8th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– There is in this morning’s Argus what purports to be. a report of some observations made by me last evening. I take no exception whatever to the report, which seems to have been written with the best of intentions, but the gentleman who wrote it must be held entirely responsible for it. I had no hand or part in it, and it is not a report of what I said. I think it must have been written by some one who was not present. The matter is not of much consequence in itself; but I prefer to speak for myself, and not through the mind of another. I heartily thank the writer. He evidently meant well. But I must dissociate myself from the observations made by him on my behalf, and I ask him to allow me to make my own speeches in future.
– I ask the Treasurer whether the amendments in the income tax law made last night will apply to the “returns which have been already Bent in respecting the Incomes of last year?
– If the Income Tax Assessment Bill becomes law, its provisions will apply to the assessments of income tax payable this year on the incomes of last year.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until to-morrow at 11 o’clock a.m.
– Last week I reported to. the House a breach of privilege committed in connexion with the service in this building of a summons on me to appear in an action which yesterday- failed miserably. I asked that certain action should be taken by the Government to protect, not onlythe members of the Labour party, but all members from such breaches of privilege in the future. I wish to know whether the AttorneyGeneral has any statement to make on the subject.
– In accordance with the promise which I made to the honorable member when he told me about the matter last week, I have had inquiries made, and I find that the summons was served, as stated, in the Queen’s Hall,’ but that the gentleman who served it did not intend to commit a breach of privilege. In the circumstances, and in view of the doubt that exists whether the section under which the summons was issued might not be regarded as being of an administrative rather than of a penal nature, I am of opinion that it is not desirable to proceed further in the case. Those intrusted with the service of process of the Courts should take steps to have summonses served in the ordinary way, as it is not a desirable practice that service should, in any circumstances, be made within the precincts of this House while the House is sitting.
(Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to-
That leavebe given to bring in a Bill for an Act to ratify and approve an agreement made between Farmers Bulk Grain Co-operative Company Limited, the Commonwealth of Australia, and the Honorable Thomas Pascoe, Minister of Agriculture in and for the State of South Australia, acting for and on behalf of His Majesty’s Government of the said State.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Works and Railways Department
– I ask the Minister for Works and, Railways whether the figures applying to his Department which appeared in a list . published in the Age of Saturday last are correct!
– They are not correct. It was stated in the Age that in 1914 only 472 .persona were employed in the Works and Railways Department, and ihat that number had grown to 2,201 in 1922, whereas in 1914 there were 3,i6r51 .persons in the Department, and at present there are only 1,608, including all our railways and the Northern Territory*
– In considering the application of anti-dumping duties to imported chassis coming from foreign countries, will the Minister bear in mind the important bearing which these chassis have on the motor industry of Australia!
– Yes. .The Government is quite aware of the value and importance of the motor body building industry, which has been directly developed by the fiscal policy of the country. This industry has expanded to an extent which probably is. not comparable with the expansion of any other of our industries. In considering the imposition of dumping duties on chassis imported from foreign countries, we should not lose sight of the value of the local body building industry.
– Is tho Prime Minister able to make a statement concerning the purchase of the Rowan collection ?
– Yesterday I gave notice of a motion which will enable the House to express an opinion on the subject, and if honorable members are favorable to the purchase of the collection, will give the Government authority to purchase it.
– Will the Treasurer make public the names of those members who have drawn the full amount of their salary since it was increased to £1,000 per annum, or, if he will not do that, will he give the names of those who have’ not drawn the full amount? Will he make the information public either now or during the debate on the Bill which is to be introduced to reduce the allowance?
– An Act of Parliament fixes a certain allowance to be paid to each member of Parliament, and whether a member draws the whole amount of the allowance, or part of it, or none of it, is entirely his own private business. I therefore refer the honorable member to his fellow members for the information which he seeks.
– Some time ago I approached the Minister for Trade and Customs about getting a supply of sugar for Tasmania nt the end of this month. Has anything been done in reference to the matter? It is stated in the press that an arrangement has been made to insure a supply of sugar to the canned fruit industry. I understand that negotiations have been proceeding with the Minister for Agriculture. I wish to know if these statements are correct ?
– Tasmania can be assured of a sufficient and available supply of sugar both before and immediately after the 1st November next, the date on which the price of sugar is to be altered. Arrangements have been made for securing a supply of sugar not only for Tasmania, but also for the metropolitan and country districts of all the other States. With regard to the honorable member’s second question, I assume that he is referring to a statement published in the newspapers this morning made by Mr. Pennington, the Victorian Minister for Agriculture, in speaking to a deputation of fruit-growers. There is no conflict in this matter between the Commonwealth and State Governments, but there is a desire for co-operation, whereas in this instance co-operation would be worth while to the fruit industry. I have observed the statement of the Victorian Minister for Agriculture that he had suggested to the Minister for Trade and Customs that if he would reduce the price of sugar for canned fruit to the world’s arity that would overcome the difficulty, want to say definitely that it would not overcome the difficulty. If it would I should be prepared to make available for the canned-fruit industry a supply of sugar at world’s prices. As the sugar contents represent only one-tenth of the completed value of canned fruit the price of sugar is not a determining factor, and the proposal would not, in my judgment, solve the problem confronting the fruit industry.
Quarters for Air Force at Point Cook.
Mr. MATHEWS, on behalf of the Chairman of the Public Works Committee, presented a report on the proposed construction of additional quarters for the” Royal Australian Air Force at Point Cook, Victoria.
Ordered to be printed.
Mission to Great Britain
– Following up the reply given by the Minister for Trade and Customs yesterday to the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) regarding a’ mission to Great Britain in connexion with the fruit industry, is it the intention of the Minister to appoint a Tasmanian representative to the mission in view of the fact that no representation of the fruit industry would be complete without a representative of Tasmania ?
– The request for a mission to Great, Britain in the interests of the fruit industry came from the National Conference of Fruit Growers. The mission will be particularly concerned with the dried fruit and canned fruit sections of the industry. The fresh fruit section of the industry enjoys, as every one knows, seasonal advantages through being able to send fruit to Great Britain at times when supplies from other countries are limited. The expression of opinion of the Fruit Growers’ Conference was that if the dried fruit and canned fruit sections of the industry were specifically represented a third person representing the fruit industry generally might be selected as a member of the mission. Mr. Meares, who is a leading member of the co-operative fruit interests in New South Wales, was selected as the third member. The mission will interest itself in every section of the industry. To appoint a representative from each State would be costly, and would make the mission unwieldy. An excellent mission has been appointed.
– In view of the fact that from the island State there is shipped far . more fruit than from all the rest of Australia, I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs *to see whether a representative of Tasmania might not be appointed to the mission that has been referred to.
– I did not personally select the members of the mission. The National Fruit Conference made a suggestion as to representation, and the only condition the Commonwealth Government made in respect to it was that they should approve of the purpose of the mission and its personnel. The names of the members of the mission were submitted to the Government and approved.
– I understand that the Minister for Trade and Customs proposed to make a statement in connexion with the duty on sulphur. I should like to know if I am correct in that assumption, and, if so, when the honorable gentleman proposes to make the statement?
– A deputation waited upon me some time since, and made representations in connexion with the duty on sulphur. As promised, I submitted the whole question to the Tariff Board, so that the whole field might be opened up for reconsideration. The Tariff Board has just forwarded its report on the subject from Western Australia. I am now in possession of it, and before the House rises I will make a full statement on the sulphur position.
– I wish to ask a question of the -Minister for Trade and Customs. Some time ago the honorable gentleman intimated that he would make a statement in this House on the question of the duty on sulphur.
– I presume that the honorable member was not present when I told the honorable member for Wimmera. that the Tariff Board was now in Western Australia, that it had looked into the Western Australian aspect of the question, and, having consulted the primary producers in that State, had reported fully to me on that subject. I have received a’ second report from the Board, and will make a statement in reference to it either to-morrow or on Friday.
– Has the Treasurer received any applications for the bonus which the Government have promised in respect of oil discovered in payable quantities?
– I have no recollection of any such application being made to the Treasury. I think that, in the first place, such an application would go to the Prime Minister’s Department. Nothing of the kind has so far reached the Treasury.
Prohibition of Imports
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs if he has yet finalized the proposal for the protection of the hop growers of Tasmania, and, if so, when we are likely to have a. statement from him on the subject?
– I suggest to the honorable member that he should confer with his Leader, with whom I have had several conferences, along with Tasmaniangrowers, recently. This matter has been moving. It has received the most careful consideration. The Government are very slow indeed to impose prohibition of the importation of hops, as desired by the honorable member’s Leader and others. Every consideration is being given to the serious position of the Tasmanian hop-growers. I am hopeful that I shall be able to announce to-morrow that a definite agreement has been reached that will insure the consumption of Australian hops in the output of Australian beer.
– A few days ago the
Minister for Trade and Customs gave a promise that inquiry would be made into the subject of essential oils and the possibility of providing cheaper spirit for the manufacture of essences from such oils. Will the Minister say whether finality has yet been reached in this matter ?
– I have looked into the matter, and have obtained a statement from the Government Analyst which I expect to be able to make avail able to the honorable member to-morrow.
– In view of the fact that the Opposition was un able last week to convince the House of the wisdom of guaranteeing 4s. a bushel in respect of the approaching season’s wheat, will the Prime Minister state what arrangement, if any, has been made by the Government in regard to the matter?
– I was not here, unfortunately, last week when the honorable member made his statement, which, I believe, was put very forcefully by him. The position, however, is, as has been stated many times, that we have been asked by the farmers to do certain things. Those we have done. The matter is in the hands of the Commonwealth Bank, and the advance will be given on the lines already indicated. Beyond that, we are unable to go ; but I think it only fair to say that we are going exactly as far as the farmers ask us to go.
– I desire to ask the AttorneyGeneral whether ‘he is prepared to lay on the table of the House the declaration of the award of the Public Service Arbitration Commissioner in respect of the Postal Assistants Union. The matter is urgent, since to-morrow is the last day on which the award may be considered by the House. I gathered, from answers given by the honorable gentleman to previous questions put by me, that the award had not yet been typewritten; but I am informed that it was typed and sent to the Attorney-General’s Department some time ago.
– I think that I signed the necessary certificates yesterday. I shall make inquiries, and advise the honorable member.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. In the South Australian Register of the 5th inst. there appears what purports to be a report of proceedings in the State Parliament, in which Mr. Denny, M.H.A., in referring to the North-South railway, is stated to have said -
The report of the Federal Works Committee was expected at any moment, and, therefore, he did not intend to go thoroughly into the question at that stage. While passing through Melbourne recently, he had made inquiries, and done a little “ log-rolling,” and he thought that it was more than probable that the Committee would make a recommendation favouring the construction of the line from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs.
I am a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works) and, like Mr. Denny, am also a member of the Labour party. I want to assure the House and the people of Australia that I did not speak to Mr. Denny while he was in Melbourne, and that I can hardly believe he would be such a bounder “ as to make a statement of this sort. The report of the Committee was, I believe, in the hands of the Government Printer before Mr. Denny came here. I do not think he made the statement attributed to him, and the press should be stopped from making such statements.
Mr.Watt. - But the newspaper report may be correct.
– I can hardly believe that it is. If it is, then I can only say that Mr. Denny is a “bounder.”
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– This matter is being dealt with by my colleague the Minister for Trade and Customs.
Price of Wheat for Local Consumption
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In connexion’ with any guarantee given by the Government to WheatPools, will he make it a condition of such guarantee that wheat for local consumption shall be sold at a price not exceeding London parity on the date of sale?
– The Commonwealth Government has no power to fix the price of wheat for local consumption purposes.
Fees of Directors- Further Agreement
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I can only answer the honorable member’s question in this way : “ To the best of my knowledge, no.” I shall make inquiries from the head office.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Income Tax Memorandum
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Advances to States
asked the Minister representing the Minister, for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Restriction on Booking of Passages.
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
– Inquiries will be made. It is understood, however, that the Administrator considers that where a manhas no employment to go to, such a . precaution is wise and necessary to prevent penniless men becoming stranded in New Guinea.
– On Monday last the honoralble member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) stated that he noticed from reports from Western Australia that the Customs Department was still permitting the Australian Metal Exchange to exercise the very drastic powers given to it during the war period, and asked if it was intended “ io give to this outside organization, by regulation, such powers as enable it, to-day, to demand from metal producers a full record of all they sell and a commission on their transactions.”
As promised, I have had inquiries made into this matter, and find that there are at the present time no restrictions on the export of metals from the Commonwealth, but only certain conditions as to registration by the Metal Exchange to be complied with. The commission charged by the Metal Exchange on registration is 13. per £100, which cannot be considered excessive. There are no regulations on the subject, ibut there is a proclamation under the Customs Act prohibiting the export of metals unless the consent of the Customs Department has first been obtained. This is a purely formal matter, and consent is given as soon as the necessary details are furnished to the Metal Exchange. ‘Recently exports to New Zealand were excluded from the operation of the Metal Exchange, but, until world conditions are more settled, it is not practicaible to dispense with the necessity for registration of shipments to other countries.
.- I move-
That standing order No. 70 be suspended for the remainder of the session.
This standing order prevents the introduction of fresh business after 11 o’clock p.m.
.- If we agree to the motion I hope that the Government will not take advantage of the suspension of the standing order to compel the House to sit continuously from now until the end of the week. ,
Mr.Greene. - I hope not.
– We are having long sittings. We met yesterday at 11 a.m., reached home at 1 o’clock this morning, and met again at 11 o’clock. We have just passed a resolution, to which the Opposition offered no objection, that the House should meet to-morrrow at 11 a.m., but if we are to take fresh business after 11 ; p.m., we maybe asked to sit here all night, all day to-morrow, and well into Friday afternoon.
– Thenoppose the suspension of the standing order.
– I do not wish to oppose the motion if the Government will be at all reasonable. I realize that it is difficult to foresee just how business will proceed. It is practically impossible to pass all the measures on the business paper, and we ought to have a statement as to how much we are expected to do. Honorable members would be unable to stand the strain of disposing of all the business in hand by the end of the present week. If it is not intended to keep the House sitting all night I do not oppose the motion.
– The honorable member has come to an understanding with my oolleague, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene), and there is no intention to impose upon honorable members by means of a technical advantage.
– We wish to avoid allnight sittings if they can be avoided.
– If the Government will act in a reasonable way I shall not oppose the motion.
– I should like a more definite statement from the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) as to the exact amount of business to be put through before the House rises. Seeing that we are meeting at 11 a.m., it is impossible for us to sit here for twenty-four hours, and for another twenty-four hours on top of that, and at the same time pay proper attention to the business before us. The House is entitled to a more definite statement of the Government’s intentions, and it should be informed what Bills are to be dropped. The understanding arrived at between the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene), the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), and myself as Leader of the Country Party, was that the Budget should be reached on Tuesday. It is now Wednesday, and there is no sign of the Budget yet. On behalf of my party I protest against the Estimates and the Budget, which involve expenditure amounting to £81,000,000, being rushed through by means of all-night sittings when every honorable member is jaded.
– I can only repeat what I have already indicated by way of interjection, that the Government’s intention is not to take advantage of the suspension of the Standing Order by imposing upon honorable members a task too heavy for them to bear; but honorable members can see clearly that with the two Houses at work, and a big programme such as we have in hand, there is a good deal of un- certainty. We do not desire to resort to the guillotine except where, without this motion, we might be prevented from continuing the sitting for ten minutes, or perhaps half-an-hour, in order to complete certain business. That is the only object of the motion, and with the cooperation of honorable members it will probably be quite unnecessary to take advantage of it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Parliamentary Allowances Act 1920.
Bill presented and read a first time.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act- Finance 1921-22.- The Trea surer’s Statement of Receipts and Expenditure during the year ended 30th June, 1922, accompanied by the Report of the Auditor-General.
Ordered to be printed.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act -
Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
Nos. 15, 16, and 17 of 1922 - Australian Postal Assistants Union and the Federated Public Service Assistants Association.
No. 18 of . 1922- Professional Officers Association.
No. 19 of 1922- Australian Telegraphists Union.
No. 20 of 1922 - Legal Professional Officers Association. ,
In Committee (Consideration . of
Senate’s amendments) :
Clause 9 -
If the net profits of any person, firm, or company claiming bounty under this Act exceed, in any year, 15 per centum on the capital employed in the business, the Minister may, after inquiry and report by the Tariff Board, withhold so much of the bounty payable as will reduce the net profits for that year to 15 per centum on the capital employed in the business.
Senate’s Amendments. - Leave out “ the business1 “, line 4, and insert “ respect to the business in connexion with which bounty is payable.” Leave out “the,” line 7, insert “ such.”
Mr. GREENE (Richmond- Minister for
Defence and Health) [11.36].- The Senate has made two small amendments that are really technical alterations, and I do not think the Committee will have any difficulty in coming to a decision upon them. Although a company might be engaged in the iron and steel business, it might have other branches to its business. The Senate’s first amendment would limit the profit to the particular branch of the business connected with the iron and steel industry. Otherwise a company might make an immense profit on its iron and steel business and a small profit on the other branches of its business, thereby defeating the intention of Parliament. The Senate has also made a slight verbal amendment that is consequential on the first one. I move -
That the amendments be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Message, recommending an- appropriation for the purposes of the amendments requested by the Senate, reported.
That the message be considered in Committee forthwith.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of the amendments requested by the Senate relating to a Bill for an Act to provide superannuation benefits for persons employed by the Commonwealth and to make’ provision for the families of those persons.
Resolution reported and adopted.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s requests) :
.- Clause 58 of the Bill provides that an employee having a right to a refund or gratuity under any other law may exchange his rights for an equivalent under this measure. Subclause 1 states: -
Any employee who, under any other Act, or State Act, has a vested or contingent right to a refund of contributions with or without interest, or a gratuity, or ‘both refund and gratuity, may, at any time within twelve months after the commencement of this Act, apply to the Board to transfer his right to the Board, and upon such transfer he -shall be entitled to receive, in respect of his transferred right, a grant by the Board of such rights or -pension under this Act for himself, his widow, and children, as is agreed upon between himself and the Board, subject to the actuary of the Board certifying that the new rights are the actuarial equivalent of the transferred right.
The purpose of the requested amendments is that the persons referred to in clause 58 shall hare the . benefits provided in clauses 52, 54, and 55. In New South Wales a number of employees surrendered their rights under the Act under which they were contributing for pensions, and they were entitled to a gratuity and the refund of their contributions. As the Superannuation Bill left this House, it provided that an employee who had pension rights under any Act would’ be entitled, under clause 52, to come within the scope of the benefits of the Bill as regards the difference between the value of his rights under the State Act or other Act and those to which he would be entitled under this Bill. Then, again, under clauses 54 and 55, there are also rights given. Honorable members will recall that it was decided to give four units of pension to certain persons. Where an employee had a pension which was less than the equivalent of four units, the Bill provides that he may make up the . difference. It is now proposed’ to give to an employee who is entitled to a . gratuity exactly ‘the same rights las to an employee who is entitled to a pension. Where an officer’s gratuity is of such a character that it is not equivalent to the rights which he would get under this measure, it is only fair that he should be allowed to secure the difference. Of course, he would have to pay for any right he is given under clause 52. The concessions, as designed by the requested amendments are only fair. I move -
That the requested amendments be made.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
That the Bill be returned to the Senate, amended accordingly.
Message, recommending appropriation, reported.
That the message be considered in Committee forthwith.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to grant and apply out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum for Invalid and Old-age Pensions.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Bruce and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Bruce, and read a first time.
.- I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a machinery measure to allow an appropriation of revenue to the Trust Fund for the purpose of paying old-age pensions. It will be recalled that we passed a similar Bill the other day in connexion with the payments of war pensions. The circumstances in regard to these transfers to Trust Funds are that for certain very good reasons it is essential that the whole of the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth should be appropriated to Trust Funds for the purpose of paying pensions due under Commonwealth law. This measure does nothing . more than provide for the moneys being transferred into the Trust Funds, and in no way affects the payments made. It is merely to overcome a legal difficulty and also to provide that we have sufficient money in the Trust Funds to meet our obligations in the matter of old-age and invalid pensions. A Bill of a similiar character is passed at different periods by Parliament whenever it is necessary to replenish the Trust Funds.
.- It is true, as the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) states, that it is the practice to pass a Bill from time to time to appropriate money to be placed to the Trust Fund, in order to pay old-age and war pensions. We have no objection to that; butI desire to draw attention, first, to the fact that we regret that a larger sum is not required, so that pensioners might be granted an addition to the amount to which they are now entitled. Secondly, I hope the Government will not continue what it is doing this year, and take from the Funds accumulated for this purpose sufficient to make the revenue balance the expenditure. I merely enter my protest, and again express regret that the amount to be paid to the recipients is not greater than it is.
– The Treasurer (Mr. Bruce)will recall that I have approached him in reference to the cases of old-age pensioners who are to an extent supported by organizations. I refer to one in particular, namely, the Victoria Racing Club, which supplements the fines received from jockeys and others by payments from the Victoria Racing Club fund. From these two sources a certain amount is accumulated from which allowances are made to injured and aged jockeys and trainers; but in consequence of this their pensions are reduced accordingly. I would like to know from the Treasurer whether in such cases, the regulations, though rigid, could not be relaxed, so that the little extra assistance which is given could be allowed in addition to the ordinary pension ?
.- From time to time I have directed the attention of Treasurers of the day to a matter which I consider of great importance to those concerned, and as the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) is new to office, I trust he will feel inclined to do what I consider just. At present if an old-age pensioner enters a benevolent institution he does not lose the whole of his pension, but receives 2s. per week a3 pocket money, which enables him to purchase small quantities of tea, tobacco, or such trifles, which to the average person are necessaries of life, but to him luxuries. An invidious distinction has been created, inasmuch as those who enter such an institution, after having been granted an old-age pension, receive 2s. per week, whereas those who are inmates of the institution do not receive such a concession. I trust the Treasurer will see his way to rectify this anomaly.
.- I desire to emphasize the point mentioned by the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) in connexion with the unfair distinction made between old-age pensioners entering an institution and those who have been inmates for some time. The former receive 2s. per week, whereas the latter, many of whom are bedridden, are deprived of the small amount which would provide some small comfort. The same disability exists in regard to male and female inmates, many of whom have absolutely nothing, and, therefore, are unable to purchase small necessities which they so urgently require. So far as I can understand this is merely a question of arrangement between the State Governments. The State Governments contend that if the 2s. is paid the inmates will become Federal pensioners, and that the States are entitled to the amount paid for old-age pensioners who are inmates of institutions. This would increase immensely the charge upon the Commonwealth, but I do not know why an asylum pension should not be paid without a payment to the States. These poor people should not be inconvenienced merely because of a difference of opinion between Governments. AH the inmates of these institutions should be placed on the same basis.
. -There are two or three old people’s homes in my electorate, and no question has puzzled me more in connexion with the granting of pensions than that referred to by the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) and the honorable member for Nejean (Mr. Bowden). It is some years since representations were first made to me in regard to the payment of a little pocket money to these inmates, and some time ago in another place I endeavoured, to probe the matter in order to ascertain who was responsible for the present position. The first inquiry I made disclosed the information that the whole of the old-age pensions due from the Commonwealth to these old people were paid to the various State Govetfnmests concerned, , and that the payment of pocket money to inmates was a responsibility of the States, and not of the Commonwealth. When I proceeded further with my inquiries I was led to believe that the States had nothing to do with the matter at all, and the inference to be drawn from the information supplied was that all the money the Commonwealth paid to the State authorities was from 12s. to 13s. per week, the balance being retained by the Commonwealth Treasurer. If the Commonwealth pays to various State Governments the full amount of old-age pensions due to the inmates of the various institutions they should be allowed this concession. If the States admit that, on the average, the cost of their keep is only about 12s. 6d. or 13s. a week, I think the Treasurer’s responsibility is to see that, at all events, the balance as between the cost of i the keep and the amount paid to the various States is given by way of pocket money to those inmates of the various asylums, and not kept by the States.
– It is paid.
– I confess that I have been unable to come to any satisfactory conclusion as to the true position.
– The balance of 2s. is paid to those old-age pensioners who elect to enter an institution, but not to those who were inmates of institutions prior to the passing of the Act, and who, under the Act, would otherwise be entitled to a pension.
– Then, obviously, an invidious distinction is made between inmates of the same home.
– More than that; the State gets 10s., the pensioner gets 2s., and the Commonwealth gets the balance as profit.
– Here is another story; we have cumulating evidence that the whole position requires simplification and re-adjustment. We have been trying to straighten this matter out for three or four years. It was the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), I think, who some little time ago brought up the question; but he and I disagreed, because I thought that the circumstances obtaining in my own State also obtained in his. The more we probe the matter, the more we are met with complications and complexities.
– During the election campaign there will be promises of a liberalizing of the whole system.
– So far as I am concerned, I have promised several times to try and straighten the matter out, but find myself driven from pillar to post; and now I bring the circumstances seriously under the notice of the Treasurer, believing that he will see that the present position is a most unbusiness-like one, and that he will take steps to insure that these old people are all treated alike.
.- I am quite in accord with what honorable members have said respecting the alloca- tion of money to these institutions where our old-age pensioners are maintained. Something ought to be done to insure that the pensioners are, at least, not robbed of that to which they are clearly entitled. There is, however, another phase of the question that might well be considered. Honorable members are aware that, if an adult invalid, possibly a man or woman thirty years of age, is maintained by his or her parents, and those parents are in receipt of earnings of £3 a week, no invalid pension is granted. That I regard as a standing disgrace to the whole pension system. It means that a parent who, with natural affection, does his best for his invalid child rather than take the callous course of placing that child in an institution, is, by his praiseworthy conduct, the means of depriving the sufferer of assistance. That, I am sure, was never the intention of Parliament. I take it that this objectionable policy is adopted purely as an administrative act; but, in any case, the income which parents are permitted to earn is far too low. I know, not of one case, but of several, where invalids between twenty and thirty years of age are denied pensions because of this departmental regulation. I submit that such a claimant for a pension being an adult, is entitled to a pension on his own account; the earnings of the parents should not come into consideration. This is an invalid pension, and should be paid all round to those who need it. Then, again, an invalid pensioner is not allowed to earn anything in addition to the pension, though it is quite easy to imagine that quite a number might undertake knitting or some other light occupation, and thus add a shilling or two to their incomes. This administrative or departmental policy is quite wrong in principle.
– An invalid adult daughter, for instance, would have no legal claim on her father, and is really with him on sufferance.
– But it u only natural that parents should desire to look after and shelter their invalid children as long as possible.
– Quite so.
– Instead of penalizing such parents we should rather encourage them in their praiseworthy efforts to maintain their children rather than place them in public institutions.
.- I feel compelled to say a few words in support of the remarks of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins). Two cases particularly were brought under my notice a short time ago; and, in reference to those cases, the Commissioner was quite definite in his interpretation of the Act, which was that children so maintained by their parents are not entitled to pensions. In one of the cases the invalid was a son twenty-eight years of age, who had been brought to his parents’ house because it was not safe to leave him at large by himself. The invalid pension was immediately withdrawn, although the aged parents were earning very little above the prescribed amount of £3 per week. I was surprised to find that the invalid pension was refused in such circumstances, the invalid being an adult, but the Commissioner was quite definite upon the point. Another case which came under my notice was even worse. An invalid, forty-two years of age, had ‘been a cripple from his boyhood. His parents’ circumstances had become very straitened. The father was sixty-six years of age and was earning, as he claimed, less than £3 per week, but, at any rate, not more than that amount. The invalid wrote to me asking why he could not receive the pension for which he had applied. He pointed out that his parents were not able to maintain him. I put this case before the Commissioner, and again met with a definite refusal. I thought it hard that the Act should be given an interpretation with which Parliament was not in accord, and communicated with the ex-Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) upon the point. He wrote in reply stating that under the provisions of the Act the Commissioner was compelled to refuse a pension in the circumstances I have detailed. I join with the honorable member for Newcastle in asking the present Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) to look into the matter and, if necessary, have the Act amended to meet cases where the invalid is an adult. Surely it is not expected that parents who are in straitened circumstances should be asked to maintain an invalid at the expense of withholding necessaries of life from other members of the family.
