9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– The Prime Minister promised recently to make a statement to the House regarding the claims made in respect of skin wool included in the Wool Pool. Is the right honorable gentleman yet in a position to give the promised information ?
– An application haying been made to the court by the trustees of certain moneys for a direction as to how these moneys shall be distributed, the Attorney-General’s Department is now considering whether we can, with propriety, pending the decision of the court, make any statement upon the subject. As soon as possible I shall let the House know the views of the Government.
– I ask the Minister for Health whether the Government has consented to Dr. Cumpston, Chief Health Officer of the Commonwealth, accepting the invitation of the Rockefeller Institute to visit the United States of America. If so, will “ the Minister instruct Dr. Cumpston to make inquiries into the campaign which has been successfully carried on in the United States of America for a number’ of years to reduce the loss of work through accident and sickness, in order that we may consider the adoption of a similar system in Australia ?
– With the permission of the Government, Dr. Cumpston has accepted an invitation from the Rockefeller Institute to visit the United States of America. I shall bring the honorable member’s suggestion under his notice before he departs next week.
– Has the Prime Minister received from the Premier of New South Wales a request for an advance of £5,000 for the purpose of fighting venereal disease? If so, is the Government prepared to give the request favorable consideration ?
– No such request has yet been received.
Sale of Australian FRUIT Mr. FENTON (for Mr. Coleman) asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that serious charges have been made concerning the conditions governing the sale of fruit at the Australian pavilion at the Empire Exhibition at Wembley; that Mr. Brent, formerly employed by Mr. Burnside, officer in charge of the fruit exhibit, has declared that the prices for fruit sold over the counter and in case-lots are excessive considering the quality; and that the sale of inferior fruit is countenanced?
In view of the seriousness of these allegations, will he cause an inquiry to be made; and will he also state the terms under which Mr. Burnside is engaged to exhibit and sell Australian fruit at the Exhibition J
– I have no official information on the subject, but I have noticed a press reference recently to the effect that the Australian authorities in London have inquired into these complaints, but it was not considered that there were any grounds for the charges made. I have, however, despatched a cablegram to the High Commissioner, London, regarding the allegations, and as soon as a reply is received I will further advise the honorable member.
Mr. PENT ON (for Dr. MALONEY asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What was the date on which the Government made available funds for the purchase of wire netting for Australian farmers, what was the amount allotted to each state, on what terms, and at what rate of interest?
Has any wire netting been allotted toany farmers in Western Australia; if so, UB’ what value, and to how many farmers?
– The answers to the. honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The State of South Australia does not desire to participate. The regulations provide that applicants must undertake to pay for netting by cash or instalments over a period not exceeding twenty years. No interest is charged to settlers, but the State Governments are entitled to charge a fee not exceeding £1 per mile for netting supplied. This fee is to cover all expenses connected with distribution and administration
– On the 26th June the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
I have a copy of the advertisement, and shall make it available for the information of honorable members. Every selfrespecting Australian firm would resent this insinuation, and the refusal to do business is not surprising.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Dr.EARLE PAGE. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Mr.BRUCE. - The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Has he communicated with the Bank of England with a view to the currency of their notes in Australia without any chargefor commission; if not, will he give the matter consideration ?
– No. The Commonwealth Bank Act provides for the issue of an adequate amount of currency in Australia, and it is not, therefore, considered necessary to take the action suggested by the honorable member’s question.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 10th July (vide page 2040).
Section 30 ofthe principal act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - “30. - (1) The net profits of the bank in each half year shall be dealt with as follows : -
One-half shall be placedto the credit of a fund to be called the bank reserve fund; and
One-half shall be paid into the national debt sinking fund as soon as practicable after the preparation of each balance-sheet. (2) The bank reserve fund shall be available for the payment of any liabilities of the bank.”
.- This is a very important clause, and I ask the committee to consider it carefully. I take it that on any money advanced by the Commonwealth towards the capital of the bank interest will be paid to the Treasurer.
– The bank will be charged the effective rate of interest that the Government has to pay.
– That proves the correctness of the contention of honorable members on this side, that this bill will hamstring the Commonwealth Bank. So far, the bank has got along very well without capital. Taking all the circumstances into consideration, good progress has been made. The original act provided for a capital of £10,000.000, but advantage has not been taken of that provision. The bill originally provided for a capital of £10,000,000 only, £4,000,000 of which was to be taken from the bank’s reserves, and £6,000,000 was to be borrowed from the Treasury. Last night, however, without discussion, because of the application of the guillotine, the capital of the bank was increased from £10,000,000 to £20,000,000, with the result that the bank will be charged interest on £16,000,000 of borrowed money.
