed in the various States, many of whom are without employment because of the importations of goods from countries with a depreciated currency. Australian workmen cannot hope to compete against- cheap foreign labour. Australian products cannot” be expected to hold their own against cheaply-produced foreign products, which are often landed here and sold at a price which is lower than the selling price in the country of origin. The standard of living in Australia is so high that our industries cannot compete with the output of cheapwage industries overseas. It has been argued that the item of freight is sufficient to level up costs, but that is not so.. As a matter of fact, goods can’ be carried from overseas and landed in Western Australia almost as cheaply as goods manufactured on the east coast of the Commonwealth can be conveyed by steamer to the West. We must have legislation which will adequately provide against competition with black-labour products and the output of the far cheaper markets of other parts of the world. Such is the purpose of this Bill;- and, to that extent*, therefore, the Government are to be commended for introducing it. It is unfortunate, however, that the original measure did not make adequate provision. To-day. hops are being imported from America and elsewhere to the serious detriment, particularly, of Tasmanian hop-growers. . Their last year’s crop is still in cold store, but brewers are importing hops at a lower price than is represented by the Australian cost of production. Australian producers must either be protected or go out of business1.’ America has “ gone dry,” and the huge American hop-growing industry has been hard put to it to find outlets for its production. Australian, brewers are helping to provide a market.
– But that fact has not made hops any cheaper for the brewers.
– Then who is making the profits? The Australian hop-growers are “ small “ people.
– Small growers on rich land.
– They have to pay very much more for fertilizers than formerly, and wage costs are considerably higher. Yet they are compelled to compete, not only with the huge output of a country which has “gone dry” and has little use for its hop crops, but with countries where hops are grown by Asiatic labour. I have been informed that hops are being sold in Australia for about 3d. per lb. less than the price in America; and that, despite freights, Australian growers cannot produce to-day upon the same basis of costs as before the war.
– But they can produce hops at less than five times more than in pre-war days.
– What are the growers paying now ?
– Ten shillings.
– I will guarantee to arrange a contract for the supply of Australian hops at 2s. 6d. per lb.
– The Government have asked the Tariff Board to aid the hopgrowers of Tasmania in conducting negotiations. Brewers in every State have been appealed to to use only Australian hops.
– But if the brewers will not do a fair thing, if they will not respond to the reasonable claims of an Australian industry, drastic legislative machinery should be provided to deal with them.
– I do not say anything against that, but I can speak of what the brewers haveto pay.
– I can only repeat that somebody must be making very big profits between the cheap foreign hop producers and the Australian brewers. Our brewers are well protected under the Tariff schedule; they should beprepared to act fairly by an allied Australian industry. Personally, I think they will be so prepared. Some brewers have reassured me upon that point ; but there are others not so inclined. I am sure that the Tariff. Board is doing all that is possible to assist the Australian growers. Neither in Victoria nor in Tasmania did hop producers get the benefit of the high prices which ruled during the war.
– I would welcome a general expression of opinion on the hop industry. It is in a very precarious state, due to the conditions in America, and ordinary measures of protection are not adequate to meet the circumstances.
– I repeat that, if the brewers insist upon excluding Australian grown hops in favor of imported supplies, this proposed legislation should be speedily applied. In no other way can the industry be preserved. Alarming reports reached me only yesterday to the effect that brewers in Queensland had stated that they would ‘buy their hops in the cheapest market. If they could get them more cheaply from countries where the hops were grown by black labour than from any other source they would not hesitate to do so.
– But they are not selling their beer any more cheaply.
– That is true.
– Unless the brewers of Australia will agree to use Australian hops, the degree of protection afforded, either by this Bill or by any existing Statute, will prove insufficient to protect the industry, in view of the exceptional conditions in America.
– That is most disquieting. The provisions of the Bill should be made adequate to cover the position. If brewers refrain from using Australian hops the local industry will decline, and possibly die. Then the brewers will probably find the American supplies no longer available, owing to the lack of a home market. What will the brewers then do for their hops?
– The Australian hop industry will come into its own again.
– Too late, perhaps. Once the hop country is thrown out of cultivation it will be a long and costly job to put it into a state of full production again. And what, in the meantime, will happen to Australian brewers?
– It costs Tasmanian growers practically £100 an acre to produce their crop.
– That is what the Minister has just told us. I am alarmed at his statement that we have not the power to meet the position, and I hope that he will take it. I am sure that if the brewers saw the matter in its true significance they would readily recognise how necessary it is that they should patronize our own hop-growers, especially in view of the fact that they are themselves given a good deal of protection under the Tariff. If they do not patronize the products of their own fellow countrymen, I think we would be justified in considering whether we should continue to afford them that protection. Every one in Australia should be sufficiently patriotic to do what he can for his own people.
– And the land-owners should forgo some of their profits.
– I am informed that the land on which hops are grown is held in small areas of from 7 acres to 9 acres by the hop-growers themselves.
– We can safely say that 97 per cent. of the hop-growers own their own land.
– We talk of intense cultivation; we get it in the hopgrowing industry, where we have men with just sufficient areas on which to rear their families in decent comfort. However, they are now out of business because, although they could easily supply practically the whole of the hop requirements of Australia, fully half of what they produce cannot find a market. A continuance of such a condition of affairs would spell nothing but disaster to them, and the Minister would be well advised to take the power he requires to meet the situation.
– This resolution proposes to increase the protection; but I doubt whether it will be sufficient if the present abnormal conditions remain.
– This legislation is designed to meet abnormal conditions, otherwise we would not be occupying time in dealing with it. Our Tariff is supposed to cope with normal conditions. Special legislation is required to meet abnormal circumstances. Yet, although the Tariff has proved unsatisfactory, according to the experience of the Tariff Board, we are informed by the Minister that he does not think his proposal today will meet the position. In the interests of those people who live on small areas, and grow hops for a living, we should do something to protect them. We should not leave them to the mercy of the brewers. I know that some brewers recognise how necessary it is that they should buy Australian hops as far as possible; but, on the other hand, there are those who claim the right to get hops from wherever they can procure them, whether they be grown by white, black, or yellow people. However, the proposal submitted to-day is a step in the right direction, and I hope that the Minister will make every endeavour to meet the position.
.- There is a striking difference between the division of responsibility and authority as set out in the resolution and that contained in the Act itself. In the latter, in every section, we find the words, “ If the Minister is satisfied after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board.” In the resolution these words occur, “As is determined by the Tariff Board.” The adoption of the words as they appear in the resolution would relieve the Minister of all responsibility, and would hand it over to an independent Board. I consider this would be an entirely wrong principle, and, in my opinion, the resolution ought to be worded in accordance with the provisions in the principal Act.
– I will make a note of the matter.
.- No doubt, to those who believe in high Protection the anti-dumping resolution submitted to-day appears to be a necessity; but I think it should be understood that Australia’s high Protectionist policy is placing the country in some very peculiar positions. That we are beginning to realize this is shown by the very attitude we are taking up in trying to checkmate the influence of our highTariff upon industries within the Commonwealth itself. We are beginning to learn that the high duties afforded to one industry are injuring other industries, and we have thespectacle of the Government, soon after the adoption of the Tariff schedule, bringing down amending resolutions for the purpose of protecting certain primary industries which, it is recognised, have been crippled by the Tariff. It is a case of the dog chasing its tail. I try to regard this matter from the national stand-point. We hear a great deal of talk about creating a standard of living by the enforcement of a high Tariff; but when we have so created a high standard of living, the task is how to maintain it. An article, to which I drew attention this morning when submitting a question without notice, should be taken into serious consideration, because it informs us that the copra trade, formerly held by Australia, has been lost to this country, and the copra does not even touch at any Australian port in passing from its place of production to markets overseas, except that which, because of the provisions of the Navigation Act, must come to us from Papua. It is the Navigation Act which has shut us out from the other and larger portion of the trade in this commodity. This is another outcome of our effort to make Australia self-contained. The Australian Natives Association, which first came into existence in the State of Victoria, where it is now liveliest, has come to realize how the Commonwealth is being injured by a high Protectionist policy, and that this policy is untenable. In fact, at the annual conference of the association held in Perth in July last, the following resolution was carried: -
That this Conference recommends the revision of the Tariff with the view of abolishing high protective duties, and substituting therefor bounties to support necessary industries.
– Bring that resolution before a Victorian Conference of the Australian Natives Association, and see what will happen to it.
– Just so; another case of the dog chasing his tail ! It is generally acknowledged that the country which most closely resembles Australia in its conditions and products is the Argentine. The geographical positions and climatic conditions of the two countries are very similar, and I am pleased to see in the Ape an article comparing the two. The headings are -
a british protege.
Argentine is prospering by means of natural industries such as we engage in; but although her policy differs entirely from ours, the Melbourne Age, the greatest Protectionist journal in Australia, lays before the people of Australia the prosperity of their rival. The article in question proceeds -
The glamour of romance will always hang over Argentina. Even in these days when the great South American Republic feeds half Europe,the average Australian is barely aware of its existence.
We are “ self-contained.” We are like the maggot in the cheese, thinking we are the whole world -
Yet, in the field of primary production, the vast territory which Lord Bryce called “ The United States of the Southern Hemisphere “ is Australia’s most formidable rival. Being south of the tropic of Capricorn, its seasons almost coincide with ours, and the main industries in, both countries are identical, whilst Argentina is nearly three weeks “nearer to the world’s markets, and enjoys cheaper and more plentiful labour. Meat, wool, wheat, maize, oats, vines, dairy produce - all those things on which the Commonwealth depends for existence - are produced in the Argentine Republic in vast quantities. Argentina long since cast off themantle of romance and donned the garb of industry.
We are in the romantic stage in Australia. Contrary to all the principles of trade and industry, we are trying to set up a standard of living that time will show is absolutely untenable. We are feeling it now. We are running ships without cargoes, and manufacturinggoods too costly to be sold in competition with Argentine or any other country. If we cannot produce in competition with other countries we must perish.
Mr. Higgs. - Bunkum!
– I may be regarded as a land of modern Jeremiah, as one Minister has styled me; but I would rather be that than be one crying peace when there is no peace, or living in a fool’s paradise. I am not speaking out because what I say may suit the electors. I am talking simply because I do not think that our Protectionist policy is beneficial to Australia. No attempt has been made by the Government to check the cheap inflow of goods, even from white countries. We are afraid to face the competition of white countries where there is no black labour. There has never been any suggestion to improve the form of our industries, our machinery, or our output. Why cannot Australians compete with Frenchmen, Englishmen, Scotchmen, or Americans, as they ought to be able to do, particularly with the protection afforded by 12,000 miles of water carriage?
– At any rate, Australian harvesters do all the harvesting in the Argentine.
– Yes, and I dare say that is due to the Protectionist policy, which allows the manufacturer of these harvesters to sell at a dear price to Australians in order that he may give a cheaper machine to the people of the Argentine, whose markets are open for the receipt of those commodities in the manufacture of which she cannot compete with other countries. The latter produce them by reducing overhead charges. Argentine has realized her natural facilities for producing wealth, and is getting population into the country. She opened up her land, and facilitated the coming of immigrants, giving them every attention on arrival, and allowing them tobring in free of charge their furniture and implements of production. Implements and tools of trade are on the Tariff free list. The result of this policy is that Argentine is prosperous, and the Melbourne Age asks us to keep our eye on that country. The article continued -
In a way, Argentina is Britain’s protégé and the position is somewhat anomalous,because the Republic is the most determined competitor of the Dominions within the British Empire. It cannot be suggested that Britain’s interest was purely philanthropic. Colonial investments attracted the financiers, and they have been amply repaid for their enterprise. The great estancias of Argentina produce ever-increasing revenue to swell Britain’s wealth, and it pays Britain to maintain her hold. The Governments of Argentina have not been blind to the advantages arising from association with Britain. Until the last year or so, they have given every inducement to the foreigner to invest his money there. Right at the birth of the Republic,, the authorities reversed the insane dictum of the Spaniard that foreigners were to be rigidly excluded; and companies formed for the exploitation of Argentine resources were thenceforward given equal status with purely local concerns. At periods taxation was remitted, and compensation was guaranteed for damage to property by roving bands. Land was made available on attractive terms, and everything possible was done to encourage settlement and development. Australia could indeed learn much from the methods of the Argentine.
In 1872 the cultivated land consisted of 1,450,000 acres. In 1888 it was 6,250,000 acres; by 1898 it had risen to 15,000,000 acres; in 1908 it had leapt up to 39,000,000 acres, and to-day 75,000,000 acres of land is under crop in the Republic
That is a vision I like to take of Australia’s future. The Commonwealth has more cultivable land than has the Argentine.
-The Argentine was developed with cheap coloured labour.
– Cheap labour or not, the honorable member is dragging Australia in the dust, and the Argentine is out-distancing us in industrial development -
Since the total area of Argentina is approximately 1,135,850 square miles, it is apparent that that county has pushed further ahead in development than Australia, which, with an area of 3,000,000 square miles, has approximately 15,000,000 acres undercrop. True, the population of Argentina is 10,000,000, as against Australia’s 5,500,000, but a large portion at the southern end of the Republic is fit for nothing. As in Australia, the pastoral industry has laid the basis for permanent prosperiity,but the Argentine has devoted more attention to cattle than to sheep. This is probably due to the fact that the early Spanish colonists brought cattle there, which formed the nucleus for the vast herds which now graze on the stretching pampas of the territory. The industry, however, never attained great value until the British capitalists took a hand. Britain has been amply repaid.
During the war Argentina stoodby her and her Allies, and helped towards victory by supplying meat and other foodstuffs for troops and civilians. Many of the greatest beef concerns in the world have vast interests in the Republic, and, in 1920, 4,165,573 quarters of frozen beef was exported, in addition to 581,286 quarters of chilledbeef, 1,083,000 carcasses of mutton and 447,652 carcasses of frozen lamb, and great quantities of tinned meat and beef extract. Of the frozen beef, Britain took probably 95 per cent., while the bulk of the other lines also found their way to the British Isles.
For a considerable time Argentine was importing more than she was exporting, but her people held to a policy which they knew would turn out right in the end. Their faith has been justified.
Exports, therefore, have temporarily slumped. Whereas in 1920 5,029,528 tons of wheat was exported from Argentina, the sales in 1921 reached only 2,000,000 tons, whilst maize exports declined from 3,961,801 tonsin 1920 to 2,622,000 tons in 1921. Other lines showed similar decreases. The setback, however, is regarded as being merely temporary, and every effort is now being made to remedy the situation. Her methods are different from those of the Commonwealth. While Australian cattle-breeders have gone on their knees to the Government for financial assistance, the Argentine have been helping themselves. They have instituted a great publicity campaign in the British Isles, and have purchased over 3,000 retail butchers’ shops for the sale of Argentina meat. One fact on which the Republic can pride itself is that there is a substantial margin of export receipts over expenditure on imports, due partly to increased primary production and partly to the recent move towards the building up of secondary industries. In 1911 the exports amounted to £67,785,000 as against imports totalling £80,202,000, leaving a debit of £12,417,000. But by 1920 the position had been completely reversed, and in that year goods valued at £199,460,000 were exported, whilst the imports, in spite of inflated prices, were worth£ 169,000,000. During recent years an extensive immigration system has been built up, settlers being welcomed from almost every country in the world.
Argentina recognises the necessity for immigration, and by the way in which the Government applied themselves to the task of attracting population they set another example to Australia -
Received at an enormous hostel at Buenos Ayres, where there is accommodation for 6,000 people, the immigrants are provided with free board and lodging for fifteen days; employment is found for them and their fares and travelling expenses up country are paid. For three years they pay no taxation whatever,and can even import their furniture, tools of trade, and clothing, and other necessaries without payment of duty.
Contrast that policy with the action of the Commonwealth Government in charging several hundreds of pounds in duty on each tree tractor imported for use in the group settlements. I believe that duty has since been remitted. I agree with the Age that Australia would do well to keep an eye on Argentina. We should also take a little introspective vision. Last year this Parliament imposed a duty on sulphur, one of the component parts of superphosphates, which are at the very foundation of Australia’s prosperity. It was a most one-eyed policy. Of course, it is said that the imposition of a duty will’ stimulate local production, and lead to the supply of manures to the farmers at cheaper prices. But what do the manufacturers of superphosphates say? I quote this letter from Cuming, Smith and Company - 27th April, 1922.
The Primary Producers Association of Western Australia,
Emanuel Buildings, Perth.
Dear Sir, -
Price of Super for 1922-23 Season.
Yours of 29th ulto. has had our attention, and a copy of same has been sent to our bead office.
The question of estimating the cost of next season’s super, will shortly have attention, and we can state that the basis for computing same will, as requested by you, be upon the basis of the variation in cost of raw materials, freight, and charges.