– It very often costs more to maintain the invalid than it does to maintain healthy children.
Mr.BELL. - If the parents display those instincts for the care of their children which we all wish them to have, we should not penalize them as we are now doing, and if invalid pensions are to he paid, 1 am sure it is the intention of Parliament that they should toe made available to every adult invalid who is unable to support himself or herself.
.- The matter to which the honorable members for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) and Darwin (Mr. Bell) have referred is one that frequently comes under the notice of every memiber representing a city constituency, and I have not the least doubt also of every member representing a country constituency. I have heard of dozens of cases in which invalids have been refused the pension.
– That is the experience of the whole House.
– We should be delighted if the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) would give an assurance that the regulation under which these pensions are refused will be altered. This week Mr.Collins, Secretary to the Treasury, . has pointed out to me in a letter that he is powerless in the matter, seeing that he must be guided by the regulations approved by Cabinet. Surely Cabinet can so alter these regulations as to do justice to these people. One case which came under my notice last week was that of a man working on the railways at a very low wage. He has an imbecile son twenty-seven years of age, and as he is obliged to maintain him, it means that the f amily must keep their noses to the grindstone all the time. Honorable members would be grateful if the Treasurer would give us the assurance that he will do his best to have the regulations altered in order to meet these distressing cases.
– I have made a note of the various points brought up to-day, and will certainly look into them very carefully. I had representations made to me the other day about the matter raised by the honorable memiber for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) with reference to a certain jockey Fund. The question is now under consideration by the departmental officers, who are endeavouring to see if it comes witlhin the interpretation of the Act. If it does not, we shall have to consider what action it will be necessary to take. The case of the inmates of benevolent homes and similar institutions is very much under consideration at the present moment. I had a conference with four State Treasurers on that very subject about a month ago, and discovered when I went into it that it is indeed a thorny question, surrounded by a lot of complications. However, it is a matter that must be tackled, and we are now in train to see if we cannot come to some arrangement with the States which will obviate the continuance of any invidious distinction in the treatment of various inmates of these homes. I have had very many representations from honorable members upon the matter of adequate maintenance in connexion with invalid pensions, and judging by the number of cases brought under my notice, I have come to the conclusion that it is obviously a question that needs careful consideration. I can assure honorable members that I will give it that careful consideration. But no fault can be found with the administration. The Department is bound by the instructions of the Government. Cabinet must be held responsible for those instructions.
– The Invalid and Old-age Pensions office is the best administered Commonwealth Department.
– That is the only point I want to make in regard to the matter. It is not the Department that is wrong. If any one is blain able, the blame rests upon the Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
.- I move-
That a tax be imposed on income derived from sources in Australia at the following amounts and rates, namely: -
– Rate of Tax upon Income Derived from Personal Exertion.
For so much of the whole taxable income as does not exceed £7,600 the average rate of tax per pound sterling shall be Threepence and three eight-hundredths of one penny where the taxable income is One pound sterling, and shall increase uniformly with each increase of One pound sterling of the taxable income by three eight-hundredths of one penny.
The average rate of tax per pound sterling for so much of the taxable income as does not exceed £7,600 may be calculated from the folfollowing formula: -
R equals average rate of tax’ in pence per pound sterling.
I equals taxable income in. pounds sterling.
For every pound sterling of taxable income in excess of £7,600 the rate of tax shall be Sixty pence.
– Rate of Tax- upon Income. Derived from Property.
R equals average rate of tax in pence per pound sterling.
I equals taxable income in pounds sterling.
For every pound sterling of taxable in come in excess of £6,500 the rate of tax shall be Sixty pence.
_For every pound sterling of taxable income ‘derived from property, the rate of tax shall be ascertained by dividing the total amount of the tax’ that would be payable under Subdivision B if the total taxable income of the taxpayer, were derived exclusively from property by the amount of the total taxable income.
In addition to the tax payable under the preceding provisions, there shall be payable, in the case of incomes in respect of which the tax is calculated under Subdivision A, B, or C, an additional tax equal to fifty-three and one-Half per centum of the amount of the tax so calculated.
There shall be payable in respect of a prize in a lottery paid in cash, or by means of inscribed stock, or bonds, or other negotiable instruments, and won after the commencement of the Act passed to give effect to this resolution, income tax to the amount of twelve ‘and one-half per centum of the gross prize money, or of the face value of the stock, bonds, or instruments.
– Rates of Tax upon the Income of a Company.
The Income Tax Bill which will be founded upon this resolution is purely a machinery measure to give effect to the rates of tax, which, must be imposed annually. The reduction of 10 per cent, announced in the Budget is embodied in this Bill, and also the promised reduction of the rate on companies from 2s. 8d. to 2s. 5d. in the £1. I shall not attempt to explain exactly how these rates come about. They are in pursuance of the curves which have gained a certain amount of, I was almost going to say. notoriety.
– That is the only word which will meet the case.
– Then I must let it go at that. During the last few months we have been making a very strenuous effort to arrive at some simpler basis, and I believe . that we are very near to a conclusion. If, after an event which will take place shortly, I continue to hold my present position, I believe I shall be able to solve the problem, but if not, I believe I shall be able to leave behind me sufficient collated information to enable my successor to solve it. I regret that it has not been possible to make a change on the present occasion, but I think I can hold out hopes to the Committee that we are near the end of the present system.
.- I doubt very much whether the Treasurer will have the privilege, after the’ election, of solving the problem, but it is gratifying to know that he is leaving behind him material which will enable his successor to finalize the matter. Whoever the future Treasurer may be, if he accomplishes the task he will do very good work in the interests of the taxpayers of this country.
– I take this opportunity of protesting against the system of curves. While 1 accept the system as accurate, I have never yet met an accountant who, with paper and pencil, could work out the amount of tax. It is absolutely necessary to have the assistance of a ready reckoner. When I asked for a ready reckoner. I was told that I could not have one, so I suggested to the late Lord Forrest, the then Treasurer, that in view of the difficulty of answering questions put by constituents, he should send a ready reckoner to each member of the House. The request was complied with, and afterwards a second ready reckoner had to be sent out for another form of taxation. I do not impute inaccuracy to the system. I recog nise that it is as accurate as logarithms at sea in taking star sights, and as accurate as astronomical deductions, but it is still ridiculous that a man who has to pay taxes cannot calculate ‘his own tax. Why cannot we have a few simple rules that any taxpayer can understand, such as are in use in every other country in the world ? To the gentleman who is the author of the system my respect goes out. 1’ believe his ideal and ambition was to make Australia the most perfect income tax collector in the world, but the system which he has devised cannot be worked without a ready reckoner. The average taxpayer does not care to- go to the expense of purchasing a ready reckoner, and I am not sure whether it is actually for sale. If I had not asked the late Lord Forrest to supply them, members would not have received one. While giving all the respect to the man whose scientific attainments permitted him to make these rules, I say, in the name of common sense, and in the interests of the public at large, let us get back to a simple mode of calculating.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended.
That Mr. Bruce and Mr. Greene do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Bruce and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce, by leave) agreed to - .
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Estate Duty Assessment Act 1914-1916.
Bill presented and read a first time.
– (By leave.) - I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Estate Duty Assessment Act in two respects where a grave injustice is certainly being done at. the present time. The first amendment relates to income tax which may be due at the date of a man’s death, but has not been paid. That debt is a debt of the “estate, and has to be paid out of the assets in the bands of the executors, but, owing to the way in which the Act is framed, unless the tax has actually been paid it cannot be deducted from the assets of the estate., It is a prior debt, and it has to be paid out of the assets, but, owing to the wording of the Act, it cannot be deducted from- the estate, and estate duty has to be paid on the amount of the income tax which must subsequently be paid over to the authorities. It is quite obvious that a mistake was made in framing the Act.
The other provision in the Bill is to give the Commissioner power to remit a fine where estate duty is not paid to time. Under the law as it exists at present, if an individual is liable for the payment of estate duty, and it is not paid at the moment on which it is due, no matter what the cause of the delay might have been, even although it might be impossible to pay, the Commissioner has no power to remit the fine, which automatically is leviable upon the estate. That, I think, is far too severe a provision, and I have known many cases where it was perfectly obvious that there was no intention to avoid paying the tax, and the delay was absolutely innocent. In those cases there is no action that can be taken by the Commissioner, and the only way in which relief can be given is for him to pay the amount of the fine, and include it in his supplementary estimates. In the Income Tax Act discretion is given to_the Commissioner, and a similar provision is included in the Bill in regard to estate duty.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (by leave) read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
Since the Act was passed, in 1903, the system of election to the Senate has been entirely altered, and difficulties arise in the application of the Act. Furthermore, experience of its operation has revealed certain defects . which this Bill aims at removing. In order to make clear the defects of the Act and the principles of this Bill, it will be of assistance to begin by a definition of a few expressions which will save a good deal of cumbrous phraseology and make explanation simpler. The Senate Elections Act applies when, at an election for the Senate, it is necessary to fill both casual and periodical vacancies. Section 15 of the Constitution provides -
At the next general election of members of the House of Representatives, or at the next election of Senators for the State; whichever first happens, a successor shall, if the term has not then expired, be chosen to hold the place from the date of his election until the. expiration of the term.
Casual vacancies are those which occur during the term for which a Senator has been elected. Those which are for a period terminating on the 30th June next, after the election, are called “ short casual vacancies.” For instance, when a senator has been elected for six years, and after he has served five years his seat becomes vacant for the unexpired year of the full term, that is a “ short casual vacancy.” Another vacancy may occur after a senator has sat for two years, leaving an unexpired balance of four years. That is known as a “long casual vacancy.” Candidates who, at the date of the election, are senators and are due to retire on the following 30th June in the ordinary course, I will refer to as “senator candidates.” Candidates who, at the time of the election, are not senators - i.e., either have no seat in the Senate or are only holding a seat, under section 15 of the Constitution, until the election - are referred to as “ non-senator candidates.” At any election for the Senate it may be necessary to fill, in addition to three periodical vacancies, one, two, or three short or long casual vacancies, as the case may be. There may be four or five or more positions to be filled, three for a period of six years, and the others for short or long casual periods. The defect of the 1903 Act is that it does not distinguish between short and long casual vacancies. It makes no provision, in the possible case of a short casual vacancy and a long casual vacancy both requiring to be filled, for determining which of the candidates elected for the casual vacancies is to fill the short vacancy and which the long vacancy. Secondly, it is possible, under the Act, for a senator candidate to be elected for a short casual vacancy, and in that way his term would be practically duplicated and his State would be still short of a senator for the period of the vacancy, because the senator is already a senator for the whole period of the vacancy. Under his previous election, his term continues until 30th June, but he may be elected also for the balance of the unexpired term of some other senator. Also, it is possible for a senator candidate to be elected for a long casual vacancy, in which event he would hold two Senate seats until the next 30th June. Moreover, the reference in section 9 of the Act to candidates next after those elected to the periodical vacancies who “ receive the greatest number of votes” is difficult to apply, in view of the fact that the preferential system of election has been introduced for the Senate since the Act was passed. It is obvious that a short casual vacancy which ends on 30th June after the election does not overlap with a periodical vacancy which begins on 1st July; and therefore there is no reason why a non-senator candidate who has been elected for a periodical vacancy should not also fill a short casual vacancy. It is also obvious that where a short casual vacancy is to be filled, there can be only two retiring senators. The third of the group must have dropped out to create the casual vacancy. Therefore, one of the periodical vacancies must go to a nonsenator candidate. Similarly, if there were two short casual vacancies, two periodical seats must go to non-senator candidates; so that it is always possible to fill the short casual vacancies from among the three candidates who are elected to the periodical vacancies. The first principle of the Bill is that short casual vacancies are filled in turn by the first non-senator candidates- who are elected to periodical vacancies.
– Let us take the position in Queensland. At present a member of the Senate is filling a short casual vacancy for that State. If he goes to the election, and if another man is returned in his stead, will he complete the short term, or, in other words, fill the short casual vacancy until the end. of J une ?
– No. Let 113 assume for the sake of argument that A and B are senators filling a six-year term, and that 0 is filling a short casual vacancy for, say, six months. If those three men stood as candidates at an election, A and B would be regarded as senator-candidates and C as the non-senator candidate. If elected, A, B, and 0 would hold office for six years, but C would, in addition, be the senator filling ‘the short casual vacancy for .the balance of the unexpired term.
– If he were defeated, would he remain & senator for the unexpired term of the short casual vacancy ?
– No; by the Constitution he goes out at the next general election of the House of Representatives or at the next election of senators for the Senate, whichever first happens.
A long casual vacancy, on the other hand, cannot be held by a candidate elected for a periodical vacancy. The obvious plan is, after filling the three six-year places, to fill the long casual vacancy by repeating the process indicated in the Electoral Act to fill the fourth place. The only difficulty that arises here is that the successful candidate for the long casual vacancy may be a senator-candidate who already holds the seat for the first part of the period. It is undesirable to make a senatorcandidate ineligible for a long casual vacancy. The difficulty can be got over by requiring his conditional resignation of t>>e balance of his current term; that is, a resignation of such a kind that it takes effect if, and only if, he wins a long casual vacancy. Accordingly, the second principle of the Bill is that long casual vacancies are filled in turn by the fourth, fifth, and other candidates in order, with the proviso that a senatorcandidate will not be in the running for a long casual vacancy unless he has lodged with the returning officer a conditional resignation of the balance of his current term. When a senatorcandidate is thus elected for a long casual vacancy, his resignation of the balance of his current term will leave a short casual vacancy, which cannot be filled at the election; but if the period is long enough to make it worth while, it may be filled under the provisions of ‘section 15 of the Constitution. The Bill has been passed by the Senate. It is designed to meet difficulties in the existing law, and to provide a simple method for filling Senate vacances at the elections.
– This Bill has come to us from the Senate, and, as I have been assured by certain honorable senators that it is regarded as a satisfactory measure for the filling of vacancies in . that Chamber, I shall have nothing to say against its passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (by leave) read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s message) :
– Honorable members will recollect that in the closing stages of our consideration of the Public Service Bill we passed rather hurriedly the following amendment, which was moved by the honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Blundell), with the object of providing in certain circumstances for the permanent appointment, without examination, of returned soldiers who had been temporarily employed in the Service for a certain period: -
At end of clause 83 add the following proviso: - “Provided that any returned soldier, who has been employed continuously for a period of not less than two years, may be permanently appointed without examination if the Chief Officer certifies that the duties of such returned soldier have been performed in a satisfactory manner, and that such duties are. of a non-clerical character,”
To this amendment, which is known as amendment No. 89, the Senate has disagreed. I should explain to honorable members that it became necessary for the Government to ascertain the extent to which such an amendment of the Bill would affect existing conditions in the Service, and that it was found on inquiry that in operation it would do an injustice to a number of returned men already in the Service. In order to obviate this a further amendment embodying all for which the honorable member asked, but enabling us at the same time to keep faith with the men to whom I have referred, was drafted for submission to the Senate. Sub-clause 8 of clause 84 provides that -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act a returned soldier, on being recommended for appointment to the Commonwealth Ser vice, shall only be required to pass such medical examination as will show that he is fit to perform the duties of an officer.
We amended that provision as follows : -
Omit “ on being recommended for appointment to the Commonwealth Service, shall only be required to pass such medical examination as will show that he is fit to perform the duties of an officer”; insert “may be appointed to the Commonwealth Service, although not free from physical defects due to service in the war, if it is certified by a medical practitioner, approved by the Board, that the soldier is free from such physical defects as would incapacitate him for the efficient discharge of the duties of the position to which he is to be appointed “.
This amendment - No. 92 - as made by the House of Representatives, has been agreed to by the Senate with the following consequential amendment: -
At end of clause add the following new sub-clause: - “ (9) In the making of appointments to positions in the Commonwealth Service of a non-clerical nature the order of preference to returned soldiers shall . be as follows: -
returned soldiers temporarily em ployed in the Commonwealth Service who have passed the prescribed examination;
returned soldiers employed under the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act 1920, or under the War Service Homes Act 1918-1920, who have passed the prescribed examination;
returned soldiers who have been temporarily employed continuously for not less than two years, but have not passed the prescribed examination, and in respect of whom the Chief Officer certifies that their duties have been performed in a satisfactory manner:
Provided that any such appointment shall be to a position the duties of which are similar to those which the returned soldier has been performing; and
The returned soldiers have approved of these alterations.
– What returned soldiers?
– The representative Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League. In New South Wales there are 160 returned soldiers temporarily occupying positions which are, or will be when the Estimates are passed, of a permanent character. In addition to the number sixty-three returned soldiers were temporarily employed in place of officers on furlough or leave of absence. On 3rd December last there was held in New South Wales an examination, restricted to returned soldiers, for permanent appointment to positions as postmen, &c, and 193 candidates passed.
– Out of how many?
– I cannot say. Of this number, 132 have been appointed to the permanent Servioe, leaving sixty-one still to be appointed. Those men are still in the Service, and were promised that on passing the prescribed examination they would be appointed to permanent positions. Faith must be kept with them.
– Will returned soldiers, now temporarily employed, be retained in the Service until an opportunity occurs to appoint them to permanent positions?
– The sixty-one men who passed the examination in New South Wales, and who have not yet been appointed to permanent positions, are being temporarily employed in the Service.
– That is not an answer to the question which the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) put.
– The information I am about to give will constitute an answer to it. The new sub-clause which the Senate proposes to add to clause 84 provides that in the making of appointments of a non-clerical nature the order of preference to returned soldiers shall be -
That applies to the men to whom I have just referred -
Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act 1920, or under the War Service Homes Act 1918- 1920, who have passed the prescribed examination.
They are in a similar position. Then we come to the men whom the honorable member for Adelaide had in mind when he submitted his amendment -
That is to be the order of preference.
– Is a returned soldier who has been employed in the Service temporarily for not less than two years, but has failed to pass the prescribed examination, to be passed over in favour of returned men who have been temporarily employed for, say, less than twelve months, but have passed the prescribed examination ?
– Yes. His order of preference is determined in the Senate’s consequential amendment.
– He is to be third in the order of preference.
– Yes. Returned soldiers - temporarily employed in the Service - who have passed the prescribed examination are to receive the first preference.
– Will the returned soldiers who are placed third in the order of preference be retained as temporary employees until they have an opportunity of being permanently employed in the Service?
– I . dare say some will. The alterations made by the Senate in the original scheme submitted by the honorable member for Adelaide when the Bill was before this House will enable’ us to keep faith with the limited number of returned soldiers in the Service who have passed the prescribed examination, but have not yet received permanent appointments, while at the same time it will give effect to the honorable member for Adelaide’s desire. It will also preserve the future rights of returned soldiers in the Service. The number at present qualified under paragraph a of sub-clause 9 is about sixty. Those affected by paragraph c are about 400. I move -
That the amendment to clause 83 be not insisted on, and that the Senate’s consequential amendment to amendment to clause 84 be agreed to.
Sitting suspended, from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
.- The recommendations now before the Committee appear to involve a change in the outlook of temporarily employed returned soldiers who have not passed “ the prescribed examination.” I cannot understand why preference should be given in the order set down in the consequential amendment. The position is unsatisfactory.
– The Attorney-General has made the fact clear that the rights of temporarily employed returned men will be safeguarded generally, and that the purpose underlying- the preference is to give effect to a promise made to a small number of former soldiers.
– If this preference is to be limited to those sixty men to whom the Attorney-General has already referred I shall not press my objection.
– This order of preference is, I repeat, for the purpose of fulfilling a promise given to a small number of men in New South Wales. An examination was held in that’ State in December last year. It was restricted to returned men, and was with the object of securing permanent employees in the postal services. Altogether, 193 passed, of whom 132 have already been appointed to permanent positions, leaving only sixty-one still to be placed. Of these a proportion will come under paragraph (a). In due course they will’ receive their appointments, and thereafter, the third order of preference, as set out in the consequential amendment of the Senate, will operate.
– It would appear, then, that the Senate’s amendments are fair. I was under the impression that some improper system of preference was about to be instituted as between returned soldiers who had passed the necessary examination and those in temporary employment who had not done so. I have one other criticism to offer, and that is in respect of the two-year period. I think that former soldiers who have been employed for one year should be permitted to come under the benefits of this provision. Those who are so placed in the temporary services of the Commonwealth fear that, as they have not up to the present served for the two-year period, they may be debarred from appointment to permanent positions. I do not feel justified in pressing this point, although it is an important one. I realize that this House has already agreed that the term of temporary service shall be not less than two years; and, although it appears to me to be too long, I shall have to (be content, with that decision- at this stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
That the message he- considered in Committee forthwith..
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to amend the Parliamentary Allowances Act 1920.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Hughes and Mr. Groom do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Hughes and read a first time.
– : (By leave) - I move -
That this Bill be now. read a second time.
This is the second measure of its kind which I have had the honour to introduce. Its object is perfectly well known. Thecircumstances in which the Statute which this . Bill seeks to amend was placed before Parliament in 1920 are sufficiently fresh in the minds of honorable members to need little comment from myself. I shall treat the matter very shortly, and it should be sufficient for me to say that it had been generally thought by members of this Parliament that as a recompense for their services the allowance paid to them was inadequate. When I introduced the original measure I emphasized certain facts which appeared to me then, and do still seem, to be undeniable. We are members of a National Parliament, charged with high and responsible duties. It is fair to Bay that the standard of remuneration for services rendered in this world, speaking generally, is the measure _ of esteem in which a man; or an institution, is held. I am not going to defend that principle for one moment, but. it has wide acceptation. This Legislature occupies- a. supreme position in, this, country;.. The duties performed by its members! are at once onerous and responsible: The- personnel of- this Parliament is> without doubt, affected by the remuneration, or allowance by way of compensation, which is given to the members elected. The range of choice afforded to the people of this country is limited, naturally, to the men who offer their services. It is, perhaps, the best answer to all hostile criticism of this institution that those who criticise it and its members do not, as a general rule, offer their own services. They do not do so because the positions which they occupy are far more remunerative, and offer better prospects of financial reward, than are offered for meritorious public service. When the parliamentary allowance was originally fixed in the Constitution at £400 the circumstances were vastly different from those of to-day - we live in another world. Owing to the increased cost of living, the maintenance of that position which is proper, and which, indeed, their constituents expect them to maintain, is not possible to honorable members at the rate of allowance which was considered adequate, and perhaps was adequate, in 1900. The value of money had fallen; and, after careful consideration of the whole of the circumstances, it was thought only right and proper that the allowance should be increased, and it was increased to £1,000 per annum. The criticism directed against this Chamber for its action was of a very narrow, bitter, and severe kind; but, apart perhaps from Victoria, that can hardly be said to have been so. I think the press of almost every other State accepted the position and saw nothing to take exception to in our action. I do not wish for a moment to make any speech of apology for what was done - what was done was rightly done. Some honorable members who objected to the allowance being increased did so, not because the increase suggested was in itself undesirable or improper, but because the people had not been consulted, or, alternatively, that they had on the platform and the hustings made statements (by which they felt themselves committed and bound. I remember that the honorable member for Kooyong (Sil Robert Best) took up that attitude, or something approaching it, and said that to the allowance itself he took no exception. I remember also that the honorable* member for New England (Mr. Hay) held that an allowance to members of Parliament was in itself undesirable, but that, if the principle was conceded, then the allowance ought to be one adequate for the maintenance of the dignity and honour, of the position. That was, the position then,- and it is the position now; but much water has since run under the bridge. The cost, of living has been reduced materially, and a reduction of wages has been accepted or forced upon men in other positions of life. The Ministry by its policy, which has been set out in detail, and emphasized over and over again, has made it clear that it agrees entirely with that re-adjustment of wages to the reduced cost of living which has been going on, is going on, and will continue to go on. That is the policy which we are advocating and endeavouring to persuade the people of the country to accept. It has direct relation to the trade and prosperity of this country, because the cost of production, while not governed by the rates of wages, is largely dependent on and affected by them. With the decreased cost of living the remuneration which was granted in order to meet it must in turn be reduced. The Government feel that they cannot ask the country to accept that principle, unless they are prepared to apply it to their own circumstances. We are asked to set an example. Economy is a most excellent virtue, which “shineth like a light in a dark place,” and is “ more precious than rubies.” But there is a singular dislike on the part of all men to apply economy to themselves. We, however, are’ set in a place of authority, and we cannot ask our fellow citizens to do that which we will not do ourselves. So we have done what we conceive to be right and proper, and we are asking the House to agree to this reduction in the parliamentary allowance provided for in. this measure. If honorable members will look at the Bill they will see that it is very simple - singularly free from complications. This is one of those questions on which I assume honorable members will have no difficulty in making up their minds. Some measures which I have had the honour to introduce in this place were full of complicated and difficult questions, almost metaphysical in their character. Happily the Bill before us is free from all such intricacies. It provides for a reduction of the parliamentary allowance from £1,000 to £800 per annum. It takes cognisance, however, of the geographical circumstances of this vast continent. It realizes that those who represent the State of Victoria. have an immense advantage over honorable members who come from distant States. On looking round I see honorable members whose homes are thousands of miles away. They are here day after day, and they have to maintain two homes, travel long distances, and abandon all opportunity of pursuing their former avocations. If they are professional men, it means the ruin of their professional prospects. We have, therefore, made a distinction between members from the State of Victoria and members from other States; and I am sure that this will appeal to honorable members - at any rate, to those from a distance. I shall not detain honorable members ‘at length, because I am anxious to hear what others have to say, though I hope they will be brief ; I am quite sure what they say will be to the point. I should like, however, to ask honorable members to look at clause 4, which deals with a senator who is elected to fill a casual vacancy as a result of the death or resignation of the sitting senator. This clause enables a senator so elected to be paid the parliamentary allowance from the date of his election, and not from the date when the Governor of the State signs the certificate. All that the clause does is to place such a senator on the same footing as other senators. I shall not detain the House longer. I ask honorable members to come to a conclusion without lengthy debate. No doubt honorable members, or some, will express their opinions, and I remind them that time is the essence of the contract, and ask them to be brief.
.- I am sure the House must be surprised at the action of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in bringing down this measure, in view of the fact that we have dealt with the remuneration question on two occasions during the life of this Parliament. On each of those occasions the House has shown a decided majority in favour of the present allowance. The introduction of the Bill, therefore, makes one wonder why at this time, when we have so much business to do within the next day or two, we should be asked to devote time to a matter that has been emphatically decided by the House, as I say, on two previous occasions.
It appears to me that there can be only one reason for an action .of this kind, and that is that we axe about to face our constituents. Let me say that if that reason actuates any members who supported the increase of the allowance on the two last occasions, and they propose now to go back on their votes then recorded, I would not like to be in their shoes when they face their electors. Members of this House have been twitted in the public press with doing something which is wrong, and now, when we are on the point of going before our constituents, are we going to admit that what we did was wrong - that we were not justified in increasing the allowance - and that we are now endeavouring to make amends at the last moment after drawing the increased allowance for two years and a half? I hope that Parliament will not place itself in this1 position. I have some respect for it, and I hope that honorable members also have respect for it; but whether the public outside will have respect for it rests with the attitude taken up by honorable members here. The Prime Minister has said very candidly that members of this Parliament ought to set an example. To whom are we to set an example? To the general public. The idea, of course, is that after we reduce our salaries we shall, when the elections are over, commence to reduce the salaries of public servants and wages generally throughout/ industry. I have every justification for making that assertion, because when the Treasurer was delivering his Budget speech, he said that economy must be exercised, and that it must commence within this Parliament. ‘He said that there must be a reduction of honorable members’ salaries. Of course, the idea was that, having made a reduction within this Parliament, we could then proceed to extend the principle of a reduction generally throughout Australia. I warn the public servants of the Commonwealth, and the industrial workers of Australia, that if at the forthcoming elections they approve of the action of those honorable members whose votes may enable this BiU to be carried, they may expect a reduction of their salaries after the election. The Prime Minister and the Treasurer have maxie the’ position clear in that respect. The issue now is beyond the walls of this Parliament and out of the reach of honorable members sitting here. The people will be called upon to justify this cry for economy, and, therefore, the cutting down of wages. The Prime Minister, in support of his demand for a reduction of honorable members’ salaries, has urged that it is well known that the cost of living has been reduced since honorable members’ salaries were increased. .The facts are against the right x honorable gentleman. The latest statistics show that during the past few months the cost of living in Aus- tralia has increased, and quite recently in Victoria the minimum wage payable in one industry was raised by 3s. per week, because the tribunal dealing with the matter was convinced that the cost of living had increased to that extent. What will be the position of those honorable members who, although they may have opposed the increased salary, have drawn it ? Will ‘ they go before the public and tell them that not only had they voted against the increase, but also that they had accepted it? Those who voted against the Bill providing for the increase should not have accepted it, and having accepted it, they should not now vote for a reduction in order to cover up their drawing of the increase. If they do so they will look very small indeed before the electors.