– Not unless it is borrowed.
– If it is not to be borrowed, why is this provision made? Why increase the amount by £10,000,000 if it is not expected that the additional money will be required? No one will dispute that the bill now provides for a capital of £20,000,000. Interest, at 5 per cent., on the £16,000,000 which may be borrowed, represents a charge of £800,000 per annum.
– How does the honorable member arrive- at that amount?
– Interest at 5 per cent, on £16,000,000 represents £800,000 per annum.
– But interest will be charged only on the amount raised.
– Of course. If it was not anticipated that the amount would be raised, why was it considered necessary last night to increase the bank’s capital ?
– The original act provided for a capital of £10,000,000. Where was that to come from?
– Why not leave it at £10,000,000. The amendment pro-0 viding for increased capital was carried last night with the assistance of the honorable member, but the committee was given no reason for the increase. No one denies my statement, but an attempt is being made to brush it aside by saying that the additional amount will not be required.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the bank should have the money advanced to it without interest ?
– If the honorable member will have patience, I shall make my case clear. I am pointing out that if the money is borrowed it will saddle the bank with an annual interest liability of £800,000. The bank has not made that amount of profit in any one year since its inception. Its profits have not averaged £500,000 per annum.
– The capital was smaller then.
– Is it not reasonable to assume that if that money is borrowed, the bank will make a profit of 2 per cent, on it ?
– The fact remains that the bank is not making that amount of profit at present. Yet the Treasurer desires the committee to pass this clause, which provides that of any profits made by the Commonwealth Bank one half shall be applied to the redemption of the national debt. Is that a fair position in which to place the bank?
– It is sufficient, to cripple the institution.
– Even supposing that what honorable members have suggested by interjection proves correct, namely, that the additional capital will not be required; and supposing also that the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt) is correct in his statement that the additional capital will mean additional profit to the bank, will honorable members still contend that the first duty of the bank is to pay one half of its profits, after paying interest to the Treasurer, to the redemption of the national debt? The bank should be permitted to apply its profits towards the repayment of the amount it has borrowed. That is a sound business principle.
– Does the honorable member say that the general practice adopted by banks is to repay amounts borrowed out of profits earned?
– A national bank, to occupy a strong financial position, should first discharge its liabilities in respect of borrowed moneys. Any balance of profit could then be devoted to the reduction of the national debt. Provision was made in the original act for the profits of the bank, or a portion of them, to be applied to the liquidation of the national debt. At that time, such a provision was desirable; but if the bank is to be loaded with an additional liability surely it is only fair that, after paying interest on the amount burrowed from the Treasury, any profits should go towards reducing the bank’s own liability. Any sensible business man would conduct his business in that way. After the money borrowed for the purposes of the bank was repaid, half of the profits could go towards reducing the national debt. But no one will contend that we are contributing towards the success of the bank by hampering it in this way. I should be sorry for the men who had to administer the bank in such circumstances. If we desire to develop the Commonwealth Bank on purely national lines, and to make it a successful institution, we must proceed on sound principles, and give it an opportunity to make good. This clause does not provide that opportunity. I am only asking that the committee should consider the position carefully. I, therefore, move the following amendment : -
That before the word “ One-half,” paragraph (6), line 6, the following words be inserted “ after the amount lent by the Commonwealth has been refunded.”
The proposed new section would then read - 30. (1) The net profits of the bank in each half-year shall be dealt with as follows: - (a) One-half shall be placed to the credit of a fund to be called the Bank Reserve Fund; and b) After the amount lent by the Commonwealth has been refunded, one-half shall be paid into the National Debt
Sinking Fund as soon as practicable after the preparation of each balance-sheet. (2) The Bank Reserve Fund shall be available for the payment of any liabilities of the bank.