In this connexion we would like to point out that the proposed imposition of a duty of 50s. per ton on sulphur will seriously militate against any substantial reduction in the price of next season’s super., and if this duty is imposed it will represent a direct tax upon the agricultural industry.
For Cuming, Smith & Co.,
It would not be difficult to point out that this impost on sulphur is not the only direct tax on our primary industries which have to compete with our great rival, Argentine. That country has a great advantage over us, inasmuch as she is three weeks nearer the world’s markets, and the Government in imposing these burdens on our. primary industries are taking steps which they will have to retrace sooner or later. It is right enough to keep up our standard of living, but the way proposed is not the proper one. We ought to consider what is wrong with Australia that she cannot conduct secondary industries without being spoon-fed at the expense of primary industries. I have not forgotten the speech which the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) delivered when the first anti-dumping Bill was before us at the end of last year. I cannot quote the honorable member’s exact words, but he made an excellent speech, in which he said that we had been for many months considering the protection of industries by the imposition of a heavy Tariff ; that the departmental officials and the Minister himself had been devoting much time in order to include every product they considered ought to be protected. The effect of such a policy isto deny the Australian the opportunityof obtaining anything cheaply; and the honorable member for. Batman told us that the Government, in case they had left some little hole whereby something cheap might creep into the country, were putting this anti-dumping plaster right over the Tariff. We have now had twelve months’ experience of the working of the decision then arrived at. I may point out here that the Tariff Board has not a primary producer on it, although the primary producer buys the bulk of his machinery in Australia, and it is on him we rely for 75 per cent, of the revenue of the country. We are told now by the Minister that the Tariff Board requires further powers. It would appear that some little draft of cheap goods may get into the hands of Australians, and, therefore, it is proposed that the anti-dumping plaster shall be made thicker, so as to preclude any possibility of such a thing. The primary producers must, it seems, be handicapped right down to the ground, and, at the same time, we see articles appearing in the Age containing the warning, “ Keep your eye on Argentina.” We now find that Fiji has taken trade away from Australia. - another step, I suppose, towards making Australia a self-contained country. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr.” Wise) asks for a heavy duty on maize, and representatives of Tasmania, desire a duty on hops because America has gone “ dry.”
– The honorable member voted for a high duty on timber under instructions from his constituents.
– It would be infinitely better if timber, which we do not produce, and stand in need of ourselves, were allowed in free of duty.
– The honorable member spoke one way and voted another.
– Honorable members will be laughing on the other side of the cheek before the end of the life-time of some of us. When this Tariff Board was proposed we thought that it would be representative’ of all sections concerned in the development of Australia. Extension of time granted.] The three members of the Board are very excellent .gentlemen! bub, in fairness to the great primaryproducing interests, one of them should have been a man directly associated with the latter, so as to be able to show exactly how those primary industries are affected by the protection of secondary industries. In this way it might have been possible to afford genuine protection to one industry while not crippling another.
– What about a consumers’ representative?
– That is a matter that should also be taken into consideration.
– The honorable member’s arguments would apply to hops as well as to anything else.
– If the production of hops were considered by the Board to be of sufficient importance, and its protection would not cost too much, that, too, should be considered. Australia is now, however, face to face with the great sugar industry. As a member of the Public Accounts Committee, I ought not, perhaps, to refer to this, but it has been stated that a duty of £14 per ton will be required to protect the industry. I venture to predict, if such a duty were imposed, that in a few months that would be added to the general price of an imported ton of sugar. This really means that an Australian would be buying 1 ton of sugar at a price for which other people could buy 2 tons of sugar; and so we go around the vicious circle. But the most serious matter of all is that we cannot make anything to sell outside, and we have to sell something, indeed much, to cover our great financial obligations.
– This is not an antidumping speech, but an anti-Protection speech.
– It is culled from Adam Smith”, and culled very well!
– Then the Age culled from Adam Smith, because the bulk of my remarks are based on the Age article. I should like to impress on the Minister that my remarks are on lines which the Government have recently adopted. In my first speech in this Chamber, I said that if industries are so necessary to the centralized portions of Australia, they ought to be protected by means of bounties; and at last the Government have recognised the truth, and have so protected a couple of industries.
– That is only an election “ sop “ to your party !
– I am more pleased at the admission of the principle than at the “ sop.” One of the causes of my pleasure is that under the bounty system the honorable member who interjects will con-‘ tribute to the support of that industry at Sunshine which he so dearly loves.
– I contributed before; 1’ bought a plough.
– Some honorable members have not even done that. Under a Protectionist Tariff the cost is placed on the shoulders of the few, and not on the shoulders of those who support and vote for such Tariffs. If secondary industries are protected for the benefit of Australia, the whole of Australia should contribute to the cost of the protection. I am glad the Government have admitted the, principle of bounties, because it will make it easier for a succeeding Government to follow in their steps.
– Now tell us something about the proposals before us; what do you think of them?
– With a Protectionist Government, such as we have, the proposals are excellent for the purpose for which they are framed, but I am dead against the principle involved in them. I should have much preferred if the Government, in sticking on this anti-dumping plaster, had asked themselves why it is that we cannot compete with other countries. Are the big works at Newcastle up-to-date, and as efficient as any American works? What is wrong? The Government ask themselves none of these questions; they simply thicken the plaster, and so handicap Australia that she will be beaten by Argentina and other countries which have more common sense.
– In addressing myself to the question, I should much like, for a short time, to be clothed with the mantle of the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), so that I might more effectively be able to spread the “ acid.” The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) did not touch the matter before the Chair during the whole course of his speech, and, in this, has again shown how peculiar some of the representatives in this House are. I remember that when the protection of the timber industry was before us, and it was shown that the dumping of timber by countries which had felled more trees than they required themselves, might impose some disability on the local industry, the honorable member for Swan, for three days, in speeches worthy of himself, and with a solemnity all his own, insisted on the inadvisability of any duty on timber.
– That was against a proposal of 10s. 6d. per cent.
– What happened? The honorable member voted against the way in which he had spoken for three days.
– That is quite incorrect.
– It is quite correct.
– I know it is correct. The honorable member was justified in voting as he did, but he has no right to vote in direct opposition to his own arguments. And he is not the only culprit. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams), like the honorable member for Swan, assailed us whenever, in the desire that Australia might become something more than a merely mining and agrarian country, we made an attempt to preserve Australian industries. Now, however, we find that those honorable members who sit in the “ Amen “ corner have changed their opinions. The Division of Gippsland has always sent a Protectionist representative to this House, and is, therefore, justified in seeking the protection of its productions. Maize is a staple product of Gippsland, and the growers of maize there have been injured because South Africa, which has over-produced, is dumping maize into Australia. As for the hop-growers, we knew that with a certain amount of protection they would be able to compete against importations from abroad; but the present importation of American hops is due to a set of circumstances altogether abnormal.
– In the early days of this Parliament no man complained more than the honorable member of. the high cost of living.
– I complain of it still.
– The price ofbeer is not affected by the price of hops.
– I am not going to discuss the cost of beer. An honorable member is right in seeking to protect an industry peculiar to the State from which he cornea; but the honorable member is inconsistent in his attitude towards Protection. Our efforts should be directed towards protecting the hop-growers by Statute, and an attempt should be made to induce the brewers to use only Australiangrown hops. No doubt the selfishness of individuals, and of the States, prevents the Federal spirit from spreading throughout Australia. The honorable member for Swan has no Australian feel ing whatever. He is so anti-Australian in his speeches and actions that I cannot understand his being elected by any division. If the electors of Swan impose him upon us again, I think that they themselves should be removed from the country.
Mr.Prowse. - I do not readily take offence when things axe said against myself, butI object to improper references to my electors.
– I remind the honorable member for Melbourne Ports that the motion does not concern the honorable member for Swan or his electors.
– Those who have sought the protection of Australian industries were aware, when the original Bill left us, that it would not meet the position that we knew would arise, and it does not surprise me that amendments are now proposed. But what the Minister proposes is futile, as he himself admits. He has told us that it will have no effect whatever upon the hop industry.
Mr.Rodgers. - The honorable member goes too far. My statement was that, in view of the exceptional circumstances in America, where the nation has prohibited the use of hops for the manufacture of alcoholic beverages, it is almost impossible, except by prohibition of importation, to adequately protect the Australian hop-growers from the competition of importers from America. What I propose, however, does increase the measure of protection. Take the dumpingbelowcost provision, in regard to which we make an increase from 5 to 10 per cent. ; that increases the protection.
– We can get imported American hops 50 per cent. cheaper than hops can be got in America, and that, after the cost of exchange, transit, and all handling charges has been paid. Nothing short of prohibition of importation can meet the case, and I say that to protect the hop-growers we should prohibit importation. People will not continue for long to grow hops in the United States of America, and, should our own hop fields go out of cultivation, we shall be without hops. From the teetotal point of view, that might be a good thing; though it is possible to make hop drinks which are not intoxicating, and the teetotallers would have done better had they spent half as much money in manufacturing a good teetotal drink as they have spent in publishing teetotal literature.
– The hop-growers of Tasmania ask us to prohibit, under licence, the importation of hops, but
Ministers cannot see their way to go so far. It would be an extreme step to take.
– The position in regard to maize is almost the same as that in regard to hops. Is it possible for Australian industries to live unless we protect them from dumping from abroad? We know that because of cheap production elsewhere and importation into this country one of our big manufacturing industries is being seriously injured. Had we protected it sufficiently the case would be different. As it is, subsidiary industries have gone to pieces from the failure to obtain the raw material that they needed. I hope that what has occurred will be a lesson to those who have always opposed the protection and fostering of Australian industries, unless where their own States or interests were concerned.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) referred to the position of the hop-grower, to which the Tariff Board has recently given considerable attention’. The hop-growers are in a position which differs from that of every other producer in Australia, because practically their only customer is the brewing interest. The brewers form, perhaps, the wealthiest Combine that exists in Australia, and a Combine which has been protected by the highest duties which Parliament could impose. This wealthy Combine sweats the growers of hops to the very limit. The price of hops does not affect in the least the selling price of beer, and their cost is infinitesimal compared with the cost of the beer of which they form a part. The brewers do not give the hop-growers a fair deal. They say to the Tasmanian growers, “ You must plant out only Kentish varieties. We will not buy Californian clusters from you.” They import the Californian cluster hops, and thus put themselves into an advantageous position to beat down the local growers of varieties which are more costly to produce and very much less productive.
– The brewers are no worse than the coal barons or the beef barons.
– The price of coal rises and falls with the cost of production, but the cost of beer is not affected by the price of hops. Four or. five years ago hops were being carted round Hobart and could not find a market at 5d. or 6d. per lb. To-dav nearly half of last year’s crop is being held in stock, and the brewers will not buy at a reasonable price. During the war hops went up to 4s. 6d. per lb. in some instances; but when the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) said to-day that the brewers of Kalgoorlie were giving 10s. per lb. for hops the Leader of the Opposition offered to get for them a contract to supply hops at 2s. 6d. I say that he could buy 2,000 bales to-day at 2s. 6d. per lb. A special cool store is being erected in Hobart at great cost to enable surplus stocks of hops to be held over, because the manufacturers of beer will not pay a living wage to the growers of hops. I do not deny that I opposed the establishment of the Tariff Board; I failed to see of what use it could be. But, since the Board has been brought into being, I agree that it should be clothed with adequate powers. Its twelve months of existence nave proved that the Board has not the power to enable it to be a working entity. I congratulate the Minister (Mr. Rodgers) on the Board which he possesses.
– The honorable member is “ coming round.”
– I hope I shall always be fair. I believe that, in the Tariff Board, the Minister has the ablest Board in any Department in Australia.
– That is a very candid and, at the same time, a very accurate statement.
– As for the industry itself, the large growers of hops may be counted on the fingers of one’s hands. Ninety per cent. of the growers live on and own their own properties, and the bulk of these are less than 5 acres in extent. It costs practically £100 to plant an acre with hops. Many growers were persuaded to enter the industry by the brewers of the mainland. Now the brewers say they will not give the growers a reasonable price. Two shillings and sixpence per lb. is a low price, but if a wealthy Combine of brewers is determined to knock down prices still further it can succeed. The brewers, particularly of Adelaide, and in Queensland, are deliberately trying to reduce prices.
– And quite rightly so.
– After inducing men to enter the industry? Ifthe brewers are not prepared to do a fair thing let us remove the protective duty from their products. On behalf of the delegation which came over to the mainland from Tasmania, I wish to express thanks to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) for the assistance which he gave them in Sydney. The honorable member afforded them every possible help. I received a long telegram only yesterday from the Chairman of the Tariff Board in Adelaide; and, from information which I have received first hand, I am able to say that the brewers of Australia are not prepared to give the hop-growers a fair deal. While taking fullest advantage of the protective Tariff in respect of their own products, they intend to continue to “sweat” the Australian hop-grower.
– Not all the brewers. In some of the States they have made a reasonable proposition.
– If the Minister had told me that yesterday I would have indorsed his remarks; but, from later information given to me personally, I am afraid that such is not the case. There are some individual brewers who are prepared to do a fair thing, but the great bulk of them are out to “sweat” the Australian hop-grower to the limit, for the sake of their own dividends.
– The Government are anxious to protect the hop producers, and will not see them annihilated.
– I am glad to have that assurance, and I thankfully accept it.
.- The Customs Act is one of those measures which give tremendous powers to the Minister for Trade and Customs. The Statute colloquially known as the AntiDumping Act confers still greater powers upon the Minister. Those powers are very arbitrary. Parliament’s only safeguard lies in the fact that the Act lays direct responsibility on the Minister. Thus, the Minister becomes answerable to Parliament; his actions can be called into question. In. the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act, there is to be found, again and again, the phrase, “ If the Minister is satisfied.” I invite the attention of honorable members to sections 4 and 5. But it is now proposed, under these resolutions, to take the power away from the Minister for Trade and Customs and to vest it almost exclusively in the Tariff Board.
Mr.Gregory. - And then the Government will have the same excuse that they have uttered over and over again in the matter of the War Service Homes.
– That very point was referred to only this morning when the Honorary Minister (Mr. Hector Lamond) stated that a good deal of the muddle of the War Service Homes had been caused by the fact that the Minister for Repatriation had no control; that Parliament had taken the control out of his hands. The Minister for Trade and Customs should he prepared to accept the whole of the responsibility, and should not seek to pass it on to the Tariff Board, hut in these resolutions the Government is deliberately seeking to transfer responsibility. Over and over* again, like a refrain, the resolutions repeat the phrase, “ As is determined by the Tariff Board.” The powers . contained in our Customs legislation are now about to be considerably ‘ widened, and it is all the more urgently necessary that every safeguard which Parliament has applied, or can apply, shall be maintained or provided. However, all are being swept away, and the Tariff Board is being made the absolute authority.
Mr.Rodgers. - The honorable member is considerably over-stating the position.
– Responsibility should be still in the hands of the Minister, and should not be placed in those of the Tariff Board. I object to the transfer in toto. In our Customs legislation there are far wider powers than ought to be placed in possession of any one Minister; but, hitherto, Parliament has at least held the safeguard of Ministerial responsibility. If these resolutions are agreed to, Ministerial responsibility will in this matter be a thing of the past.
I do not propose to deal with the main issue. Unfortunately, Protection is the policy of this country, and, in the circumstances, I do not see why there should not be some form of control over any and every factor which may tend to militate against the success of Australian industries. As for the Anti-Dumping Act itself, it is a necessary adjunct of the Customs Act. I cannot support the resolutions, for the reasons which I have endeavoured very seriously to stress, namely, that they propose to transfer Ministerial responsibility to the Tariff Board.
.-The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise) and the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Bowden) have raised the question of the transfer of Ministerial responsibility. In the parent Act, and right through the Customs Tariff, responsibility is specifically placed on the shoulders of the Minister. That is a policy by which the Government stand firmly to-day. I have always been a strong advocate of Ministerial responsibility. The only occasion on which the Government have departed from that policy, in connexion with Customs laws, is with respect to the particular amendments contained in these resolutions. In ascertaining the proper percentage to be added, a maximum is fixed ; but it is undesirable to have trade held up. As honorable members know, trade and commerce cover hundreds and hundreds of items, and it is particularly desirable that decisions should be arrived at with the utmost despatch, so that the operations of traders may not be held up. In view of the fact that the Minister is not always to be reached with expedition, the Tariff Board was deliberately invested with this particular power in these matters only, the sole object being to avoid delay in releasing goods for commercial purposes. There was no desire to avoid Ministerial responsibility. However.. I am not very keen on the matter, and if it be the general desire of the Committee to restore Ministerial responsibility in these cases I am prepared to accept an amendment in that direction.