– They should hand back the increase they have drawn.
– I do not mind what they, do, so long as they act consistently. It has’ been said in the press and upon public platforms that this Parliament was not justified in increasing salaries, seeing that the question was not an issue at the last election; but the Prime Minister has already pointed out that the Constitution Act provides that the salary of a member of either House of the Commonwealth Legislature should remain at £400 per annum until such time as Parliament otherwise ordered, Wisely the framers of the Constitution left the matter to the decision of this Parliament itself, and the people ratified their action in this respect. No one will declare that a member of Parliament, who carries out his duties faithfully, and devotes his time to serving the interests of his country, does not earn -every penny he receives. I have no desire to say again what I said when this matter was formerly before the Chamber in reference to costs, and so on, except to ‘ repeat that, after allowing for all expenses, I had left, out of the former allow ance of £600 per annum, the munificent salary of £250, which no one can say is a sufficient income for one who occupies a position in. this Chamber. The people are not opposed to paying a fair and reasonable allowance to the man who enters this Parliament imbued with a desire to do his best in the interests of the country, and .who carries out his trust faithfully; but the salary paid should be sufficient to enable an honorable member to set by something for his qld age. Members give up their home life; they are always, touring the States when the House is not in session. Is it fair that a member should be thrown out on the scrap-heap, when he loses his seat after years of faithful service, without having had the opportunity to put by sufficient to keep himself and his family ? What can a man do who has been in Parliament for ten or fifteen years if he loses his seat? Can he take up any other occupation ? I venture to say that a man who has given fifteen years’ attention to legislation is ill-fitted to go into the outside world and follow some other calling. Many men in the outside world who have not the responsibilities of a member of Parliament are drawing much better salaries than we are paid. Surely the men chosen on account of their fitness to legislate in the people’s interests are entitled to a remuneration which is at least equal to that which is paid to men holding important positions in the commercial world. Tet now we are asked to place a value upon our services which is much less than the reward paid to the servants of business firms. People will take us at the value we place upon ourselves. If we think that we are not worth more than £800 per annum we shall be adjudged accordingly when we go before the electors. I repeat that ‘I would notlike to be in the position of those who on two occasions in this Chamber supported the fixing of the allowance at £1,000 per annum, and now, at the death of this Parliament, because of adverse criticism outside, are prepared to make a change, with a view to getting votes when they appear ‘before -the -electors. When the people get to know the exact position I am sure they will say, “ We have no time for men who twist at the ‘ death-knock ‘ because they know they have to come before us to be judged.” The electors cannot regard men with such principles as fit to represent them in the new Parliament. In the Melbourne Age of 6th
January, 1922, the following appeared in reference to tha American Congress: -
Not only does a grateful country provide each memlber of Congress with an office free of charge, but it also provides him with a secretary, a clerk, and a stenographer. It pays the secretary £450 a year, and the clerk and stenographer £350 each. In addition, it allows each member of Congress £30 each session for stationery. The members themselves are paid a salary of £1,500 a year. Well might those members of the Commonwealth Parliament who voted themselves an increase in their salaries from £000 to £1,000 a -year be astounded at their own moderation.
I agree with that paragraph. These salaries are paid in America without one word of protest, because the people choose the men best fitted to represent them, and realize that they are worth the salaries paid. Yet herez members who are paid much less than is paid in America are asked to accept a reduced allowance. The increase from £600 to £1,000 per annum might have seemed large to some people, but the actual cost to the taxpayer of this country was less than 2d. per head . per annum. What man would refuse to give his representative an extra 2d. per year if , he thought that representative was doing his work faithfully.
– The Age took 6d. per week extra from each of its readers.
– Many of those who have complained about our salaries take fine care that they get as much as they possibly can for what they are selling, and do not mind how they increase prices. Very often it is the increase in prices in one direction which necessitates the payment of increased salaries in other directions. I have no desire to labour this question. I have made my position clear, I do not intend to go back on the two votes I have already given in regard to this matter, even if, as a result of my attitude, I do not come into this Chamber again. I justified the votes I gave on the two previous occasions by saying that I thought it was only fair that honorable members should get an increase in their salaries, and I stand by the position I then took up. I am not afraid to meet the electors, because I am satisfied that when I explain the facts they will say, *.’ Well done, you have done the right thing; we have little time for those who have ratted in regard to this matter.”
.- - I propose to define very clearly the attitude that I take up in regard to the salaries of honorable members. Two years ago I voted for the increase because, as I stated then, in my opinion, the allowance paid to parliamentary representatives in Australia should either be nothing or adequate; and I have taken the increase ever since that vote was recorded without any sense of moral degradation or sense of having done anything to be ashamed of . . I would consider myself for all time beneath contempt if I joined with the Government in making at this moment, two or three days before Parliament is actually prorogued, a death-bed repentance becauseof the feeling that I was about to be* judged by people outside. I would regard my doing so as an admission on my part that I had done something two years ago which I had no legal or moral right to do. Last year I moved in this House to reduce the salaries of members of both Chambers to £800 per annum. I did not contend that the allowance received by honorable members was excessive, but I said that the condition of the finances of the country was such that it behoved the representatives of the people in this Parliament to set a moral example to the rest of the community in indicating where national economy should start. The example we would set by adopting an attitude which does not involve any personal sacrifice on our part would not help the people to a higher national spirit, but rather would help to degrade it. The action of the Government in bringing down this measure at almost the last stage of this “Parliament . is one of the meanest and most contemptible in the history of any Parliament. I intend to vote against the second reading of the Bill for this reason. If the second reading is carried, I shall propose in Committee that members be paid a flat rate of £800 per annum, with travelling expenses according to the distance a member has to travel from his constituency, or the circumstances in each! case; the maximum total payment to any one member to be £1,000. I shall suggest that the basis of payment of travelling allowances be arrived at by a Select Committee after full inquiry. If my amendment is rejected, I shall, when returned tol the next Parliament, revive the proposal. The proposal in this Bill that every Victorian member shall be paid a flat rata of £800 and members from other States £900 is not just and equitable. It takes the honorable member for Wimmera longer .to reach this House from his constituency than it takes me to come from mine. The constituencies of Gippsland and Wannon are as inaccessible as are those of Riverina, Hume, and Werriwa. This is not a matter to be decided in an offhand way; we should deal with it in a. way that will appeal to the public. The public wish to give members of Parliament a fair deal; and I hope that when the Constitution Convention is held - it cannot be delayed for ever - the amendments proposed will include a provision, which I think will meet with the approval of the people, that in the last session of every Parliament the salaries to be paid to the succeeding Parliament shall be fixed. That is the principle adopted in connexion with the allowances to shire presidents and mayors. Before a mayor or shire president takes office, his allowance has been determined. The people do not desire that the salaries of members of this Parliament shall remain at a dead level for ever; they are willing that the remuneration shall be graded according to the circumstances of each case, and a better taste would be left in the mouth of the public if the salaries were not fixed by those who are to be the immediate recipients of them. At the present time, however, the Constitution makes Parliament the final arbiter in this matter, and for that reason I do not reproach myself for the vote I gave two year*, ago in favour of the increase, or for the action I took last year to bring about a reduction as an example of economy. I cannot, under any circumstances, consent to be a party to the proposal contained in the Bill, which is a fraud upon the electors. It invites this criticism, that we are prepared to reduce our salaries in the last days of the Parliament, but that when the new Parliament re-assembles we may increase them as we did before. I am not prepared to bear that stigma. For the reasons I have stated, I shall vote against the second reading, but if that is carried I shall move the amendments I have indicated.
.- Australia has exacted a very heavy toll from its legislators. A man following a dangerous occupation like mining has to take certain risks, and is paid accordingly, but no man following that occupation is satisfied with the conditions surrounding him. There is no Australian business of greater dimensions than the governing of the Commonwealth, and no- occupation which takes from those engaged in it heavier toll in the form of mental effort and injury to health. In most Parliaments of the world, members work in a vitiated atmosphere, and the tests of the atmosphere in this chamber show that honorable members do the country’s work under conditions worse than obtain in ninetynine out of a hundred business offices. The member who serves any length of time in this Parliament suffers a great deal of harm physically. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), that a man who serves ten, twelve, or twenty years in Parliament unfits himself for ordinary avocations. But his aggregation of experience renders him more fit every year for his work as a legislator. I am in a position different from, that of most honorable members, inasmuch as I entered the House’ after the salary bad been increased to £1,000. But having previously served in another Parliament, I. say that any man who is elected to the Commonwealth Legislature is appointed to a man’s job - a £l,000-a-year man’s job. The people when they adopted the Constitution gave Parliament the right to fix from time to time the amount that should be paid to its members. The job is worth £1,000, and -anybody who maintains to the contrary does not know what he is talking about. Many of those who have condemned the increase receive from their own businesses salaries as high, or higher, and do no more to earn them than we do. At the end of each Parliament, and often during its currency, members have to give an account to their constituencies of what they have been doing for the money paid to them. Since the inception of Federation there have been elections for this Parliament at average intervals of two years. Any man who has been many years in Parliament not only unfits himself for work outside, but lessens his chance of providing for his> dependants. This question of salaries should not be considered on a breadandbutter basis. The remuneration of a legislator in the Australian National Parliament has got beyond the considera- tion of a living wage. I have always contended that the cost of living is the wrong basis upon which any Judge should decide an arbitration case. I ask our critics to consider how many Australian legislators have at their death left their dependants well provided for. In every Parliament in the Commonwealth the Estimates each year contain, amongst the miscellaneous items, compassionate allowances for widows and dependants of men who, as legislators, had done the country’s work honorably and well. Legislators should be placed above the need of such allowances, and any member who, by his vote, seeks to continue the disabilities that have always been placed upon them in the past, is not fit to hold a seat in any Australian Parliament.
– There is no compulsion on any man to enter this Parliament.
-Every man who seeks entrance to Parliament does so in the belief that he can do some good for his country. Men who had not that idea are unfit to be here.
– It is the electors who think a man can do any good.
-I have never known the electors to seek to compel a man to stand for Parliament. We all stood for Parliament of our own free will, and any member who had conscientious objections could, of his own free will, have refused to accept £1,000 per annum. No man in Australia works harder than an. Australian Prime Minister is compelled to work, and no man in this country has his brains taxed to a* greater extent. The Prime Minister of the South African Union, in addition to the salary which he receives, is provided with a house in which to live, and also with a country residence, where he may spend his week ends and recuperate. No such consideration is extended to the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. Then, again, a. member of the Canadian Parliament receives an allowance of £1,000 a year, is provided with a private secretary and an office, and, in addition, is allowed travelling expenses. Some people would differentiate between members of the several States in the matter of the allowance. That, however, is a consideration that does not arise at this stage. We are concerned only with a broad question of principle, and on principle I intend to vote against the second reading of this Bill.
I invite my severest critic to say whether he would be prepared to ‘take my place as a member of this House, to submit to all the inconvenience that it involves, and to do the work attaching to it even as well as I do in return for an allowance of £800 a year. My constituency covers an area, of 959,000 square miles. I do not suggest that the whole of it is closely settled, but during an election campaign I have to travel from its most southernmost portion, on the Southern Ocean, to the far north of Western Australia. I have to travel right round the north-west coast, not only during an election campaign, but from time to time in order that my constituents may know what I am endeavouring to do in their interests as a member of Parliament. Unfortunately, many representatives of city constituencies never feel called upon to visit the outposts of the Commonwealth. It should be the object of honorable members generally to visit, from time to time, the remote parts of Australia, and, in that way, to extend the knowledge of the people out-back regarding the legislation of this Parliament. From the centre of my electorate I have to travel 3,500 miles in order to attend the sittings of the House. Such ai journey cannot be undertaken without expense. Another point for public consideration is that an honorable member who, like myself, comes from a. distant State, has absolutely no chance of enjoying any home life. He finds it impossible, also, to attend to his ordinary private business. Before I entered this House, I was carrying on a small business in Western Australia, but in order to be in constant attendance here I should have had to neglect it, and I have, therefore, had to give it up. The position is that I have been too long away from Western Australia to continue in business there, and I have not been long enough in this city to be able to enter into business here. We have in the Electoral Act a provision limiting the election expenses pf a> candidate to £100. Such a sum would not even pay for postage, and the sooner we place in the Act something that is just and equitable in regard to election expenses the better.
For the reasons I have given, I shall vote against the* i second reading, of the
Bill. I shall vote -against it, not because I am opposed to the Government or desire to show my opposition to any individual! member of the House, but because I think it just and equitable that honorable members should receive an allowance of £1,000 a year in return for the work they are called upon to perform and the physical strain to which they are subjected in attending to their legislative duties.
.- We have to congratulate the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and his associates on their belated return to constitutional methods. They are now apparently on the road-
– We shall all be “on the road” before long.
– I was not referring to the electioneering “ road,” but there is no reason why we should set out on the forthcoming campaign in a less advantageous position than we have previously occupied. When the Bill to increase the allowance of honorable members to £1,000 per annum was before the House I supported it, because I believed that those who did the work should determine the conditions under which they worked. That being my policy in regard to work carried on outside the Parliament, I availed myself of the opportunity which the Ministry gave me to determine the remuneration which I should receive as a member of this Parliament. For the same reason, amongst others, I am opposing this Bill. The main argument advanced by the Prime Minister this afternoon for a reduction in the allowance of honorable members, was that it would set an example to the workers outside to accept a reduction in their wages.
– He did not say anything of the sort.
– He distin tly said so. He went further and stated that the Government stood for a reduction of wages.
– The Trea surer made that statement.
– Why not be fair!
-I am here to express my views, and will not permit the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) to cover up what the
Prime Minister actually said. The right honorable gentleman stated distinctly that it was the policy of the Government to bring about a reduction in wages outside in order, that production might go on. He went on to state that while wages were not the governing factor they were, at all events, a real factor in determining the cost of production. In submitting his Budget the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) also said that in the interests of economy it was necessary we should reduce our allowance to £800 per annum, and so set an example to the people. In other words, the desire is that the knife shall be put in all round. It is for that reason chiefly that I oppose this Bill. I do not believe in the reduction of wages outside; I refuse to stand for a reduction of wages either inside or outside the Parliament. I am not going to be used as a bell-wether.
This Bill has been introduced to satisfy outside interests which support the Government - interests which find their election campaign funds, and which have sedulously encouraged in the press as well as on the part of a few comparatively unimportant people outside a demand for a reduction in the allowances of members of Parliament. Members of mushroom organizations outside have been attacking the increase in allowance from the time that the Parliamentary Allowance Act was passed. The agitation outside is being carried on by the self-same people who have reduced the wages of women workers in New South Wales to 39s. 6d. per week, and who have reduced the living wage for unskilled labour there from £4 5s. to £318s. per week. The same people are trying to reduce the standard of living of the coal miners and shearers, and have reduced the wages of the miners at Wallaroo and Moonta.
It is obvious that there is no real force behind the Bill. The suggestion that all members of the Parliament other than the representatives of Victoria should receive in addition to the ordinary allowance of £800 a year . an allowance of £100 far travelling expenses shows how ridiculous it is to argue that this Bill has been brought in with the object of setting an example in the way of economy to the people outside. If such a proposal be agreed to, members representing five out of the six
States will be drawing £900 per annum, while Victorian members will be receiving only £800 per annum.
– It means a saving of £2,600 a year.
– Quite so; but it is absurd to say that the passing of this Bill in such circumstances would set an example of economy to the people. There is no comparison between the reduction proposed in the allowance of members and that which certain interests would make in the wages of the workers. A reduction of £100 a year, in the case of a person who is receiving an annual salary of £1,000, would not hit him so hard as a reduction of 7s. from a weekly salary of £4 5s. - which has been the unfortunate experience of workers in New South Wales - would hit the worker. The idea behind the Bill, therefore, is absurd; and those people who control and manipulate the press are doing their best to create false public opinion. Most of those members who opposed the increase two years ago were men of independent means. Thus, this scheme for reduction becomes all the more absurd. These well-to-do members would show an example of economy, because it matters little or nothing to them that they may be docked to the extent of £100 a year. The more independent they are of the parliamentary allowance the more ardent they have been in demanding reduction.
– How does the honorable member know anything about other members’ private circumstances?
– Because I am not as unsophisticated as the honorable member pretends that he desires to be considered. I have some common sense; and my assertion needs no explanation, at any rate, to most honorable members.
– I wish I were as independent as the honorable member suggests that I am.
– I do mrt suggest that the honorable member is independent, except in his circumstances. None of us can say whether he is going to return to enjoy an allowance, either of £800 ‘or £1,000 per year; but I shall be prepared to defend the Act of 1920, and to fight the case for the £1,000 allowance. I have never heard or received one word from any part of my constituency in re ference to the increased allowance. I have heard no complaint from anybody who is concerned with my representation in this House. Like the Leader of the Opposition, I shall be prepared to go upon the public platform, and, if this subjectmatter is made a test question, I shall be content to accept victory or defeat thereon. I have had six years’ experience of parliamentary life, and I have not become a capitalist, despite the receipt of my parliamentary allowance and the attentions of a section of the press.
– But the honorable member will admit that he has been improved out of sight in other directions ?
– Like the honorable member for Balaclava, I am capable of still further improvement. My views have undergone considerable modification with respect to the disabilities which honorable members must undergo in pursuance of their public -activities. I would not say, however, that I oppose the reduction of the allowance to £800 a year because a man cannot live on that sum, or even upon £600 a year. We, who claim to ‘ represent the working class, would be worse than absurd . if we said that we could not possibly live on our past, or our present, or our possible future allowance, while, at the same time, there are men living on £3 18s. a week, and women on 39s. 6d. a week. I do not believe in this arbitration business. I do not believe in handing overthe settlement of wages and conditions to some outsider who knows nothing of the circumstances from practical experience. My original remarks on the subject of parliamentary allowances were framed in this same tenor.” The people who work under the conditions being reviewed should determine those conditions and the matter of payment for their services. And, because the Government now say that this proposal is part and parcel of the great general scheme for the reduction of wages - because they do not hide the fact that this is merely a move in the campaign for reduction of the standard of living–I say that no honorable member who has the true interests of the working class at heart can vote for the Bill.
.- Like the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. EarlePage), I desire to make my position perfectly clear. I intend to vote for the second reading of this measure, but I desire that my vote shall not be taken as indicating acquiescence in the action of Parliament two years ago in increasing parliamentary allowances. I desire to be consistent. “When speaking originally upon this subject, I was very careful to say that I did not impugn the motives of any member who had voted for the increased allowance. I tried to act on the principle that it is well for one not to impute to an opponent meaner motives than those which actuate oneself. I was especially careful to state that I was not discussing the question of increase on its merits. The one ground of my opposition to the step proposed in the original Bill was that the matter had not been placed before the electors. I held that members of Parliament had no right to raise their salaries without receiving the acquiescence of those who paid them. I join issue with the honorable member for Barrier (‘Mr. Considine). I do not agree with him that the man who does the work shall have the right to fix his remuneration.
– The honorable member fixes what he shall be paid, for his briefs.
– I do not. What would the honorable member for Barrier say if, having engaged a man to do some gardening for him at a certain scale of remuneration, the latter returned, soon after having begun his job, and intimated that he wanted to be paid double the amount he had agreed to work for?
– Does not the honorable member fix his fees for briefs? Colin Ross paid him his price.
– I have had to withstand a good deal of vilification from such members as the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney).
– *We are not going to stand your attacking us all the time - imputing motives.
– If honorable members had taken the same view as I did, and still do, I assert that it would be dishonest on their (part to act in a different manner from that which I intend to pursue. But if an honorable member can say that he conscientiously believes he did what was right, and that he has the right now to do ‘as he intends to do, then I shall not presume to judge the character or quality of his actions. The honorable member for Cowper said that, on principle, he had voted for the increase, and that, as he believed he was doing what was honest and straight, he had accepted the increase. I took the opposite view. I could not conscientiously vote for the increase, and, therefore, I could not conscientiously accept it. The present situation, however, appears to be extraordinary. Immediately after the last election, Parliament, of its own motion, increased the remuneration. And now, immediately on the eve of another election, Parliament is asked to reduce the allowance. Such a situation speaks for itself; I do not intend to characterize it. I admire the consistency of members who in 1920 said, “We believe that we are entitled to this increase,” and who voted for it because they honestly believed they earned if, and who, having taken that step, are now about to go before their electors saying, “ We did what we thought was straight and fair, and we stand or fall by it.” But what about those who, having voted for the increase shortly after a general election, now vote to reduce it again, when they are about to face their employers? I do not know, or .understand, that there is any suggestion that this Bill should be made retrospective in its operation. I repeat that I shall vote for the’ second reading of the Bill, because I opposed the increase originally, and am bound, therefore, to vote for this proposed reduction, leaving it to our constituencies to say what the parliamentary allowance shall be. If a substantial increase upon the old amount of allowance were proposed and discussed before the constituencies, I, for one, would heartily support it. I repeat now what I said in respect of the original measure, that my opposition was based simply on the fact that the proposed increase had not been mentioned on the election platform. I objected to the time and to the method of increasing the allowance. I felt that the proper course to take - and it is the course which should now be taken - would be for the members pf all parties to discuss the matter and agree upon a sum which would be fair and proper, and to say, “ That is what we shall submit to the people, and ask them- to indorse.”
– This House has already voted twice upon the same question. Should not those two expressions ofopinion be considered enough to indicate where members stand?
– I admit the consistency of the attitude of those members who, having supported the increase, and having accepted the added amount, now adhere to their attitude, and intend to place their position before their electors, asking for its indorsement. In my view, however, the order of action should have been reversed. Members of Parliament should have told the people at the last election what they thought should be paid them; and their proposed action should have been indorsed before it was taken. But there is room, of course, for difference of opinion.
– Suppose that those of us who have accepted the £1,000 a year should go before our constituencies and fight the case for the higher remuneration. What would the honorable member do upon his return to the new Parliament? If the electors return candidates who support £1,000 a. year, will you accept it?
– After the next election, whatever salary is allowed for a. member of this House, I shall accept it. I shall tell my constituents what I consider the remuneration ought to be, having regard to all the circumstances. From the beginning I have taken up a consistent position. When the increase was suggested in the beginning of 1920, I was careful to tell the House that I was not discussing the question on its merits - that I was not discussing the question of how much the remuneration ought to be. That was, of course, a matter which was open to discussion, and which might easily lead to the suggestion for a substantial increase.
– Does the honorable member think that a member of this Parliament is overpaid at £1,000 a year ?
– I shall be prepared to recommend to my constituents that, having regard to the financial position of the country at the present time, I think £800 . would be a. fair salary for an honorable member. In view of what the rank and file of our own constituents have to work for, it is not a fair thing to ask them to pay us more. For the reasons I have stated I am going to support the second reading. If the Bill goes into Committee, I shall support some such suggestion as that outlined by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page). It seems to me quite unreasonable and illogical that there should be the proposed differentiation between Victorian members and members from all the other States.
,- I do not desire to give a silent vote on this question, though at the same time it is not my intention to make a long speech, because I realize that other honorable members are equally desirous of making their position clear. I opposed the measure to increase the remuneration from £600 to £1,000, and gave the reasons for my attitude. It was not that I considered the salary of £600 sufficient. On the contrary, I showed distinctly that in my opinion it was not so. What I objected to was the manner in which it was proposed to make the increase. The next problem that faced me was whether, having opposed the increase from £600 to £1,000, I should take the increased salary. Well, I did take the increased salary, and I did so because I did not wish . to be charged with adopting a hypocritical attitude - I did not wish to be looked uponas a person thankful for not being as others are, or who felt that he could not sink to such depths as other members were prepared to face in order to. obtain increased emoluments. In other words, I adopted the principle of abiding by the decision of the majority. On the second occasion, when an attempt was made by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) to reduce the salary to £800, I voted with him, because I considered that an opportunity was given to Parliament, in the light of public discussion and criticism, to reconsider its attitude, and also because the proposal, ‘ if passed, would entail some measure of sacrifice on honorable members, seeing that Parliament, in the ordinary course of events, had twelve of fourteen months to live. The proposal of the Leader of the Country party was defeated; and now we have this present proposal of the Ministry. With no desire to be unfair, I regard this Bill as an exhibition of deathbed repentance on the part of the Government; indeed, in my opinion, the action of the Government is most disgraceful. Honorable members opposite, with one exception I believe, are, at least, consistent.
If I were an elector outside this House, I know which party I would most admire in all these fluctuations of our allowance. Honorable members opposite have all through supported the allowance of £1,000, and now, on the eve of an election, they stand by their actions of the past. But what do we see on the Ministerial side of the House ? I refer to some of the honorable members on the front bench, and particularly to the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond). Well do I remember the bitter, I might almost say vindictive, manner in which he attacked myself and other honorable members because of the vote we gave as a matter of principle.
– You have an exaggerated memory !
– My memory is not “exaggerated,” but merely vivid. I do nob know whether the Government have any faith or belief that this measure will be carried, but I think they have a pretty shrewd idea that it will not. As a matter of fact, I am one of those who by my vote will do my level best to see that it is not carried; and one of my strongest reasons, if I had no other, is that I decline to make political capital out of what I deem to be a foregone conclusion. There is a clumsy attempt in the Bill to discriminate between representatives from Victoria and representatives from all the other States - an exceedingly poor attempt at classification. It places an honorable member like the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. McDonald) on the same basis of remuneration as the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney).
– The honorable member’s own constituency is as difficult to reach as is mine.
– Quite so, but the honorable member will be on the £900 mark, while I shall receive £800. However, I do not wish to regard the matter from, a personal point of view, though I may say that, in order to be present at the sittings of this House on the Wednesday afternoon, I have to leave my home at 7.30 a.m. on the Tuesday, while honorable members from Adelaide and Sydney do not commence their journey until the Tuesday evening. There ought to be some differentiation with regard to reimbursement for expenses. I do not think it is right that honorable members representing constituencies in Melbourne should receive the same amount as representatives from the States of Western Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania. I admit the difficulty of arriving at a fair ratio, indeed, the whole question is so difficult that I think we should act on bhe suggestion of the Leader of the Country party and refer it to a Select Committee representative of all parties, with power to recommend a salary between the figures £800 and £1,000.
– That would have to be after the elections?
– Obviously. Let us first, as ‘the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) said, fix some fair standard, and then leave a. Select Committee, to be appointed immediately on the re-assembling of the new Parliament, to fix a standard of travelling expenses for honorable members from distant constituencies. This, I think, is a fundamentally fair suggestion,, whereas the present flat rate is just as fundamentally unfair. With the honorable member for Fawkner and others, T think the action of the Government cannot be described as a manly one. We have accepted the increased salary for two years and a half, and now, on the eve of an election, is not the time to reduce it.
.- After my experience in the House and in the lobbies on the three occasions on which this matter has come before us, I have arrived at the conclusion that, if ever another Federal Convention is held, that Convention ought to fix the amount of remuneration for members of the Parliament. If a Convention is held every candidate for a seat in it ought to be asked to say if he will do his best to have the allowances of members so fixed. I am glad to say that the feeling which has been, displayed in this House upon this question on other occasions is not so marked to-day.