That is a fair and reasonable amendment, which the Treasurer should accept. I bring it forward with no other purpose than to improve the bill. I desire that the Commonwealth Bank shall be the financial bulwark of Australia; but this clause places a great handicap on the bank - a handicap which I think should be removed. We have already decided in favour of the appointment of eight directors. Let us give them a fair chance to make a success of their undertaking. That cannot he done if provisions such as those contained in this clause are permitted to remain. It is idle for honorable members to say that this capital may not be required. If it is not required, so much the better ; but I am of the opinion that it will be necessary. If the bank applies to the Treasurer for £10,000,000, that sum will be advanced, and the bank will have to pay 5 per cent., or more, interest on it. If it subsequently makes £500,000 in profits, £250,000 should go to the reserve fund, and the remaining £250,000 should be applied to a reduction cf the debt to the Treasurer. If that course were adopted, the bank, in course of time, would clear off the debt. In its present form, the bill requires the bank to carry the “ poultice “ for all time. No doubt, the board of directors will be guided largely in their administration by the debate in this chamber. All I ask is that any money borrowed to provide the bank with capital shall be repaid before any payment into the national debt sinking fund is made. I hope that the Treasurer will accept my, amendment, and that honorable members generally will at least give it due consideration. If they do so, they must realize that it is necessary.
– Before I deal with the arguments advanced by the Leader of the Opposition in support of his amendment, I wish to indicate why the Government have had the bill amended in order to increase the capital of the bank from £10,000,000 to £20,000,000. The provision of £10,000,000 was obviously a clerical error, as could be seen by any one who had read my speech, in which I pointed out that the capital of the bank would ultimately be ?20,000,000, made up as follows:- ?4,000,000 by capitalizing the reserve fund of the bank, ?6,000,000 by borrowing from the Commonwealth, and ?10,000,000 by issuing debentures under an authority given by the original act, with which the present Government do not propose to interfere.
– I rise to a point of order. The amendment increasing the capital of the bank to ?20,000,000 was dealt with last night, and the Treasurer is not entitled to refer to it under cover of an amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) relating to the disposal of the profits of the bank.
-(Hon. F. W. Bamford). - The matter to which the Treasurer is referring is bound up with the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Government’s amendment was simply to remedy a matter which had been overlooked in the drafting of the Bill, and to carry out the intention of the Government as indicated in the speech in which I explained the provisions of the measure. The Leader of the Opposition has submitted his amendment because a certain confusion of thought exists in regard to the position of the Commonwealth Bank. In the ultimate analysis the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth Bank are practically one and the same. The original capital of the bank was the credit of the Commonwealth, upon which the bank was built up. On that basis it has made profits which, it is using as capital. The Government’s proposal is to- increase the beneficent work of the bank by increasing thatcapital. The ?6,000,000, which is to be raised by the Commonwealth and lent to the bank, will be practically in the same position as the preference capital raised by a private institution, and the bank will pay upon this preference capital, just as a private institution would, the effective rate of interest at which the money is borrowed. No one would suggest that as soon as profits are earned they should be employed to return preference capital to those who have provided it. This money will enable the Commonwealth Bank to extend its activities, and spread its influence. Tn the case of a private institution individual members of the public are asked to take up preference shares, but in the case of the Commonwealth Bank the same peoplewill be asked to subscribe to a loan raisedby the Commonwealth, and the money soraised will form capital for the Commonwealth Bank.
– According to the Opposition the Government are doing wrong when they seek to carry into effect what the Labour party has previously provided for.
– The Labour party made provision in the original act for the raising of additional capital by the issue of debentures by the bank. We propose to provide a definite preference capital for the bank, thus enabling it, with its reserve, and without resort to the issue of debentures to have a capital of ?10,000,000, which will be more than that of any other Australian bank. It will thus be put in a dominant position, and be given considerable prestige. The money borrowed by the Commonwealth and lent to the bank will ultimately be repaid by means of a sinking fund in the same way as other Commonwealth loans. The bank will get its preference capital on the best possible terms on which the Commonwealth can borrow the money, and the amount will ultimately be repaid through the sinking fund. The Leader of the Opposition is endeavouring to dissociate the Commonwealth and the bank, but they are part and parcel of the same big national entity, and cannot be dissociated. In the last analysis, the credit of the Commonwealth stands behind the bank, and,, in addition, the Government are suggesting a method by which the bank can be materially assisted. I cannot understand the suggestion to pay back the capital of the bank, seeing that it will be needed m. its operations. The bank will probably need more money. The honorable member has suggested that if the bank borrows ?16,000,000 it will have to pay ?800,000 in interest each year; but if it needs the money for the expansion of its business, that money will earn more than it will cost the bank in interest. If the bank cannot use the money it borrows to earn more than the rate of interest it is paying, it will have no right to borrow it.
– Is it not fair to require the bank to liquidate its debt to the Commonwealth before paying any of its profits to the reserve fund ?