– Like the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) I am astounded at the statement made by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) that there is no hope of saving the hop industry, either under the Tariff or his present proposals, owing to the fact that America has gone “dry,” and the hopgrowers of the United States of
America are unloading their hops on to other countries to the great disadvantage of the Australian hop-grower. The honorable members for Swan (Mr. Prowse) and for Nepean (Mr. Bowden) complain that in order to protect a certain industry the duty has been raised from 5 per cent, to 20 per cent., but we are told by the Minister that even 20 per cent, wall not save the hop industry, and we do not know that some other industry may not be assailed some other day to such an extent that a 20 per cent, duty will not be sufficient to protect it. The Minister has intimated that if there is a consensus of opinion in the Committee that the power, proposed to “be given, to the Tariff Board should rest with the Minister, he is prepared to bow to that opinion, and in the circumstances I see no reason for fixing the limit at 20 per cent. I would be prepared to give the Minister, acting on the advice of the Tariff Board, power to impose an embargo on all importations likely to cripple Australian industries, as we are told the hop-growing industry may be killed.
– That is a nice’ method of saving ‘Australian industries.
– We are told that the hop-growers in Australia can supply the whole of the requirements of the Commonwealth.
– There is a large quantity of last year’s hops carried over.
– In Victoria a considerable quantity of land is being put into cultivation for hops, which will increase the output.
– There is an abundance of proof that the Australian growers can produce the whole of Australia’s requirements, so that an embargo would not have the disastrous effect that the limitation of 20 per cent, is likely to have. We should be prepared to stand by any Australian industry, primary or secondary. If the people of America found that an Australian product was knocking out of existence, an important American industry) President Harding, no matter what his fiscal faith may be, would readily assent to any Act of Parliament passed for the purpose of affording protection to the affected industry of the United States of America.
– I do not want to resort to the course suggested by the honorable member, because it would carry with it the necessity for control, with price-fixing, guaranteeing of. supplies,- and all that kind of thing.
– It may be hops today, but to-morrow it may be some other industry.
– Which would only serve to increase the difficulty.
– But that would be nothing, so long as it meant the saving of an Australian industry. Why should the Minister hesitate about affording reasonable protection to the people engaged in an Australian industry? I am sure that the Minister, acting on the advice of the Tariff Board, would not be anxious to play ducks and drakes with the general community. Why should we set up a Tariff Board if we cannot trust them to take a hand in protecting Australian products against the danger of being flooded by imported goods, dumped here for the purpose of knocking out Australian industries? If we pass the motion submitted to-day, and the Tariff Board remains inactive while Parliament, is in recess, or while the elections are being held, it is quite reasonable to anticipate from the abnormal conditions existing in the world to-day that during the interval most important Australian industries could be knocked out. The embargo against the importation of German goods has been removed, and in the absence of German consuls or consular agents we know nothing, of what is taking place in Germany. I have no desire to be always dragging down the British people, but ever since the Armistice was signed “big business” has been going on between Britishers and Germans, and I have no hesitation whatever in saying that long -before the embargo was removed German goods wholly or partly manufactured in Germany were coming into Australia in large quantities in British bottoms.
– No one in Australia has given any proof of that. r
– The honorable member knows well that Australians who have visited Germany have told us that the factories in that country are working overtime. Are they turning out good? for their own requirements? We know that Russia and Austria, whom Germany formerly supplied, are now in a crippled state. Why are the German factories working overtime?
– Are they not supplying Russia to-day?
– They may be, but to a very limited extent in comparison with the quantity of goods supplied to Russia in pre-war days. The industries of Germany, with the exception of those upon the slice of territory of which the country has been deprived, remained intact during the war, and the organization of the country is even better to-day than it was in pre-war time. The factories are working at top speed day and night, and where are the goods going? Australia is getting her proportion of them, and that proportion will be larger now that the embargo has been removed. I believe this will spell disaster to Australian industry unless we are1 prepared to give greater power to the Minister for Trade and Customs and the Tariff Board than is proposed to be given in the motion submitted by the Minister to-day. For that reason I would like to see the limit of 20 per cent, omitted until, at any rate, the new Parliament meets.
– Speaking generally, I agree with the motion submitted by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers”), except in regard to the point raised by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise), upon which I am disposed to think the Minister will favorably entertain an amendment. It is obvious to those who glance at the Tariff Board Act and the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act that Parliament deliberately declared that the responsibility was not to be shifted from the Minister to the Tariff Board. Nearly every section in the latter St’atute provides for decision by the Minister if he is satisfied after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board. The Board itself is regarded in the light of an advisory Board, and the responsibility is ultimately placed upon the Minister. Obviously this Parliament desired that the responsible party should be in this Chamber. Although the Minister has endeavoured to qualify the position a little, I strongly urge honorable members to adhere to the policy laid down in the Industries Preservation Act, so that we may continue the link of responsibility resting upon the Minister himself. I believe that the honorable member for Gippsland is prepared to submit an amendment to that effect, which will be favorably entertained by the Minister.
I have glanced through the clauses of the motion, but they are difficult to comprehend without a careful study. . When we passed our anti-dumping legislation we were desirous that it should be effective, but experience has shown it to be completely ineffective by reason of the extraordinary depreciation that has taken place in die currency of Germany and other countries. The Industries Preservation Act when passed through this House was based on an exchange rate of 240 marks to the £1, but the mark has since depreciated to something like 7,000 to the £1, and the maximum anti-dumping duty of 75 per cent, has become completely useless. To-day the anti-dumping law is a mere sham. As I understand the motion before the Committee, it will operate in this way: I can make the meaning clear by using an example. If the German invoice price was £100, the f.o.b. charges £5, the freight £10, and the duty at 40 per cent., £44, the total landed cost in Australia would be £159. Suppose that the same class of goods manufactured in Australia cost £200, the difference in price between the imported and the local article would be £41. In order to put the imported and the Australian goods on practically the same level, with a little margin in favour of the local article, it is proposed that the Department shall be at liberty to impose a duty not merely on the £100, the cost at the nort of export, but on the £100, plus the difference or dumping duty of £41, so that the duty would be charged on £141. That would give the Australian manufacturer a show, and make our Protectionist policy effective. A duty of 75 per cent, is of no use when it is practically wiped out by the depreciation of currency in the country of export. Therefore, some discretion must be allowed to the Minister, and the discretion proposed will permit him to charge as a dumping duty the difference between the landed cost and the fair market wholesale price of the locally-made article. This is one of those elastic provisions which will enable our policy of Protection to be made effective by having regard to the fluctuations which are daily or monthly taking place in other countries. That it is an extraordinary sort of legislation I admit, but it must be extraordinary in order to deal with the abnormal conditions of trade throughout the world. Anti-dumping legislation is nothing new; it exists in the United States, Canada, and in other countries, but it is useless ‘to have a nominal antidumping duty; if we believe in the principle, we must make it effective. Therefore, I think every true Protectionist will realize that the extraordinary condition of the world’s trade warrants the adoption of this most unusual legislation.
-Is not the real test the wholesale or retail price at which the commodity is being sold in this country? If it does not undercut locally-made articles of the same quality and kind, what does the cost of production in other countries matter?
– These goods do undercut the locally-produced article. I have used as an illustration foreign goods landed in Australia at a cost of £159. Having regard to Australian working conditions and wages, the same article cannot be produced locally under £200. Of course, in ordinary times there would not be such a vast difference in the costs of production. The disparity is due to the abnormal depreciation of the mark from a par value of 20 to the £1 to a present value of 7,000 for the £1 sterling. We cannot permit German manufacturers with all the advantages of this depreciated currency in their favour to dump their goods into Australia, and so deal a crushing blow at our own industries. This phase is only temporary, and the scheme before the Committee is not cast iron. In that respect it differs from the original legislation submitted last year, which provided for a graduated scale of duties, increasing or decreasing according to the fluctuations of the depreciated currency. The same rigid provisions would not be practicable now because of the abnormal extent to which German and other currency has depreciated.
– I appreciate all that the honorable member says; but is not the simple test of the need for an antidumping duty the selling price in Aus tralia rather than the intricate calculation as to the cost of production? In other words, if an imported article does not under-cut the local article, what is the need for anti-dumping legislation?
– The very essence of dumping is under-cutting. When I was Minister for Customs, innumerable instances came under my notice when, after the local markets in and adjacent to the country of origin had been supplied at ordinary prices, the excess was disposed of to Australia and other countries at prices 20 to 50 per cent. and more lower than the ordinary market price in the country of origin.
– These motions apply only to countries that have a depreciated currency.
– The paragraphs which relate to depreciated currency are designed for use against such countries, but any other country which sought to dump its surplus production at cut prices would be countered by. other provisions.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs said that this motion would not apply to America.
– So far as I am aware it applies to all countries, but in so far as it relates to depreciated currency it would have no practical application to America, because it has an appreciated currency.
– But America might dump its over-production in the manner which the honorable member has described?
– Speaking generally, the anti-dumping legislation applies to all countries; and, indeed, the first four clauses of the resolution now before us are of general application, but this suggested new provision in regard to exchange will operate only against those countries which have a depreciated currency.
– The definition of “ reasonable selling price “ and dumping below cost would apply to any country.
– Exactly. The particular clauses, which are based on a depreciated currency existing in the country of export, could not apply to America at the present time, where there is an appreciated currency.
– That is understood.
– Clearly so; and that is what the Minister meant. I therefore, think that it is wise for the Minister, in view of our experience, to introduce those clauses and make the Anti-dumping Act effective. I have pleasure in supporting the proposals before the Chair, but at the same time I urge that the point raised by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Wise) as to the restoration of the responsibility of the Minister should be met by way of amendment.
.- Two instances were brought under my notice by a manufacturer of leather goods, which showed that the steps we have taken to preserve our industries have not, so far, been effective. He was shown by a retailer of leather bags an imported article, which evidently was of German origin, but which purported to come from Great Britain. That article cost the retailer 6s. 6d., and the manufacturer to whom I was speaking told me that that bag could not be made here at less than 8s. 6d. or 9s. The 6s. 6d., of course, included the 35 per cent. preferential duty. The second line that the manufacturer brought under my notice was one of purses, which are coming into the hands of the retailer here from Great Britain at 13s. a dozen, but which, I was assured, it was quite impossible to turn out here at less than 21s.
– That could be met by ordinary Protection.
– That may be; but the discrepancy is so great that it seems to me that the steps we have taken to preserve those industries are not effective under the present circumstances, as pointed out by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best).
– Where do these articles come from?
– They come direct from Great Britain, but the manufacturer says that they are clearly German goods.
– Does that suggest that dumping is being done?
– I think it does. Any steps that are taken for the purpose of making our legislation effective will receive my support.
. - I do not propose following the example of one or two honorable members, who make these proposals the basis of a discussion at large on the question of Protec tion versus Free Trade. I agree with the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews), that when the Government first accepted the principle of antidumping we expected, and our expectations have been realized, that an amendment would be necessary to make the legislation effective. I think it is unquestionably true that, as a result of our experience, any duty, whether it be an anti-dumping duty or of another character, if it is imposed indiscriminately in the hope of satisfying the manufacturer, will prove to that extent abortive. A manufacturer, if he is regardless of the price to be paid by the consuming public, as he will be if he gets all the Protection he seeks, is never satisfied, no matter how high the duty may be, and the public, naturally, are not satisfied if they find that the price is unduly inflated as a result of the protective duty. Protection is not everything, either to my party or to me personally. The Minister (Mr. Rodgers) says that it is not a question of Protection, but a question of legislation for the prevention of dumping. But in principle it is a question of Protection, and it is Protection superimposed on Protection. I join heartily with those who stand for the preservation of Australian industries against unfair competition from whatever source that competition comes. I must admit that I would not like entirely to be associated with the views expressed by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), though he was good enough to applaud something I had said in the House.
– He claims you !
– He claims to appreciate what I said - he agrees with me - and I reciprocate to the extent, at all events, of saying that some people seem to imagine that, wherever an industry so-called is commenced in this country, it is the highest form of patriotism to exclude all kinds of damaging competition with it - that it is our duty, as patriotic Australians, to exclude outside interference in order that the industry, whatever its kind, character, or extent, may flourish.
– That is not a fair statement of the Protectionist position.
– I am not saying that it is a fair statement of the Protectionist position, but it is an absolutely fair statement pf the attitude taken up by some honorable members here.
– A national policy is to ascertain what is a fair margin, and work up to the margin.
– I have heard it argued this afternoon that a . certain industry is threatened, and the Minister himself, in connexion with the hop industry, has declared that he has to admit that the protection which we propose for it is quite inadequate to protect it from American competition. In other words, the Minister says that the position is almost hopeless unless, as it seems to me, it is met by a bold policy of prohibition. The suggestion seems to be that we’ must prohibit the consumers of - hops from using any kind of hops except Australian-grown hops. Surely it will not be denied that that clearly is the attitude of some honorable members in this House? I listened to them carefully, and that is .the only meaning that their words will bear. All I can say is that I must not be expected to support a policy of futility of that kind. There must be some kind of self-reliance, some self-respect, in the people of this country to enable them to make or grow an article which will have some qualities to make it stand on its own merits as against commodities from abroad, especially having regard to the well-known fact that We enjoy a great deal of natural protection by reason of our distance from other competing countries.
– Australian products should stand on their own feet, and not be wheeled about in a bath chair?
– That, perhaps, fairly expresses the position.
– The Government have had very strong and continuous representations made to it on the item, of hops, but it will be the last resort, in my judgment, if the Government are forced to go to the extreme suggested. I have striven in every possible way to avoid it.
– Speaking personally, I am the representative of an essentially manufacturing electorate, which, by reason of the recent redistribution, has become more decidedly manufacturing. It is an. electorate which, I believe I can safely say, would not accept for a moment any other fiscal principle than that of Protection. I propose to support the policy proposed for maintaining Australian industries against all kinds of unjust competition. I look with admiration on the development and growth of all Australian industries, whatever they may be.
– If Australian manufacturers, in regard to the item of hops, will stand up to the policy under which they exist, and use Australian raw material, all will be well; and the same may be said in regard to the maize industry.
– I am not concerned with the prohibitionists, who would hand the people of this country over to the tender mercies of subsidized manufacturers, or with those friends of mine of the Country party who loudly proclaim their adhesion to the policy of Free Trade until it affects some commodity in which they are interested in the paddock where they happen to have their crops sown. I am favorable to neither of these two sections. I certainly do not overlook the fact that no person can conscientiously demand a reduction in the cost of living and, at the same time, apply subsidies without discrimination to manufacturers in this or any other country. , We have to consider human nature; and so long as the people are subsidized by the State to raise prices, prices will be raised.
Coming more immediately to the proposal of the Minister, which is directed to the principle of anti-dumping, I accept it, as explained by other honorable members, and particularly by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), who, with some lucidity, went into the whole matter. Whatever the disturbing factors may be on the other side of the world, whether in Germany, or any other country, and I hope we are not at present looking at this question from the point of view that we are dealing with a so-called enemy country, or late enemy country, but merely as an economic problem. I quite accept the principle that if people are enabled to manufacture goods abroad, and dump them into this country in unjust competition with our manufacturers, they should not be permitted to take advantage of such conditions as would probably have the effect of destroying industries which could not be resuscitated in normal times, or, at any rate, not without difficulty and loss. I join with those who think that this should be a Ministerial responsibility, rather than -.a responsibility of the Tariff Board. I ask the Minister, however, and his Board, to see that this anti-dumping legislation is conscientiously applied as against dumping. I have a number of figures before me which seem to suggest that the anti-dumping duty is imposed under circumstances where there is no unjust competition in this country at all. I do not wish to go into details. The Minister has been good enough to hear my representations on the point in a perfectly proper way, and I have also made representations in this House. It seems to me from certain figures with which I have been supplied that in particular oases this duty is superimposed on goods not in unjust competition here, goods which are being sold at a price that could not unjustly compete. The figures in many of the cases, I believe, are before the Tariff Board. I certainly hope that the Act will be administered without any unfriendly feeling against any people. It has to be remembered that if we are going to apply this duty in a spirit of prejudice against other nations, that must re-act on ourselves. I am not pleading the cause of other people, but the cause of those who, believing, and I hope justly, that this legislation will be applied with meticulous justice, have entered into trade relations with other countries, and who, I am sorry to say, complain that, apparently, the duty is not fairly imposed. I do not object to the principle of the proposal, but accept it as proper, and I only hope and trust (that the Board will faithfully carry out its functions, and that the Minister will see that the duties are applied, after the closest investigation only so far as may be necessary to meet abnormal conditions and to prevent unfair competition detrimental to the industries of Australia.
.- Some doubt has been expressed as to the intention of this anti-dumping legislation. Does it apply to goods imported from all parts of the world , or only to goods imported from countries such as Germany, where the currency is depreciated ?
– I cannot answer the question by interjection; but I shall explain the whole application of the motion before I ask the Committee to vote on it.