– There is a great deal of suppressed emotion.
– I intend to support the second reading of the Bill, but not because I acquiesce fn fixing the salary at £800. If the measure gets into Committee, and if no one forestalls me, I shall move to strike out the words “ eight hundred,” and insert “ six hundred “ in lieu thereof. No one can say that I have acted inconsistently: I opposed the original Bill with, all my power, and last December, when the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) tried to reduce the salary to £800, I moved an amendment that it be £600. On that occasion the number of those who opposed the increase had risen from twelve to eighteen. I am glad also that I have been so consistent in the matter that I have not drawn one penny of the increase.
– Foolish man!
– There are different opinions about that. Each honorable member, no doubt, has done what he has thought right. I know why the Government brought down the Bill in May, 1920. It was because it served the purpose of the Prime Minister. I say nothing stronger than that, because, in my original remarks on this subject, I used, some words which two honorable members sought to, have recorded for the purpose of bringing me to- trial before the House, but on the advice of another honorable member - “ do not exalt him “’ - they let the matter drbp. Now that the time of this Parliament has almost expired, it does not matter to the’ Government whether honorable members are pleased . or . displeased. They are only thinking of what will please the electors. The Prime Minister has brought forward his Bill for the reduction of honorable members’ salaries for the same reason which actuated him in bringing: in> a Bill to increase them. He thinks it will suit his purpose. I have no intention of expressing my opinion in regard to the attitude of the Prime Minister. If I did so, no doubt, I would have to withdraw my words, which I should have no desire to do: I regret- the refusal of the Government to make known the names of those, honorable members who have drawn i the increased allowance. I could’ say something, on this matter if I cared to follow the methods adopted by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. J. H. Catts), and repeat private conversations ; but although I hold that no- Government is justified in refusing to let the public know how much is paid to the highest or the lowest in their service, 1 simply confine myself to the remark that the action of the Government in covering up this matter puts honorable members in a false position, not only those who have accepted the increase, and are prepared to let everyone know what they are drawing it, but also those who, like myself, have not taken the increase.
It gives us no defence against the lying statements made by men who* go through our electorates saying that although we voted against the increased salary, we are drawing it. Several Liberal members of the South Australian Parliament have gone into my electorate and said, “ Although Gabb is not taking the money at the present time, if. he happens to be defeated he can turn round and take the whole of it.”
– The . honorable member can easily disprove that.
– As every honorable member knows, the answer to that charge is the following provision in the Parliamentary Allowances Act: -
All. moneys accruing due to any senator or member of the House of Representatives under this Act not claimed within three months of becoming due shall revert- to the Treasury.
I intend- to- take that; provision with me into my electorate1 in order- to prevent these Liberal members- from’ continuing to make such lying; statements, but I would also like the information which the Government refuse to disclose. It would enable me to prove to the hilt that I have not taken one penny of the increase in salary. There is one other matter in regard to the allowances to honorable members to which I wish to refer. Even if I. should happen to be defeated, and should then be contemptible enough to desire to turn round and grab three months’ increase of- salary, I could not do so, as there will be at least six weeks or two months in which I shall receive no salary, that is to say, from the date of the issue of the writs until the Returning Officers “ declare- members of the new Parliament duly elected.” Thus the most I could draw would be about six weeks’ salary increase, equal to about £48. This is not likely after allowing over £900 to go back to the Treasury. Most people are not aware that members are not paid their salaries during this period. It is very unfair that such is the case, because, although a member may be fighting hard to retain his seat, he has, in the meantime, to have’ regard to the many requirements of his constituents.
– The honorable member ought not to advocate payment of members in such circumstances until he has first’ consulted the electors’’ on the point.
– I would be prepared to place my views before my electors at any time. My attitude on the salary question is that I made an .agreement with them to serve them for three years, or the life of this Parliament, at a salary of £600 a year, and that I am obliged to honour that agreement if I wish to consider myself an honorable man and to maintain my self-respect. That is the attitude I have adopted all through.
.- In 1920 I voted for an increase of the salaries of members of the Federal Parliament, believing that the responsibilities attaching to their position warranted an increase from the allowance of £600, upon which this Parliament was elected in 1919. I am still of the same opinion, . and I shall vote against the second reading of the Bill. The Government have been badly advised in introducing a matter of this kind on the eve of a general election. Their action has placed their supporters in a false position. I prefer the electors to judge me on the vote I gave in 1920. As for the future, the new Parliament can take whatever action it chooses to take. The best time for dealing with the matter of members’ salaries is not on the eve of a general election.
– Perhaps my personal circumstances differ materially from those of most of my fellow-members. When this question of salaries was first brought under the attention of Parliament in 1920 I had the honour of being one of the representatives of the whole of the State of New South Wales in another place. I was not particularly enamoured of the method by which an increase of salary was then brought about, but after a good deal of consideration and some experience in the position, I came to the conclusion that an increase was justified, and that the only method which could constitutionally be adopted in order to bring it about was that employed. I well remember the very eloquent address, with many personal sides to it, made by Senator Millen, the Leader of the Government in another place, in favour of the then proposal of the Government. I felt it my duty to support the proposal then made, and, accordingly, did so. I now occupy the unique position of having faced the electors since the parliamentary allowance was raised to £1,000 per annum, and of having won a contested election. During this election campaign the opposition with which I was confronted specially featured the salary increase; but the attitude I took was one of justification of what had been done. I pointed out that the increasing responsibilities of a member of Parliament, and the increasing expenses to which he was 1 put, made the position well worth £1,000 a year, and that it was the duty of the electors to see that the persons chosen to fill such positions were men worth £1,000 a year. I .fought the election without the assistance of any Minister, and on a manifesto well within the four corners of the Nationalist policy.
– How. many opponents had the honorable member?
– Three; and I polled twice as many votes as all three of them together. Many questions were asked me about the increase, and to those questions I made the invariable reply that I have just given. Having been elected to this House on the basis of the present salary, for which I voted in 1920, I cannot stultify myself by supporting the Bill. I am, however, between the horns of a dilemma. I would not eat the leek at the behest of any one, and I still believe that the position of a member of this Parliament is worth a salary of £1,000 a year; but if I vote against the Bill I shall help to defeat a Government measure, and my action in doing so may, because of the somewhat artificial atmosphere surrounding my present political position, ‘be deliberately misconstrued. However, those who know me best will not charge me with moral cowardice, and in all the circumstances, I shall vote against the Bill. My reasons for the vote I shall give are these: It is fairly well known that I occupy a somewhat detached position in regard to this matter. By good luck I happen to be a little more fortunately situated than many of my fellow members. Consequently, I do not view the matter from a personal stand-point; I look at it from the stand-point of .the “other fellow.” My experience tells me that if a member of this Parliament does
Sis duty honestly - and I believe that every member of it tries to do his duty - he has a full-time job and a grown man’s job. The expenses incurred in living away from home, the cost of clerical assistance needed to keep abreast of the large amount of correspondence and research which devolves upon honorable members, the State and Federal taxation, the expenses incurred in the electorate, the expenses of election, the loss of salary in the interval between the dissolution of Parliament and the assembling of the new Parliament, and the constant appeals to our charity to help the man in the mud, make the net salary of the member of Parliament very much less than £1,000 a year. Indeed, I doubt whether £1,000 a year is now any better than £600 a year was ten years ago.
– During the electoral campaign of the next month or two the expenses of honorable members will be very heavy.
– Quite so. If we vote for this Bill we, in effect, 3ay that we were wrong in voting in 1920 to fix the salary at £1,000. Any honorable member who votes for this Bill must, if he wishes to preserve his self-respect, refund the difference between £600 and £1,000 which he has drawn since 1920. If- I voted for the Bill, my conscience would require me to refund that excess. The position of a member of this National Parliament is one of importance and prestige, full of responsibility, and very onerous. For the reasons I have given, - and for. those for which I supported the Bill- in 1920, I shall vote against this proposal to alter at the last moment, before going to the country, the allowance paid to members of Parliament.
.- In listening to the speeches which have been made this afternoon, my mind has gone back to the election campaign of 1919, during which I was asked what I intended to do in regard to the proposal to increase the allowance paid to members of Parliament. To that question I re- plied deliberately and frankly that I would oppose any increase in the .parliamentary allowance until the matter had been discussed before the electors. When, in 1920, a Bill was introduced to increase the allowance from £600 to £1,000, I voted against it, and subsequently refused to take the difference between the two amounts. Later, however, delegates from all parts of my electorate met in Geelong, and having approved of my action in opposing the increasing of the allowance, unanimously declared that I was not justified in penalizing myself to the extent of £400 a year by refusing to draw the full amount. Since that time I have drawn the full amount.
– Very reluctantly. .
– No. My opposition to the proposal to increase the allowance was based, not on the amount .proposed, but on the method that was being followed. Since then, only on one occasion have- 1 met with hostility because of my action in this matter. Both friends and. political opponents have said that they consider that any man who is worthy of a seat in this Parliament is worth a salary of £1,000 a year. When the matter was raised again last year, I voted to reduce the allowance. I cannot, however, vote for the Bill, because it differentiates in the payments to be made to members. It has been contended by many members that those living out of Victoria are at a great disadvantage compared with the representatives of Victorian constituencies. The representatives of the metropolitan constituencies of this State may be at an advantage. There are, however, representatives from other States whose homes are in Melbourne, and who never leave this city except on periodical visits to their electorates, whereas ‘members like the honorable member for “ Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), and other Victorian country constituencies, including my own, have to ‘keep up two homes to insure our attendance here, and are in constant demand at various functions in our electorates, which makes a considerable drain on our purses. Therefore, there is no justification for differentiating between members in the matter of allowance. I opposed the increase in the first instance, and I would support the Bill if it provided for a reduction treating every member alike. I am, however, opposed to it in its present form.
.- My position when the proposal to increase the parliamentary allowance was made in this House was that it was not being brought forward in a proper manner. I had nothing to say about the amount of the (allowance then .proposed, but I contended that as we had just been returned to Parliament after an election in -which not one word had been said about an intention to increase the parliamentary allowance, we should be content with the allowance we were then receiving, which was £600 a year. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) very pertinently asked the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) what he would think of a person whom he had engaged at a certain wage if that person immediately asked for an increase. I do not agree with the Prime Minister that the cost of living is less now than it was when the allowance was raised to £1,000. I think that, in many places, it is slightly higher now than it was then. The right honorable gentleman told us, too, that the cost of production is due mainly to high wages, but that is contrary to fact. Many factors contribute to the increased cost of production, including the Tariff, taxation, and shipping, and railway freights. I do not agree that the increase in the payment of members has been responsible, or will be responsible, for attracting nien of greater ability to the House. There have been two by-elections since the salary was increased, and will any honorable member say that the new men who came into the House are any improvement on their predecessors? The former honorable member for Maranoa (the late Mr. James Page) was one of the most esteemed men in this House, and was Mr. Dunston, the candidate who was nominated by the Labour party for the vacancy, an improvement on the former member? I say, unhesitatingly, that the late Mr. Page was a far superior man. So far ‘as West Sydney is concerned, will any honorable member say that the present member (Mr. Lambert) is any improvement upon the late former member (the late Mr. T. J. Ryan”) ? I am inclined to think that this House would produce sounder legislation if honorable members gave their services in an honorary capacity. The proposal contained in the Bill is not equitable, and it is not fair to propose such an altera- tion at the fag end of the Parliament. This question of allowances to members should be dealt with on the lines suggested by my leader (Dr. Earle Page). For the reasons I have stated, I shall vote against the second reading.
.- When this matter was before the House on a former occasion, I abstained from saying anything. I really felt that the suspense was too great, and that it would be painful to prolong it unduly; therefore, I remained silent. On this occasion, I propose to speak very briefly. I should like to refer to the attitude now adopted by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook), and the views expressed at greater length by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), and also the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister), each of whom referred, in one way or another, to what they were pleased to term a contract of employment -entered into ‘between them and the electors when they were returned to this House at the end of 1919. I do not admit any contract whatever between the electors and myself to serve them in this Parliament for £600 per annum, or for any stated salary. I undertook, not to become in that sense a servant of the people, but to accept the honour of representing them in this Parliament upon terms and conditions which were already laid down by Act of Parliament, which prescribed that the salary should be such as was fixed by Parliament from time to time. If there was any contract between myself and the electors, it was clearly in those terms, and the honorable member for Indi, if he has even apassing knowledge of the law upon thissubject, should be aware that it is not only the privilege, but also part of the duty of this Parliament to fix the emoluments of its members from time to timeas it thinks proper. Therefore, the contention of the honorable member for Fawkner, delivered in such a spirit of self-righteousness, falls absolutely to the ground, in the light of the knowledge hemust possess, that there was not, and could not be, any contract to serve the people at a given salary, seeing that the duty of fixing the salary from time to time remains with members of this House.
It was suggested by the honorable member for Indi that the people would get: better work if our services were of an honorary nature. My answer is that, doubtless, if the necessities of mankind permitted of it all services rendered gratuitously might have a sweeter flavour. But unfortunately men have to live, and although they do not live by bread alone, it is none the less a fact that the practical requirements of the situation demand that they must be paid for their services. The argument that we should render service gratuitously is merely the repetition of the time-worn Conservative doctrine that we should admit as our legislators only those leisured persons who happen, by accident or good fortune, to be endowed with wealth which enables them to work in Parliament merely for the honour or pleasure of it, without regard to the reward they receive, and it might be added without regard also to the quality of their work.
Shortly after the Act of 1920 became law, members of this House were subjected in the press to a more than ordinarily large measure of scurrilous abuse, and it was freely stated by writers, apparently keen on being as mendacious and abusive as they possibly could be without rendering themselves liable under the law of slander and libel, that the person who, as a member of Parliament, dipped his hand into the public Treasury and “ helped himself,” so they said, to the public funds, was morally as deeply culpable as was the clerk who helped himself to the funds of a bank, or who in private employment misappropriated the fund of his employer.
– Who said that?
– That statement was published more than once in one of the morning papers circulating in Melbourne. I would not like to attempt to measure the amount of injury that was possibly done to public morality by vile statements such as that. I do not pretend to say how far such propaganda may have loosened the morals, especially of young and impressionable persons. But that it was a vile, lying, scurrilous, and utterly mendacious statement, must have been as patent to the person who penned it as it was to every honorable member. Whatever the propriety of the increase in our emoluments may have been, whatever the merits of the question may have been on political grounds as to the time at which the increase was made, as to the amount of such increase, and as to the deserts of honorable members, it must have been, and must be now, perfectly obvious to those scurrilous traducers of honorable members of this House, that what they said in that regard, and what they have continued to say ever since, had not one tittle of foundation. I venture to saythat it is that kind of scurrility in a section of the press that has gone very far to have its opinions on public questions discounted in all quarters. It is for that reason that honorable members, on the eve of a general election, careful as they are credited with being in regard to public utterances, are able to absolutely disregard these vile, scurrilous attacks upon their personal honour.
I, as honorable members mav know, am and have always been, an opponent - most people, say a bitter opponent - of the Government, but I say that this Bill, at all events, exposes them to severe and just criticism. They passed into law the increase of salaries; they accepted the emolument of £1,000 per annum.
– Who passed it into law?
– The right honorable gentleman was the Leader of the Government which introduced the amending Bill.
– I introduced that Bill as the result of a petition signed by, I suppose, nearly every member of the House. The Government had nothing to do with its initiation.
– Has this reducing Bill anything to do with the Government t
– You shut up, Considoffsky !
– I accept the right honorable gentleman’s statement that he took the views of all sections of the House as to the propriety of the measure before he introduced it. I am not in a position to say whether or not he did so, but I do know that I and most, if not all, of the members of my party, supported the second reading, and the Bill was carried _ into law by an overwhelming majority. Therefore, I am quite prepared to accept the statement that the Bill as then introduced represented substantially the views of the whole House.
– I said at the time that it was not a Government measure.
– That may be more ox less a technicality; I accept the statement that the Bill was not a Government measure, but we know that it was supported by almost every member on this side of the House. We “have worked during the greater part of the present Parliament at the increased salary, and. whilst we have been so working we have been subjected to the sort of criticism and abuse to which I have just made reference. Under nhat scurrility I remained silent; I treated it with the contempt which it deserved. Very seldom, scarcely at all, was the increase of salary mentioned in my own electorate, but when it was mentioned I found it capable of easy explanation and complete justification. That, I think, was the experience of honorable members generally. So that we can well afford to treat with contempt the attacks made upon our personal honour in that regard. I hope there is such a thing as the corporate honour of the House of Representatives, but the Government, by their back down at the eleventh hour, lend a good deal of colour to the gross charges of dishonour made against us, and to that extent, and for that reason, I strongly resent this deathbed repentance, as it has been called by people outside, on the part of the Government. lI join with the Leader of the Opposition in this declaration that whether or not I am returned to the next Parliament: - and I quite recognise the fact that the result of the next election, as far as I am concerned, is, in the view of many people, uncertain. I should like the electors to understand before I go to them that I propose, for the same reasons, to stand to the same principles for which I stood when we fixed the salaries two years ago. I do not propose for one moment to allow my vote to be influenced by personal rancour and clamour on the part of private individuals whose noisy insistence is entirely out of proportion to the influence that t-hey really exercise in this community. If it were public clamour one at least would be” justified in allowing oneself to be influenced by the voice of the majority ; but those who are violently attacking honorable members as “ exploiters of the people “ are infinitely greater exploiters of the people than are members of Parliament judged by their own standard of morality.
I am sorry that the Government nave seen fit to come down now with this measure, furtively endeavouring to bury the body and wipe out the stains, in the hope, apparently, that this will make some pleasing impression upon the economy party outside. They cut a very poor figure. When we come to look at the question of emoluments of honorable members, and their rights, as between them and the public whom they serve, there should be considered such a thing as the corporate honour of the Parliament, and if the Government had really desired to sustain the good name of this Parliament they would) not have allowed themselves to be browbeaten or misrepresented or abused into taking up a stand contrary to their own view. For these adequate reasons I hope this Bill will be rejected. I shall vote against it at every stage, standing by the views I held and voted for, even if I did not actually express them, when we fixed two years ago the emolument rightly due to honorable in embers .
.- I desire to make clear to ‘honorable members my position in regard to the vote that was cast in 1920 to increase the parliamentary allowance to £1,000 a year. When an increase was first mooted the suggestion was that our allowance should be raised from £600 to £800 per annum, and the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Cameron) and I were two members on this side of the House who said that ‘ we were prepared to vote for an advance to £800 a year. When, subsequently, the Parliamentary Allowance Bill was in- troduced we found that there was a blank in the clause dealing with the allowance to be received and that the actual amount to be fixed was to be determined in Committee. The second reading waa agreed to, and in Committee the words “ one thousand pounds ‘ ‘ were inserted in the clause. I had voted for the original motion submitted bv the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) asking the Government to bring in a Bill to increase the allowance to honorable members, and I voted for the second reading of the Bill itself, which provided for an increase, but did not fix the amount. When the amount was fixed in Committee a division was not called for. The matter was dealt with in the early hours of the morning, and I had no opportunity of discussing it, but having voted for an increase I stood by the action then taken to fix the allowance, at £1,000 per annum. I voted for the Bill introduced last year to reduce the allowance; but I intend to vote against this measure for the reason that since I have received a salary of £1,000 from the date of the passing of the Act of 1920, it would be sheer cowardice on my part, now that the end of the Parliament is at hand, to vote for a reduction. I prefer to go to my constituents and to tell them that I think £1,000 a year is only a reasonable remuneration for a member of this Parliament from a distant State. As the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Pratten) has said, if those who voted two years ago to increase the allowance to £1,000 a year are now of opinion that it was wrong ito so increase it, they should make a refund. I have practically spent every penny of the £1,000 a year that I have received.
– The honorable memberis very lucky if he has not had to spend more than that amount.
– I have had to spend nearly the whole of it. It is my intention to tell my constituents during the forthcoming campaign that I consider that a member of this Parliament is fully entitled to receive £1,000 a year. I do not think we should reduce the allowance at this juncture. Let tho Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) make a reduction of the allowance one of the planks of his platform. Let him tell the people that the National party considers that the . amount should be reduced and allow honorable members to use their own discretion as to what shall be their attitude on this question when they are before the electors. There is no reason why honorable members should not make their own contracts with their own constituents. As long as the Constitution remains as it is we shall have power to increaseor decrease our emoluments. This measure is a step in the right direction, but, at the. present time, it is most inequitable. When the Bill of 1920 was before us I suggested that honorable members should be paid a travelling allowance, on the basis of the distance they had to travel in order to attend this House, and that there should be a flat rate in respect of the representatives of this State. If the people of Victoria think that £600 a year is a reasonable amount for honorable members to receive to-day, they must take the view that members of this Parliament some year3 ago were very much overpaid. The work of the Parliament, ais compared with that with which it had to deal in 1907, has enormously increased. The Customs work alone is four or five times greater than it was fifteen years ago. Our work has also been increased, since then, by the introduction of measures relating to invalid and old-age pensions, repatriation, soldier settlement, war pensions, War Service Homes, and a host of other matters which were not even thought of in those days.
In the short speech that I made on the motion for the second reading of the Bill of 1920, I said that I had a business income. During the last two and a-half years, however, I have entirely dissociated myself from my business. I have given my full time to the service of my country, which is more than can be said by some honorable members who intend to vote for this Bill. I think the Government would be well advised to withdraw it and to appoint a Select Committee to draft an equitable proposal for submission to the House. If that were done the public would be satisfied. I honestly believe that the general public do not consider that £1,000 a year is too much to pay to a man who has to come from a far-away State like Queensland or Western Australia to attend to his parliamentary duties here.
.- I should have commended the Government if, with a view to economy, they had brought in a Bill providing that onehalf of all incomes in excess of £500 a year should be devoted to the reduction of our war debt. Even the children of men who died at the Front are contributing to the interest which we have to pay on our war debt, and it is quite farcical for the Government to propose that one small section of the community - the members of this Parliament - should, as an example of economy, agree to a reduction of their allowance. When the late Sir James Patterson was at the head of a Government in this State he practically cut to -the bone, and he certainly set an example’ of economy to the people. The economies which he effected, however, were carried throughout the
Public Service> and were absolutely staggering. Even the salaries of the County Court Judges were attacked. Some of those Judges addressed public meetings in Melbourne, and urged that the retrenchment policy of the Government of the day was inequitable. I do not propose to withdraw one word that I said when the Bill to increase the parliamentary allowance to £1,000 a year was before us. As a matter of fact, if the people would support me, I should be prepared to come here, in the hope that my vote would uplift child, woman, and man, even if the allowance was only £100 a year, or was nothing more than tea and bread without butter.
The Government must have been loath to introduce this Bill. I should have preferred to see them submitting to the citizens of Australia some good suggestions on the lines- of those embodied in Higher Production,, by Dennis Milner.. They axe proposing to reduce by 20 per cent, the allowance to honorable members. Let them propose a similar reduction in respect of all incomes in excess of £5.00 a year. Let them take from all incomes 20 per cent., and create a fund, and thus eliminate from our midst the .curse of poverty. Poverty may be the lot of one of two men of equal ability working together and receiving the same. wage. One may be a single man, who, when he finishes his day’s work,, can go home, change his clothes, and spend the evening at a place of amusement. The other may be a man with a wife and five or six children, who finds it difficult to exist. When the parliamentary allowance was £600 a year I used to bring up to £1 per week the pensions received by ten old-age pensioners, but when it was increased to £1,000 I thought it my duty to increase the number to twenty. Whether my parliamentary allowance is reduced or not I shall endeavour to keep on helping them in that way. It is a singular, fact that the press of Melbourne, the Seat of Government, has been more violent than the press of any other State in its criticism of the action of honorable members in voting to increase the parliamentary allowance to £1,000 a year. We have never been attacked by the press of Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, or Brisbane as we have been by the Melbourne . newspapers. If my constituents objected to my receiving £1,000 per annum they could at any time have removed me from my place in this
House. Following, a rule that I laid down thirty-three years ago, I gave my constituents the right to withdraw me from this House at any time by presenting a petition calling on me to resign, and signed by half the number, plus one, of the electors of Melbourne who had recorded their votes at the last general election. When I read the bitter newspaper attacks, and especially the report of the venomous attack made by the honorable member, for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) on those who had. voted to increase the allowance to £1,000 a year, I thought that such a petition might be presented to me. In that event I should have resigned my seat within twenty-four hours.
– If the matter were dealt with by means of a referendum, our action in increasing the allowance to £1,000 a year would be indorsed by an overwhelming majority of the people.
– I have always advocated the principle of the referendum. The principle of the initiative, referendum, and recall is the only means of keeping politics absolutely pure. Anyhow, there was the chance. Public opinion was said to be seething; different organizations in Melbourne were passing resolutions; and there was my pledge, which would have been sacredly keptMelbourne was the storm centre of disturbance. Yet nothing was done. I think that the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) was unjust - perhaps unwittingly - to the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) . He strongly criticised the statement of the latter, that he believed in the principle that the workers, generally, should fix the conditions under which they laboured.
– The honorable member for Barrier said he believed in the man who did the work fixing the remuneration.
– I take it that the honorable member for Barrier was speaking in the collective sense. Perhaps, in the profession of the honorable member for Fawkner, and, in a less degree, in that which I left ten years ago - believing, as I did, in the principle of one man one job - the system of individually fixing one’s remuneration holds good.
– Arrangements are made, beforehand, between the client and the lawyer as to what the client shall pay. That is the principle which I advo- cate in respect of parliamentary allowances.
– I expected that interjection. I am not speaking in a personal sense, but I understand that there is supposed to be a scale of fees fixed by the County Court. Frequently, however, when arrangements are being made in a barrister’s office for the services of the latter in Court, the clerk who repressents the lawyer will say to a prospective client, “ The fees are fixed by the Court; but you cannot expect my principal to act for you for that sum.”
– The client need not accept the lawyer’s services, if the lawyer will not act for the fixed fees. The client is free to go elsewhere.
– I do not propose to labour the point. The honorable member for Fawkner has already indicated that if his attendance at Parliament required that he should refrain from the practice of his profession’ he could not afford to be a member of. Parliament. The question, which electors will be called upon to decide^ in “various cases, will be whether they will, be content with the representation of a. full-timer - such as I may describe the honorable member for Barrier - or of a half-timer - such as the honorable member for Fawkner, if he will permit me, for the purpose of the argument, to so describe him - or of a quarter-timer - such as certain members who are not frequent attendants in this chamber.
Honorable Members. - Vote!
– With the greatest pleasure, if honorable members so desire.
– When the original proposal was made that the parliamentary allowance should, be increased from £400 to £600 a year I voted against it. When the proposal was made to increase the allowance from, £600 to £1,000 a year, I voted against it also; but, in each instance, I accepted the salary fixed by Parliament. Now, just on the eve of an election, the proposal to reduce the allowance, after it has been drawn for practically the whole of the life of the Parliament, is little short of hypocrisy. Any one who listened to the Prime Minister this afternoon, when he moved the second reading of the Bill, would know that the right honorable gentleman will not break his heart if the Bill is rejected. If the Prime Minister was correctly reported when he spoke on the occasion of a recent visit to Bendigo, he advocated the payment of £1,000 a year.
– I justified it. I said it was not too much.
– I am quite certain that the Prime Minister will not feel considerably depressed if the vote goes against the Government.
– Nothing upsets me.