– The money provided by the Commonwealth will be permanent capital for the Commonwealth Bank, and I have not heard of a firm malting any attempt to pay off its permanent capital. When the Commonwealth provides £6,000,000 fresh capital for the bank, the profit-earning capacity of, the bank will be increased. If the bank pays half of its total profits into a reserve fund, its reserves will increase more rapidly than they would if that amount of capital were not made availably. It cannot be said that the Commonwealth Government have not acted most generously towards the Commonwealth Bank. Under the original act, the redemption fund of the bank could he utilized to liquidate the national debt; but when we brought down our National Debt Sinking Fund Bill last year, instead of taking steps to utilize the whole of the redemption fund of the Commonwealth Bank, amounting to over .£2,000,000, we left that amount in the reserve fund of the bank, where it could he capitalized and made use of for the purposes of the bank. No one can suggest that the Government are doing anything to interfere with the activities of the bank.
– But the bank should be allowed to pay off its debt.
– If the bank continues to grow as it has grown in the past, it will need more capital. The day will come when it may want, not only this additional £6,000,000, but also the £10,000,000 of debenture capital it has the power to raise under the original act. It will all be required to enable it to stand behind the other financial institutions of Australia.
– Why should we take the profits of the hank and put them into another fund?
-We are not taking away the profits earned by the bank. We are doing exactly what the Labour party originally suggested should be done, namely, dividing the profits of the bank into two parts, one to be paid into a sinking fund and the other to be paid into a redemption fund. We are now proposing to lend the bank more money in order to enable it to earn more profits, half of which will be paid into a reserve fund and the other half to a sinking fund. There is really, therefore, no alteration in the position. The point raised by the Leader of the Opposition can only be due to a confusion of ideas and to an attempt to discriminate between the Commonwealth Bank, as the property of the people, and other undertakings which are the property of the nation as a whole. We are suggesting the proper business-like way in which the matter should be dealt with. Therefore the Government cannot consider for a moment the suggestion made by the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), in his opening remarks, said that there was a good deal of confusion of thought in connexion with this matter, but the way in which he dealt with the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) shows’ that it is the Treasurer himself who is confused. He has dealt with the money to be borrowed by the Commonwealth and lent to the Commonwealth Bank as if it were permanent capital, and he has said that outside institutions do not pay back their share capital. Of course they do not.
– The money lent to the Commonwealth Bank will be exactly in the same position as share capital.
– Where will the bank get the money ?
– From the public.
– Exactly ; it will be borrowed. When a man takes shares in a private company he takes the risk of the company paying dividends in the first few years; but in the case of the Commonwealth Bank the Government will borrow from the public - the associated banks, insurance companies, and other big vested interests who will provide the bulk of the money - and the bank will carry a permanent dead-weight of perhaps as high as 7 per cent, interest, which will have to be met every year whether (he bank makes a profit or not. It is confusing matters for the Treasurer to say that the position of the Commonwealth Bank in regard to this money will be the same as that of a limited liability company with subscribed capital. In the case of the Commonwealth Bank the money will be borrowed at a fixed rate of interest, whereas in the case of a limited liability company the money will be subscribed, as a commercial venture, by shareholders, who will take the risk of getting no dividends for many years to come.
– It was quite right for me to say that a private company is not expected to pay back its share capital.
– It is confusing to draw an analogy between the two concerns, or to claim that if the Commonwealth Bank is expected to pay back its borrowed money a limited liability company should also be expected to pay back its share’ capital. It is wrong to say that it is not good business for any concern to liquidate a debt borrowed at a high rate of interest, or that a national bank which borrows money at a high rate of interest should extort an undue rate of interest from its customers in order that it may earn 2 per cent, over and above the amount at which it has borrowed. To say that it is not good business for the bank to liquidate its own debt before applying its profits to the reduction of the national debt is to talk nonsense. Whoever makes such a statement does not know what good business is. The Treasurer says that it does not matter whether the bank liquidates its own debt or not, so long as it makes 1 per cent, or 2 per cent, profit on its borrowed money. But we should not place the bank in the position of having to demand an extortionate rate of interest from those who borrow from it, in order to ensure that it will be able to meet its own liabilities on its borrowed capital. Another aspect of the subject demands earnest attention. Under the provisions of the bill, the bank will be obliged to pay £SOO,000 in’ interest every year, no matter whether the country is passing through, times of depression or not. Although the institution may only make a profit of £200,000 in a particular year, it will still be compelled to pay £S00,000 in interest, for all honorable members know that interest bills are the first that have to be met. One can see in this proposal the application to the Commonwealth Bank, with a view to hamstringing it, of those underhand methods and financial juggling tricks which mark the dealing of financial institutions the world over. It is nothing but an invitation to the financial institutions to destroy the usefulness of our bank. It is significant that the proposal to increase the capital of the bank was not submitted to honorable members until a few moments before the Prime Minister applied the “ gag “ to close the second-reading debate, and introduced the time-table which was to apply to the committee stage.