– I congratulate the Minister on the choice of the members of the Tariff Board. It has given a great deal of satisfaction. There is, however, much doubt as to what prices are to be classed as dumping prices. Paragraph 5 of the motion says -
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 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.
That is a serious power to give. While we should protect our own’ manufacturers, we should also protect the general public. An importer, if he is a good business man, must know the cost of the goods which he is importing, so that he may be able to sell them in advance of arrival, and he needs some guarantee that the duty he will have to pay on them will be at a fixed rate, based on information which he is able to supply, otherwise he will add an amount to cover this risk, and the consumer will have to pay it. If he cannot supply correct information, he must suffer; but if he submits fair and reasonable evidence of cost, he should not be penalized. I do not wish to encourage dumping, but I think that where there is proper, honest, straightforward, business method, the importer should be able to ascertain in advance what duty he will have to pay, and thus be enabled to sell to the public at a reasonable profit. If the Minister cannot satisfy me on this point, I shall move an amendment later. I would substitute for the provision in paragraph 5 of the motion this provision -
The Minister shall accept as satisfactory evidence of reasonable selling price in the country of origin or manufacture the price disclosed by the manufacturers published price- list and/or advertisements and/or generally accepted and duly declared trade quotations in the country of manufacture of the goods concerned.
– That is almost the practice adopted to-day; but we cannot undertake to adopt that method exclusively, because if we did so we could not prevent dumping.
– I am not dealing with importation from countries where there is a depreciated currency.
– This legislation is intended to prevent only the selling of articles here at less than their price in the country of origin.
– If” the price paid for an article - say, pianos - in the country of origin is fair and legitimate
– Then that article will not come within the anti-dumping law.
– The first essential is that there shall be proven detriment to industry.
– If a manufacturersay, in America - produces an article bond fide cheaper than it can be obtained elsewhere, why should the purchaser of that article be penalized for landing it in Australia and selling it here after paying the duty provided in the Tariff?
– There is no provision for penalizing an importer unless he is dumping below cost.
– There is no assurance of that in the motion.
– Paragraph 5 of the motion does not apply only to countries with a depreciated currency; it applies to any country from which dumping below cost is attempted.
– Does that mean below cost here?
– Below cost in the country of origin.
– If an importer makes a purchase in a foreign country at bond fide current prices, will he be penalized on the arrival of that article in Australia 1
– If the country from which the article is imported is not a country with a depreciated currency, or a country whence there is dumping below cost, only the ordinary Tariff rates will apply to the importation.
– The subject of hops has been mentioned. I should like the Minister to make sure, before taking drastic steps to prevent, the importation of hops, that we have all the qualities of hops here necessary for the brewing of good beer.
– There are no better hops in the world.
– I am not an expert; but I have heard persons claiming to be experts say that they cannot manufacture here as good beer as is made elsewhere unless they have a certain quality of hops.
– Australian brewers have told me that they could manufacture the whole of their beer from Australian hops, and wanted nothing better.
– I am not speaking on behalf of the brewers. My point is that we must be careful not to injure the consumers of beer.
– A small quantity of Bohemian hops as used to blend with other hops, but that quantity is very small indeed.
– At all events, its importation should not be prohibited if it is essential to the brewing of good beer. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mowilliams) spoke of the brewers as being very highly protected, but he forgot that there are very high Excise duties on beer. A very large revenue comes from the duties on the beer brewed in Australia.
– The consumer pays those duties.
– Of course, the duties are passed on to the consumer. I am speaking, not in the interests of the brewers, but in those of the consumer, if an inferior article is used in the making of beer, the public will suffer.
– Australian hops are admitted by the brewers to be good enough for their purpose, and since the Tariff duty has been imposed - they have been able to get hops more cheaply.
– My sole desire is that we shall not in the slightest degree prevent our manufacturers from getting whatever may be necessary to the production of an article equal in quality to anything produced in other parts of the world.
.- At the beginning the debate on the motion seemed to circle round the subject of hops. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) said in his speech, and has just repeated in an interjection, that hops are cheaper to the brewers since the duty waa imposed on imported hops. The honorable member may be right so far as a section of the brewers is concerned, but what he says does not apply to all of them.
– I can get you 2,000 bags of hops at 2s. 6d. per lb.
– The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) did not apply to other Tariff proposals the arguments which he has used in support of special treatment for the hop-growers. The following particulars are contained in a letter written to me by the secretary of the Kalgoorlie Brewing and Ice Company. He states-
I enclose herewith copy of a letter received from one of our hop merchants in Melbourne, and would be glad to hear what is the true position. The effect of prohibiting the importation of hops, thus placing the market in the hands of the Hop Pool, was to force prices up to 10s. and 12s. per lb.
– That is not correct.
– I make that quotation to support my statement, earlier this af ernoon, that hops were costing theKalgoorlie brewers 10s. per lb.
– And I informed the honorable member that I was prepared to arrange a contract at 2s. 6d. per lb.
– Then there must be something wrong somewhere. The letter referred to in the covering communication which I have just read states -
Those Tasmanian hop-growers who are interested in what is known as the Tasmanian Hop Pool, finding their sales of hops slow, have started an agitation to secure still further Protection from the Federal Government. Their executive has been in close contact with the authorities. While, so far, nothing definite has been announced, we see that the Minister for Trade and Customs, in answer to a query in the Federal Parliament, said, “ The Government are giving consideration to the question of further safeguarding the hop industry.”
It, therefore, behoves every brewer in Australia to take active steps to combat a move directly opposed to their interests, and which has no sound economic basis, as the existing duty, plus freight, insurance, and exchange, is quite sufficient protection to the industry. The present move is only being made with a view to obtaining Government aid to maintain a high price at the brewers’ expense.
America has “ gone dry.” If all the hops now grown in that country were “ dumped “ into Australia, the supplies would not last us for a great number of years. Americans will not continue to produce something for which there is not a ready sale. What is the use of our passing temporary laws when American hops will not.be importable in a few years? In Tasmania, at present, there is at least one firm which is building storage capacity for the hops which it has not yet sold. It intends not only to house this season’s hops, but some of last year’s also. SinceKalgoorlie brewers are being compelled to pay 10s. to 12s. per lb. for their hops, it is clear that somebody is getting a bit more than he is entitled to earn out of the Australian hop industry.
– I assure the honorable member that that person is not the grower.
– Manufacturers, importers, and consumers are well protected under the Tariff. In every matter with which the Tariff Board has to deal, the Minister for Trade and Customs has the last word. That is, in itself, a safeguard. But, being of opinion that prohibitive duties are not good for Australia, I shall vote against these resolutions.
.- The resolutions provide that when goods are being dumped into Australia at less than the home cost of the commodities, certain action shall be taken. Will not an enormous amount of expensive investigation be involved in ascertaining homeconsumption cost? How can the Government or the Tariff Board learn whether imported goods are being sold here at less than the cost in the country of production ?
– The Government have the necessary powers and authority to require proof.
– I am aware of the powers of the Minister and of the Board, but I am concerned about the tremendous cost which must be involved in investigating these particulars.
With regard to the position of the Australian hop-grower, I agree with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) that producers have not been getting a fair price. Brewers have not treated them fairly. I trust that the Minister will give the industry reasonable consideration. Production costs are exceedingly heavy. I impress on the Minister the necessity for retaining Ministerial control. This country does not want to see the Government hand over any more of its responsibilities to Boards.
.- The Tariff Board has been actively engaged in investigating Australian industries. It has made certain inquiries and presented a number of recommendations. It has been impressed with the fact that some of our industries are in danger owing to the dumping of foreign products. The hop industry is one of those which has been imperilled by the importation of foreign produce. A man who has put his money into land on which to grow hops has as much right to be protected as another who has put his money into machinery. If Tasmanian growers cannot sell last season’s hops because of the dumping into the Commonwealth of American-grown hops, it is the duty of the Government to afford the Australian industry adequate protection. If Australian brewers insist on using American hops, what right have they to look to the Australian market for the consumption of their protected products? Why do they not try to get Americans to drink their beer? I have the utmost confidence in the Tariff Board; but, although its members are practical men in full sympathy with Australian industries, they have not the power to do anything to help them. After they have investigated anomalies they make a recommendation to the Minister, and, very properly, he must accept the responsibility. I regret the fact that this motion has not been brought on earlier. Tasmanian hop-growers are almost ruined. They cannot get payment for last season’s crop, and do not know whether to put in any further crops.
– They are ‘suffering 1 from the operations of the Combine of brewers.
.- In supporting the motion, I take the opportunity of pointing out the unfortunate position in which the brewers have placed the hop-growers. When I spoke last session to the first item of the Tariff, I said that there would be many peculiar divisions : that we would find honorable members voting for duties on items manufactured in their own electorates, and asking for the removal of duties upon raw materials which were produced in other parts of Australia. We all know that this happened. Now we find the brewers, with a highly-protected industry, trying to get their hops at less than a fair value. I am informed by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams’) that the brewers are importing from California the very same sort of hops that they are refusing to buy from Tasmania for some reason best known to themselves, and certainly not known to the hopgrowers. There are many hundreds of people engaged in picking hops during the season, and they find it a most remunerative employment, so that the hop-growing industry is fairly important. I am opposed to any Combine which is acting unfairly. One that will by means of better organization make things easier for . the consumer is a benefit to the community; but I am utterly opposed to any Combine which is out to raise prices.
– Those who combine for that purpose should be put in gaol.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. At any rate, if the brewers persist in their present attitude I would be in favour of prohibiting the importation of hops, in order to show that this Parliament stands for the preservation of Australian industries. We were fortunate enough to succeed in securing a prohibition of the importation of carbide. It meant the saving of an Australian industry.
– Do the people think so now?
– I am absolutely certain that they do. There has recently been a reduction in the p’rice of carbide manufactured in Tasmania, and the management assure me that before very long there will be a further reduction. They say that very shortly they will not care whether the prohibition is continued or not, so long as there is a fair duty. During the war the price of carbide rose considerably, even as high as £112 per ton. The very day on which the House was discussing the matter imported carbide on which a duty of £10 a ton had been paid was being offered for sale at £23 per ton, whereas the same article was being sold in New Zealand, where it is allowed free entry, at £40 per ton.
– In those circumstances the people of Australia were doing very well.
– Because the Tasmanian Carbide Works were operating. Otherwise the people’ of Australia would have been paying £40 or £50 for carbide.
The industry has been stabilized through the action’ of the Government in agreeing to place an embargo upon importations, and the people of Australia are getting the best carbide in the world. It is an entirely Australian product, and was one of the first industries to he established in Tasmania after the hydro-electric scheme was installed. It employs 150 men directly at the works, and I believe that in the near future the number will be increased to 250, because at the present time additional plant is being provided. I mention this matter to indicate what might be done if the Government saw fit to prohibit the importation of hops. If it is a question of whether an industry is to survive through the prohibition of imports, I shall vote for it, and I sincerely trust that this Committee will do so, not only in regard to hops, but also in regard to any other industry suffering at the present time from dumping or other unfair tactics.
.- The Committee has taken up a very reasonable and sympathetic attitude towards the motion. There are one or two phases of administration upon which I should like to inform the Committee. Under the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act, twenty-four cases have been submitted to the Tariff Board. In the following cases, the Committee has recommended gazettal: -
Metric casings and tubes (Canadian Consolidated Rubber Company and Dominion Rubber Supplies Limited).
Metric casings (United States Rubber Company).
Fancy leather pochettes.
Pianos ( German )
Cotton gloves (German).
Dairy thermometers (German).
Mechanical toys (German).
Press studs (Austrian).
In the following cases it has satisfied itself that the conditions of dumping do not exist: -
Rubber teats and valves.
Bleaching powder (Belgian), in drums of German origin.
Gas cylinders from Saar Basin.
Oxygen making machinery (German).
Oxygen making plant (German).
Knitting machine needles.
In the following cases further inquiries are being made: - “ Vaseline “ products (United States of America). “ End of season “ apparel and millinery.
Incandescent gas mantles.
Cylinders in which anhydrous ammonia and gas are imported.
Electric motors (Swedish).
The question of the elimination of competition, referred to by the honorable member forWide Bay (Mr. Corser), does not arise except in the case of Germany and Austria, the only two countries with currencies depreciated beyond the onetwelfth margin provided for in the Act. In fact, of these two we get goods only from Germany. Therefore, beyond the ordinary measure of protection afforded by the Customs Tariff, competition is available from practically every part of the world, subject only to our Tariff, and the added protection which is afforded by sections 4 and 5 of the Industries Preservation Act relating to dumping at reduced prices for export and to dumping below cost, and the provision, in the case of goods on consignment, contained in section 6. Competition is open and free as between Britain and the other Dominions, subject only to these restrictions, and there is nothing real in the argument advanced by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) that we are attempting to prevent competition. The honorable member, who told a most mournful tale, expressed the view that the present proposal was but another “ plaster “ which was designed to stop up any “ holes “ through which goods could enter Australia. This country has rightly or wrongly fixed a margin of protection; that is not increased by lie motion I have submitted to-day. The purpose of the motion is simply to safeguard the protection already afforded to meet cases where there is unfair competition, particularly owing to depreciation in the exchange value of the currency of any country. Without these safeguards our national policy of Protection would be rendered of no avail, and if we permitted this, it would be criminal neglect on our part. Exchange dumping provisions will apply only to countries where there is a depreciation of currency. Dumping below costs provisions apply in the case of any country, irrespective of the value of its currency, in the world’s finance.
– Yes. There should be no long interval during which that condition of affairs might arise, resulting in an inrush of goods in the absence of machinery for the protection of local industry. “We cannot do wrong in making provision for a contingency of that character. Industry is entitled to some such assurance after it has invested a large amount of capital and launched out upon great enterprises.
– Does the Minister propose to amend the words “ as is determined by the Tariff Board?”
– As it seems to be the desire of the Committee that the Minister shall accept responsibility,I shall propose certain amendments accordingly.
– I understand that this motion will apply only to goods imported from countries whose currency is depreciated.
– I have already explained that the exchange provisions, i.e., in sections 8 and 9 of the parent Act, apply to those countries, but there are other provisions to guard against dumping by low export prices, consignment dumping, dumping below cost, and dumping at ballast rates of freight. These apply to any country.
Amendment (by Mr. Rodgers) agreed to-
That after the word “determined” in paragraph 1 the following words be inserted: - “ by the Minister after inquiry and report.”
Paragraphs 2, 3, 4 and 5 similarly amended.
Question, as amended, resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Rodgers and Mr. Richard Foster do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Rodgers, and read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill gives effect to the unanimous resolutions of the Committee of Ways and Means. In language and structure it is clearer than the resolution, but is in no way different in substance or effect. It has been already amended to conform to the amendment made to the resolution in Committee of Ways and Means, in order to place upon the Minister the responsibility of determining, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, what additions shall be made by way of profit on cost, &c.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue bemade for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to provide for the payment of bounty on the manufacture in the Commonwealth of certain iron and steel products.
This motion is necessary to give effect to the announcement made by the Treasurer in his Budget speech relating to the substitution of the payment of a bounty for the duty at present imposed on these iron and steel products. It is quite unnecessary for me to repeat the arguments I used when dealing with the previous measure. The aim is to give to the manufacturers a bounty equal, as far as is mathematically possible, to the duty which has been removed. The matter has been investigated carefully by the Tariff Board after consultation with the representatives of the industries affected. While the substitution of the bounty may not be quite what the manufacturers would like, it is generally agreed, I think, that the measure of protection afforded by the bounty - that is the actual degree of protection - will be equal to that previously enjoyed under the duty. The question as to which may be the preferable was not gone into as between the Board and manufacturers at the recent interview to which I have referred. It was no part of the Board’s business, of course, to examine that phase as the policy had been determined; all that was necessary was to satisfy the manufacturers that the bounty would be at least an equivalent of the duty.
– I do not think they are satisfied.
– We are not now discussing the policy, but the actual amount of the bounty which is to displace the duty. This is a computation and calculation in which, I take it, honorable members are not as keenly interested as are the manufacturers affected. The Committee is now asked to provide a bounty in place of the duty, and it is for the Tariff Board and the Customs staff to examine the proposals acturially and provide an equivalent. All that has been done, and I ask the Committee to accept the assurance that the Tariff Board and the officers of the Department have most carefully computed the bounty.
.- The Minister (Mr. Rodgers) says that this is not a matter of policy.
– I did not say that; I said the Tariff Board had gone carefully into the matter.
– At any rate,it is evident that this proposal is made in view of the forthcoming election, and in order to placate, as far as possible, country interests. That is a fact which it is of no use attempting to disguise. The Minister has assured us that the bounty will be at least an equivalent of the duty now in opera tion, and a similar assurance has, I understand, been given by the Tariff Board to the industries concerned. However that may be, I do not wish the impression to go forth that the subsidiary industries which depend on iron and steel are satisfied with what is being done, because if I am guided by reports of the meetings of those interested, the contrary is the case. They say that a duty is preferable, because it is fixed, and, stability being thus given, there is some encouragement to enter upon the industry. A bounty is quite a different matter, for it presents no certainty, seeing that it may be removed at any moment. All that can be said in favour of the bounty - and this is why a bounty is proposed - is that it will, perhaps, relieve to a certain extent the people in the country districts and make the general taxpayers bear the burden.