– Nevertheless, I cannot appreciate the attitude of the Prime Minister, who holds that £1,000 a year is not too much, but who has introduced this measure for the reduction of the allowance. I have always said that our system of remuneration has not been equitable. Much has been heard in this chamber, during the week, about equality of sacrifice. There is nothing of the kind in respect of the duties of various members. The public responsibilities of some, of whom I claim to be one, occupy the whole of their time. During the last recess,. I was compelled to average one trip to Melbourne in every three weeks in the interests. of the public. A member who represents portion of a distant State, if he conscientiously attends to his electorate, and to the welfare of the Commonwealth, must find that his parliamentary duties absorb the whole of his time; he is not performing his work properly if such is not the case.” This measure proposes, in rough and ready fashion, thatVictorian members shall receive £100 a year less than those from other States. There is no equality in that proposition. Some members who live in Sydney can reach their homes more quickly and in. greater comfort than can certain Victorian representatives. I have always advocated the system in vogue in the United States of America and Canada, by which a fixed salary is paid and an allowance made to a member for the loss of time incurred in carrying out his public duties. I agree with the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) in his suggestion that there is a good deal of hypocrisy in the proposal of the Government. Last year, when the Country party moved, as part of a scheme for general retrenchment, that parliamentary allowances should be- reduced, the Government”” opposed us to a man. That, however, was about eighteen months before the election was due. Then a saving would have been effected. The attitude of the Government, in bringing in this amending Bill at this stage, reminds one of a defaulting clerk who puts money back into the till because he knows the inspector is due for a visit, but who takes it out again after the inspector has passed on. Believing that (here is no earnestness behind the measure, and that the present system of -remunerating members of Parliament is wrong, I shall vote against the second reading. . I intend ito put the whole matter quite clearly before my electors ; and, if they should return me, they will know exactly what is my intention in the new Parliament.
.- I opposed the Parliamentary Allowances Act about two years ago, and I clearly stated my reasons for so doing. This Bill, although it proposes to reduce the allowance which the original Act made available to members, does not give me satisfaction. I do not believe in the distinction which is sought to be made between Victorian members and those from distant States. It is all very well to say that Victorian representatives are not put to such heavy expenses as those who are far removed from their constituencies. The very fact of our being so near to our constituents involves us in constant expense, which other members are not called upon to face. We are compelled to attend or contribute to all sorts of functions and funds. We are constantly in Attendance on our constituencies. For these reasons, no distinction should be drawn.
– The honorable member can go to his home for every meal while Parliament is sitting.
– That is nonsense. I give the whole of my time to my public duties, and I assure honorable members from distant constituencies that one is placed at a disadvantage in representing a division which is situated near to the Scat of Government. Some honorable members have pointed out that they are compelled to live for months away from their homes. There are other honorable members, however, who bring their families to Melbourne, and make their homes here. They have their homes in Melbourne, just as do Victorian metropolitan representatives, but they are at a comfortable distance from their divisions, and are not called upon to keep in close personal touch with them. I shall vote for the second reading, because the Bill seeks to reduce parliamentary allowances, for which principle I stand; but I repeat that I disagree with the invidious distinction which is sought to be made to the detriment of Victorian members.
.- As T took a somewhat prominent part in connexion with the introduction of the original measure two years ago I may be pardoned for briefly stating my position. I would be the first to accuse myself of cowardice if, in view of the stand which I took at the time of which I speak, 1 were now to vote in favour of this Bill. What should I expect my electors to say of me if, in the expiring hours of the Parliament, ‘I were to cry “ Peccavi “ ? They would say that a man who backed down under such pressure was a “cocktail”; and that is a character I refuse to accept. The action I took was justified by the vote that was taken, and by the support of every member of the Government. I regard as most unfair the proposal that Victorian members should be put on a different basis as compared with members from other States; and if we accept it we shall be regarded by the people outside as nothing less than “ scabs.” I am sure that in regard to these phases of the question, there are other honorable members who are animated by the same principles and opinions as myself. We all claim, as representatives, to be independent, and not to “care a straw” about what the newspapers say about us. But where did this cry for a reduction of salaries emanate from- if not from the press of Collins-street? The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), when there was a whirlwind of agitation in Victoria, said that a petition with 1,000,000 signatures would be presented to the House against the increase of the salary; but when eventually a petition was presented by him, the signatures “petered” down to 32,000 odd. When I asked the honorable member where the 1,000,000 signatures were, he said that what he was then presenting was only the first instalment. If the honorable mem- ber waa right, we have not yet received the second instalment. As’ a matter of fact, the people of Australia do not “ care a straw “ about the matter- do not bother their heads regarding it. I know that the people in my own State, and also in South Australia, are not opposed to the increased salary; as a matter of fact, the only opposition is to be found in Collins-street. I was told on reliable authority that, when the petition to which I have referred was before the public, a copy of it lay in the council chamber in Geelong for eight days, at the expiration of which there were only eight signatures attached. That clearly indicates the feeling of the people generally. Of course, this agitation for a decrease is an economy “stunt”; but where is the real gain to the country in reducing the salary by £100? Recently. as a Parliament, we have been giving away hundreds of thousands of pounds. Some £85,000 has been voted for Tasmania, and we have sacrificed revenue to the extent of £100,000 by remissions of the amusement tax. I shall not detain the House longer, as honorable members are anxious to get to a vote, but I shall take occasion to refer to the subject on a future date.
– I am disappointed at the reception this measure has received from quite a number of honorable members from whom I had expected better things. I wish to take this opportunity to put the whole matter on the right footing. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), quite without intention, I am sure, exhibited this proposal in quite a wrong light. The honorable member took exception to the Government, at this late stage, undoing a Government measure introduced and passed iri 1920. I wish to say, in a most definite way, that the Government, qua Government, did not take any part whatever in the Act of 1920. In support of my statement, 1 shall quote my own words, as reported in Hansard of 20th May, 1920, page 2356-
I said, when speaking on the motion of the honorable member for Herbert- which I did as a private member of this House - that I agreed in the main with his contentions, »and I promised to give the House an opportunity to register its opinion in constitutional fashion. That I now do, but I think it only proper that I should explain the circumstances under which the Bill is introduced. As honorable members are well aware, it is not competent for any private member to introduce a measure relating to appropriation of moneys, and it is obvious that, in order that the House shall have an opportunity to express and register its opinion on the statute-book of the country, any such measure must be introduced by the Government. I introduce this Bill, because I am satisfied that it is the desire of a very considerable majority of members of this Chamber, and, I believe, of the other Chamber, that such an opportunity should be afforded them, and because I myself believe that the change in economic and other circumstances justifies an increase in salary. I introduce the Bill, not as a Government measure, and certainly not as a party measure.
I wish to make it perfectly clear that every member, both of the Government and of the party which I have the honour to lead, is perfectly free to express his opinion and register his .vote in any way he pleases.
That was the position. It is perfectly dear, and shows that, so far from being a Government measure, it was neither a Government nor a party Bill. I may say that my speech on the 1920 Act won unstinted applause from honorable members who are now venturing *to criticise the present measure, but ‘who seem in the interval ito have become converts to the opinions I then set out. In the last paragraph of that speech I said - “
I repeat this is not a Government measure. I have introducesd it in pursuance of a pro mise made to the House, and I shall vote for it.
The reason that measure was introduced is well known to most honorable members; but when I listen to the honorable member for Batman and the honorable member fox Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), who recall the criticisms - and very bitter and venomous they were - which were, in the main, directed at me, I feel that J ought to put the position quite plainly. That Bill was introduced because a number of honarable members, far in excess of a majority of the House, had in a written petition requested me so to do. There is no mistake as to that, because the names of those members are plainly set out. I acted at the request of a majority of honorable members. I said quite definitely that it was not’ a Government measure, and that members of the Government, and of the party, were perfectly free to vote as they pleased. I introduced that Bill because in no other way could it have come before the House. I do hot retract the views I then set out. As to the criticisms directed against the measure, and particularly against me, they have not moved me at all. Honorable members will surely do me the credit to believe that I am not affected by criticism; if I were, I should not be here to-day. I introduce the present measure because, as I have said on the floor of the House many times, it does appear to me inconsistent that we should ask’ the workers of this country to accept lower wages because of the decrease in the cost of living, as is evidenced day by day in the decisions of Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts, while we ourselves,” who are the arbiters of our own fate, decline to move hand or foot in the same direction. I have said many times that if there .are to be reductions, they should start here. That is a perfectly logical position. To ‘those who propose to register their votes to-day in the same way as they did in 1920, I have nothing further to say ; but to those who voted against the measure introduced I may be permitted to address a word. There are certain honorable members whose attitude is most inconsistent. For myself, in this, as in every other matter that affects the welfare of members of this House as an institution, my attitude is consistent with my attitude right through my public life. I gave the House an opportunity to register its decision on the measure of 1920, I said plainly that I believed in it, and, of course, I tooK the additional allowance. Some honorable members did not take up that position; they opposed the Bill, but took the increased salary. I am rather surprised at their opposition to this measure. I shall only deal, however, with those who so late as December, 1921, just ten months ago, voted in favour of £800 a year. It. was, I think, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), who said that it was hypocrisy to change over at the last moment. That may be or may not be so in the honorable member’s opinion; it would serve no useful purpose to bandy words with him on the point. But it does seem to me extraordinary that in 1921, less nhan a year ago, when the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) submitted a motion for “the reduction of the salary to £800 a year, an honorable member, who - by the way - was one of the signatories to the petition, as -a result of which I introduced the . measure fixing the salary at £1,000, should be found voting in support of it. I find that amongst those who ‘ voted for his proposal to reduce members’ allowances were the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook), the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming), the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson), the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse), the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt). No doubt those honorable members will explain to their constituents why now, when their vote would be effective, they do not support a proposal to reduce members’ salaries to £800. Last year their vote could be given with perfect safety, because they .knew the -numbers were against them, .and they could earn, or seek to earn, a cheap reputation for economy and patriotism. Then they voted for such a reduction. Why do they not .now register a vote for a reduction to £800? I put on one side all the idle talk about rejecting the Bill because it creates an invidious distinction between representatives from the different States. The honorable member who says that he would support this measure but for a provision to which he takes exception could vote for the second reading, and seek to cut out the objectionable clause in Committee. That excuse, therefore, will not serve him. I am sure that, even if the provision to which honorable members take exception were struck out, they would not vote for the Bill. Some honorable members propose’ to vote against the Bill because, although they have always been in favour of £1,000 a year , being the salary of a member of this Parliament, they hope by doing so to gain credit for advocating economy and a reduction in public expenditure. They will have some, difficulty in reconciling their action with their words. Certainly it does not become a political party which makes economy the chief plank of its platform to turn down any Bill which indicates the honesty of purpose of this House in re-v gara to public expenditure. I leave the matter there. I quite agree with my friend the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford). I do not think for one moment that the people of Australia greatly interest themselves in this matter. I have never been deceived by the clamour of the Victorian metropolitan press, which does not represent the feeling of the State, to say nothing of Australia. This Parliament is, I am glad to say, outside the control of any metropolitan press, and long may it remain so. The Bill has been introduced for the reason that, in the matter of economy, this Parliament ought to take the lead.
Question - That the ‘Bill be now read a second times - . put. The House divided.
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in . the negative.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made, for the purposes of a Bill for an. Act to authorize the raising of moneys to be loaned to, and the advancing’ and payment of moneys to, the States for the purposes of Immigration.
Standing Orders suspended.
That . Mr. Hughes and Mr. Greene do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Hughes, and read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This measure is necessitated by the adoption of the policy of which frequent mention has been made in this House and elsewhere for encouraging immigration under a co-operative scheme, in which the Government of Great Britain, the Government of the Commonwealth, and the Governments of certain States, with whom an agreement has been made, are associated. The foundation of this measure is the legislation introduced into the British Parliament early in 1922, pursuant to an agreement arrived at in 1921, at a Conference of Prime Ministers of the Dominions. Under this., agreement ; Great Britain recognised, for* the first time, that immigration was an Imperial, matter, and- decided to co-operate with the Dominions. As a result of the subsequent negotiations between the Commonwealth Government, the British Government, and the Governments of the States of Western Australia and Victoria, agreements have been arrived at under which .the Commonwealth have agreed to borrow money for the purpose of settling a specified number of migrants on the land. The basic principle of the agreement is the settlement of one migrant on the land for every £1,000 advanced. Of the interest on the £1,000 so advanced the Commonwealth is liable for one-third during a period of five years. Thereafter the whole obligation falls on the State. The liability of the British Government is similar to our own. Two agreements have been signed. That with the Government qf Western Australia provides for an advance of £6,000,000 over a period of three years, and for the settlement on land”, of 6,000 migrants and the immigration of others who are to be absorbed in rural occupations. The agreement with the Government of Victoria provides that the Commonwealth shall borrow £3,000,000 as required, and pay one-.third of the interest on £2,000,000 for the period of five years, the State paying the balance of the interest and providing for the principal as it falls due. The co-operation of the British Government in the scheme to which Victoria is a party takes the shape of a grant of £300 for each settler. The liability of the Commonwealth under the agreement with the State of Victoria will be, if the money is borrowed at 5 per cent., £16,666 for the first year and £33,333 for succeeding years. Under the agreement with the Government of Western Australia - assuming again that the money needed can be borrowed at 5 per cent. - the interest liability of the Commonwealth for the first year will be £33,333, for the second, £66,666, and for the third, fourth, and fifth years £100,000 per annum, after which the Commonwealth liability will cease, and the State of Western Australia will become responsible for the payment of all interest and the repayment of the principal. The number of settlers covered bv the agreement with Western Australia is 6,000, and the number covered by the agreement with Victoria 2,000, or 8,000 in all. The liability of the Commonwealth is set out quite clearly, and is limited in both time and amount. Under both aspects we are co-operating with the British Government It is anticipated that the loan requirements to 30th June nest under the agreement- with Western Aus-, tralia’ will be £1,250,000, and under that with Victoria £1,000,000; and, if an agreement is arrived at with New South Wales, with which State we are in negotiation, a further £1,325,000 will be needed, or a total of £3,575,000. The States pay us the cost of the loan, we borrowing for them. The scheme provides only for the immigration of British.born immigrants, who are to be settled on Australian land. Every migrant under the scheme for whom we advance £1,000 is to receive a block of land, and to get twelve months’ employment on the land previous to his block being made available to him.
– Does the scheme apply only to land settlement?
– Yes. It does not affect ‘the nominated passages scheme, of which it is quite independent, and under which we incur no liability except so far as the providing of passages is concerned.
– Under what conditions are migrants to get land?
– The conditions are set out at length in the agreement. I have inspected the Western Australian land, and the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) and Senator Lynch have made a detailed examination of it on behalf of the Government. It is Crown land. The areas to be made available vary with locality and character of soil; but in every case the migrant is to be given a living area. He is to get twelve months’ work, not necessarily on his own block, but in .connexion with the clearing and preparing of land in the vicinity. In some cases there will be group settlement, but in every instance the migrant will receive land under conditions which are clearly set out, and after a given number of yeans he will become the owner of it in fee-simple. In Victoria there is less land available for settlement than there is in Western Australia, and the cost of acquiring land in this State is greater; but the Government of Victoria is to make up the difference between the cost of land in this State and the cost of land in Western Australia. The scheme relates to land settlement only. The States of Victoria and Western Aus.tralia have entered into contracts with us to provide a block of land for every immi
Grant. That does not necessarily mean a block of».land for every person who conies here from Great Britain, . because in many cases the migrant ; will have a family. The States contract also to provide the migrant with twelve months of work on the land before he gets his block. The Government of Western Australia contracts to bring out 6,000 migrants, and settle them on farms in the State, and the Government of Victoria makes a similar contract in respect of 2,000 migrants. The total sum to be raised under the agreement with the two States is £9,000,000. We pay one-third of the interest on the £6,000,000 to be advanced to Western Australia, and one-third of the interest on £2,000,000 to be advanced to Victoria, the State authorities paying the whole of the interest on £1,000,000, because that sum covers the extra cost of providing land in this State.
– Will there be another loan subsequently?
– There will have to be other loans. We ask for £4,000,000 now to finance operations up to 30th June next. It is not necessary at this stage to point out the vital importance of land settlement and of immigration to this country. Honorable members who are opposed to immigration will naturally oppose the measure, but those who believe in it, and believe that no immigration can be satisfactory unless- it is immigration for settlement purposes, will approve of the Bill, and of the co-operation of the Commonwealth with the British and State Governments.
.- The Bill provides for theraising of a loan of £4,000,000 as an instalment of £9,000,000 which, according to the Prime Minister, will be required to finance an agreement made with the States of Western Australia and Victoria. This will considerably increase our interest bill, notwithstanding that the money is to be lent to the States. It will be argued, of course, that the money is to be advanced for a good purpose, namely, the settlement of the land and the increasing of our population by immigration. But, in view of our financial position, it is our first duty to provide land for our , own people.
– They will not go on the land.
– The Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) stated in this
Chamber quite recently that, in New South Wales, whenever a block of land is made available by the Government there are “hundreds of applicants for it.
– Why do they not go. to Western Australia?.
– Or to Queensland. There is plenty of land there.
– I know that in some of the States many persons, including returned soldiers, are vainly endeavouring to obtain suitable land on which to settle. It is the duty of the Governments of Australia to make land available for settlement. Within easy access of this city there are large areas of land which are not being put to the best use.
– Half a million acres in the possession of fifteen people!
– We have evidence of large estates that require breaking up in order that people may settle on land which is within reasonably close proximity to markets. It is remarkable that in some States where immigration has been strongly urged, the proposal is not to interfere with the land monopoly, but to place the settler on land in the “ nevernever “ country, where he will have no facilities for getting his produce to market. We should, first of all, make available for settlement by people already in Australia the large estates now held by a few people. Afterwards we shall be able to find land for people from overseas. The attitude of the Labour party is that if employment is found for our own people, and there are still openings either in industrial life or in connexion with land settlement, we shall have no objection to the immigration of our brothers from overseas. But our first duty is to make land available for the settlement of Australians.
– Hear, hear! And that is the duty of the States.
– And it is the duty of the Commonwealth to see that the States attend to that matter. We ought not to be borrowing money to lend to the States for land settlement if they will not take such steps as will insure the opening up of that land which will be most likely to be successfully settled.
– The Premier of Victoria has told me that he proposes to sandwich migrant settlers between native settlers, and I think that is a very sensible plan. Therefore, for every.. £1000,000 spent upon the settlement of migrants a couple of million pounds will be spent on the settlement of native settlers.
– That would be a very good policy. But we should have some evidence that the best land for the purpose will be made available. To give an assurance is one thing; to put it into practice is another.
– Mr. Lawson said he did not .believe that it would be a good policy to group all the migrants together. He would not have mentioned the* sandwiching proposal unless he felt confident that he would be able to carry it out.
– We have no proof that the land that will be made available will be sufficient to satisfy the requirements of even our own people. It is all very well to talk about settling people on the land, but the land most suitable is not available.
– That does not apply to the whole of Australia. In Queensland millions of acres of land are available.
– I am glad to hear the honorable member say so. That is one of the fruits of the Labour Government’s activity in that regard.
– Why will not the Labour Government in Queensland come to some agreement with the Commonwealth in regard to immigration?
– Probably because they are taking steps to insure that land will be available for the people already in Queensland, and afterwards for others. That is a very proper policy.
– There is plenty of land for all.
– There is plenty of land in Australia for half the people in the world, but the trouble is that they cannot get it.
– In North Burnett alone 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 acres of land is available.
– In New South Wales there are large estates in close proximity to large centres of population, and no steps have been taken to break them up and make the land available for the small settler. The owners have been accumulating wealth year .after year through holding that land for grazing purposes. That policy is not in the in’terests of the country. The honorable member for Wide Bay will tell me that people who want land can go to Queens land. But conditions should be established throughout Australia as a whole which would make the land attractive to people. I am saying nothing against the possibilities of Queensland. It is a great State, which in years to come will be one of the foremost in the Federation.
– With the honorable member’s assistance, we may have three States in Queensland.
– I shall do what I can to help the honorable member. It i3 clear that we are not tackling the immigration and land settlement problems in the right way. Even the late Lord Northcliffe said, after a living trip through the Commonwealth, that it would be a mistake to rush people to Australia from Great Britain unless provision had been made for them in advance.
– Hear, hear! That is what we are doing. To every man who comes to Australia under this scheme the State will guarantee a block.
– We shall not be doing the right thing unless we make the best land available for these settlers. Sir Joseph Carruthers, who is largely interested in land, has taken the leading part in New South Wales immigration schemes, but he has not proposed to break up large estates within 200 or 300 miles of Sydney and other centres of population. His idea was to send the settlers on to Crown lands in the remote back country and to expend large sums of money in clearing that land. But when the land is cleared, it will be without railways or means of getting the produce to market. The result must be that after spending five or six months on a block the settler will become disheartened, and who then will be responsible for the money that has been expended upon him ? The scheme now before the House is apart from the ordinary immigration policy. If the men who are settled upon the land under this scheme become dissatisfied and leave their holdings after six or twelve months, what hope will the Commonwealth have of recovering the money it will have expended? None at all. The only result will be an increase in the national indebtedness. Already the Commonwealth national debt is £415,000,000. . If the debts of the States are added the total burden is £800,000,000. And, in the face of such a liability, we must be careful to insure that . people who are brought from Britain are. settled on a- satisfactory basis. Every immigrant who returns to England dissatisfied, or writes to his friends in derogatory terms of Australia, does this country an immense injury, and we shall be wasting our money if this scheme of land settlement is not framed in such a way as to offer a reasonable guarantee of success.
– This is the first real comprehensive attempt to deal with the problem.
– I admit that, but the Government are approaching the problem in the wrong way. The first step should be to make land available; the second step should be to settle our own people who desire to go upon the land, and when that has been done, we can turn our attention to immigration.
– In “Western Australia there is enough land for everybody.
– I know that Western Australia has a large area of land, but even if there were sufficient land available for all applicants, we should still give Australians the first chance to select.
– They have the right to do so.
– Of course they have, but no provision has been made for them to go upon the land.
– The people in Western Australia are exercising the right.
– I know that many people are going on the land in that State. When I was there in 1896, during the gold rush, the possibilities of land settlement were not so highly thought of . The State was considered to be mainly a desert. But, as the gold production decreased, the people began to concentrate their attention upon land settlement, and Western Australia is now producing . a large and yearly-increasing quantity of wheat. Even so, we should provide for our own people before loading ourselves with debt in order to bring immigrants to Australia. If, by our legislation, we make Australia sufficiently attractive, immigrants will come here, from Great Britain and elsewhere without any expenditure on our part. And they will be the best class of immigrant - those with capital, which they will be able to successfully invest in the land.
– There is no doubt that we want more capitalists in Australia.
– We want more capitalists of the class of which I am speaking - ‘men- with a small amount of capital who are qualified by experience to make a success upon the land. Inexperienced men who settle upon the land have a heart-breaking task, and it is doubtful whether many of them can be successful. Perhaps they would have a better chance if they knew something about the chemistry of soil. Many settlers, fail because of their lack of experience and money. I know of married men who took their wives and children upon the land, and struggled hard for three, four, or five years, hoping each year for a better crop and a gradual improvement in their position, so that they would be able to win through. But in the end disaster overtook them.
– Does, not that happen in any walk of life?
– I admit that. There should be a proper selection in Great Britain of intending immigrants, in order to insure that they are suitable for land settlement.
– -We propose to give a man twelve months’ work upon the land, and unless he makes good he will get no block; that is fair.
– I do not know that it is.
– If he does not make good we are saddled with another failure.
– There are many people who would ultimately make a success on the land^ but they might not give much evidence of it in the first year.
– No;, but in a year we could see whether they were willing to work.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– It will be said of those who oppose this Bill that they have no desire to assist in populating the idle lands of Australia. Charges of that kind will be made in the press as well as by many politicians, but that will not deter me, in the absence of a more satisfactory explanation of the scheme, from voting against the measure. The Commonwealth Government are now proposing to depart from a long-established practice. I shall have nothing to say concerning this scheme in so far as it affects Western Australia. I shall leave it to the representatives of that State to deal with that phase of the proposal. I would point out, however, that at no time within the last twenty-five years has any serious attempt been made by a Victorian State Government to settle on the land the people already here. There has been some pretence of doing so. Some of the Victorian State Governments, recognising that there were no suitable Crown lands in the vicinity of railways and with ready access to markets available for. the settlement of the people, went so far as to pass measures for the compulsory acquisition of estates. In most cases there was a great deal of bungling with such schemes. Land which had been valued by the owner at about £3 per acre for taxation purposes was acquired by a Conservative Victorian Government for £8 or £10 per acre. High prices of that kind, together with other charges, were loaded on to the unfortunate settlers. The result was that only the best portions of such estates were taken up, and the Government were left with the balance on their hands. The Lawson Administration has shown no real desire to settle on the land people already here; yet to-day they say that if the Commonwealth Government will assist them by raising a loan, and relieving them of a proportion of the interest payable in respect of it, they will enter upon a comprehensive policy for the settlement of immigrants. To meet the. opposition that might reasonably be expected from those already here who have received no encouragement to go on the land, this pill is being sugar-coated. We are told by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that Mr. Lawson has said that he would like to sandwich people already here between immigrant block-holders. No such desire has previously been evidenced by the Lawson Government. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) will tell the House that many farmers have left this State, and have taken up land in Queensland ‘. Others have gone to New South Wales because they have been unable to obtain suitable lands in this State. Despite that fact, we have submitted to us to-night a scheme designed to bring a number of people from the Old Country, and to give them facilities, which are denied our own people, to settle on the land. These immigrants will be delicately handled. They will .be placed upon the land, and for twelve months will be able to make a living for themselves because each settler will be paid during that time for working on land near or on his prospective block. We have in Australia to-day thousands who would be willing to go on the land on the same conditions. But because the British Government is prepared to pay 1 per cent, of the interest on the money to be raised for this purpose, the Commonwealth Government has decided to bring people from the Old Country, and, in cooperation with the Victorian Government, to settle them on lands for which people already here are yearning. Previous immigration schemes have not been productive of satisfactory land settlement.
– They have led to some people being placed on the land ; but, unfortunately, have not kept them there.
– Exactly. Previously schemes have not afforded reasonable facilities for land settlement, with the result that those to whom they applied, after remaining on the land for a little while, have returned to our cities, and have swelled the ranks of the unemployed. In the absence of additional arguments in support of this Bill, I shall vote against it. I shall do so because I know that we already have, in Australia, thousands of people looking for work. In my electorate alone, there are thousands who are only partially employed. Some of them are working only half time, and others only quarter time, while many are unemployed. Instead of trying to devise a scheme which would find employment for those already here, the National Government are going to bring many people from the Old Country to Australia, and. to assist them to settle on the land, although nothing has been done to help those already here, who have expressed a desire to settle.
I do not wish to speak at length. There is but little time at cur disposal. We have only two days in which to complete the business of the session, and I fail to see how it is possible for us, in the circumstances, to give this measure the consideration it “requires. Members of the Country party will tell the House that many sons of Victorian farmers, who are desirous of going on the land, find it impossible to secure blocks with ready access to a market. In the circuinstances, unless a more satisfactory explanation of this proposal is submitted to us, I shall vote against the second reading of the
Bill. ‘” .;
.- Unlike the honorable member who has just resumed his seat, I am going to support this Bill to authorize the raising of a loan of £4,000,000 for the development of a proper immigration scheme. I am glad to see in this Parliament the first indication of a system of co-operation between the British Government and that of the Commonwealth to encourage immigration. The money to be raised under the authority for which this Bill provides, is not to be a grant to the States concerned. It is to be a loan, and only for a brief period. The Commonwealth is to pay interest on only onethird of the. total amount, for five years, and thereaf ter, I take it, the State Governments to whom the loans are made will have to find the interest as well as the principal. I am glad that the lead taken by the British Government in connexion with the transfer of its surplus population from the British Isles to the Dominions is to receive from this Parliament the support to which it is entitled. By this means alone shall we secure that equilibrium between the natural resources of the Empire and its national needs, that will enable us to hold our position as a nation. I am disappointed, however, to- learn that the whole of this money is to be expended purely and’ simply on land settlement schemes. It is true that the wealth of Australia, must come, in the first place, from primary production, but since the British Isles have not a surplus of farmers, the men that they will send to assist in peopling this continent will consist, to a. large extent, not of farmers, but of artisans and casual labourers. It is obvious that we cannot expect many first-class farmers to be sent out here. When I heard that this scheme was being devised, I was hopeful that it would make provision, not merely for land settlement, but for the building of darns and silos and the construction of power schemes so that there would be a reciprocal and proportionate development of the primary and secondary industries in the areas to be dealt with. Already we have evidence of British capital, quite independent of Government funds, being utilized in that way in other countries.