D$. Earle Page. - That amendment was circulated on Wednesday night.
– It was not circulated on this side of the chamber. The associated banks and honorable members who support the Government may have seen it, but we did not. It was only made known to us at the time the “gag” wa3 applied.
– That is untrue.
– The discussion on this matter merits a larger attendance of honorable members. I call attention to the state of the committee. [Quorum formed.]
– The Treasurer has said that I have told an untruth.
– That is so.
– I do not see much difference between saying that a man has told a deliberate untruth, and saying that he is a liar. The Treasurer was very indignant yesterday when a remark of this nature was made in respect to him; but I shall not ask that his observation be withdrawn, for I have no doubt that he will say later that many of my statements are deliberate untruths. To my knowledge, his amendment was not circulated among honorable members on this side of the chamber, until the Prime Minister introduced the” “gag.” It may have been on the table, but, if it were, the attention of honorable members was not directed to it. It, and a number of other amendments, were submitted to the committee in one question by the Chairman, and, therefore, no consideration whatever was given to them. I do not blame the Chairman for submitting the matter as he did, for he acted in accordance with the Standing Orders ; but I say that honorable members have good reason to be suspicious of the motives which prompted the Treasurer to submit it as he did. This is .another way of saying to the committee, “ Here is a blank cheque. Please sign it. The Government wants this amendment to be made law, but the money which may be borrowed in accord with its provisions may not be needed.” I am not prepared to accept statements like that, nor am I willing to sign blank cheques, particularly for this Government. It is ridiculous to suggest that the money may not be needed. Why is authority being sought to raise it if the Treasurer thinks that it will be necessary? I, for one, feel that I must assume that effect will be given to the proposal to borrow the whole of the £16,000,000. The rate of interest to be paid for it may be 5 per cent, or may be 7 per cent. Let us assume for a moment, that the money will be obtained at 5 per cent., though I do not think that that is possible. The bank will then be obliged to charge 8, or even 9, per cent, to persons to whom it grants loans. I ask honorable members whether that is a fair position in which to place a national institution like the Commonwealth Bank? It may happen after this huge amount is borrowed, that the rate of interest will fall, even as low as 41 per cent., but the bank will not be able to repay the money it has borrowed. The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition will, if adopted, place it in a much better position than is possible if the clause as drafted is agreed to. If the hank borrows the money in accordance with the provisions of the bill, and pays, say, 5 per cent, interest on it for twenty years, it will have paid £16,000,000 in interest, but will still owe every penny of the principal. Does the Treasurer think that will be good business ? Of course, it will suit the if Lazzarini. ‘tig financial institutions, but it will effectively cripple the bank. According to the Treasurer all will be right so long as <he bank charges a sufficiently high rate of interest to its borrowers to enable it to make a profit. That practice is adopted by the associated banks and insurance companies, but it should not be countenanced in connexion with a national institution. I appeal to honorable members to support the amendment, for it offers the only opportunity they will have to protect the public interests in any degree. If we authorize the bank to repay, as early as possible, the money it borrows under this clause, we shall put it in a better position to assist later in liquidating the national debt. If, over a long period of years, it makes a small profit of 1 or 2 per cent, on its borrowed capital, it will not be able materially to reduce die national debt, but if_we leave it free to liquidate its liabilities in this regard as soon as it can do so, it will probably be able, in a few years, to take effective steps to even wipe out the national debt. The Treasurer apparently desires that the bank shall be a good milch cow for the financial institutions, and, therefore, he proposes that we shall tie it up. It has been said that the Labour Government made provision in the original Commonwealth Bank Bill for the bank to borrow £6,000,000. That is so, but the money was never borrowed. The proposal made by the Labour Government was absolutely different in principle from that now before us. The Labour party’s ideal was: “ The bank the nation, and the nation the bank.” The Treasurer says now that we wish to dissociate the bank from the nation. That is a ridiculous contention, as everybody who knows the Labour party’s ideals in relation to the bank must realize. It is the Government that wishes to dissociate the bank from the nation, by compelling it to enter into closer relations with the associated banks, and so bolster up the present system. Not even the worst class of private financial institutions would suggest that borrowed money should be used as permanent capital, yet that is what the Government is proposing. How can borrowed money be termed permanent capital? The thing is impossible. The very fact of borrowing money postulates that it has to be repaid, and security given for it. The only way in which this £6,000,000” or £16,000,000 of borrowed money can become permanent capital is by repayment out of the future profits of the Commonwealth Bank. Although the Treasurer says that the Commonwealth Bank cannot be dissociated from the people, yet he refuses to dissociate it from the big interests. It is obvious that the large financial institutions and interests will contribute to the loan. If the Treasurer said, “Let the people of the Commonwealth raise £6,000,000 by subscribing £1 each.” that would be a different proposition, and the permanent capital of the bank would then be contributed by the whole of the people. To provide £6,000,000 or £16,000,000 at, say, 5 per cent., and to term it permanent capital is the height of absurdity, and I cannot understand the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) making such a statement.