– The bounty is proposed at a time when this great industry is unable to carry on.
– As a fact, the bounty puts the industry in a worse position than before. I invite the Minister to read the report of the last meeting of those interested, held in Sydney about five weeks ago, when he will see that the proposal now before us was very severely commented on.
– I have seen the reports of those meetings, but it is a necessary condition of protection that the protected industries shall “ deliver the goods.”
– This industry is quite prepared to “ deliver the goods,” but there has not been sufficient demand in recent months, or even in recent years.
– Perhaps the price was too high.
– I think there is another reason, and that is that quantities of cheap goods have been coming into Australia from Great Britain, though not manufactured there, but in countries with depreciated currencies.
– There is no proof of that. In fact, the evidence is quite to the contrary. I have heard the honorable member make that statement before.
– And I repeat it now. All the evidence to be obtained in England goes to show that at the very period when these cheap goods were coming into Australia in large quantities, and our industries began to languish, there were1,000,000 unemployed in Great Britain. The furnaces were out at the works at Home, and very few men were working at the time; and yet more finished iron and steel goods were coming from Great Britain than formerly. Here we haveprima facie evidence of something wrong. We are told by people who know that at this particular time, blooms, rods, bars, and so forth, were being imported from Belgium and Germany into Great Britain, where they received the finishing touches. These goods naturally came to us as British goods.
– That is an assumption.
– Facts are always an “ assumption “ when they do not suit the listener. The fact that” at the time the furnaces were out in England, and men were unemployed, lends considerable force to what I say, especially when we know that the German people were working night and day.
– Those goods are covered by consular certificates from the country of origin. That is a protection we have. The honorable member’s statements are not borne out by the result of the inquiries made.
– I do not know what the inquiries reveal, and I am stating the position as I understand it from the inquiries I have made. Of course, honorable members are at a considerable disadvantage in not having at their disposal sources of information in different parts of the world, such as are available to the Government. The present Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) when Minister for Customs, told us that he had agencies through which he could obtain information at very short notice from every country in the world. Honorable members on the other hand have to piece together as best they can reports and information which come to hand from time to time, and it would be difficult, indeed impossible, for them to be provided with absolute proof. However, the Minister has assured us that the bounty, whatever it may be, will be at least the equivalent of the duty, and that assurance the House has practically accepted. I do not think that such a policy as that now followed is in the best interests of Australian industry; and, moreover, it is strange that it should be adopted only nine or ten months after we imposed the duty. On the eve of an election the imposition of a duty is found not to be the correct thing, and the bounty is proposed in order that the Government and their supporters may convey the idea that they are helping their country constituents.
– This is a time when country people and others cannot get supplies from local industries.
– The proposal is really made to damage the credit of the Country party, which has advocated a similar policy. The idea of the Government is to secure the election of Nationalists as against members of the Corner party. However, we have to make the best of the proposal; but I must repeat that I do not approve of the method adopted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Rodgers and Mr. Greene do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
– I move-
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-21, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for their investigation and report thereon: - Erection of building in Brisbane for taxation and other Commonwealth purposes.
This proposal is to utilize the valuable vacant land situated in the centre of Brisbane, the property of the Commonwealth, by erection thereon of a suitable building to be occupied by local branches of Commonwealth Departments. The utilization of this land was the subject of a report by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works last year. Under that report the Committee recommended donation of a portion of the land towards the formation, in association with the State Government and the municipality of Brisbane, of a soldiers’ memorial square; donation of this land has accordingly been effected. In its report the Committee also referred to the necessity for erection of Government offices in Brisbane, and considered that the remainder of the land referred to would be suitable for the purpose of this office building. Similar building projects are in process of being effected in Sydney, Adelaide, and Perth, and possibly also the same will be done in the case of Melbourne. Drawings of a five story building to cover the whole area of the land having frontages to Adelaide and Ann streets and the memorial square are now submitted as required by the Act. The building obviously should be designed upon lines to conveniently provide for future expansion, and the extent to which the initial section of the work should be effected will be reported upon by the Standing Committee after evidence on the subject. The first section of the building provided by the drawings now submitted is intended to provide about 84,000 feet of effective working office space, estimated to cost about £127,000.
This space is considerably in excess of initial requirements, but it may be found advisable to provide a structure of this size even if portions of it may have to be let pending expansion of Commonwealth requirements. Further details of the project will be submitted in evidence to the Standing Committee during its investigations. Although it is proposed to erect a five-storied building, the Public Works Committee may consider that it would be sufficient for the present to construct, perhaps, only two-thirds of what is proposed. It is the policy of the Government to own instead of to rent the office accommodation which it requires in the capital cities.
– Does the Commonwealth own the site on which this building is to be erected?
– Yes; and it is the best site in Brisbane.
– Is it proposed to house various Departments?
– Yes. The building is to be erected primarily for the accommodation of taxation officers, but during the remodelling and reconstruction of the General Post Office it will give ample accommodation for the greater part of the postal operatives.
– As the Minister says, the site on which it is proposed to erect this building is one of the most valuable in Brisbane, and lies opposite the railway station. The Public Works Committee examined it last year, and recommended it as a suitable site for taxation and other Commonwealth offices. The Committee was asked to consider at thesame time a scheme for the participation by the Commonwealth in the making of a memorial square in Brisbane in remembrance of those who fell during the war. The land that the Commonwealth owns has not a very big frontage, but it has a great depth, and the Committee recommended that 15 feet should be taken off at each end to allow the streets at the front and back to be widened, and that 60 feet of the whole depth should be contributed towards the memorial square. This, however, was to be done subject to the Queensland Government giving up a block of adjoining land, and to the municipality of Brisbane carrying out the necessary alterations.
– Those conditions have been agreedto.
– Does the land include the site of the present Normal School?
– Yes. There are several buildings on the site now. I do not say that it is necessary that the conditions to which I have referred should be complied with immediately, but the Minister should assure us that they have been accepted.
– That is so.
– There was a certain amount of opposition to the project, and unless we are definitely informed that the conditions have been accepted, I shall oppose it. The making of the memorial square is rather an ambitious thing. It is estimated to cost £250,000, of which I believe only £5,000 or £6,000 is yet in hand. The Government should be careful not to proceed with this work until the State Government and the Brisbane Municipal Council have signified their intention of doing their part under the agreement.
.- I am pleased to know that so large a building is about to be erected on one of the finest sites in Brisbane. I have no doubt that the accommodation which it will provide is absolutely needed, and a great city like Brisbane deserves a magnificent public building. But, when a proposal like this is brought before the House, honorable members should have time to study it. I see a number of blue prints on the table. We should have time to study them and to make up our minds about the general suitability of the design - the details, of course, are matters for the architects - before agreeing to the proposal.
– This is merely a motion to submit the proposed work for the consideration of the Public Works Committee.
– Will the Committee be able to report on it this session?
– But the House will have another opportunity to consider the proposal ?
– Yes ; and members will then have the assistance of the Committee’s report and evidence.
– That is a good thing. More attention should be paid to the design and appearance of our great public buildings. In other countries there are such buildings, which are the admiration of all who see them.
– The cry for economy prevents the building in Australia of very fineedifices. There has not been a really good building put up in this country for some years.
– That may be so ; but in future more regard should be paid to beauty of design than has been done in the past. I do not suggest that we should copy any ancient buildings, such as the Doges Palace at Venice, or the Cloth Hall at Ypres. Nor do I suggest that we should copy some of the very beautiful modern buildings, although their lines might be studied with advantage.
– The proposed building, when erected, will be the finest in Brisbane.
– I hope that by that expression the Minister does not mean merely the largest. I have seen very large buildings in the world which are by no means beautiful. As the Commonwealth has now obtained possession of one of the finest sites in Brisbane, and is going to spend a large sum of money on the erection of a building there, that building should be made “ a thing of, beauty and a joy for ever”; and I hope that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and his fellow members of the Public Works Committee may be able to satisfy the House that that will be the case if we agree to the proposal.
– Recently there was referred to the Public Works Committee a proposal for the erection of a building, and after that body had thoroughly investigated that proposal, and had reported on it, the Manager of the Commonwealth Bank put everything on one side, appointed another set of architects to make another lot of plans, and accepted a design costing upwards of £15,000 more than that approved by the Committee.
– Nothing of that kind can happen in this case.
– No. But this is an opportunity to draw attention to the extremely unsatisfactory position of matters in connexion with the erection of buildings to be used by the Commonwealth Bank authorities. It is extraordinary that, after the Government had brought forward a proposal, and Parliament had submitted itfor the investigation of the Public Works Committee, and after that Committee had reported in favour of it, the Manager of the Commonwealth Bank should be able, without consulting anybody, to put everything on one side, and erect a totally different building than that proposed.
– The Government brought in a Bill handing the whole matter over to the Commonwealth Bank.
– Then what was the wisdom of referring the proposal to the Public Works Committee and wasting on a useless investigation the time of its members and of the witnesses called before it?
– When the proposal was first made, the control of the Commonwealth note issue was under the Treasury authorities ; now it is under the Commonwealth Bank.
– The Bill referred to was not passed until the Manager of the Commonwealth Bank had put aside the original proposal.
– No man in Australia occupies a position similar to his.
– Parliament should have a voice in matters like this. We did wrong in handing over such matters entirely to the Manager of the Commonwealth Bank.
– We decided that there should be no political interference with the Bank.
– In attempting to prevent political patronage we have opened the way to patronage which is more dangerous and more expensive. I do not think it can be laid at the doors of this Parliament that many of its members have exercised political patronage improperly. At present, the Manager of the Commonwealth Bank has too much power for any one man. He should not be at liberty to put up whatever buildings he likes, employing a staff of architects outside the Public Service to prepare designs for them. That seems to me very improper.
– I desire merely to mention that the arrangement in regard to the land between the Queensland and Commonwealth Governments have been satisfactorily concluded. I assure the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) that what has been suggested in this relation has been amicably brought about. Further, it is understood that the State Government will avail themselves of the opportunity to occupy some of the space indicated in the plan which has been made available for honorable members’ inspection.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr. Rodgers, and read a first time.
Bill presented! by Mr. Rodgers, and read a first time.
Bill read a second time.
– Is it the pleasure of the Committee that the Bill be taken as a whole?
– I have no objection. Are honorable members to understand that this measure contains nothing more than the provisions of the resolutions which have been already debated?
– I can assure the honorable member in that direction. This Bill provides for the payment of bounties in respect of the steel products which have been placed under lower rates of duty, or in some cases made duty free, if of British origin. It further provides that the measure shall operate simultaneously with the removal of duties upon the steel products indicated, so that no advantage may be lost by Australian manufacturers. Special safeguards are included. Manufacturers will be required, for example, to provide evidence that their works have made reasonable efforts to cope with the Australian demand, and that they have complied with necessary industrial conditions. These provisions are similar to those contained in the Iron and Steel Bounty Act 1918. Consumers are safeguarded by the specific provision that, if the products are not placed on the market at reasonable prices, the bounty may be withheld. Employees are safeguarded by the provision that, if reasonable conditions with respect to wages and the like are not complied with, the bounty may be withheld. The raw material must be Australian, or the bounty will not be paid. The sole exception in that respect has to do with the possibility of an insufficiency of the supply of the Australian raw material. If the Minister is satisfied that such is the case, and that a partial supply of imported material is required to carry on manufacture, he may grant permission to use imported material for the time being. In all other respects the Bill provides that the bounty shall take the place of the duty. I emphasize that the rights and interests of all parties - manufacturers, employees, and consumers - are protected.
– Can the Government constitutionally safeguard the wages and working conditions of employees?
– The Government can constitutionally withhold the bounty, and the Arbitration Court can constitutionally fix wages and conditions. While the Minister for Trade and Customs has not the power to determine wages and working conditions in the industry, or to fix the selling price of the commodity, this measure gives him discretion to determine as to whether a fair price is being charged to consumers, and whether industrial conditions are being duly observed: To assure that there is a sufficient quantity made to justify bounty, the Minister may lay down what shall be the minimum quantities of articles produced before a manufacturer may claim the bounty.
– I do not oppose the Bill; but I do not feel comfortable when considering the circumstances of employees engaged in the iron and steel industry. After all, the application of a bounty, as against the imposition of a duty, is only a Free Trade scheme. I have been misled previously in this Parliament with regard to bounties. On the occasion in question honorable members on this side sought to make legislative provision for the government of wages and. working conditions. We were informed, however, that the Harvester! decision forbade that course; that is to say, that it would be impossible, in an Act of Parliament, to provide specific conditions to deal with wages and working conditions.
– The High Court de?cided that the regulation of industrial conditions did not come within the sphere of taxation.
– Quite a different principle is involved hore.
– While Parliament was considering the application of a bounty to. the iron and steel industry, the proprietors at Lithgow sent down four of their employees to impress on members of this side of the House the fact that the unions themselves would safeguard wages and working conditions, and that there was no fear that the manufacturers would take any action detrimental to their employees. I unwillingly withdrew my opposition to the proposal, because I felt that the men associated with the industry knew their own business best. Some time afterwards, however, trouble arose between the manufacturers and their employees on this very question of wages and working conditions, and a strike resulted. This occurred during the regime of the Fisher Government, and the employees approached the then Minister for Trade and Customs with a request that the bounty should be withdrawn. The Minister refused, saying that he had been assured by the workers’ representatives that their wages and ‘ working conditions would be safeguarded by their union. Since that period the Constitution has not been altered, and I fear that a somewhat similar state of affairs may develop after this Bill has been passed. A sympathetic Government might take special care to safeguard the interests of the employees^ but I am not sure that the present Administration will be too keen an that direction.
– There is a doublebarrelled safeguard’ in the present connexion. Manufacturers will not be relieved from their obligation to observe the conditions laid down by the industrial tribunals; and, secondly, the Minister may withhold payment of the bounty if he is not satisfied that the manufacturers are observing fair working conditions.
– The trouble is that the sympathies of the Government are not with the wage-earning section of the community.
– I do not propose to set myself up as an extra industrial tribunal.
– I would not expect that; but the industrial Courts to-day are ‘not what they used to be. The viewpoint of the workers towards those tribunals has changed. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) only recntly delivered a strong indictment in this House against Mr. “Justice Powers. The workers of Australia are not satisfied with His Honour as President of the Arbitration Court. I would not trust him to allocate working conditions with respect to the iron and steel industry. The decision given quite recently in the engineers’ award is likely to bring about further industrial unrest, and it is quite possible that Justices drawn from the same class may give similar awards. After the next election, if the Government ‘are returned to power, there may be a very strong desire on their part to fritter away the rights of workers in the Arbitration Court to such an extent that this Tribunal may be useless to them. State Governments are already attacking Arbitration Courts. The State Government in South Australia has made a strong move in this direction.
– For a very good reason.
– The honorable member gives very good evidence of the support which the Government will receive from the bushrangers in the corner. A still greater attack is being made upon the system of arbitration by the Victorian Government. A strenuous attack is being made, not only with a view to increasing the hours of labour, but also with a view to a.’ reduction of wages. A man would be wilfully blind if he could not see this. And now, at the tail end of the session, we are asked to pass this sop to the “ bushrangers “ in the corner. It is some of the “loot” dropped by the burglar when the gas was turned on.. It is a proposal which has been brought in specially to placate those members in the Country party who misrepresent the farmers, and when I realize that it meets with their approval I can see very readily that it must be a disadvantage to the working section of the community, which I represent. However, although we may look askance at the Bill, knowing thai the House has determined by a majority that certain Customs duties must go, -we are compelled to accept the measure as the best we can get, although the payment of a bounty cannot establish an industry as well as can duties, which serve to keep out imports. Notwithstanding the provisions of the Industries Preservation Act, certain conditions have arisen which render the measure absolutely inoperative and make it impossible to produce certain -commodities in Australia because of the cheap price at which they oan be imported. I am compelled to accept this proposal with reluctance, and also with the knowledge that within the next twelve months the Federal Arbitration Court will be assailed. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is probably conferring with the Premier of New South Wales a,t the present moment w”ith this end in view. He has already been in consultation with, the Premier of South. Australia upon the same point. Perhaps we ought to accept the Bill, knowing that in time the workers will realize the objects which the Government and those in the corner are seeking to attain, and give them such a whack that they will not know where they are. I want the Government not to assist in the bringing down of wages or in the lengthening of hours, such as may be sought to be achieved under the conditions surrounding the payment of this bounty.