– Will not all that sorb of thing follow this scheme?
– It may; but unfortunately, by reason of the policies that have been adopted by various Australian Governments, our own people are not settling on the land. Although the population of the Commonwealth has increased by 900,000 during the last ten years, the number of people on the land is less than it was ten years ago. One reason for this is, in my opinion, that throughout Australia we have not towns with well-developed secondary industries and with facilities for education, recreation and employment handy to our farm3. Farmers have to seek for markets hundreds of miles away, and, in addition, have to travel far when necessary for casual labour. When I read that the British and Commonwealth Governments were entering into a partnership with the State Governments in connexion . with immigration development, I hoped that a comprehensive scheme would be prepared; that provision would be made for the carrying out of works of the character I have mentioned, and that, in view of the financial assistance being provided by the Commonwealth and British Governments, those Governments would exercise over the scheme a degree of . supervision and direction that would bring ‘ about far better results than have attended our soldier-settlement policy. Mr. Wearne, the New South Wales Minister for Lands, spoke the other day of the tremendous losses that had been incurred in connexion with soldier settlement in New South Wales, and of the number of men who had deserted their holdings. Many of those men’ are Australians by birth, familiar with Australian conditions, and it seems to me that English people, unused to our conditions, and not au fait with the possibilities of the country, are not likely to succeed where Australians have failed.
– Within six months of their settlement on the land, many of these people will desert their holdings.
– That will happen unless we have a proper, definite scheme. I am glad that a fairly definite and satisfactory scheme has been adopted in Western Australia, and that in Victoria, soldier, settlement has been attended with the greatest success.’ ,
– -Did not Mr. Wearne say that some sort of training should be given these people?
– That is so. I have suggested that something more than land settlement should be provided for in this scheme, because I think that some training is necessary. If immigrants were found employment on constructional and developmental works of various kinds in rural districts, they would quickly acquire some local knowledge, would gradually find employment on farms, and would ultimately prove successful farmers.
– Such training is to be an essential part of this scheme.
– We have not yet been so informed. Reference has been made, not merely to the settlement of immigrants on Crown lands, but to the huge areas in Australia which are well provided with railways, and roads but are insufficiently, settled. The Government should not merely assist in the resumption of estates, but should go to some trouble in the direction of assisting such companies as, for example, Australian Farms Limited, which is established in Victoria. This firm is doing good work in settling immigrants on the land. Not only does it select and subdivide areas, but it carefully selects would-be settlers in the Old Country. These are sent out; and, with thorough supervision in the earlier years of their efforts, together with practical assistance in cases where the new settlers have not sufficient money to properly establish themselves, numbers of excellent new Australians are put on their feet and permanently established.
– Thorough supervision is a feature. Inexperienced men can go right ahead, under expert guidance.
– That is so. The Federal Government should be prepared to adopt a somewhat similar policy to that of the British Government. I understand that the Overseas Committee gave a grant of £25,000 to the Australian firm of which I have spoken, on account of the excellent work which it is doing in settling British new-comers.
This is a measure in which, apparently, the Commonwealth authorities are taking up the work of financing the States. I would like to be informed if this is proposed to be a permanent policy of the Government, and whether some arrange ment has been agreed- upon, as between Commonwealth and States, so that there shall be but one common borrowing authority. If such is to be the policy, I would like to know if sayings can be effected, and to what extent. If money is to be so lent by the Commonwealth, and we are to be responsible for portion of the interest, we should know what control the Federal Government intend to insist upon in connexion with land settlement - even though the land belongs to the States. We should not be satisfied merely with a policy of Government settlement, but, hand in hand with that policy, we should encourage private concerns to settle the country. In Brazil, a South American developmental company took 10,000 square miles - or” an area 100 miles square - ran roads and railways into and through it, provided power and so on, cut up that huge area, and turned it into a thriving country-side.
– As De Garis tried to do in Western Australia.
– And De Garis also will succeed, because he had a good plan to begin with, and he has brains and energy. Although he had bad luck in getting on to very poor land, he put brains and enthusiasm into the project; and he will yet make the scheme successful.
– The honorable member should not say “ very poor land.”
– I will say, medium land. It is not land such as I am accustomed to on the alluvial flats of the northern rivers of New South Wales, . or of the Queensland rivers. The land at Kendenup is good fruit country, but is not of the first class alluvial character to which I am accustomed.
– If De Garis “ pulls off “ Kendenup his feat will not be due to Australian assistance, but to American financing.
– Has it not been the experience that if private enterprise nurses a farmer he is more likely to succeed, than is a man! who is under Government control and, supervision?-
– That, is the experience, I believe. I know of an English firm which is prepared to operate, in Australia,, to take up tracts in the way which I have just described, to spend its money upon engineering and surveys, in providing power schemes and the like, and in building roads and railways; so, thoroughly settling virgin areas in farming blocks. If we can attract outside capital of that nature and encourage and assist it in opening up Australia., we shall, in the first place, increase the number of agencies overseas which are sending out immigrants.
– Something of this character is being done now, in the Cooktown country of Queensland.
– I am glad to hear it. Companies might well employ their capital and energies over the whole or the upper Clarence Valley, or in various areas in Queensland of which I have some knowledge, or in the upper Murray country, or in many other probably equally favorable places in different parts of the Commonwealth. These companies, by reason of their home interests, their ramifications throughout the United Kingdom, would be in a position to keep up a continual supply of the right type of immigrant; and all without expense to the Commonwealth Government. It is the business of such companies to make a success of the men whom they send out and settle; because their own interests can be served, only if those whom they “place” are individual successes. It is a policy along these lines which has markedly assisted, immigration in Canada, the United States of America, and Argentina. The various Australian State Governments should not continue to pursue a dog-in-the-manger policy. They should no longer take up the attitude of saying, “If we cannot, develop these territories ourselves - our activities being directed elsewhere - we shall not permit other interests to develop them.” If developmental work is carried on privately, the tasks and responsibilities of the State Governments will be vastly relieved; and the Commonwealth, as a whole, will rapidly advance and prosper. I trust that the Commonwealth Government will be in a position to extend their scheme, not’ only in the direction of land settlement, but in the establishment of power propositions, water conservation proposals, and secondary industries. Thus, we shall not only absorb farmer immigrants, but also artisans and casual labourers.
.- I congratulate the Government on having introduced this new policy of immigration. It is a long step in the Tight direction. We need to demonstrate far greater con- fidence in our own country. This measure is a testimony of Government confidence. It is fitting that the Federal authority should come to the assistance of the States with respect to the raising of loans. I trust that the loan policy outlined in this measure will be merely the first phase in the realization of a principle which some members of Parliament have long held to be ideal. I refer to the policy of the Federal Government controlling and handling all loan propositions for Australia,. ‘An active immigration policy is not only a necessity for Australia, but it has become an Empire consideration as well. Perhaps a future generation may see the centre of the British Empire within this continent. We need millions more in Australia, for there is any amount of room, and scope for them. The opposition to this Bill is mainly of a dog-in-the-manger character. One hears talk of newcomers arriving in Australia and taking bread out of other people’s mouths. When speaking upon the Address-in-Reply, at the beginning of the session, I had occasion to make reference to the arrival of my father, who was promptly informed, upon landing in Launceston, that he had come to Australia to take the bread out of other people’s mouths. The outcome of his landing has been the establishment of an industry which is employing quite a large number of hands.
– The honorable member’s, for instance.
– Yes; I. have used them both* in the furtherance of that business. That is the sort of criticism employed, year after year, when the Government introduce any project for encouraging or assisting immigration. I invite honorable members to ponder the following particulars of the growth of the Australian population: Up to 1851, our population totalled only 437,000. It took us until 1889 to reach the 3,000,000 mark. The fourth million could not be counted until 1905. This slow progress was due mainly to the land boom, which burst in Victoria in the early nineties. It was not until thirteen years later, namely, in 1918, that our population had advanced beyond 5,000,000. The census figures for that year were somewhat affected, by the absence, overseas, of the Australian Military Forces. When the great bulk of our men had returned, in 1919 and 1920, the population of the.
Commonwealth markedly increased ; and, last year, it had reached a total of nearly 5,700,000. By the aid of a vigorous immigration policy it will be possible within the next ten years to increase the number of our people to nearly 10,000,000. The policy, however, must be absolutely sane and sound.
There is any amount of land available, and the question of settlement thereon is essentially one for the States; for the States own the land. The only expansive territory which is owned by the Commonwealth is the Northern Territory, where there are millions and millions of acres available which are suitable for sheepraising. The Government might consider the opening up of these vast areas by means of light railways. It may not be generally known that the tablelands of our far Northern Australia - the Kimberleys of Western Australia, and the Victoria River and the ‘ Barkly tablelands - enjoy a delightful climate practically the whole year through. I read in the press some days ago that at Borroloola, on the Gulf of Carpentaria, a temperature had been recorded of 13 degrees belcw freezing point. That is in country where white people are said to be unable to live.
– Does the honorable member call that temperature delightful?
– That reading, of course, is the cool extreme. But, from that point of view. I ask the honorable member what he thinks of. Canada, as a desirable country to which to-emigrate - Canada, where one is shut in for pretty nearly half the year in the grip of winter. In Australia we have climates suited to every type of people who may be eligible, and may care, to come and work here. I lay stress on “work.” We do not want immigrants who wish to have everything put into their hands, and who are not keen on doing anything for themselves That delightful fur northern belt of which I spe<ik is capable of carrying 50,000,000 sheep without difficulty. In the Argentine the total number of sheep has decreased during the past twenty or thirty years from 75,000,000, to 35.000.000. What an opportunity, then, is afforded for Australia to secure the wool market of tthe world ! Will any one say that the possibilities of Australia as a sheep-growing country have been exhausted, or that Australian wool-growers have exhausted the possibilities of the world’s wool market?
The various Governments of this country must throw open the land. It will be of no use to say to an immigrant who may wish to go to the Territory tablelands, “ Here is your land for a shilling, or for two shillings and sixpence, per square mile.” It is excellent for sheep; but the new settler must be provided with a railway so as to be able to transport his goods and stock. He cannot hope to haul his fencing materials to his area, and drag his wool back to the coast or railhead and make a profit. On the Victoria River country Vestey’s Limited and Bovril Estates Limited are required to pay £85 a mile for the erection of a five-wire fence. The significance of this extraordinary price is enhanced when one knows that a fence is built on the basis of one post for every two chains. The greater part of the expense in running a station in that country consists in rail, shipping, and overland freights. To carry goods to the Victoria River country the owner must pay 2s. 9d. per ton per mile. The Commonwealth Government cannot hope to open up these good lands unless they are prepared, first, to spend money on railways. Of course, so long as they prefer to disburse their money in propositions around and about Sydney and Melbourne they will receive the hearty support of the press. But, when a suggestion is made for the development of the Northern Territory by means of the construction of light lines of railway, the press talks about a white elephant. Why do not the newspapers send their own men out to see things for themselves? I have recently been lecturing on the Northern Territory, and it seems to be a specialty of the Melbourne press to distort what I say; statements are inserted in the reports of my lectures which I never uttered, or even, suggested. It is most unfair to malign one of the heritages we possess; and it is time that the Australianpress took a national view of the question of the. development of this country.
– Would the honorable member go up there?
– I am not a farmer, nor am I a cattle-man ; but I have yet to be shown a poor man in the Northern Territory,- and I met scores of persons when I was there last year. Many fortunes have been made in the Territory, despite the difficulties which have to be faced. I ask the honorable member for lndi (Mr. Robert Cook) whether he would care to go to a place called Tea-tree Well, about 500 miles from a railway, and there produce cattle and sheep. I have here a photograph of two settlers who have land at the place I have mentioned. They are both returned soldiers, and the hut shown in the photograph is their little homestead. One of these men travelled a distance of 4,500 miles from the Fitzroy district to select land from the plans that are shown in the Home and Territories Department; and he and his partner took their stock between 1,400 and 1,500 miles, a journey which occupied them for eleven months and a week. There is a great outcry for the Government to open up this northern country. If it were not good country worthy of development we should not find such men as I have described there, nor should we find the Vestey Brothers there. Neither this Government nor any previous Government have ever proposed a workable policy of development. I should like to say that the name of one of the two men is Henty. It is said that the age of pioneering is over. True, it is nearly 100 years ago since a man named Henty left my native city, Launceston, to come over and help to found Victoria, and now we find one of the same name pioneering in the Northern Territory. That is the sort of spirit we must encourage. We have not only to bring people here from overseas, but make land available for those who are already here. We need not only a vigorous policy of immigration, but active development in the way of railway extension, water conservation, the production of power, and so forth. This would cause the expansion of our secondary industries, and very quickly Australia will become one of the greatest countries in the world.
.- I congratulate the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) on his informative summary of the lecture he recently delivered in the Queen’s Hall. I remind him, however, that the proposal before us is not to settle farmers in the Northern Territory, but to lend money to the different State Governments in order to promote settlement elsewhere. There does not happen to be a State Government in the Territory.
– That is the misfortune of the Territory.
– However, the honorable member’s speech may serve him very well for electioneering purposes; and good luck to him! After we have accomplished this loan of £4,000,000, and passed it on to the State Governments, the latter take the full responsibility.
– That is not quite so. Under this proposal the British Government appoint the CommonwealthGovernment as their agents, and we have to see that the money is expended as set’ down in the schedule - to see that it is spent in the way intended.
– The point is that the Commonwealth Government have no responsibility after they have passed thismoney on to the States.
– If. you mean, as I think you do, that we have no authority, I. must say that we have, because the British Government, authorize us to suspend payment unless this work is carried on to our satisfaction and theirs.
– Where are we to get the machinery in order to carry out this work of supervision? We have no land officers, because, as a Government, we do not own any land, and, therefore, have to depend entirely on the States for the carrying out of this arrangement.
– We appoint a man who reports, and on his reports we act.
– However that may be, every settler who comes to this country is guaranteed to the extent of £1,000. The honorable member for Bass talks about pioneers, but the pioneers who made this country were never “ spoonfed “ to the extent of £1,000 each.
– But they were immigrants.
– If this country is made as attractive as it was when the Labour party were in power, we should, as then, find immigrants coming here of their own free will; and such immigrants are the best.
– But they mostly settle around Melbourne and Sydney !
– When the Labour party was in power the production of this country increased by many million bushels; but that production has since fallen off greatly. We desire to see people come here, but what guarantee have we that the settlers under this scheme will stop where they are placed ? They come from the Old Country, and are not accustomed to, our climate and- conditions. If we desire to increase production, we ought to encourage our own Australians to go on the land; but at present they are unable to do so, because land is hot available for them. It would be far better for the Commonwealth to enter into a scheme with the States to settle our own people on the land, and then develop our secondary industries.
– A remarkable thing about all these schemes is that the one before the House is never satisfactory, while the ons at the back of an honorable member’s mind always is!
– We have a right to criticise, though I know the honorable member does not like criticism.
– I do; I am living on it.
– Then all I can say is that the honorable: gentleman is not getting very fat on it ! We, as a Labour party, welcome immigrants to this country, but contend that proper provision should be made to receive them. At the present time we are spending nearly a quarter of a million of money in advertising Australia in Great Britain, but, after all the efforts we make, what do we do for immigrants when they come? It makes one’s heart bleed to see families arrive by the steamers. In Sydney, I have seen a husband and wife and children arrive at Circular Quay with their baggage, and, while the husband was looking for work, the family found themselves quite unable to secure a home. There is no provision of any shelter for these people, and it is ridiculous to fetch them to this country on the strength of advertisements which speak of a land of promise, with plenty of work and good wages.
– The present is a different scheme from the others.
– Before we try another scheme, let us complete those we have. Then, again, if we care to go down to the wharfs, we can see large numbers of people who, having come out to. this country, are returning, and, as they are disappointed people, the only result can be the giving of a bad name to this country. If immigrants are to come, there ought to be an organization to see that they are met and looked after.
– But there is an organization.
– Is the Commonwealth Government responsible for that organization ?
– It is a matter under the New Settlers League, and the control of the States.
– The New Settlers League is only a private organization.
– It works in conjunction with the States. There is an immigration officer who meets the immigrant.
-Every immigrant is met in Victoria.
– No doubt the immigration officer meets the immigrants, shakes hands with them, and. hopes they have had a good passage- - and that is the end of it.
– The Settlers League here comprises a number of ladies who meet immigrants with a hearty welcome, and give them every information.
– No doubt the ladies give the immigrants a cup of tea occasionally. There should, at least, be immigrant barracks, such as there used to be in Sydney, where people can remain until homes are secured for them, for it is most difficult to get rented houses now.
– There are such barracks in Western Australia.
– But not in New South Wales, nor, I believe, in Victoria. Immigrants are buffeted about from place to place, and many of them eventually get into the slums, where they remain. It is disgraceful that we should encourage people to come here unless we are prepared to welcome them and find them homes. In New South Wales it is the hardest thing to find an empty house.
– And why is it the hardest thing to get a house? Because there are not enough bricklayers in the country.
– Is the honorable gentleman importing bricklayers?
– You say there is a scarcity of houses, and I say that there is a scarcity of bricklayers.
– There is.
– That is an important admission.
– By bringing people out here when homes are unobtainable we lower the standard of living for all - for bricklayers and everybody else.
– If these immigrants are going into the country, what do they want with brick .houses?
– I am not speaking of the country.
– I am ; this proposal has to do with the country.
– We shall not encourage the coming of bricklayers by what is being done now. Public works have been in abeyance for some time, but now the Government come out with a placard policy; and we know why that is. The Government say that immigrants are coming out to settle on the land, that £4,000,000 is to be borrowed for the purpose, and that all. that has to be done is for the Federal and State Governments and the British Government to provide the necessary interest - “ everything in the garden is lovely.”
– This is a travesty.
– It is the true position. There are people on the land to-day producing more commodities than they can sell. Honorable members, apparently, do not agree with that statement, but not long ago the Government gave a bonus to encourage and preserve the meat industry.
– There were special conditions.
– There always are special “ conditions when people want anything. At the present time we are told that a Board is going Home to sell products, arrange rebates on sugar, and so forth.
– A little while ago a bonus was given to people out of work at Broken Hill.
– And quite right, too; human flesh is surely worth more consideration than cattle. We on this side predict that the scheme before us will be a failure. To bring men here unaccustomed to our conditions, and plant them on part of our waste lands, is not to give them a fair chance. Let us give our own farmers’ sons and the men of Australia who are without land opportunity of settling, and then we shall have men following the occupations of farmers who’ are adapted to that class of work. Any immigration scheme will fail which seeks to bring people from the cities of the Old World and place them on the land. I know many who have come out to Aus tralia for this purpose, and, being utterly unsuited to country life, have drifted back to city life and become ordinary labourers. We should ask a committee of practical farmers, perhaps a few honorable members of the Country party, to propound a scheme for settling people on the land. I would have more faith in their proposals. The idea of members of our Government sitting down in conference with other State Governments and propounding a scheme is preposterous.
– This is not our scheme; it is a State Government’s scheme, propounded by farmers, and approved by farmers.
– Then why should not the State Government in question borrow the money without coming to the Commonwealth Government to do so?
– The Commonwealth Government are paying one-third of the interest, and the British Government are paying one-third of the interest.
– What has that fact to do with the question ?
– If the honorable member has ever borrowed money he will know that an offer from some one to pay onethird of the interest is something that ls not to be sneezed at.
– I have not borrowed money as cheaply as that, and the people who are getting it will be very lucky indeed ; but I am afraid the Commonwealth and the State Governments will have to “ carry the baby.” However, it is an issue for the electors. The Labour party are opposed to bringing people out to this country while there are already thousands of unemployed here.
– And while there is room for thousands of “bricklayers, according to the honorable member.
– It is a well-known fact that bricklayers are fairly busy.
– Because of their sloW.ingdown tactics.
– ‘Let the honorable member tell that to the people of Bass.
– I have told them so, and I will tell them so again.
– The honorable member is very brave when he is away from his constituency. “No doubt when he was in the Northern Territory his speeches made a considerable impression upon the aborigines. I repeat, however, that the
Labour party are opposed to spending money in bringing immigrants to Australia until our own people are fully employed. We contend that a sound administration, accompanied by a vigorous works policy, will bring about so much prosperity in Australia that thousands of people will come here unassisted, as they came during the time of the Fisher Government.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Stewart) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
– I move -
That the Schedule to the *Customs Tariff* 1921-1922 be amended ashereunder set out and that on and after the twelfth day of October, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-two. at nine o'clock in the forenoon, Victorian time, duties of Customs be collected in pursuance of the Customs Tariff as so amended : -
When the Customs Tariff Act of 1921 was assented to on 16th December, 192 1, there was in existence an agreement, which is still in force to-day, to which the Commonwealth Government, the Queensland State Government, and all those associated with the growing of sugar-cane and the refining of sugar were parties. That agreement, backed up by an embargo upon the importaivin of sugar, except with the approval of and under the direct control of the Commonwealth Government, this being part ot the Government’s war policy, afforded to the sugar industry complete and effective protection; and, therefore, when the Government were framing the Tariff . schedule, which was passed by this Parliament last year, the duty upon sugar was left as it was under the previous Tariff at 6s. per cwt., British and General, or, translated into the rate set out in the amended resolution, £6 per ton. it is only reasonable and fair to the distant. State of Queensland, whose representatives in this House have generously and consistently supported the national policy of Protection in regard to all industries, primary and secondary, in other States, that its principal industry should not be left dependent on the changing conditions of political life. Setting aside altogether the question of the renewal of the agreement, which now governs the operations of sugar-cane crowing and sugar refining, further than to say that it expires on the 30th June next, and that during the period intervening between now and that date there will be a period of anxiety and uncertainty among those engaged in the industry, which will deprive the growers and the refiners of that confidence in the future which will entitle them to keep their fields planted and their operations going, it is of the utmost importance that tint duty upon sugar imports should be revised before this House rises, so that those who are engaged in the industry may secure the measure of protection which is necessary to keep them going. Having regard to the protection afforded to other industries in the Commonwealth and to the peculiar cir- cumstances of our great northern State, to the necessity for spreading population throughout Australi a, and particularly in our northern areas, to the fact tnat it is the settled . policy of the Commonwealth to intrust the growing of the sugar requirements of its people to Australians, and to the further fact that the maintenance of a white Australia is closely associated with the question of sugar-cane growing by white people, it becomes the definite duty of this Parliament before rising to put an end to any uncertainty or doubt which those engaged in that occupation may have as to their future. It is but their right and privilege to seek from this Parliamentthat standard of protection which is enjoyed by the other industries of this country, especially when they are producing with white labour a commodity which in every other part of the world is grown by black labour, unless it be sugar produced from beejj. The Government in pursuance of its responsibilities submitted this matter to the Tariff Board, so that it might lhave, even at this late hour, the advice of a body of men which was specially created to make investigations into matters of this sort. I am in receipt of the Board’s report on sugar, which I propose to read to the Committee.
In presenting this report, neither I nor the Government express any opinion upon the comments contained in it; we are concerned only with the final conclusions and recommendations of the Board.
The report is as follows: -
Duty on Sugar.
Tlie Minister for Trade and Customs. The present position in regard to the protection provided for the sugar industry is not altogether satisfactory. A duty of £0 per ton on cane sugar is included in the Tariff, but this protection has not been operated for some years, because owing to the effects of the recent war the Federal Government had to take over the control of sugar.
The present temporary protection of the industry is provided by an embargo against the importation of foreign sugar except by the Government, whilst the Australian producers receive from the Commonwealth Government a fixed price of £30 6s. Sd. per ton for their raw sugar.
This arrangement concludes on the 30th June next, when, unless some further action is taken in the meantime, the duty of £0 per ton on cane susrar will automaticallyoperate.
The. Board has judged by reports in the daily press that action has been taken by the repre sentatives of sugar districts to press for an extension of what is known as the Sugar Agreement, and thus continue the present method of protection by embargo against imports and price fixing within the Commonwealth.
The members of the Australian Sugar Producers Association Limited, of Queensland, through their President and Secretary, have now applied to the federal Government stating “ that they are unanimously of opinion that it is vital to the interests of the sugar industry that an immediate and substantial increase in the amount of the present import duty on sugar should be granted. …..
We would ask for a duty of lid. per lb.” This request means an increase in the import duty on enne sugar from £(i per ton to £14 per ton. The granting of this request would naturally mean the conclusion of the Sugar Agreement.
Economic Position ofIndustry.- The Tariff Board is forced to the conclusion ‘that the sugar industry is on somewhat of an anomalous basis. In Queensland, where nearly all the sugar is produced, -the State Government - through its instrumentalities - fixes the wages and conditions of the industry, whilst the Federal Government is called upon to protect a position it has had no hand in creating. Speaking generally, this does not appear to be a proper economic position, for in the future it might happen that the granting of a certain protection if made necessary through special conditions imposed by any State might not be long sufficient if the State authorities concerned decided to impose additional conditions. Such divided control does not appear to *>e satisfactory, and it seems reasonable to suggest that should any State desire unusual conditions in one of its staple industries that it should specially contribute towards such conditions, and not penalize the whole of the Commonwealth to maintain any special conditions desired.
Board Favours Duty. - As a means of protecting the sugar industry, the Board strongly indorses the granting of a protective duty in preference to the extension of an agreement. The latter is neither satisfactory to the producer, the manufacturer, nor the “onsumer. As soon as an agreement is made the general question is what is to happen at the conclusion of the period - is the agreement to be continued on the same terms or reduced, or what is to happen? The producer has no real security which would lead him to invest his saving* in an industry not on a secure basis. Tt should not be forgotten that, while the present agreement has meant very much ‘more money to the producers, it lias not meant that the natural increase in the production of sugar has been very much augmented. The good seasons re- cently prevailing ha.ve helped the agreement.
On the other hand, a protective duty is a permanent assurance on which the public may rely when considering the investment of their money and time.
Arguments Advanced by Applicants in favour of Duty. - The Board now desires to deal with the arguments advanced in favour of increasing the duty from £6 to £14 per ton.
The applicants state, “ We have to remind you that there is an import duty of 3d. per lb. on jams and jellies, and all ‘jams are half sugar, so that the jam manufacturing industry is protected to the extent of 100 per cent, more than what we are asking for sugar. Preserved and condensed milk also is protected to the extent of 2-Jd. per lb. (General), and the sugar content thereof is something over 40 per cent. It will be seen that this product is protected to the extent of 60 per cent, more than what we are asking for sugar.”
The Board does not consider the sugar producers are taking up a fair attitude in these arguments. In seeking to forward their own ola.im it is only reasonable to remember that other great primary interests of immense value to the Commonwealth should not be prejudiced. In the manufacture of jam there are three industries to be considered, viz.: - Sugar, fruit-growing, and jam-making. To give half ‘of the protection to sugar would not, in the opinion of the Board, be a wise division of the protection. The fruit-growing industry in Australia is of great economic value, and for the disposal of its fruit is largely dependent on the sugar industry. The fruit-grower appears to be entitled to. the same proportion of the 3d. as the sugar producer, whilst the jam manufacturer, who has to provide equipment, lay out his money in fruit, manufacture, case and distribute, seems fairly entitled to the remaining Id.