.- When listening to the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini), I felt the most awful sensations, worse than nightmare following an unwholesome meal. He talked of nothing but capital, capital, capital. His remarks are insulting to the acting governor, and to every other officer of the Commonwealth Bank. It is no wonder that almost every industry and business undertaken by the Government results in failure. We see evidences of this day in and day out. It is the foolish criticism and political “ guff “ used by the Opposition that prevents any business man from taking an interest in this country. How can the Commonwealth progress under such circumstances? The members of the Opposition have no real desire to perfect this bill. Their one objective is to take up, with irrelevant discussion, the whole of the time of the committee, to ensure that nothing shall be done. This is not the way in which legislation should be framed by this Parliament. They should realize their responsibilities, and not decry what is being done by the Government. It is dirty tactics, pure political strategy and intrigue, that is at the bottom of all this talk. The Opposition try to discourage the Government supporters in every possible way. The Government are blamed for everything. According to honorable members opposite, every director appointed to the board will be dishonorable, and, in fact, every individual in the Commonwealth is dishonorable. It is a shameful attitude. We should consider this measure in a business-like manner. The capital of £16,000,000 is to be subscribed to increase the business of the Commonwealth Bank. That amount will not be. subscribed by any private bank or individual unless it is thought good business to subscribe it. Money cannot be obtained at less than 5 per cent, interest, and the management of the bank will, therefore, be unable to make loans at less than 6£ or 7 per cent. The same rule will apply to the bank as applies to an individual who borrows money from a bank for, say, two years, at a certain rate of interest. The money must be invested judiciously and no bad debts incurred. The bank must have good security, equal at least to a margin of 40 per cent. When opportunity offered, and the directors desired to reduce the capital of the bank, the Commonwealth Government would be pleased and willing to take back portion of the borrowed money.
– Will the honorable member not agree that the profits of the bank should be used to repay the loan ?
– It is quite right that profits should be paid into a sinking fund. It is just as safe there as anywhere else.
– The Government must first borrow the money.
– Naturally, but the bank cannot get something for nothing. How can the Commonwealth Bank, with a capital of only £4,500,000, be expected to carry on the business of the Commonwealth ? Honorable members opposite say, “ We shall make the bank the people’s bank, and the only bank in Australia; we will buy out with £4,500,000 of capital the Bank of New South WaJ.es, with £10,000,000.” I have never listened to such utter rot. One honorable member said that the Commonwealth Bank should buy up all the associated banks of Australia.
– Who said that?
– The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). He also suggested that we should make the Commonwealth Bank, with its £4,500,000 of capital, a people’s bank. It is the worst piffle that I have ever heard.
– The honorable member for Yarra said nothing of the kind.
– He did say it. We are responsible to the people of Australia who sent us to this chamber. Honorable members come and go, and Governments come and go. The Opposition claim the right -to take the assets of the associated banks and run the Commonwealth Bank with the brains of Parliament. Not one of us knows much about banking. I know very little about it myself, and I should be very sorry if this Parliament, or any party - Labour, Country, or National - attempted to finance Australia. It is not within our province. It is our duty, as representatives of the people, to raise sufficient money by way of taxation to meet the requirements of the Commonwealth. Every individual should follow his own avocation. It is disastrous for any one to interfere with something about which he knows nothing. For any honorable member to contend that we have the whole of the brains of Australia in this House is absurd.