– I am glad that the Government have brought down this Bill as a. first instalment of a saner policy than has been adopted in the past for helping the industries of Australia, and I would like the Minister to seriously consider the question of adding “ sulphuric acid “ to the schedule. The manufacture of sulphuric acid is an industry that should be stabilized in Australia, but hitherto the Government have asked 72,000 people of the Commonwealth to bear the sole expense of establishing it. To impose upon 72,000 people out of 5,500,000 the obligation of stabilizing the manufacture of a commodity which is a national necessity is not sound legislation. The only sound policy of stabilizing it would be the payment of a bounty. It is quite an easy matter for the majority of the people to call upon 72,000 to incur the liability in this regard by the payment of a duty upon sulphur, but the others would not be so ready to vote for a heavy protective duty upon this article if they had to pay it. Therefore, I am very sincere when I ask the Government to add sulphuric acid to the schedule, particularly in view of the speech made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in Sydney, yesterday, when he said that he waa desirous of meeting the Corner party half-way. The right honorable gentleman is evidently anxious at this opportune time to soften the remarks which he has been accustomed to make, and nothing would show the earnestness of his intentions better than would the adding to this schedule of the words “ sulphuric acid.” I am sure that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) knows well from the deputations that have waited upon him in regard to this matter, and from communications he has received from different States concerning it, that sulphuric acid is a component part of superphosphates which are sp essential, not only for the great wheat-fields of Australia, but also for increasing the grass-bearing capacity of land upon which stock is fattened. It would be a shortsighted policy to impede the progress of national primary industries.
– Why did not the honorable member submit his proposal at the right time - when the Tariff was under consideration ?
– We fought the matter then.
– The Minister will recognise the modesty of our request today. If we had thought that there was the slightest hope of success we would have asked him to include in this schedule all implements of production that sixty-one Tariff countries in the world place on the free list. But knowing tha sentiments of this Parliament at the present time, and having no desire to hinder the progress of legislation, we have reduced our request to the very minimum. If sulphuric acid is added to the schedule it will assist the Government very much in the forthcoming election. The Minister will very much appreciate that tip.
– But the honorable member knows very well that it would be quite unconstitutional.
– If the Government were willing Parliament would increase the appropriation to cover the amendment I suggest. The matter is of sufficient importance to the whole of Australia to warrant the Government taking that step.
– I anticipate that the Minister will grant the request of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse). He has made one concession in order to placate the Country party and the electors they represent, and in view of the statement of the Prime Minister in Sydney regarding the possibility of a coalition between the Nationalists and the Country party, the request from honorable members in the Corner for a further concession is understandable. I anticipate that when we go to the country there will be only two parties.
– Has the honorable member seen the statement in to-night’s Herald?
– I have, but it does not count for much in view of the special pleading of the honorable ,member for Swan. In any case, I do not know what sulphur has to do with this measure.
– Would the honorable member support the addition of sulphur to the schedule?
– The honorable member wishes to draw me into the proposed coalition, but he has no chance. I shall always stand true to my principles and the party I represent.
– Particularly in regard to explosives.
– In regard to explosives my action was at least consistent, because I had adopted the same attitude for years before the honorable member entered this Chamber.
– The honorable member for Hunter voted as he spoke.
– That is more than can be said of the vote of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) on timber, and many other items. A reference to the records of the Tariff debates will show that the honorable member, although a Free Trader, abandoned his principles, and voted for the imposition of duties, whenever they affected his electorate or the party to which he belongs.
I indorse the attitude adopted by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) in regard to the necessity for issuing a regulation to safeguard the interests of those who are working in the benefited industries. If these manufacturers are to receive bounties from the Commonwealth, the Government should insure that proper conditions of labour obtain. The conditions to-day are very unsatisfactory. In regard to galvanized sheets, for instance, Lysaghts established works in the Newcastle district and imported .a number of tradesmen from the Old Country. They occupied houses which Lysaghts had built for them, and were committed to heavy obligations in connexion therewith. Recently, when on account of the closing down of the steel works the galvanized sheet works suffered, Lysaghts’ employees were thrown out of employment, and no other work .was obtainable. They had obligations in respect of those houses, and when they were, in a difficult corner the employer endeavoured to break down the conditions of employment and wages. The same thing has happened in regard to the steel works. In the early part of last year an effort was made to reduce wages and working conditions on account of the reduced cost of living, but since that time the cost; of living has increased, and the latest figures available from the Statistician show that in New South Wales and Victoria 32s. has only the purchasing power of £1 in 1911. Queensland, where a Labour Government is in office, is in the best position of any of the States, only 28s. being required to purchase what £1 would purchase in 1911. The employers in the iron industry have been endeavouring to break down the working conditions, and instead of approaching the Arbitration Court, they sought to put pressure upon the employees. I have stated before, and I repeat now, my belief that the steel works were closed down largely for the purpose of breaking down working conditions and wages. The employers thought that, on account of the large number of their employees, they could achieve their purpose quickly by throwing the workers out of employment, but they found their desire not so easy of accomplishment as they expected, and, in consequence, the works had to lie idle. Fancy the big iron and steel corporation, which has made many thousands of pounds out of the industry, immediately the slightest trouble occurred, endeavouring to get men to work for £3 10s. per week when the Court had declared that £4 ls. 6d., exclusive of the cost of clothing, was a living wage. Having regard to our past experience, we must be careful. Public money, in the form of bounties, is to be given, to these people, and I am glad that, in spite of the evidence outside the Chamber - including the statement of the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) to-day that he does not believe in arbitration - that there is a movement to destroy arbitration, the Government have recognised that principle in this measure.Clause 10 reads - 10. (1) The Minister may make application to the President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration for a declaration as to what wages and conditions of employment are fair and reasonable for labour employed in the manufacture of fencing wire, galvanized sheets, traction engine’s, or wire netting.
If the Minister finds that the rates of wages and conditions of employment or any of them -
That is all very well if the workmen are operating under awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, but, so far as I know, all the industries referred to in the Bill are governed by State awards. It will be necessary, therefore, if the Minister desires to protect the workers, to add some such words as “ or an award of the State Arbitration Court.” I know that the Broken Hill Proprietary Company has a case before a State tribunal now. That company will not come under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, but as they are to participate in the bounty, it will be necessary for the Minister to propose some amendment that will safeguard the employees. I do not wish to give bounties to these people if they are going to sweat their employees.
.- This Bill represents a step in the right direction, inasmuch as the cost of encouraging the development of these industries will be borne in future by the whole community instead of by only one section, as in the past. I should like some information from the Minister upon one point. In the schedule galvanized sheets and fencing wire are on the same level; a bounty of £2 12s. per ton is to be paid in respect of each, whereas in the Tariff the British preferential duty on wire was 52s. and on galvanized iron 72s. One naturally wonders why the two items are on the same basis in this schedule.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has suggested that some provision should be made to prevent the employees in these assisted industries from being sweated, and he quoted the remark of one honorable member in regard to the Arbitration Act. It is wrong to suggest that anybodywho is opposed to the Arbitration Act must be in favour of sweating the workers. A man having seen the results of arbitration may honestly be opposed to its continuance, and at the same time be just as earnest as the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) in seeking to protect theemployees. I hope that something will be done to insure that the employees shall reap an advantage out of this bounty, at least equal to that which will be derived by the employers.
– We are getting near to an election.
– Whether an election is near or far, I have always, from the beginning of my political career, held exactly the same view. If the Commonwealth is to do anything to encourage manufacturers, or anybody else, there should be no distinction whatsoever in the assistance given to the different parties engaged in the industry; all must be treated alike. Therefore I agree with the contention of the Leader of the Opposition that the employees in the industries to be benefited by this Bill should be assured of a fair share of the bounty. The appropriation is not to exceed £250,000. That is not a very large sum, when all is said and done, for the encouragement of industries which are producing articles absolutely necessary for the development of Australia. Fencing wire, galvanized iron, and tractors are three of the essential commodities that Australia should produce, and produce in large quantities, if we are to make the fullest use of this country, which needs development to a far greater extent and much more thoroughly than a great number of people resident in the cities realize. There is no country in the world to-day occupied by white men which is calling more loudly for development; and because this is a measure which will enable us to assist in that work, and remove those restrictions caused by the Tariff, I am personally in favour of it.
– I hope the Committee will now consider the Bill clause by clause. I desire, however, to refer to the two points raised by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) and the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming), and also to what was said by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews). In my view, the honorable member for Hunter takes too limited a view of clause 10. That clause gives the Minister power to apply to the Court for an interpretation as to wages and conditions if he so desires, but it certainly does not limit the Minister in that respect. The Minister may not move a State Wages Board or other tribunal; but he may be quite satisfied that reasonable wages and conditions are observed, and that the men have no occasion’ to refer to the Court. This Bill provides the machinery in the event of his requiring a determination by the Court, but, as I say, it does not limit him.
– I think it does.
– There is an obligation on the part of the claimant to supply a statement as to wages and conditions. The Tariff Board may be quite satisfied, and so may the Minister without any reference, though the power to refer a case is there.
– He may apply to the President of the Court.
Mi-. RODGERS.- -That is so; because he cannot move a State tribunal. But he may be satisfied, after inquiry by the Tariff Board, that reasonable wages and conditions are already observed, and that, therefore, there is no necessity to go to the Court. Referring to the question as to the rate of bounty on galvanized sheets, I think that the honorable member for Robertson has overlooked the fact that it is proposed to continue the duty of 20s. in the case of galvanized iron sheets, and that, plus the bounty, provides the full measure of protection.
– What about sulphur?
– I may be ruled out of order if I refer to that, because it is not covered by the Bill. I may tell the honorable member, however, that I pro pose to make a statement on that important question before the House rises.
Clause 1 (Short ‘title).
– I have listened to the statement of the Minister (Mr. Rodgers), who says that it will not be necessary for the Minister to apply to any State Court.
– I did not say that.
– At any rate, the Minister said that the Minister, under the Bill, was not permitted to apply to a State Court, and, if that be so, I see a great weakness in the measure. Looking over the schedule, I can only find the products of three industries that will be governed by a Federal arbitration award; all the other items being governed by the State Courts. I believe that it is the intention of the Government and the Minister to protect the workers, and to give them an assurance that such a desire exists; but if the amendment suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) is accepted, I believe it will make the measure a better one. I listened with interest to the speech by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) on the general question of’ arbitration. I may say that I have been twitted with changing my opinions on this question, hut that I have never done. I worked in an industry before arbitration was inaugurated, and I . was a member not only of the committee in Western Australia that framed the first Arbitration Act for that State, but also of the committee that framed amendments to that Act. I am as strong a believer in arbitration to-day as I have ever been. Arbitration has done a great amount of good in certain industries to which it has been applied, but my belief is that the greatest harm to employees and employers alike, so far as the settlement of industrial differences is concerned, has resulted not altogether by reason of faults in the. Court, but by reason of undue interference by both State and Federal Governments. Our idea of arbitration was that those concerned in a dispute should meet at a round-table conference and settle all the points that it was possible for such a conference to settle. We thought that it would then remain only for them to go to the Court for a settlement of the points on which they were still in disagreement, and that on the decision of the Court an award would be given. That was the arbitration we all looted for, and we know that such a system has done much, not only for the settlement, but for the prevention of disputes. There is no monopoly on any side of politics in the desire, not only to settle such troubles, but to prevent them, and, as I say, the greatest harm has been done by the mischievous intervention of Governments.
– What Government has been doing that?
– Every Government has done it ; and we do not desire to see such interference occur under this measure. What is required is a settlement of the question of what are State functions, and what are Federal functions, and then the functions of the State and Federal Courts can be decided. In this Bill, however, the Minister is not giving himself, or any one on his behalf, any right to approach the Courts, in order to see that the workers are protected.
– I am more suspicious than ever of this measure, when I see the Minister receiving, if not the heartiest support of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), at any rate, the blessing of that gentleman. This, apart from any other fact within my knowledge, drives me to Ihe conclusion that while this boun’ty may do a little good in a certain way, it will certainly not be more beneficial than is a protective duty. I have here a quotation from the speech delivered in this House on 9th June, 1921, on the item of wire netting, when the Tariff was being discussed. On that occasion, the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) said that the industry should be protected by a bounty. The present Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene), who was then Minister for Trade and Customs, gave rather an extended reply to the honorable member for Dampier, and finished his speech with these words -
When an industry has been definitely established I do not think that the payment of a bounty is the right way in which to assist it. Of course, a bounty may sometimes be usefully employed to build up an industry in its earlier stages. The proposal to grant a bounty for this particular purpose would, if the duties were arranged in the manner sug gested by the ‘honorable member, entirely close up the smaller manufacturers of wire-netting. They would find it impossible to operate. I gave careful consideration during the luncheon hour to the question as to whether it would be possible to substitute, either in part or in whole, a bounty for this duty, and have come to the conclusion that it is practically impossible to do so.
It is remarkable that a reply like this should have been given by the Minister for Defence, who, in effect, said to the honorable member for Dampier, “No, sir; no bounty for the wire netting industry; it is better to protect it by a duty.” What has brought about the change %
– The change of Ministers.
– No, it is the fact that we are approaching an election campaign, and the so-called Nationalist Government wishes to give a “ sop “ to the farming community which is represented here by the Country party. Here we see an absolute somersault by the Minister for Defence. It takes something to change the mind of that gentleman; and I should like to know what has led to this change.
– Perhaps he has not changed his view.
– The Minister for Defence is a member of the Government which is now supporting a proposal that he condemned twelve months ago.
– We cannot always give effect to our views.
– I know that th© honorable member who interjects adopts a peculiar attitude in that regard. The Minister for Defence, after studying the question and listening to the speeches, declared a year ago that a bounty was not the way to protect the wire-netting industry; indeed, he went so far as to say that a bounty would close up the factories.
– Does the honorable member himself always vote as his conscience dictates?
– Yes ; and I am sorry I cannot return the compliment. In orde] to show that there is some significance in what was said by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), I ask what are the. men who laid the foundations of the steel industry in Australia doing to-day? They are promoting the Single Purpose League. Mr. H. V. McKay and Mr. Delprat a few weeks ago were in Tasmania trying to convert the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) and a few others to the view that it would be a good thing to abolish the Arbitration Court. In a circular issued by the Single Purpose League there is a -heading “ Arbitration - A Disastrous Experiment.” That circular is issued by the men who laid the foundations of the steel works which are to provide the raw material for some of the articles mentioned in the schedule. The sole object of the Single Purpose League, which is being formed in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Hobart, is to abolish compulsory arbitration; and, once that object has been achieved, the league will cease to exist. Further on in the circular we read -
When compulsory arbitration is abolished it will be time enough to consider what, if anything, should be put in its place. On that subject men have diverse opinions. Some favour one scheme, some another. But every intelligent citizen must recognise the necessity ‘of first removing the cancer before applying the salve. Every intelligent citizen, therefore, whatever may be his views as to the next step, should co-operate with the league to bring about this foundational reform.
It will be seen that arbitration is de scribed as a “ cancer.” Is there no danger in that declaration by the Single Purpose League that their first object is to abolish compulsory arbitration?
– They are mighty consistent.
– I do not think that they are. The Broken Hill people or their agents were very much in evidence during the Tariff . discussions, and were very desirous of getting duties placed on certain articles. I fought strenuously for the establishment of this foundational industry, and the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) holds the same opinions about it as I do, but he belongs to a Government that has turned a complete somersault in the matter. What is now proposed is the throwing of a sop to Cerberus. Ministers wish to catch the votes of the country electors.
– This will not save them.
– No. When all the disgraceful things done in this House have been exposed on the public platform, the people will wake up to what it means to have a set of political gamblers on the Treasury bench. The Single Purpose League’s pamphlet has been sent to every member of the Committee, including the Minister in charge of the Bill, and he has also received a copy of his colleague’s speech on the subject of protective duties versus bounties, in which it is definitely asserted that bounties are of no use for the purposes for which the Government now proposes to grant them.
– Still, the honorable member intends to vote for this proposal.
– What else can I do? There is no other course open to me.
– Then why waste time?
– It is not a matter of wasting time, but of sounding a warning note in regard to the inconsistency of members opposite. Let me read the resolution of the Australian Industries Protection League. It is as follows: -
The Australian Industries Protection League emphatically protests against the proposals of the Commonwealth Government, as announced in the Federal Treasurer’s Budget speech, to substitute bounties for the protective duties recently enacted in respect of certain industries, on the ground that the league believes that a Protective Tariff is essential to the industrial development of Australia, and it considers that, if the dangerous precedent of cancelling protective duties and substituting bounties in the interests of special sections of the community be once established, manufacturers generally will lose that sense of security in the validity of Customs laws which is indispensable, not only to the extension and enlargement of existing industrial establishments, but also to the initiation of new manufacturing enterprises.