Similarly, the suggestion that sugar should receive lid. out of the 2jd. per lb. provided against imported condensed and preserved milk cannot be approved. The everincreasing industry of dairying is of much more value to the Commonwealth than the sugar industry. The Royal Commission in 1920 reported that the average total area devoted to cane during the five years, 1914-15 ‘to 1918-19, was 174,535 acres, and, in the present state of our population, any material increase in production of sugar will yield a surplus which it will be practically impossible to export at a profit. The production in 1921 amounted to about 300,000 tons, and this quantity would practically supply all the requirements of the Commonwealth. It must, however, bc remembered that all the requirements cannot be supplied by locally-grown sugar - otherwise our manufacturing exporters will be severely penalized when attempting to compete overseas with goods containing sugar carrying an impost of £14 per ton. To keep our valuable export trade we’ must permit our manufacturers to have sugar at the world’s parity, otherwise our export trade will be seriously damaged. At present we allow exporters of certain goods containing sugar a rebate of £20 per ton, but this practice is strongly objected to by other countries, and rightly so, for it is viewed in the light of a bounty to enable our exporters to capture foreign trade. When negotiating recently with New Zealand, the Minister of Customs of that Dominion refused to give any consideration to the reduction of the duty on any item on which a rebate was granted by. the Commonwealth on sugar, and the repre- sentatives of the Commonwealth had to agree to refuse rebate on sugar in any goods exported to New Zealand. It will, therefore, be necessary on the import duty being fixed to allow sugar for export purposes to be imported under bond for manufacturing purposes. This practically means that the present production of sugar cannot be increased without occasioning some loss to the producer. On the other hand, the dairying industry is forging ahead, and has become a valuable exporter in addition to supplying all domestic requirements. Dairying is a confining, arduous occupation, demanding the closestattention all the year round, and certainly deserves as much protection in regard to the milk contents of preserved and condensed milk as sugar, and this leaves id. to enable the manufacturer to buy, manufacture, case distribute, &c.
A further, argument in favour of the proposed duty of £14 per ton is “ the existing duty, £6 per ton, is absolutely inadequate to maintain the present price of 3id. per Lb. for raw sugar beyond the termination of the present Sugar Agreement. Since any reduction of this price -would make production unprofitable, and therefore impossible, it is clear that the existence of the industry is at this moment dependent on the continuance of Government control.” While the Board agrees that £6 per ton is inadequate to continue the sugar industry on the present conditions, it is unable to believe that it is the desire of the Commonwealth that the present high price for raw sugar should be continued after the present season.
Every other country is adjusting its conditions now that the war effects are passing, and practically every other industry in Australia is also adjusting its conditions, which were framed in years when our economic conditions were unstable and inflated beyond all previous records. Is Australia to ‘be the only country to indefinitely continue war terms and conditions in the sugar industry? Is no heed to be paid to the righteous cry from the hundreds of thousands of industrialists for reduced costs of living? Or is sugar to be the only item to remain in the enviable position of maintaining its abnormal protection whilst other industries have to yield to the demand for reduction in costs and price?
There is probably no other commodity which enters so largely into the household cost of the consumer. Sugar is freely used in nearly everything in Australia, with the result that we -axe classed amongst the two greatest sugar -consuming countries of the world.
The next argument used by the applicants in favour of the increase in duty to £14 per ton is by reference to the report of the Royal Commission which inquired into the sugar industry in 1912, and reported in very strong terms on the great importance of the industry to Australia from the industrial, social, and political points of view. With this the Board entirely agrees, but it must point out when that inquiry was made the industry was being maintained by white labour against outside competition, and yet the Commission, with one exception, recommended a duty of £6 10s. per ton. The exception was Commissioner Crawford, now president of the Australian Sugar Producers Association, who recommended £7 per ton.
A further argument used by the applicants is that the present Australian Navigation Act will have the effect of reducing the protection provided by the duty of £6 per ton. In this the Board agrees, though apparently theRoyal Commission which reported in 1020 did not consider the provisions of the Navigation Act would materially affect this industry, as the Commission did not recommend any further duty than £6 per ton, although the Navigation Act was then in force.
Another argument used for a duty of £14 per ton is the fact that certain overseas countries have during and since the war greatly increased their sugar duties. For instance, United Kingdom, £25 13s. 4d. per ton; France, £28 14s. 10d.: Germany, £20 6s. 5d.; Holland, £22 17s. 2d.; and others show a lower rate. In the application a reference to Great Britain is made, as follows: - “ Groat Britain,the classical country of free sugar, opened the series of increases by bringing the sugar duty from 2s. Id. per cwt. to 0s. 4d. in 1915, which amount was increased by one-half in 1916. Finally, in 1918, it was brought to the present level of 25s. 8d. per cwt.” Thus, the duty of £21s. 8d. per ton in 1914 was raised to £25 13s. 4d. in 1018. This was simply an increase in taxation to meet increasing expenditure due to the war. There could not be the slightest suggestion that the increase was in the nature of a protective duty, as is asked in this application. What is true of Great Britain in this connexion also applies to other countries where the duty has ibeen greatly increased.
The Board does not consider that revenue should unnecessarily be derived from sugar in Australia, where it has such an immediate bearing upon so many important primary and manufacturing interests. There are other imported items which do not bear so directly on local producing interests which can be used for revenue purposes, if so desired, but, in the opinion of the Board, the requirements of the Commonwealth urgently demand that only the necessary duty to preserve the sugar industry should be imposed, and the high duties of other countries are no criterion of what is good for the Commonwealth. Any undue inflation of the duty will seriously prejudice domestic interests . without very materially increasing the production of sugar for Australian consumption.
Costs of Production. - In a further statement presented by the applicants, particulars are given which have some bearing upon the cost of production, but sufficient definite information is not available to enable such cost to be obtained. As previously referred to, the Royal Commission of 1912 had conditions of production by white labour to consider as at present, and they were evidently not impressed that the duty should be materially increased. Further, the Royal Commission, reporting in 1920 on the question of cost of production, states - “ For nearly four years the Central Cane Prices Board- has endeavoured to ascertain the cost of production dn connexion with each milling district. From the evidence of the Secretary quoted above, the Board’s efforts in that regard do not appear to have met with much success. So far as the Commission is aware, there is no official record, either : in regard to each district or the whole industry, of the average cost of production. Few farmers are in the habit of keeping records in any useful detail of their costs of cultivation, and, even when that is attempted, there is considerable variation in the method, and much confusion as to what really constitutes cost of production. The cost of producing a ton of cane obviously differs according to the skill of the farmer, the quality of the soil, the extent and physical character of the area, the rainfall, &c. The distance from the mill and the facilities for carriage, &c, have also to be considered. Most of these factors will be found to vary in a single district. “Apart from the large number of farmers who do not keep any account of their transactions, there appeared to be a general disinclination on the part of those who do keep accounts to furnish statements of actual receipts and expenditure. This, it was suggested, was due to the fear that if any margin of profit was shown above bare cost of production it would encourage further claims on the part of employees for increased wages. A limited number of individual returns were received which purported to represent actual costs and receipts. There were also furnished a number of estimates of what was considered the cost of production. It is remarkable that the average of these data indicates that the sugarfarming industry is carried on at a loss, but an examination of the statements submitted clearly demonstrates that with a few exceptions -
This report makes it clear that it is practically impossible to obtain a proper statement of the costs of production of. sugar-cane in Queensland. It is reasonable to suppose that the growers would immediately display their costs were they unfavorable. The production of costs is frequently requested in connexion with applications for protection under the Tariff, and they are invariably supplied.
Efficiency in Industry. - Another condition insisted upon is that industries requesting protection under -the Tariff must have efficient machinery and the most economical methods, otherwise the protection is a bonus to inefficiency, which always demands the maximum of help. The most recent Royal Commission on Sugar, reporting in 1920, said, in regard to the production of sugar-cane in Queensland : -
It was generally admitted by expert official witnesses, and by farmers, that by better methods of cultivation and by the use of suitable manures the average yield might be largely increased. Whilst a comparison with other countries of the average yield of cane and sugar per acre may be misleading owing to the different methods of cultivation, the variations in climate, and the length of time necessary for the ripening of the cane, the evidence generally points to the fact that our average production, though slowly improving, is not satisfactory. This applies generally throughout the whole industry.”
A further extract states, in regard to the milling of the sugar-cane in Queensland -
The Commission, in obtaining evidence on which to compare Commonwealth equipment and practice with other countries, found that but few of the sugar experts examined have had the opportunity of seeing sugar manufacture outside Australia. A highly-trained witness with wide experience within and without the Commonwealth said, “ Generally speaking, I am of the firm opinion that most Queensland mills are quite inefficient in the ordinary sense of the word. By that 1 mean that they neither extract (i.e., in the milling processes) nor recover (i.e., in the subsequent processes) the economic maximum of sugar in case, and no other sugar-producing country in the world can less afford to stray from the path of true efficiency.”
Further evidence is also given in the report of the Commission which shows that an official estimate classifies fifteen out of the twentythree mills in Queensland as inefficient.
In view of the foregoing facts, the Board finds it is unable to support the application for an increase in the duty on sugar from £6 to £14 per ton. It does, however, consider some increase is necessary to enable the industry to successfully compete against the black-grown sugar of other countries. In arriving at the amount of duty necessary to protect the industry, the following facts have been taken into consideration : -
This return shows that the average price of sugar imported for five years before the war was1¼d. per lb. On this average price over five years the request of lid. per lb. represents a protection of 120 per cent., which is excessive.
After, mature consideration the Board con- siders the duty should be increased, but not beyond Id. per lb. or £96s. 8d. per ton. This w ill be a protection of 80 per cent, on the prices of imported sugar before the war, and should be ample to enable the industry to be successfully carried on provided efficient methods are adopted.
In support of the proposed duty the Board notes that the price of overseas sugar, which is higher than it was twelve months ago. is now quoted in . lava at £1 7 3s. per ton. With the addition of the duty recommended and the freight and other charges, this should leave ample room for profit even should a further decrease take place in the price of overseas sugar.
The Board is influenced in recommending 1d. per lb. by the knowledge that the Navigation Act will add to the expense of placing the local product on the market: also that during the war our industrial conditions have improved, and it is not considered they will nor should return altogether to pre-war conditions; also for some time the cost of machinery and other equipment will be above pre-war rates, though this condition will to some extent apply in other countries.
The present duty on sugar is: -
The Tariff Board recommends that the im port duty on cane sugar be fixed at1d. per lb., and that the duty oil beet sugar be fixed at1½d. per lb.
L do not think that any honorable member can say that this is a report and recommendation with a bias in favour of the sugar industry. The Tariff Board has critically examined and weighed all the facts and, wherever material has been forthcoming, has shown the disadvantage at which other industries might be placed by the imposition of an increased duty.’ The report, as a whole, will convince the most critical examiner of the sugar industry that the Board has not hastened to recommend the imposition of an unduly high duty. It cannot be said that the form in which the duty is levied in the parent Act is an intelligent one. In making that statement I am not reflecting on my predecessor in office; but in my opinion the principal Act does not impose the duty in an intelligent manner, since it places all classes of sugar in the one category. As honorable members are aware, sugar arrives in this country for the most part in a raw state, but we also have importations of. refined sugar and mill-whites. No honorable member will say that there should be a flat rate applying, without discrimination, to sugar of all kinds. I have been at some pains to ascertain the discrimination made by other countries between mill-whites and raw sugar, and have discovered that it works out invariably at £2 per ton. The cost of refining sugar is a matter in respect of which the Australian worker and mill-owner should be protected. Although the motion I have submitted may not, in the absence of detail, appear to be an absolute acceptance of the recommendation of the Tariff Board, it, at least, represents an intelligent attempt to adjust that general recommendation to the three different varieties of sugar, refined, raw, and mill- white, with which we have to deal.
– That is so. The Government take the responsibility for the differentiation shown in the schedule I have submitted. The Tariff Board recommends a flat duty of1d. per lb. on raw and refined sugar, and mill-whites, and a duty of1½d. per lb. on sugar n.e.i., or, in other words, on beet sugar’. I do’ not think the Committee will ask me to discuss the value of the recommendation as to beet sugar. The cost of its production is entirely different from the cost of producing cane sugar. It will be remembered that, in the world production of sugar before the war, beet sugar predominated. The beet sugar industry of Central Europe may revive to such an extent that it will once more become a powerful competitor with the whitegrown sugar of Australia. The cane grower here should he protected against such competition. This duty of1½d.. per lb. will protect the beet sugar industry in Australia.
– Has not the Tariff Board, admittedly, a very vague idea of the cost of producing cane sugar?
– There is no primary industry, whether it be that of wheat, wool, or sugar-cane growing, in respect of which the cost of production . can be definitely laid down. The problem has been faced over and over in the courts of the country, but it has been found impossible to ascertain the cost of production in ‘any primary industry. The cost of production in secondary industries, where the conditions are well established, can be determined, but the variations in soil, climate and rainfall, as well as in the machinery used in connexion with primary production, render it impossible to arrive at accepted standards in relation to it.
I have no desire that the Committee shall have other than the fullest information as to the variation between the recommendation of the Tariff Board and the decision of the Government in regard to the duty to be imposed. The Tariff Board has reported in favour of what might be called a flat rate of Id. per lb. on raw, refined and mill-white cane sugar. In that respect it follows on the lines of the parent Act; but the Government, having had an intimate and close association with the industry, in connexion with the handling of sugar, considers that it would be inequitable to place upon raw sugar the same duty that is imposed upon refined or mill-white sugar. We have ascertained the variations made in other countries, and since £2 per ton is the average discrimination between mill-whites and raw sugar in other lands, we propose to protect the Australian article to that extent. Both refined and mill-white sugars will come into the category of whites, which will receive £2 per ton additional protection, as against Id. per lb. on raw sugars. These proposed duties will deal with the sugar industry on its merits, as an Australian industry, and apart altogether from the renewal of the agreement, or of any form of control. With respect to the latter, I have nothing to say at this juncture. The Government desire that the motion shall be dealt with on its merits, having regard to two considerations: first, the protection afforded to somewhat similar primary and secondary industries ; and, secondly, the conditions under which cane sugar is produced in far-distant regions of the ‘Commonwealth, having an unfavorable climate, and where it is hard to induce people to settle in great numbers. -We would all like to get cheap sugar; but we would nos ask that it should be grown in Australia by white people under the. same conditions as in coloured- labour countries. I emphasize the fact that Australia is the only country in the world which .produces sugar from cane grown by white labour. The industry is of great and powerful assistance to the settlement of white people in northern Australia. It served the country well during the war- period.
– Especially. the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, the particular pet of the National Government.
– I leave out all reference to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. It suits the honorable member to cry “wolf,” but I remind him that, before that company could get anything out of sugar, it had to be produced by white labour. Parliament is not being asked to protect the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, but to protect the primary producers who are growing cane under abnormal conditions and are helping to develop our northern country in a way which no others could do.
– Ils the Minister prepared to say anything concerning drawback arrangements, and about rebates, and the like?
– If these duties are imposed the conditions ruling under Government control - under a fixed agreement - will no longer apply.
– The pre-war conditions will then rule?
– I do not say that. It will be a matter for the Government to determine.
– Does the Minister approve of the statement in the report of the Tariff Board to the effect that, for <export purposes, jam-makers and. others should have the world’s parity? Will that be the policy of the Government?
– That point will not arise until after 30th June, 1923.
– But what is the policy of the Government?
– The policy with respect to the future of sugar will be declared at the proper time; but, in regard to the imposition of rates of duty of this description, those rates - like all others - will stand on their own merits.
– The Tariff Board states that, to regain our valuable export trade, we must permit our jam manufacturers to have sugar at world’s parity.
– And, therefore, the Government recommend a duty of Id. per lb. Otherwise, we would recommend the imposition of 1-Jd. per lb.
– During the whole period of the control of sugar the Government have stood devotedly by the policy of the encouragement of our export activities, and the result was that during the war Australia secured overseas markets which otherwise she never could have gained, and better than she is likely to have in the future.
– And I ask, “Will the Government continue to observe that policy ?”
– That has been the policy in the past; it will, no doubt, be so for the future.
– That is all I ask.
– I am not going to commit the Government to the definite statement that the policy of the past shall be continued. I limit myself to saying that it is a desirable one. But, although that policy was observed during the war period, it did not enable Australia, to capture permanently any of the Old World markets. It was only in that period, when Australia had the cheapest and the best sugar in the world, that our great secondary industries concerned found their markets overseas. I do not think that we shall ever again reach the heights gained by our oversea exports at that time. In 1913 our total exports of jams and jellies, when the price of sugar was normal, was 1,800,000 Iba. But in 1919, when Australia had the cheapest sugar in the world, we exported 79,000,000 lbs. of jams and jellies. We are not likely to beat that record, because of the cheap mass production of the qld countries under conditions of low wages and standards of living, which, I trust, will never be known in Australia. I am unable to say at this stage what will be the deliberate policy of the Government. It will be declared at the right time.
– But are not these proposals in substitution for the agreements when they expire ?
– These Tariff duties will operate from 9 o’clock to-morrow morning.
– There will be no importations, nor can there be, until after 30th June, 1923. These proposed duties are to enable the man on the land in Queensland to go ahead with his caneplanting.
– -I have already explained that the present period is one of uncertainty ; it is -a juncture at which certain agricultural operations ought to be undertaken. In view of the fact that’ the agreement expires on 30th June, 1923, unless an assurance is given either of the renewal of the agreement or of increased duties, the cane-growing areas may be no longer held under production, and additional areas may not be prepared.
The reason why this matter was not dealt with when the general Tariff was being reviewed was that the agreement had then a considerable’ time to run, The Tariff Bill was assented to in December, 1921 ; and, had it not been for the agreement, the Government would have taken the responsibility at the time of dealing with the duty on sugar on its merits. However, Ministers would be recreant to their duty had they exposed the industry to doubt and uncertainty for months ahead.
.- The question before the Committee is of very considerable importance. It concerns not only the people of Queensland, but the citizens of the whole Commonwealth. It is regrettable that the subject should have been hurriedly introduced, practically at the death of this Parliament. We shall not be able to give it the consideration it deserves; and, for that reason, I cannot hope that the best will be done in the interests of all concerned. This Parliament years ago realized the necessity for imposing conditions which would permit of the employment of white labour in our tropical areas. During the Parliament of 1910-13 an agreement was drawn up which imposed the conditions deemed to be necessary to insure to growers and those employed in the industry reasonable and fair opportunities. Those conditions were subsequently varied; and the price of sugar was increased. Still more recently Parliament came to the conclusion that, in view of the fact that the money lost by Government importations of sugar had been recouped to the Treasury by the enhanced price charged over a certain period, the time had arrived 0when that price should be reduced. The Government undertook that a reduction should be made as from the first day of next month.
– That promise will be honoured.
– We were, however, dissatisfied, believing that sugar could be sold at a lower price than that asked by the Government. We therefore asked the Public Accounts Committee to investigate the operation of the sugar industry under the agreement. It is to be regretted that, during an important debate like this, we are not in possession of the finding of the Committee.
– That inquiry has nothing to do with, the question of duty.
– What was the Committee asked to investigate?
– The Committee had to investigate the operations of the control period.
– When the matter was referred to this Committee, I said . we would not have its report before Parliament rose, and what I then said appears to have proved true. There is as yet no sign of any report, and Parliament is expected to rise on Friday.
– The Committee has reported on the price.
– But not on every phase of the question - we have not a general report on the ramifications of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and others connected with the sugar industry. Although the agreement has not expired, but runs until June next, we are suddenly asked by the Government to impose a duty of £14 per ton. While I desire to assist those engaged in the industry, I venture to offer the opinion^ for what it is worth, that the imposition of a duty of £14 is very unsatisfactory. We have appointed a Tariff Board, composed of men who are eminently qualified for the position, and the members of that Board, having made a thorough investigation, do not recommend a duty of1½d. per lb. The Board, in its report, says -
In view of the foregoing facts, the Board finds it is unable to support the application for an increase in the duty on sugar from £6 to £14 per ton. It does, however, consider some increase is necessary to enable the industry to successfully compete against the black-grown sugar of other countries. In arriving at the amount of duty necessary to protect the industry, the following facts have been taken into consideration : -
The facts are then given as read by the Minister, and the report goes on -
After mature consideration the Board considers the duty should be increased, but not beyond1d. per lb., or £9 6s. 8d. per ton. This will be a protection of 80 per cent, on the prices of imported sugar before the war, and should be ample to enable the industry to he successfully carried on, provided efficient methods are adopted. In support of the proposed duty, the Board notes that the price of over.seas sugar, which is higher than it was twelve months ago. is now quoted in Java at £17 3s. per ton. With the addition of the duty recommended, and the freight and other charges, this should leave ample room for profit/ even should a further decrease take place in the price of overseas1* sugar. The Board is influenced in recommending1d. per lb. by the knowledge that the Navigation Act will add to the expense of placing the local product on the market; also that during the war our industrial conditions have improved, and it is not considered they will, nor should, return altogether to pre-war conditions; also for some time the cost of machinery and other equipment will be above pre-war rates, though this condition will to some extent apply in other countries.
I quote this to show that this Board of experts thinks that Id. is sufficient. The Minister (Mr. Rodgers) endeavours to justify, on inquiries made abroad, a duty of l^d. As we have a Tariff Board, its recommendations ought to have considerable weight in this House; although I am against the Board in this matter, inasmuch as I do not think there ought to be a duty at all. In my opinion, the sugar industry should be controlled by an agreement, because if the proposal of the Government is given effect to without one, it will create a greater monopoly for the Sugar Refining Company than it has had during the last few years.
– That is the hidden hand!
– That is the danger I see. We have claimed time after time fair conditions for the producers, and a reasonable price to the consumer. Our desire is to keep the middleman out as much as possible; and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company stands in the relation of a middleman in this transaction. The year before last that company made a profit of £280,000, speaking from memory, which last year was increased to £430,000 or £440,000.
Mr.Corser. - Chiefly made in Fiji.
– I have heard that said so often, that, during a debate recently, I asked the Minister (Mr. Rodgers) to say where the company made its profits^ and I was. informed that the information was not available, because those profits are not dissected; the whole of the activities of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are shown in one balancesheet. If the company makes its profits in Fiji, why does its balancesheet not disclose the fact? Why should everything be lumped together? Is it because, under this agreement, the company is able to get from the consumer something more than it is entitled to? That. is what the Committee was asked to inquire into: and yet we are called upon to deal with this matter in the absence of any report from the Committee. It is just as well to face the position. If we place a duty on sugar, will it protect the man who grows the sugar? I ask those who are in favour of aduty whether they will guarantee, if a duty : s imposed, that, the man who, in the tropical regions of Australia, engaged in growing cane, and also thp men employed by him, will be protected?
– Does not the snme thing apply to every item in the Tariff?
– No: the matter before us is on quite a different plane. I shall not vote for any proposal which will put it in the power of a certain powerful company to regulate the price of sugar to the people of this country, and. at the snme time, to pay to the producer of the cane, find the men employed by him, any wages that it may think fit.
– What are the industrial laws of the land for?
– This is a problem which goes beyond “the industr’al laws of the land “ in the general acceptance of that phrase. Generally speaking, the industrial laws deal with the employer and the employee direct; in this case, it is sought to put into the hands of the company, which stands between the producer of the cane and his employees, on the one hand, and the consumer on the other, a dangerous power. The employee of a cane-grower cannot take action against the company, for the company does not employ him; and the man who grows the cane has to take the price that the company is prepared to give him. That is the crux of the whole position ; according to what the cane-grower gets from the company, so will the canegrower pay those whom he employs.
– You know that there is State legislation in Queensland governing this?
– I have been too long connected with political and industrial matters not to clearly appreciate the position, and my desire is to provide against eventualities. I am here to do what I think is best in the interests of the man who grows the cane and every man employed by him. I am here to see that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company gets a fair return on their capital for the work they perform. I am here to see that, as far as possible, the distributors, whether wholesale or retail, get a fair return. And I am here to see that, after all that has been provided for, the Australian consumer is ‘supplied at a reasonable price. But this cannot ‘be brought about if the agreement is broken. 1 do not say that I would accept the agreement as it is to-day, for it should be modified in order to make sugar as cheap as possible, after complying with all the conditions I have just indicated. Why did we enter into the agreement if not, to prevent the company from sucking the life-blood of the people who grow the cane? There is more than the black-labour question in all this.If the duty be imposed, what control will there be over the company? There is no agreement between the Commonwealth and the man who grows the sugar.
– Under the agree- ment. the company ran the whole “ show “ !
– Under the agreement there was power to stipulate that a certa’n amount had to be paid to the grower, but under the arrangement proposed there is nothing stipulated so far as the grower is concerned: he is left entirely at the mercy of the company. I suppose most honorable members have had many wires from Queensland : at any rate. I have had quite a number, and the effect of the bulk of them is that an agreement is desired which will protect the producers, in preference to a duty, which wiil_ put them in the hands of the Sugar Company. The last communication I received, just as
I heard this subject was coming up tonight, was a request that, whatever I did I should stand up for an agreement as against the imposition of a duty. A duty means that the monopoly is going to have entire control ; and that will be a bad thing for those engaged in the production of sugar.
– Do you think it right that this Parliament should tie the hands of the next Parliament ?
– I think that in view of all the circumstances, inquiries should have been made from the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee as to when its report would be presented. If that report could be presented to-morrow we would then be in a better position to deal with the matter.
– The Committee had not to inquire into the incidence of the Tariff.
– The Committee had to inquire into everything connected with the sugar industry.
– Only the period covered bv the Commonwealth control.
– Every detail in connexion with the industry had to be considered. I have been a member of that Committee, and I know.
– We ought to have the Committee’s report.
– I have no objection to the report being before us.
– I do not wish to be misunderstood. In my view there should be an agreement to protect those engaged in growing sugar, so that they may be assured of a reasonable return. They ought to be able to work under the conditions, for they are subject to many disabilities, such as tropical rains, windstorms, droughts, and so forth. And the same applies to the employees, who, after all, do not get permanent work; indeed, some of them work only about three months in the year, and, in all the circumstances, ought to be paid something above the ruling rates of wages. Yet we are to put them in the position of taking whatever price is given to them by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and the consumers who want sugar at as reasonable a price as possible will have no protection. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company will be able to swell their . profits by increasing the price to the public and by decreasing the amount paid to the men who grow the cane. I do not see what is to prevent the
Government from waiting until the report of the Committee on Public Accounts is presented. If that report shows that too much profit has been made by the refining companies, or that too much has been allowed to wholesalers or retailers for the distribution of sugar, these costs could be cut down to reasonable amounts when the agreement came to ‘ be renewed. One thing is certain - that two years ago the dividend paid by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company was about 1 per cent., whereas last year the same company paid a dividend of about 17 per cent., taking into account rebate on shares. In view of all these facts, how can we be expected to support a duty which will place the whole sugar industry in the hands of a monopoly which has been so often denounced in this Parliament? I cannot understand why the Sugar Producers Association of Queensland are pushing this matter for all they are worth. Possibly their strong representation in another place has enabled them to influence the Government. At any rate, in order to test the opinion of the Committee on the matter, I move -
That all the words after “ That “ lie left out. with a view to inserting in lieu thereof the words “an agreement be made with regard to sugar control, and that the same provide for fair and reasonable conditions for the producers and workers in the industry, and at the same time protect the consumers from exploitation hy the Colonial Sugar Refining Company Limited.”
.- Unexpectedly this Committee is again called upon to deal with the sugar position. I do not complain of the action of the Government in bringing forward, even at this late day in an expiring Parliament, some definite proposals upon which the expectations of the sugar cane-growers of Queensland, after the expiry of the existing sugar agreement, may be based. The speech delivered by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) consisted mainly of the conclusions formed by the Tariff Board, upon which they have based their recommendation for the imposition of a duty of Id. per lb. upon cane sugar and l£d. per lb. upon beet sugar. But the Ministry’s proposals exceed the Tariff Board’s recommendation. Earlier in this session I expressed the opinion that those who believed in the White Aus- tralia policy, as I think we all do, should be prepared to pay Id. per lb. upon sugar for the maintenance of that policy. I also expressed the opinion that, with a re-adjustment of the distribution costs and slightly lower prices to the cane.grower and miller, a duty of Id. per lb. on mill white sugar*, would stabilize the industry. ‘ I remarked that if that duty were imposed, and if the circumstances which I have mentioned were brought, about, mill white sugar could be put into the hands of the wholesaler at about 3d. per lb., and refined sugar, as distinguished from mill white sugar, at about 3$d. per lb., making the retail prices of sugar in the hands of the consumers 3£d. and 4d. per lb. respectively. I also made some allusion to the necessity for giving sugar to the manufacturers of export commodities at the world’s parity. I said that 1 thought it would be also advisable for the sugargrowers themselves, by some co-operative effort, to give a little cheaper sugar to the fruit-grower for the distribution of his produce than to the ordinary buyer. I am not yet clear, in view of the existing agreement, which is to expire on the 30th June next, whether the Government regard an increase in the duties as merely a tentative or as a permanent proposal, to take th«i place of the Sugar Agreement when that expires.