– Does the honorable member contend that the bankers are the only people who understand banking ?
– No; but every man according to the mental capacity and the physical force with which he has been endowed by nature, should follow the calling for which he is best suited. Australia will never be developed while it is hamstrung by political interference. We are preparing this country, not for Australians, but for other nations. It is time that we realized the position financially. We should use our best endeavours to make this bill perfect, to enable the Commonwealth Bank to deal effectively with the question of exchange, thus keeping men in employment, instead of closing up industries and driving men off the land. We should try to prevent this country from deteriorating to a state of stagnation and decay. The Opposition wish to establish an impossible state of things in which everything shall work like an automaton. Instead of dealing with this measure in an incapable manner, showing our ignorance, and becoming the laughing stock of the whole world, we should work on practical lines to assist every individual of the community.
– I shall not follow the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Whitsitt) in his accusation against the Labour party of dirty political intrigue and strategy. Probably he is the best judge of such things, and I shall leave him to his own thoughts on that subject. This is the first time that I have risen to speak on the bill. I wish to pla.ce on record my feeling of sorrow that the Government has seen fit to allot the time for the consideration of the measure at the committee stage. My sorrow is the greater when I notice on the other side of the chamber the listlessness of honorable members, and the general chattering that is taking place during the discussion, proving that members there have no further interest in the bill, having decided at all costs to support the Government. The Treasurer’s statement, supported by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory), that the Government has brought down similar proposals to those that were originally introduced by the Labour party, is incorrect. I shall compare the proposals that were brought before the country by the Labour party with those that the Treasurer now intends to insert in the bill, so that readers of Hansard may he able to form their own opinions. The section that was inserted by the Labour party, and which it is now proposed by the Government to strike out, reads - 30. (1.) The net profits derived by theBank shall be dealt with as follows: - (a.) one half shall be placed to the credit of a fund to be called the Bank. Reserve Fund, and (6) the other half shall be placed to the credit of a fund to be called the Redemption Fund. (2.) The Bank Reserve Fund shall be available for the payment of any liabilities of theBank. (3.) The Redemption Fund may be used in repayment of any money advanced to the Bank by the Treasurer, or in the redemption of the debentures or stock issued by the Bank, but if the Fund exceeds the amount of debentures and stock in circulation the excess may be used for the purposes of the redemption of any Commonwealth debts or State debtstaken over by the Commonwealth.
The amendment that was moved by the Leader of the Opposition this morning is distinctly in line with that section. The amendment proposed by the Government reads - 30.- (1.) The net profits of the Bank in each half-year shall be dealt with as follows: - (a.) One-half shall be placed to the credit of a fund to be called the Bank Reserve Fund; and (b) One-half shall be paid into the National Debt Sinking Fund as soon as practicable after the preparation of each balance-sheet. (2.) The Bank Reserve Fund shall he available for the payment of any liabilities of the Bank.
The first difference is that, in the Government proposals’ - the clause now before the committee - it is distinctly laid down that half the profits shall be paid into a fund to he called the bank reserve fund, and the other half of the profits paid into the national debt sinking fund. There is no option whatever to be exercised in that matter. But in the provisions inserted by the Labour party, it was laid down that half the profits should he placed to the credit of the hank reserve fund, and the other half to the credit of the redemption fund - not the national debt redemption fluid. I want that distinction to he noted. The Labour party’s provisions set out that capital borrowed by the bank from the Treasurer could be repaid out of that bank redemption fund. But the Treasurer will admit that, in his proposals, he is deliberately cutting out the original. provisions of the Labour party. What is the object of doing that?
– Those provisions were made nugatory last year by the Sinking Fund Act. No stock or debentures have been issued by the Commonwealth Bank up to the present time.
– I agree that there has been no possibility of putting into operation the provisions framed by the Labour party. Practically no capital has been used by the bank, and no stock or debentures have been issued by it. The Treasurer will not say that if he were to lend £6,000,000 to the bank in the future these provisions could not be operated.
– The honorable member says that his idea is to pay off the whole of the stock in circulation. It is proposed to capitalize £4,000,000 of reserves, and that, obviously, will become stock in circulation.