Those are sentiments with which I am in accord. Knowing your’ fiscal faith, Mr. Chairman, I am sure that were you in my position you would as strongly denounce the attitude of the Minister as I have done. Although I cannot bring the’ blush of shame to the cheeks of those who are so inconsistent, I hope that what I have said will draw the attention of people outside to their inconsistency.
– I do not intend now to debate the subject of arbitration, though I hope that the occasion will come when I shall be able to speak on it at considerable length; I propose now to discuss the exception taken by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) to the language of clause 10. I think that the honorable member was justified in much that he said. The clause is anomalous, and it is difficult to say how far it will be effective. It gives the Minister power to apply to the Arbitration Court to obtain a declaration respecting the fairness of wages and conditions, but such an application might mean months of delay, even if the Court were disposed to entertain it, and in any case it would apply only to a very limited number of cases. For the most part, the industries affected by the Bill are governed by State awards. We cannot authorize the Minister to apply to a Wages Board or other State tribunal, where he would have no standing; but I think that the difficulty could be overcome. The Bill purports to say that if the Minister finds that the rates of wages or conditions of employment, or any of them, are unsatisfactory he is not bound to pay the bounty provided for, and I would suggest an additional, subclause to the effect that, should he find that the rates of wages and conditions of employment, or any of them, were below the standard rates and conditions of employment prescribed by the determination of any State Wages Board or other industrial State tribunal, or below the rates and conditions which he himself might deem fair and reasonable, he need not pay the bounty. If the Minister cannot get any immediate guidance from the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and if - which will be an extraordinary contingency- there is no State determination regulating wages and conditions in the industry, then, should expedition be necessary, it may be fairly left to him,, as to the best of’ my recollection it was left in the Act providing for a bounty on wool tops, to decline to pay the bounty. That measure left it to the Minister to satisfy himself as. to whether fair wages and conditions were being paid in the industry claiming tha bounty.
– So it is left in this measure.
– No. The sub-clause says that if the Minister finds that the rate of wages or conditions of employment or any of them are below the rates prescribed by clause 10, he need not pay the bounty, but it should also provide that if the rates and conditions are below those determined by a Wages Board or other State tribunal, or below those which he himself finds to be fair and just, he need not pay it.
– Why does the honorable member wish to provide for the adoption of awards of State Wages Boards ?
– Because most of the industries affected by the Bill are governed by the awards of State Wages Boards.
– The honorable member wants it done for the protection of the employees coming under State Wages Board awards?
– Tas. My honorable friend cannot object to that.
– No; though I am highly amused at the idea of the honorable member trying to protect the worker.
– If the honorable member knew much of the history of industrial matters of this country, he would know that I am one of those who initiated the Wages Board system, which has provided the most successful method for the settlement of disputes and economical differences yet discovered in Australia, or elsewhere, for that matter.
– It has nearly settled the worker altogether.
– The Wages Board system has been most successful, and we shall have to resort to it largely to put an end to the litigation which is taking place in the Arbitration Court. The hearings of cases in the Arbitration Courts are virtually trials, hostile litigation between the employer and employed, which is a regrettable state of affairs. Wages Boards, on the other hand, provide for conciliation by means of roundtable conferences, and they have proved successful in every way. I think the clause with which the Leader of the Opposition has found fault is anything but satisfactory.
– As a matter of fact, it will not, as drafted, cover the industries for which we are providing a bounty.
– I suggest that advantage should be taken of the determinations of Wages Boards and other State tribunals, and that, as in previous measures of this kind,’ the Minister, where he cannot obtain guidance’ from either Commonwealth or State tribunals, should use his own discretion,.
– I understand that while Mr. Watkins was acting as Temporary Chairman it was agreed that the Bill should be taken as a whole, but that subsequently the Minister indicated that he intended to move amendments, and asked that the clauses be taken separately. The debate is developing into a second-reading discussion, but I propose to confine it strictly to the clause before the Committee, which is clause 1..
.- Under that ruling, Mr. Chairman, the ground covered by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) and other speakers cannot be traversed by those who wish to reply to their arguments.
– Honorable members will be in order only when their speeches are relevant to the clause before the Chair.
– Clause 1,. which is now before the Committee, provides that the Act may be cited as the Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act 1922. Those words do not correctly describe the intention of the Bill. Judging from the remarks which have been made by previous speakers, the Bill should be entitled a Bill for an Act to rob the people of this country.
– The honorable member must withdraw those words.
– That is my opinion, anyhow.
– It may be, but the expression is unparliamentary.
– I did not indicate, and had no intention to suggest, that Parliament was about to rob the country. I am sure honorable members would not go so far, whatever the title might propose or incorrectly imply. I merely sought to indicate that the purpose of the Bill is not, correctly described by the title. This measure represents a. belated attempt on the part of the powers behind the throne to make up for a concession about to be granted to certain interests on the eve of an appeal to the people.
– The proposed bounty is a concession to one of the biggest monopolies in the country.; but, since the title conveys no hint in’ that direction, I again complain that it is not a correct one.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 (Definitions).
.- I am not in favour, in any circumstances, of granting bounties in lieu of imposing
duties. The definition clause indicates the type of fencing wire’ to the manufacture of which the bounty shall ‘Apply. I point out, however, that large quantities of steel wire of the gauges mentioned in this clause will now be removed both from the protection of the Tariff and from the assistance of a bounty. This wire is drawn, not only for fencing purposes, but for nail making also. In one works at Newcastle alone about 200 of the 600 employees are engaged in drawing wire for nail-making purposes, and the product is supplied to nail manufacturers throughout the States.
– Will not the payment of the bounty encourage the Newcastle people to manufacture wire nails ?
– My point is that this measure will prove inadequate, if not mischievous. There will be neither duty nor bounty with respect to wire drawn for nail making.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 (Authority to pay bounty).
.- This clause embodies the principle underlying the Bill. It is proposed to remove the duties upon specific articles and to encourage their manufacture by the granting of a bounty. In my view, the alternative will not have the effect of encouraging industry and placing existing activities on a firmer basis. A complete change is apparent in the attitude of certain members with respect to the payment of bounties as against the principle of the imposition of duties. I have in mind, particularly, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs). Upon nearly every occasion in the past, when a Tariff measure has been before Parliament, these members have strongly supported the- imposition of duties. Now they are forsaking their old principles, and they are complacently encouraging the Government to remove duties and pay bounties. The industries of Australia are sufficiently important for us to see that nothing is done here to interfere with their progress, but it has been clearly shown that the people engaged in thos© industries affected by the recent remission of duties are complaining bitterly of the Government’s action in replacing protective duties by the payment of a bounty.
– You will have to pay your share of the .bounty.
-Like all other taxpayers I am prepared to pay my share, but the difference between honorable members of the Labour party and honorable members of the Country party is that whereas the former do not object to the payment of taxation, the latter certainly do, and, furthermore, cry out for the cheapest goods they can get, while they propose to sell their own products at the highest possible price they can wring out of the consumers of Australia. For instance, there was the attitude taken up by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), when an item in the Tariff affecting his own particular industry came up for discussion.
– We are not discussing the Tariff.
– We are asked to give authority for the payment of a bounty, and surely I am in order in demonstrating that its payment will seriously interfere with the principle laid down in our Tariff.
– The Committee has already dealt with the Tariff. The question before the Chair is as to whether authority should or should not be given for the payment of a bounty.
– But what will be the position of the industries of Australia if this Committee rejects the Bill? Surely I can argue on those lines?
– The honorable member cannot review a decision already arrived at by the Committee.
– I am strongly opposed to the principle of encouraging industries by the payment of bounties. It is an unscientific method which has never succeeded in establishing any industry. The successful way employed in all countries is that of imposing Customs duties. In any case, before I would agree to the payment of a bounty, I would, first of all, want to know that the industry was being run properly, and that the employees engaged in it were being given reasonably decent conditions. I would also want to know that the product of the industry to which a bounty was being paid was being sold to the people at a fair and reasonable price. I regret that it is impossible for me to point out these things, but it is, indeed, strange to view the attitude of many honorable members opposite, who so recently called loudly for a high Protective Tariff to save the industries of Australia, and yet are now prepared to throw overboard that policy, and sacrifice these industries for the purpose of getting a good electioneering cry. Where is this bounty to come from? It is to be taken out of the surplus revenue, that is to say, out of the Trust Fund set on one side for the purpose of providing pensions for the old and infirm people in our midst. The Government say that they cannot afford to pay increased invalid and old-age pensions, but evidently they can give a bounty to capitalistic firms.
– On these grounds I strongly protest against the payment of a bounty, and against the attitude taken up by honorable members opposite who told us only a month or two ago how they wanted to build up the industries of Australia by a high Customs Tariff. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) and others-
– Order ! I ask the honorable member to obey the Chair.
– I have no intention of disobeying the Chair, but I feel strongly upon the point, and I am fearful that the industries of Australia are likely to be jeopardized by the adoption of the principle of paying a bounty instead of the imposition of high Customs Tariff duties. If I am permitted to do so, I shall’ conclude by quoting the following lines written by one of Australia’s greatest poets : -
I don’t care if the cause be wrong,
Or if the cause be right -
I’ve had my day and sung my song,
And fought in the bitter fight.
In truth, at times I can’t tell what
The men are driving at;
But I’ve been Union thirty years,
And I’m too old to “ rat.”
– The House has already decided upon the removal of the Customs duties upon the articles included in the schedule to this Bill, and I take it that all we have to decide now is whether the bounty which it is proposed to give for the production of these articles shall be paid.
– That is so. I have already directed the attention of honorable members to that fact.
– I believe that a bounty should be given in the earlier years of the existence of all these big industries, so that they may have a chance of becoming established. Ever since I have been in this Parliament I have advocated the adoption of the bounty system in preference to the exceedingly high Customs duties. Honorable members will remember when the steel industry was under consideration during the discussion of the Tariff, some of us pointed out that the placing of very high duties upon the introduction of iron and steel was handicapping kindred industries all over Australia.
– The honorable member must not discuss the duties.
– Very well; but I wish to point out that when the production of these commodities ceased in Australia the Customs duties ceased to be protective in their incidence, and became purely and simply revenue duties. As I believe a bounty system is preferable, I am prepared to give a reasonable bounty to these young industries.
.- One of the reasons for this Bill is the fact that the Government have remitted duties which brought in a revenue of £350,000. Now the Government propose to pay a bounty of £250,000. Thus the change of policy involves the taxpayers in a loss of £600,000. Surely this Parliament is not justified in passing a Bounty Bill to keep certain industries going which have been deliberately hit by the Government’s action in taking off certain Customs duties.
– Were not most of these industries closed down before these duties were taken off?
– I am directing attention to the serious position from the revenue point of view. It is a big price to pay, and there has been no demand in the country to justify the manipulation of £600,000 of the people’s money in order to suit the Government at the forthcoming election. It is lowering to the dignity of this Parliament.
– Is not the honorable member anxious to make Australia self-contained ?
– The best way to make Australia self-contained is to impose Customs duties. Industries engaged in the manufacture of wire, wire netting, and galvanized iron cannot live under a Free Trade Tariff. It is all very well for my honorable friends in the Country party to say that the Government’s proposal will give them cheap wire and cheap wire netting, but if the farmers of New Zealand wanted to get their produce into Australia in times of scarcity here my honorable friends would be up against such a proposal. Unlike honorable mem bers of the Country party, I want a fair deal for all, for the farmer as well as for the manufacturer. I regret that the Government are proposing this step, which will be so costly to the taxpayers.
.- It amuses me to hear honorable members say, “ We have built up industries by Protective duties,” whereas, as a matter of fact, they have been built up by the persons who have bought the machinery and other commodities produced. All that honorable members can claim is that they voted for the imposition of the duties, and they commence to object now that they are to be called upon to contribute something towards the building up of these industries. The payment of a bounty will distribute the cost of establishing an industry more evenly over the shoulders of the people of Australia, and will not confine it to one section only.
– I am very disappointed at the introduction of this Bounty Bill. Last week I protested against the payment of a bounty to one section of the community. I cannot see any justice in picking out sections for special treatment in this way. There is only one straightforward and legitimate method of building up industries in Australia, and that is by imposing a Tariff. When the question of affording protection to our industries was under consideration in this Parliament, a most excellent case was made out for the protection of the very industries with which we are now dealing, and I am not yet convinced that any alteration in that policy should be made. At any rate,I do not see why the taxpayers should be called upon to provide £250,000 for one industry while other industries are penalized, as the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) claims they are, by the necessity for paying Tariff duties. However, personally, I do not regard the payment of a duty as penalizing an industry. I consider that it is simply a matter of distributing the cost of building up an industry evenly over the whole community. I am not sure that a Bill which proposes to give a bounty to one section of the community while other sections have to seek their protection through the Customs Tariff is in the best interests of the community, and so long as I am a member of this Parliament I shall always endeavour to see that my attitude upon this question is consistent..
I am totally opposed to the payment of bounties when we have in the Customs Tariff a more efficient means of encouraging local industries. If I have the opportunity I shall vote against this Bill, and all others that contain the same principle.
.- There is something underlying this measure that has not been disclosed to the House. Anybody who has followed parliamentary proceedings during this session knows that an attempt has been made to bring about a coalition between certain sections of the House.
– The honorable member may not discuss that.
– I thought I might properly indicate the reasons for the introduction of this measure.
– The question is whether authority shall be given to pay a bounty.
– These bounties have been proposed for the purpose of serving the interests of a certain section of the House. The Government are very anxious to cover their sins of omission earlier in the session.
– Anybody who has followed political historyas closely as I have knows that the bounty system is more productive of anomalies and scandals than is anything else in our public life. The only way in which industries can be developed and secured is by means of protective duties. The proceedings of this Parliament have been peculiar on account of certain persons giving active support to the Government whilst offering lip opposition to them.
– I am quite satisfied that if this Parliament had twelve months longer to live this Bill would never have appeared. It arises directly out of the Budget speech. ‘Nobody can show that there has been an agitation outside of Parliament for the substitution of bounties for protective duties. This proposal is in the interests of a certain section - the outcome of a Coalition Government - and not of the general community. Nobody can deny that fencing wire was produced cheaper in Australia during the war under a Protective Tariff than anywhere else.
– I again remind the honorable member that the Committee is not considering the Tariff. The only question before the Chair is whether authority shall be given to pay a bounty.
– I call attention to the state of the Committee. [Quorum formed.]
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 -
(2.) No bounty shall be authorized to be paid under this Act on fencing wire, galvanized sheets, traction engines, or wire netting unless those goods are manufactured from materials produced and manufactured in Australia :
Provided that in the event of such circumstances arising as would, in the opinion of the Tariff Board, warrant the use of material other than that produced and. manufactured in Australia, . . . the Minister may authorize that the material to be so used - . . .
.- In order to make sub-clause 2 uniform with the general policy under the Customs Act and with other portions of this measure, I move -
That before the words “Tariff Board” the following words be inserted: - “ Minister,, after inquiry, and report by the “.
– The amendment restores the principle of Ministerial responsibility, which has been previously discussed to-day, and I accept it.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 -
The total amount of bounty authorized to be paid under this Act in any one financial year shall not exceed the sum of Two hundred and fifty thousand pounds.
– I move -
That the following new sub-clause be added to clause 5: -
When the maximum amount of bounty which may be paid in any year has not been paid in that year, the unpaid balance or any part thereof may be paid in any subsequent year, in addition to the maximum amount for that year.
.- For how long is the payment of this bounty to continue?
– We do not propose to fix any definite period.
– I understand it is to be paid for only a certain number of years.
I fear that if the market price of the article does not suit the manufacturers they will stop production until the price rises, and then employ double shifts. That would not be as good for the industry or for the purchasers of these manufactures as would uniform production throughout the year.
– The supply has to be continuous, and if manufacturers fail to produce, the market will be won by importations.
– The manufacturer may slacken production for a time, and then speed up in order to claim the accumulated bounty in subsequent years.
– The object of the amendment is to prevent any limiting of production. The manufacturers may decide to produce more goods than would absorb £250,000 in one year.
– Suppose they practically cease producing for one year, and in the next year employ double shifts in order that they may get double the amount of bonus ?
– We cannot provide against possibilities like that.
– I know of firms in my own electorate who, after the works had been closed down following a strike, worked twenty-four hours per day in order to pick up the arrears of bonus.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 (Conditions of employment and rates of wages).
.- . The Minister (Mr. Rodgers) has said that if the wages and conditions are not up to the standard he thinks necessary, he may apply to the Arbitration Court for a declaration. My own opinion is that the Minister has no standing at all in the Court. We may give him authority to apply to the Court, but the Act, as administered by the Judges, will not recognise him, because he is not a party to a dispute, seeing that he is not an employer who is carrying on an industry. In my opinion, the Arbitration Act will have to be amended to give himany standing in the Court, because it speaks distinctly of a dispute between employees and an employer. Under the circumstances, ,1 do not see how the Court can be compelled to give any direction, though, of course, it may do so as an act of courtesy. This Bill cannot override the Arbitration Act.