– That is the spirit in which the Tariff Board recommended the duties.
– That is the spirit in which the Board recommends a solution of the present difficulty; but the Minister was not clear on the point, and did not give a definite answer.
– I asked the Committee to consider the duties on their merits, apart from everything else.
– The Tariff Board recommend a duty in preference to an extension of the agreement.
– The whole of the Minister’s argument was based upon the recommendation contained in the report of the Tariff Board.
– It really .amounts to this : that the agreement is to be thrown overboard. “
– I want to be clear as to what is really meant, because I do not intend to record a, vote on the matter unless I am clear , upon the point. All phases of the sugar industry have been considered by the Tariff Board, and the members of the Board arrived at unanimous conclusions. They say that, generally speaking, the sugar industry does not seem to be on a proper economic basis, and that, in their opinion, a protective duty is preferable to an extension of the” present agreement. But since the Minister has based his argument upon the report of the Board, it is only fair to ask him what is really intended by the motion he has submitted to the Committee tonight. I have the impression, which I hope will be confirmed by him, and which has been strengthened by an interjection made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in the course of the Minister’s speech, that the proposals put forward to-night are intended first of all to give greater stability to the sugar industry, and to let the sugar producers have some idea that, at all events, the Commonwealth Government intend to give them a fair amount of protection when the present agreement runs out. I have formed the opinion that the Government’s proposals are intended as a substitution for that agreement on the 1st July next. Otherwise, in view of the fact that a prohibition exists against the importation of sugar by any one except the Government, they will be inoperative.
– The honorable member would not plant cane. with so much uncertainty as to the position?
– I agree that if the proposals are worth anything they must now be taken in substitution for the agreement from the 1st July next.
– There can be no other meaning.
– So far as I am concerned, I must ask the Minister to make a definite statement upon the mailer, if this Committee is to fairly consider the proposals on their merits.
– It will depend upon the public of Australia. We are going to ask the people to continue the agreement.
– Quite so; and I take ap the challenge thrown down by my friend. If the electors of Australia do me the honour of again returning me to this Parliament, I shall not by any act, word, deed, or vote help the perpetuation of Government control in any form of trade, commerce, or industry.
– A vote in favour of the present proposals will not in any way commit the honorable member to a continuation of Government control.
– Challenges of this -sort should come, as they have come, from the other side of the chamber, and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has fairly thrown . down the gauntlet in asking whether this Parliament will vote for a continuation of the agreement. That is the purport of his amendment; with padding about the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
Passing from the question of control or no control, duty or no duty,I. am not entirely in agreement with the Government with regard to the manner in. which their proposals have been submitted. The Tariff Board, upon whose report they have based their action, recommends a duty of1d. per lb. on cane sugar, and1½. per lb. on beet sugar. I shall not touch upon the relative merits of those rates just now ; but the effect of the proposals submitted by the Minister is to place upon cane sugar a duty of £11 6s.8d. per ton instead of £9 6s.8d. per ton, the latter sum being equivalent to1d. per lb.
– That is not a fair way of putting it. I thought I had pointed out very clearly that, £9 6s. 8d. was the duty on raw sugar.
– If the Minister will allow me, I shall come step by step to the pointI wish to make. I repeat that the Tariff Board recommended a duty of1d. per lb. on cane sugar, but that in effect the Government’s proposals amount to a duty of £11 6s. 8d. - instead of £9 6s. 8d., or1d. per lb. - on cane sugar. That is £2 per ton more than the Board recommended.
– I dispute that statement.
– That is the position, for these reasons: Ever since there has been a Commonwealth Tariff, sugar of all sorts could be. imported at a uniform duty. We have not imported, do not import, and are not likely to import sugar as refined by the companies in the Commonwealth.
– - Therefore, the honorable member’s argument reduces the duty to £9 6s. 8d.
– No; because the Minister has stated that in the category of refined sugar he will include mill whites.
– Yes ; because it is sugar in an advanced stage of manufacture.
– According to the wording of the proposals placed before the Committee, raw sugar is to be dutiable at £9 6s. 8d. per ton, and white sugar at £11 6s. 8d. I listened closely to the remarks of the Minister, and he specifically stated that mill-white sugar would be regarded as white sugar under the Tariff.
– That is perfectly right.
– Therefore the only sugar that can be imported at the lower duty of £9 6s. 8d. will be common raw sugar, full of molasses, and useless to manufacturers until it has gone to the refineries and been, treated.
– The bulk of the importations is of that quality.
– I remind the Minister that there are certain qualities of mill-white sugar imported from, abroad that can be used for manufacturing purposes equally as well as the refined sugar turned out by the sugar companies here. The proposal before us means that sugar that is usable either for manufacture or domestic consumption cannot be imported at a lower duty than £11 6s.8d. per ton, although the Tariff Board recommended a duty of £9 6s. 8d. per ton. I do not object to refined sugar being subject to a little higher duty than raw sugar, but I do object to sugar that has never been through a refinery, but which can be used for manufacturing purposes, bearing the same duty as refined sugar. I shall move an amendment that mill whites be admitted at a duty of1d. per lb “ .
Mr.Corser. - There is not much difference between the two.
– There is a difference of £2 per ton, and it will have a great effect on the Queensland sugar industry if sugar for jam-making purposes is obtainable at a little lower price than refined sugar, upon which a duty of £11 6s. 8d. is to be imposed.
– Does the honorable member think that when the Tariff Board recommended a duty of £9 6s. 8d. it meant to cover only raw sugar? The Board did not say so.
– The Board has followed what has been the practice for over twenty years; by applying . a flat rate to all sugar.
– Did the Board do it with their eyes open ?
– I have already stated that the great bulk of sugar that was imported iuto Australia for direct use in pre-war days was mill whites.
– I do not agree with the honorable member.
– The Minister cannot show me any statistics to the contrary, because Customs figures and other statistical information show only one item of sugar, and my experience is that large quantities of mill-white sugar were imported by manufacturers for the production of commodities for export, in respect of which a draw-back in full was allowed by the Government.
– That is so.
– The Minister will find that I do not intend to oppose the reasonable proposals of the Tariff Board; but I desire the position to be clearly defined. If these increased duties are to be substituted for the present sugar agreement, and will take effect from the 1st July next, I think I am right in assuming a return to pre-war conditions, so far as the Customs control of importations of sugar is concerned, and consequently the manufacturer will be able to import sugar, and export his products at the world’s parity; in other words, he will get a full draw-back of the duty paid. If the Government should propose any other form of control, complications might arise.
– It has been the practice in the past to allow manufacture in bond.
– That was the custom before the war; but the Minister realizes as clearly as does anybody else that at present there is a prohibition of the import of sugar by any private firm orfactory, that the Government alone control the position, and that up to now the full rebate on manufactures has not been given to bring the sugar used in exportable commodities down to world’s parity. To-day sugar can be imported in bond c.i.f. and e. at about £20 per ton, and the Government are charging manufacturers of jams,canned fruits, milk, and other commodities, for the sugar used in those commodities for export, £24 per ton.
– But they get the benefit of the British rebate also.
-Yes, but only when they export to Britain; and that rebate does not amount to very much, being only the difference between the ordinary duty in Britain and the preferential duty allowed to the Dominions.
– And that gives our manufacturers world’s parity.
– I join issue with the Minister on the contention that the* difference between the cost of raw sugar and mill-whites is practically £2 per ton. I admit that if you compare the crudest raw sugar with the best mill-white sugar, that contention may be sound; but. generally, the difference would not be much more than half of that.
– I do not wish to be rude: but I think the honorable member is talking all the time with his mind on the jam-pot. I admit that he understands the subject.
– I have not been interested directly or indirectly in the fruit canning or jam business for. the last five years.
– I am not suggesting that the honorable member is actuated by personal reasons.
– These personal allusions may be all very well, but I do not allude to the fact of a farmer being in charge of the Trade and Customs Department.
– I merely wished to correct the honorable member when he said that the bulk of imported sugar is millwhites. That is not so.
– I made no such assertion. I said that before the war the bulk of importations by manufacturers and for direct use was mill-whites. I know as well as the Minister does that hundreds of thousands of tons of raw sugar had to be imported during the continuance of the Agreement, and refined in Australia to supplement the stocks for local consumption.
I have drawn the attention of the Committee to. the position as I see it. I shall support a duty of1d, per lb. upon sugar for the sake of the White Australia policy ; but before I record’ my vote I wish to be quite clear as to what is intended by the Government with regard to the liberation of the sugar industry from Government control.
In regard to the- amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), I have only to say that it represents the difference between his principles and mine. He believes in Socialization and Government control of industry; he would have us believe that all things that are good come out of that policy. I do not agree with him. The less we interfere with tra’de, commerce, and industry the better we shall get on. The more we teach self-reliance and self-help, and the less we encourage people to lean upon the Government, the better it will be for the community. The remarks which have been made about the Colonial Sugar Refining Company are not quite fair. All the alleged profits to which reference has been made were made during the life of an agreement which was administered by the Government, and the fault, if fault there be, lies with the policy of Government control. My observation when going through the sugar districts of Queensland waa that the sugar-growers preferred, first, to have their cane crushed in the co-operative mills, and secondly, to have it crushed in the mills owned by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company ; but on no account, if they could avoid it, would they have their cane crushed at the Queensland State Mills, because from them they would get a lower return than from the others. On principle, I shall vote against the amendment. I am entirely in sympathy with the proposal of the Government to stabilize the industry. It is fair to ask Parliament what it intends to do in connexion with the planting that will have to start within a fe, short mouths.
– Yes, if Parliament were given time to think.
– In the circumstances I do not complain of the short notice at which we are called upon to deal with this matter, because, having regard to the parliamentary position this week, the end justifies the means. [ differ from the Minister upon one or two points, but in regard to the stabilization of the sugar industry, I agree that Parliament should tell the growers the minimum amount they will receive, so that they will not be planting their cane with,’ perhaps, a risk of falling between two stools. I hope that the Government have no intention of continuing Governmental control of the sugar industry. A duty of £9 6s. 8d. per ton on white sugar is fair and equitable in the circumstances; it will make it worth while for the growers in Queensland to plant cane by insuring to them a fair return for their enterprise and labour.
Mr. BLAKELEY (Darling) “10.30].The extraordinary haste and anxiety displayed by the Government to “ put over” this very questionable deal ‘ makes me wonder what is behind their remarkable action. Some extraordinary things have been done by this extraordinary” Government, but this is one of the most significant proposals ever put before the Parliament. A general election is pending. Party funds must be increased; and we know perfectly well that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is a constant contributor to the funds of the AntiLabour party.
– Order !
– They are contributors.
– We know that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company a few years ago contributed £50,000 to the funds of the Nationalist party.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member not to deal with the question of party funds but to discuss the matter before the Chair.
– I have not risen once in Committee this session, Mr. Chairman, without having to submit to constant interruptions on your part.
– Order ! Will the honorable member resume his seat?
– The Prime Minister may say that we are in the pay “A the Germans, without rebuke.
– Order ! The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) is out of order.
– I think it is only fair-
– I ask the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), and the honorable member who is now interjecting (Mr. Fenton) to obey the ruling of the Chair.
– I shall do so when it is reasonable.
– Order ! The honorable member for Darling was attribut ing improper motives to the Governmen t.
– And quite right, too!
– If the honorable member for Maribyrnong persists in his interjections I shall name him for disorderly conduct. I ask the honorable member for Darling to discuss the question before the Chair, which has nothing to do with party funds.
– This Bill seeks to protect and enrich the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, but it is not in the interests of the producers, the workers, or the consumers of Australia, that that company should be protected. When we see a monopoly such as the Colonial Sugar Refining Company being protected by this Government we naturally seek for reasons and motives, and the only reason I can give for the action now being taken by the Government is that which was brought out. a few years ago by a Royal Commission. .As reasonable men we must face the facts. This Government referred the whole question of its extraordinary handling of the sugar business to the Public Accounts Committee for investigation and report. It took that action only when it was forced to do so by the * House. And now, when the report of that Committee is almost ready for presentation the Government are submitting this proposal for an increased duty, so that we may not have before us, in dealing with it, the information gathered, and the recommendations made by, the Public Accounts Committee. The very fact that the Government is rushing this proposal through the Committee before the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee are available to us, is sufficient to justify every honorable member in voting against the motion. The anxiety which has been shown to-night by the Government convinces me that still another “ boodling “ joke is being “ put over “ the people of Australia. I for one will do all I- can to prevent anything of the kind.
The profits of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company require no more bolstering up on the part of this or any other Government. For the financial ‘ear ending March, 1920. the profits ot trie company amounted to £289,565, or a return of 8.90 per cent.;- its profits for the year ending March, 1921 , during which it was under the benevolent care of this Government, increased to £326,939, or a return of 11 per cent. During the year ending March, 1922, the company’s profits increased by leaps and bounds. It was probably thought that the Government might be defeated, and the company decided to make a “ welter “ of it. The result was that for the twelve months ending March, 1922, it showed a profit of £452,191, or a return of 17.39 per cent, on the capital involved during that year.
– Under an agreement ratified by the Queensland Labour Government.
– And administered by the Nationalist Government of the Commonwealth.
– The Minister knows that the Queensland Labour Government, apart from the actual ratification of the agreement, had nothing to do with it. The whole responsibility for its administration rested and still rests with this Government. Did the Commonwealth Government keep any books or accounts in connexion with its handling of the sugar business? No. The accounts were kept by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and it was not until the Labour party exposed the whole thing that the fact that no books had been kept by the Commonwealth Government was made public. Why should this Government keep books relating to its handling of the sugar business? Why should it interfere with its special pet, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company? The result of the Government’s failure to keep proper accounts is that it is now impossible to obtain satisfactory information with respect to these matters. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is a very strong organization, and, like all other monopolies, has a vast and evil influence. There is absolutely no difference between the Newcastle Steel Company, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, the Sydney Ferries Limited, or the Australian Gaslight Company. These and similar corporations are bolstered up and fattened by a Government whom they pay to fatten and feed them,.
The Public Accounts Committee, whose report we await with anxiety, .when taking evidence with regard to the sugar industry, found that the influence of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company was so strong as to intimidate witnesses brought before it.
– Is that so?
– It is. Thatfact was published at the time in the newspapers. During the sittings of the Committee at Bundaberg a representative of the growers specially asked for a private meeting, in order that he should not be watched while giving his evidence by agents of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company anxious to find out what he had to say. The Government propose to imposea duty of £14 per ton. Strange to say, the manager of the Millaquin Company, when giving evidence before the Public Accounts Committee at Bundaberg, urged that a duty of £14 should be imposed. He said that those engaged in the industry did not want any agreement; they did not want to be pestered with Government regulations. They wanted neither Federal nor State Government control. They desired to be free to develop their business on their own. lines, and they could do so only if the Government imposed a duty of £14 per tori. When this gentleman was asked why he asked for such a duty he was unable to furnish any reason. Repeated and persistent attempts on the part of members of the Committee to elicit his reasons failed, and finally members of the Committee described him as a most unsatisfactory : and evasive witness. The Committee throughout its investigations found that the bona fide producers alone could furnish it with any satisfactory evidence. Every representative of the Australian Sugar Producers’ Association - which is really the Colonial Sugar Refining Company in disguise - who came before the Committee displayed a reticence that should not have been exhibited in connexion with such an inquiry.
A considerable sum has been spent on propaganda work. The prize is great. Great will be the profits if this boodling scheme is carried through. I have here a sample of the propaganda which is being conducted on behalf of the industry. It is in the form of a pamphlet, splendidly printed on the best of paperand beauti fully got up. On the front page the following lines appear: - “ The Australian Cane Sugar Industry.” (Australian Sugar Producers’ Association Ltd., Edward St., Brisbane.)
Queensland Sugar Producers Have Been Maligned. (Issued by the. Australian Sugar Producers’ Association Ltd.)
Case for the Australian Sugar Industry.
It must have cost a mint of money to produce this pamphlet, and we claim that the Australian Sugar Producers’ Association is really the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– Then you claim wrongly.
– Yes. ‘That is not so.
Mr.Fenton. - It is so.
– My statement is borne out by the report of the Roval Commission on the Sugar Industry, which was presented to this House and ordered to be printed on 18th March, 1920. In that report the following statement appears : -
The Australian Sugar Producers’ Association includes practically nil the Queensland raw sugar mills - millers, not producers - except those directed and taken over by the Government. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company occupies a somewhat anomalous position with regard to the Association. The company contributes to the funds of the Association.
That was what the Royal Commission on the Sugar Industry reported with regard to the relations of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company with the Australian Sugar Producers’ Association, which is not an association of producers, but merely an association of middlemen.
I come now to another extraordinary matter relating to the sugar business. Many honorable members know what millwhite sugar is, but others do not. A millwhite is a sugar that has not undergone the complete refining process. It is a. good sugar, used mostly for manufacturing purposes, but can be used also for domestic purposes without hurt to the consumer. Mill white is considerably, cheaper than the refined article because it does not go through the last refining processes. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company, being principally a refining company, has been able, owing to its power and influence with the Government, to prevent mill white from being sold outside of Queensland. No mill white is sold in Australia without the consent of the Government, and, incidentally, of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
– -Of course, that is not so.
– If the Minister would- await the report of the Public Accounts Committee, some evidence might be forthcoming upon which Parliament could base its decision. The fact remains that only in Queensland is mill white allowed to be sold, and that it is prevented from being sold elsewhere by the authority of the Government, and, probably, of the Minister himself. Recently, in England, an exposure was made of trafficking in titles. Knighthoods could be bought for £10,000, and baronetcies for £30,000 or £40,000. We have no knighthoods to sell in Australia; we sell concessions. Newcastle steel producers were given the benefit of a duty on their product, just as it is now proposed to give the Colonial Sugar Refining Company the benefit of a duty. The representatives of the Newcastle steel people promised the Labour party that they would not cut down wages; that they would not create unemployment, but, rather, that they would bring about more employment, and that hours of labour would not be lengthened. The Labour party assisted to give these people their protective duties; it could have prevented that assistance from being given. Immediately afterwards they went back on all they had promised. As a representative of the workers, I am not prepared to place the people of Australia in the hands of the Colonial ‘Sugar Refining Company after the manner in which the workers and the people were delivered into the hands of the Newcastle Steel Company. The Government would be well advised to wait for the’ report of the Accounts Committee, so that honorable members might have the benefit of the full and complete evidence procured by that body. In the absence of the report, the proposal amounts to a “boodling” scheme, principally in the interests of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. The workers will be placed completely at the mercy of that company; and so, too, will the consumers, while God help the producers ! Just as the producers had to call their organizations together to fight the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, so they will now be called upon to fight the Government. Unless they do so, and win, they will again be placed at the mercy of this great Trust.
– I agree with very few of the wild aud reckless statements of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley). With one of them, however, 1 am in agreement: That the Government would have been well advised if they had waited for the report of the Accounts Committee, which, I understand, is to be laid on the table to-morrow. Honorable members are at a disadvantage in having these proposals sprung upon them so suddenly; they have been given no opportunity to consider such an important subject. It is true that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) read the report of the Tariff Board: but the report of the Accounts Committee certainly should have been made available also, so that the mass of information secured and the text of the recommendations made might have assisted Parliament in its deliberations. Ever since the Commonwealth was established, I have endeavoured to show niv sympathy with the sugar industry. While I was Minister for Trade and Customs I studied it very closely. I satisfied myself that its- claims on the community ‘ were, great, and that it was vitally necessary that it should be stabilized and maintained. At the period of which I speak - before the war - there was general satisfaction, over the imposition of a flat rate of duty amounting to £6 a ton. 1 admit that times have changed, but Parliament is not released from its obligation to do everything possible to main.tain the sugar industry under conditions of prosperity. In these dying hours of the Parliament the planting season is advancing, and preparation must forthwith be made for the next five crops, and it is only reasonable that the growers and all concerned should look to the Federal Parliament for assurance regarding the position in which they will stand immediately upon the termination of the agreement.
T am apposed to any renewal of the agreement. The Government have now. by these proposals, resorted to the usual and generally acknowledged means of encouraging an industry, namely, the imposition of protective duties. Until 30th June next, the industry will be practically protected and controlled by the Government, because of the embargo against the importation of sugar. It is only right that Parliament should now make a decision concerning what shall be done when the agreement has run its course I cannot understand the reluctance of the Minister (Mr. Rodgers) to give an assurance that the Government intend that these duties shall constitute a substitution for a renewed agreement.
– It is, perhaps, because such an assurance is unnecessary. There can be no other interpretation of this procedure.
– Parliament is entitled to know definitely. I support the motion, because I am against the renewal of the agreement in any circumstances, and because I desire that those engaged in the industry shail have full measure of protection against the outside world. T would have appreciated the position more keenly, however, if the Government had announced that they were against the renewal of the agreement and had asked Parliament to consent to the duties in substitution for, and to operate after the expiration of, the agreement. That course would have been fair to the industry and to Parliament, and would have been altogetherbusiness-like.
– The Government will use al] the resources of numbers at their disposal to defeat the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition.
– There is nothing in that.
– I am opposed to the amendment and to the principle which it involves. I have been opposed, ever since the war ended, to Government control and interference with trade. Any move for the release of trade from the blight of Government influence and control will meet with my strong support. The Tariff Board was specially constituted to advise Parliament. The terms of its report are definite. It states that, after full consideration of the claims made on the part of the sugar-growers -
The Board considers the duty should be increased, but not beyond1d. per lb. or £9 6.° 8d. per ton. This will be a protection of 80 per cent, on the prices of imported sugar before the war. and should be ample to enable the industry to be successfully carried on, provided efficient methods are adopted.
The Board has recommended a flat rate of duty against the importation of all sugars. The existing rate is a flat rate of £6 a ton against all sugars. After mature consideration and full investigation, the Board has not attempted to differentiate between raw and refined sugar; but, in view of the experience of the past, it considers that all that is necessary for the effective protection of the industry is a fiat rate of £9 6s. 8d. a ton. If they had accepted the advice of the Board, the Government would have acted wisely. Therefore, I cannot see the reason for their departure from the recommendation of a flat rate of Id. per lb. Why have the Government gone further by saying that, upon white sugars, there shall be imposed a duty of nearly l£d. per lb., which is equivalent to £11 6s. 8d. a ton? I do not know what justification there is for the Government’s proposal to differentiate in the way they have done.
– There are two white sugars - white refined and mill-white - and in Australia we are developing the manufacture of mill-white under special arrangements.
– With the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Prat- ten) I raised a point that is of the deepest interest to some of the secondary industries. The Minister himself showed what we were able to do, particularly in regard to jams, jellies, preserved milks, and so forth, by the adoption of a policy which practically gives to manufacturers, for the purposes of export trade, a world’s parity. We must, according to the Tariff Board, permit our manufacturers to have sugar at the world’s parity, for otherwise that trade will be seriously damaged. In justifying the duty the Tariff Board’s report says -
It must, however, be remembered that all the requirements cannot be supplied by locally-grown sugar - . otherwise our manufacturing exporters will be severely penalized when attempting to compete overseas with goods containing sugar carrying an impost of £14 per ton. To keep our valuable export trade we must permit our manufacturers to have sugar at the world’s parity, otherwise our export trade will be seriously damaged. At present we allow exporters of certain goods containing sugar a rebate of £20 per ton, but this practice is strongly objected to by other countries, and rightly so, for it is viewed in the light of a bounty to enable our exporters to capture foreign trade.
It will therefore be necessary on the import duty being fixed to allow sugar for export purposes to be imported under bond for manufacturing purposes.
That is a principle which, obtained in the old Victorian days, and has obtained during the whole period of the operation of the Commonwealth Tariff. It is one we desire to see continued, and I was most disappointed that, the Minister, when he was asked, did not indicate decisively that it was the full intention of uhe Government to continue permitting manufacturers to have sugar at the world’s parity. I am not sure, but I understand the honorable gentleman to mean that the policy will be continued; and I think that the House is entitled to a definite assurance on the point. I intend to support the report of the Tariff Board. I do not think that the Government are justified in the departurethey have made, and I am distinctly against the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition.
.- We have had to-night a most remarkable spectacle. There is involved an industry which adds enormously to the wealth of the country, and the existence of which is vitally threatened. Right at the end of the session, within two or three days of the rising of the House, we have a proposition submitted with the object of permanently stabilizing this industry. There has been on the notice-paper for six or eight weeks a motion dealing with sugar, but it has not yet been touched in the ordinary course of business. Arrangements have been made to conclude the session without any mention of thatsugar proposition; and now we find the subject raised, simply because of outside pressure. We begin to wonder why there should be such haste at this particular time.
-It is necessary to stabilize the industry.
– It is not, in my opinion,, the best way to stabilize the industry to have a rushed debate at the end of the session. This matter is of the utmost importance to the whole of one State and a considerable part of another; in fact, it is important to the whole of Australia. The Minister’s proposal of a duty is not made as a permanent solution, or with the idea of a permanent stabilization of the industry. When he was asked whether the policy propounded was to he permanent, he said that he was hiding the permanent policy until some subsequent date.
Mr.Rodgers. - I said nothing of the kind!
– Several honorable members asked whether this was the permanent policy of the Government, and the Minister said he was not prepared to divulge that policy at the present time. This is a national industry, intimately associated with the ideal of a White Australia, hut it is now sought to deal with its affairs in a hurry without due notice. We are dealing with the proposal of the Government in the light of a report by the Tariff Board, and it is a report which must have been in existence for some time, though it has been produced for the first time tonight. That is an aboslutely unfair way in which to treat this great industry, especially when we remember that for the last six or seven months, ever since the visit of the Minister to Brisbane, there have been repeated requests from the whole of Queensland for a definite pronouncement as to the attitude of the Government. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) went to Queensland he led the people to believe that he was particularly in favour of a renewal of the agreement; hut when the Minister was asked a definite question on the point six months ago he side-stepped it, just as he is side-stepping to-night.
– The Minister said it was his own personal opinion,
– What we require is the opinion of the Government. What is the necessity for all this secrecy? It is said that it. is necessary to do something now.
– What is the policy of the honorable member ?
– I have defined my policy, and it has been known for four or five months; I do not hesitate to say quite plainly where I stand, and how far I am prepared to go. This proposal of the Government is submitted at a time when the public mind is inflamed against the industry owing to the fact that the Government insist upon keeping the price of sugar at 6d., when, under all the caroumetamoee, it should have been reduced months ago. The honorable: member for Parramatta (Mr. Pratten) gave some time ago an exhaustive and informative resume of the sugar position; and there is no question that if the accounts had been properly presented, it would have been found that sugar could have been sold retail at 5d. two months ago. If that price had been adopted, the consuming public, especially the fruit-growers in the southern States, would have been more satisfied, and this would have helped to create an atmosphere of cordiality towards the industry which does not now exist. In my opinion, the Government - if their intention is to help the industry - have blundered very badly indeed. This industry was worth a great deal to Australia during the war. In 1919-20, and part of 1921, the price of sugar in Australia was very much lower than the price abroad, and this surely rendered it incumbent on the Government to see that the fairest possible deal was given to the industry by the public. Now that the question has been raised, time should be taken to malco a permanent settlement. But what can we do in a practically disorganized House such as this.
The Order for the resumption of the debate (vide page 3610) being called,
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
House adjourned at 11.16 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 October 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1922/19221011_reps_8_101/>.