– It will supplement the - Arbitration Act.
– The Arbitration Act distinctly says that before any appeal’ can be made to the Court there must be a dispute.
– This is not a question of disputes, but a question of declaration from the Judge of the Arbitration Court as to what the wages and conditions are. It does not raise the question whether the conditions are equitable or otherwise - it raises the question of fact of what they are, and no more.
– My point is that the particular industries with which we are dealing do not come under the Federal Arbitration Act, but under the State Actsand awards.
– Clause 10 does not apply in that case. The Minister may be satisfied with the award of a State Court. He is not compelled to go to the Arbitration Court for a declaration unless there are circumstances with which he is not satisfied. No doubt the Minister will accept a State award as the basis of .the wages and conditions. If there is no State award there will likely be an Arbitration. Court award; and if there be -neither, he will ask for a declaration from the President as to the fair wages and conditions.
– How can the President give a declaration without hearing evidence from employers and employees?
– This is an exact copy of the clause that has appeared in other Bounty Acts.
– Those other Bounty Acts might deal with industries which come under Federal awards.
– This is the same industry and the same conditions as in the 1918 Act.
– If the Minister is satisfied that the industrial conditions of these particular industries will be protected my objection is gone.
– I am perfectly satisfied that the Minister has sufficient power to protect the industrial conditions.
.- I realize the difficulty that confronts the Minister in this particular clause in his endeavour to protect the interests of the men employed, seeing that at the present time none of them come under the jurisdiction of the Federal Court so far as awards are concerned. I think that the clause does give the President power, at the request of the Minister, to make a declaration. If there is no Federal award the President will satisfy himself from documents at his disposal that there is a State Wages Board or State Arbitration Court award, and in that case will declare that the conditions are right and proper. I suggest, however, that words might be inserted to provide that the Minister may apply, not onlyto the Federal Court, but to any State Wages Board or Arbitration Court for the information required. I do not think that the chairman of a State Board or Court would everrefuse such information if it were asked for. I take it that we all desire to give this protection to the workers, and we all see the difficulty that the Minister will have in going to State tribunals to get the necessary information. On second thoughts I fancy that such an amendment as I have suggested would be valueless, seeing that it would only enable us to make a request to somebody over whom we have no control in any shape or form. The clause will, I think, be a protection to employees, because I cannot assume that any President of the Court would not satisfy himself from official documents that the wages and conditions in any particular industry were fair and reasonable. If the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) can suggest some amendment that would give the Minister the power to go to the State Courts, I will support him, but I do not see how it can be done.
– I think I may be able to remove what I take to be a misconception on the part of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell). This is not an attempt to lay down how wages and conditions shall be regulated or fixed.
– We are under no misconception about that.
– The clause prescribes some of the means by which the Minister may satisfy his mind as to wages and conditions. He may not take any of the courses suggested here ; he may; for instance, regard the award of a State Wages Board as quite satisfactory. Subclause 3, which, in my judgment, is the starting point, says -
Every person who claims the bounty payable under this Act shall, in making his claim, certify to the Minister the conditions of employment and the rates of wages paid to any labour employed by him other than the labour of members of his family.
Sub-clause 1 is as follows: -
The Minister may make application to the President of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration for a declaration as to what wages and conditions of employment are fair and reasonable for labour employed in the manufacture of fencing wire, galvanized sheets, traction engines, or wire netting.
– If he has any doubt.
– That is, if he has any doubt. Then sub-clause 4 provides -
If the Minister finds that the rates of wages and conditions of employment or any of them -
are below the rates and conditions declared, as in the first sub-section of tills section mentioned, to be fair and reasonable; or
are below the standard rates and conditions of employment prescribed by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, the Minister may withhold the whole or any part of the bounty payable.
These provisions as set out do not limit the Minister; he may inform himself in other respects; but they determine a definite course of action that he may take. As the honorable member for Adelaide points out, most of these industries are carried on under State Wages Board awards, and the Minister may be satisfied, without reference to the President of the Court, with the findings of a State Tribunal. I suggest that the honorable member for Adelaide should not seek to load the clause by the addition of words he suggested, for that would give the Minister power to go to a Court which takes no cognisance of this Parliament, and over which this Parliament has no control. I submit that the clause amply provides for the information of the Minister as to wages and conditions.
.- I entirely disagree with the reasoning of the Minister (Mr. Rodgers). In my opinion, the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell) is perfectly right in his contention, but I believe the honor.able member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) to be labouring under a misapprehension. The .Minister states that the clause makes provision for application to the President of the Court for a declaration as to fair wages and conditions. Subclause 4, as quoted by the Minister, confines the whole thing to an award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– I disagree with the honorable member.
– It is well known that these industries affected by the Bill do not come under the Commonwealth Court, their awards being those of State Tribunals.
– Do you say that we .are shut out from knowledge of those awards?
– I have never said so; but the Minister wishes it to be left with the Minister who administers the Bill, without inserting words providing that State awards shall be taken into consideration. There are certain industries to-day in which, without appeal to either Federal or State Courts, conditions are imposed on the workers, because of the limitation of employment, which amounts to a reduction of existing rates of wages. The men have been compelled to ‘ accept those conditions, notwithstanding that they do not provide a living wage, and are below what have been prescribed by a State tribunal or an Arbitration Court award. But because they are working under them, the Minister, who knows nothing of the facts, may think it a sufficient reason for paying the bounty. However, it is not the desire of the people of this country that the bounty should be paid to those who are sweating their employees. I should like to see paragraph b made -to provide that the rates and conditions must not be below the standard rates and conditions of employment prescribed by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, or the award of a State tribunal. The adoption of some such provision will not make it necessary for the Minister, when he wishes to inform his mind upon this subject, to apply to the Arbitration Court or to a State tribunal for a declaration; all that he will have to do will be to ascer tain whether there is a State or Federal award governing the industry, and, if so, whether effect is being given to it. It will be his duty to say to applicants for the bounty, “ Unless you conform to the conditions, and pay the rates set out in the award governing your industry, you cannot have the bounty.”
.In my judgment the acceptance of the honorable member’s suggestion, to which I have no objection, will not alter the effect of the provision, though ‘ it may put its meaning beyond all doubt.
– That is what I wish to do.
– Then I move- to give effect to the suggestion -
That the following words he added to paragraph b: - “ or the determination of any State industrial authority “.
– I approve of that.
.- The amendment does not go as far as I would like it to go, because it still leaves the discretionary power of the Minister? practically unlimited. He will be under no obligation to ascertain through the President of the Arbitration Court, or from any State authority, -what are the rates of wages and conditions of employment ruling in. -an industry which makes application for the bounty. The clause says, “ the Minister may make application,” and “ the Minister may withhold the whole or any part of the bounty payable.” These words give the Minister a free hand to do as he pleases in the granting or withholding of a bounty.
– Similar provisions have been in operation in other measures for years past, and no difficulty has arisen.
– Knowing the personnel of the Government and its supporters, and knowing who are its favoured friends providing its electioneering funds, and recently materially assisted by a contribution to the £25,000 testimonial to the Prime Minister–
– The honorable, member is not in order.
– As Ministers are tha accredited representatives of the employing fraternity, the Minister may be depended on to see that the position of the employers is amply safeguarded.
– It is unparliamentary to impute improper motives.
-I do not think it is unparliamentary to suggest that Ministers are endeavouring to protect and to guarantee the interests of a certain section ; it is the absolute truth.
– It is unparliamentary, and I ask the honorable member not to continue in that strain.
– I am not prepared to allow this Government to say what are fair and reasonable wages and conditions for the employees of any industry. I know that there is a deliberate attempt on the part of certain factions who lend material support, financial and otherwise, to the Government-
– Order ! I have asked the honorable member not to proceed on those lines.
– He is quite right. The CHAIRMAN.- He may be right, but the course he is following is not in accordance with the Standing Orders.
– I have no desire to transgress, but I do wish to express the views I hold, because I do not desire my position in this matter to be misunderstood. I was saying there is a tendency on the part of certain sections of the community to repudiate and discard the system of arbitration. The Employers Federation and Chambers of Commerce throughout Australia have declared against compulsory arbitration. I share, with ether honorable members on this side, the concern and apprehension they have expressed in regard to the future of tribunals responsible for determining wages and conditions of those employed, not only in the industries covered by this Bill, but in other industries also. In South Australia we have already had an illustration of what is likely to occur. An anti-Labour Government in that State, the leader of whom is Sir Henry Newman Barwell, the coloured labour advocate, has repudiated the promise made to the people in regard to arbitration, and has grossly betrayed the workers of that State, especially the Government employees. A similar circumstance has been proven in New South Wales since the return of a Nationalist Government, and there is every reason to believe that this Nationalist Government possessing an equal desire to serve the interests of the captains of industry, will be prepared to subordinate the interests of the workers. There are two features associated with this section that must not be overlooked - firstly, the full and free discretionary powers afforded the Minister; secondly, the insecure position of industrial arbitration legislation. A very significant factor is the recent appointment of two Deputy Presidents to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for two years only and not for the usual term. There should be some provision in this clause making it compulsory for the Minister to accept as the minimum wages and conditions justifying the payment of the bounty those fixed by an Arbitration Court or other tribunal. I cannot countenance such an indefinite provision as clause 10, giving the Minister such wide discretionary powers, knowing that he must be a partisan and be influenced by the political colour of those who are concerned in this measure. There are supporters of the Government who desire to abolish compulsory arbitration and return to a system of direct action. These capitalistic interests are the real fomenters of industrial unrest and dissatisfaction.
– Order! The clause has nothing whatever to do with the principles of arbitration.
– I respectfully contend that the fact that under the clause the President of the Arbitration Court is a person to whom the Minister may make application for guidance in this matter justifies me addressing myself to this particular phase of the question. The present tendency is to abolish the tribunals which might give the Minister assistance and guidance as to what are fair wages and conditions.
– The honorable member must see that he is going outside the clause altogether in his reference to various industrial Courts, whether their awards be good, bad, or indifferent.
– Under the clause there is no obligation imposed upon the Minister to seek the advice of the President of the Arbitration Court or of State tribunals.
– In my judgment there is an obligation upon me to find that the wages and conditions are fair standard wages and conditions. The Minister may accept the declaration of a Judge of the Arbitration Court, or the prescribed wages and conditions fixed by an Arbitration Court or a State industrial authority. Surely that is wide enough.
– I want the clause to be made more definite than it is.
– If the honorable member seeks to tie the Minister’s hands absolutely by a set procedure, he will limit bis discretion to deal with circumstances which might arise which would enable him to help the employees of an industry.
– The Minister should embody in this clause a provision under which he must accept as the minimum wages and conditions those fixed by the award of an industrial authority,
– It may save time if I tell the honorable member that I shall not go beyond the clause as it now stands.
– I still wish to press my objection.
– The honorable member’s Leader put a reasonable case to me and I met his wishes.
– There is room for doubt in the minds of honorable members on this side when so important a clause as this is found to be so vaguely phrased.
– The former bounty was in operation up to the ‘ inception of the recent Tariff, and there was not a single occasion on which this question arose.
– But there is no guarantee that the same may be said iri the future. What justification can the Minister offer for refusing to accept the safeguard which I propose? I may mention that, as an outcome of certain legislation in South Australia, which was expressed as loosely as this clause, many of the workers in Government employ in that State have been actually deprived of their rights; that is to say, because the word “may” appears in such legislation instead of the word “ shall.” The Minister for Trade and Customs should not be given these wide discretionary powers to determine wages and working conditions. This is a low-wage Government. Parliament should insure that the remuneration and conditions in connexion with the industries to which the proposed bounty shall apply are such’ as have been established by the Arbitration Court, or similar tribunals.
.- The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) contends that the bounty should not be withheld if the Federal Arbitration Court or some Wages Board has decided wages and working conditions in respect of the industry which is about to enjoy this bounty. I am opposed to the distribution .of the bounty, whether awards exist or not. The position of the workers will not be improved by the addition of the words suggested by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), or by making it mandatory on the part of the Government to take a certain course of action. The Minister (Mr. Rodgers) laid emphasis on the fact that it will not be obligatory for him to take any of the steps indicated in this clause. In such circumstances its verbiage amounts to a mere overloading of the Bill, seeing that the Minister may please himself concerning what he shall do.
– I understand that it will not be mandatory for the Minister to make himself informed, but that he can only refuse the bounty in the event of the wages paid in the industry not being as specified.
– The clause specifically says that the Minister “may” withhold the bounty. There is not one word in clause 10 which makes it obligatory for him to do anything. The Minister is only trying to catch the Leader of the Opposition with guile when he offers a concession which is ‘no concession at all. Even if the amendment suggested by the Leader of’ the Opposition were adopted, the Minister would still be under no obligation to inform himself upon anything.
– Would it suit the honorable member if I were to arrange that all cheques for the payment of. the bounty, must be countersigned by the honorable member for Barrier?
– That would suit me well, for then no bounty would be paid to any one.
– Does the honorable member think it would be possible for anybody to frame conditions that would satisfy him on industrial matters?
– Yes. i am very easily satisfied. If I had anything to do with the framing’ of a Bill to give bounties to people in industries, instead of requiring a certificate from the Arbitration Court or a Wages Board, I would require a certificate from the officials of the workers’ organization to the effect that the men employed in that business were satisfied with the conditions under which they were working. That seems to be a matter for laughter for honorable members opposite, but it surely does not appear any more ludicrous in their minds than does the suggestion to me that men should be content to work under wages and conditions dictated at the sweet will of any one who knows nothing about the industry, and has never worked in it. It reminds me of -
Allah! Allah! cried the stranger, Wonderous things on earth we see,
But the latest is the greatest, Where the drones control the bee!
That is about on a par with the laughter of those honorable members who think my attitude absurd. The workers should be the main factor in determining the conditions under which they work, and in deciding the remuneration they should get. Let me remind honorable members that it is not so absurd an idea today in those countries where the workers are in control, and where they themselves determine their hours and conditions of labour.
– There is no industry being carried on in those countries.
– Yes there is. The honorable member knows that a contract was signed by one of the leading lights of his party in Great Britain, Leslie Urquhart, by which £50,000,000 of British capital was invested in the Caucasian Mountains. They found that it was worth while to conform to Soviet hours and conditions in order to get some return from their capital.
– Employees in the lawmaking industry can fix their own wages, so why not the employees in all other industries 1
– I am not acquainted with the particular industry in which the honorable gentleman gets his livelihood. I am not going to do what I was finding, fault with the legal fraternity for doing. I am not going to prescribe for an industry of which I know nothing. I object to members of the legal fraternity prescribing conditions for miners in Broken Hill. I would much prefer to meet the employers of any particular industry around a table, and discuss wages and conditions with them, than go into an Arbitration Court or before a Wages Board. If we could not agree we would have to fight, and the strongest battalions would win.
– That is pacifism!
– It is not “pacifism,” and I have never claimed to be a pacifist. My pacifism comes to light when the boss wants me to do something. When he wants me to fight, I do not want to fight with him, but against him. That is the extent of my pacifism. The whole of the paragraph is a mere camouflage. It is merely loading up the Bill with language the object of which is. to conceal or cover up the present that is being made to the Broken Hill Proprietary. Everybody knows that the Broken Hill Proprietary, who will be the particular gainers under the Act, do not pay decent wages or work their men reasonable hours. We know that they are a sweating concern, and we know also, if we pay any attention to the drift of affairs in this country, that the principal power behind the throne in governmental concerns is the steel crowd. It is the same in America, where the steel corporations are becoming such a power in the land that control by politicians is only nominal. These gentlemen in Australia are not going to be hampered by anything the Minister puts in the Bill. The Minister, if he was frank enough to admit it, would say that no Minister would do anything that would interfere with the steel works.
– I understand that the Broken Hill Proprietary are opposed to the bounty system as against the duty system. That breaks down the honorable member’s argument.
– It only shows that when the Prime Minister is between the question of giving these people a benefit by Customs duties or by bounty, and he can profit himself politically by giving it to them in the form of a bounty, they have to take it that way or get nothing..
– The honorable member is transgressing by imputing improper motives.
-The Minister asked me a question, and imputed improper motives.
– I did not hear him.
– But you heard me. It is rather disconcerting when a Minister who is in charge of a Bill interrupts my discourse for the purpose of asking for an explanation of an allegation, and, when I give him the information, I am pulled up. I have no wish to delay the Minister, and neither have I any wish to transgress the Standing Orders at the present stage. Therefore, in order to ‘allow the Minister to proceed and give his Christmas-box to his friends, I will resume my seat.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 11 to 13 agreed to.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
House adjourned at 10.56 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 September 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1922/19220927_reps_8_101/>.