– What has been done has been done, but it is evidently the intention to issue debentures in the future. The bank will become indebted to the people that advance the capital, and its .indebtedness will continue perpetually. That is where the Labour party and I join issue with the Treasurer, for his proposals perpetuate a system whereby the bank will pay its profits into the pockets of private capitalists. The Treasurer may argue otherwise, but the fact remains. All we ask is that the profits made by the bank shall be used to pay back money that lias been borrowed. The Treasurer said in his speech, “But the bank will want its capital.” He was trying to suggest that- if the bank made profits that were used to pay back borrowed money, the effect would be to lessen its capital. Nothing of the kind would happen. The capital of the bank would remain, and the only difference would be that the bank would not have to pay interest on it. It is ridiculous for the Treasurer to say that if the bank used its profits to pay back borrowed money, its capital would be decreased. As a matter of fact, to use its profits in such a way would place the bank in a much stronger position. I resent the Treasurer’s suggestion, that the Government’s proposals are in line with the original proposals of the Labour party. The Labour party’s proposals were framed with a view to making the bank a national bank, and to remove it from the power of private financiers. The Government’s proposal will do the reverse, and yet wonder has been expressed that honorable members on this side have doubts of what is in the minds of members of the Government. We cannot think other than we do when we consider the provisions made by the Labour party, and the amendments of them proposed by the Government. I want, for a moment, to cast aside all party feelings. I regret that on such an important bill the Government should restrict discussion in committee. It could more reasonably have restricted the debate upon the second reading. Members’ secondreading speeches might have been cut down from an hour and 5 minutes to 30 minutes each. There was a lot of repetition in those speeches, and they were tiresome to listen to. It is not fair or reasonable, to u3 or to our constituents, to limit the discussion in committee.
.- I want honorable members to cast their minds back to the original proposals made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). The bill says that certain profits of the bank shall be devoted to the liquidation of the national debt. The Leader of the Opposition tackled the very difficult job of convincing the committee of the unwisdom of that proposal, and he did it in spite of contemptible remarks and indifference on the part of honorable members. Members of the committee ought to take more interest . in the bill. Few things affect the interests of the people more than does finance, in which this bill plays an important part. The Treasurer told us something this morning about which honorable members opposite know very little. I asked the Treasurer whether the question had been discussed in caucus, and he replied, “ No.” I forgot for the moment that there were two parties in the Government, one of which meets upstairs, and holds a caucus on all Government matters, and the other downstairs. This question was evidently brought before the party that meets upstairs. The Government is going to raise £20,000,000, and my leader suggested that instead of the bank using its profits to pay off the national debt, they should be employed to reduce the debt of the bank. If so employed they would not reduce the capital of the bank. If the bank had a borrowed capital of £20,000,000, and made a profit in one year of £1,000,000, it would be in a position to reduce its debt to £19,000,000. In the next year it would save, by that action, £50,000 in interest, and its second year’s profit would be increased by that amount. Eventually there would - be no debt on the bank, and it would have a capital reserve of £20,000,000 without interest to work on. When honorable members on this side put that proposal before the Government, the Treasurer, in reply, tries to distort the issue. I am quite satisfied that even the Treasurer is not pleased with the bill. He finds it necessary to consult With his departmental officers repeatedly. Knowing something of the procedure of Parliament, I am quite satisfied that the Government did not know the true position until it was brought under the notice of the Treasurer by members of the Opposition. T hope honorable members will deal more seriously with the question. I feel very serious, and very disappointed, because I can see the stupidity of the Government’s proposal to kill the bill. Honorable members sitting behind the Government will soon be condemned tor the action they are now taking. Whoever has advised the Government has not a true conception of what a national bank should be. Honorable members on this side are wedded to a policy that the electors endorsed by a very substantial majority of votes in 1910. The people then declared that a national bank should be established. The proposal to wipe out the public debt before removing the debt on the bank is not treating the bank properly. A company that has debentures maturing in ten years sets aside a certain sum of money each year to provide for the redemption of those debentures. If the bank was a private concern its profits would be used to pay dividends to its- shareholders, but as it is a national bank, every individual in the community is a shareholder. Instead of dividing the money among the people in the community, we advocate that it should be set aside for the purposes of redeeming the debt on the bank. If honorable members would give the question a little consideration, instead of treating it with indifference, they would agree with the Leader of the Opposition. I doubt if a majority of honorable members will support the proposal of the Government, but, even if they do, I believe that in another place a broad view of the matter will be taken, and the interests of the people conserved. One can only gather the impression that behind the bill is an ulterior motive that has not been made known to honorable members. I have an idea that it is desired that in the busy season, about September, when shearing takes place and the private banks have to meet a big drain on their liquid assets, they may be able to call upon the Commonwealth Bank to help them until such time as they can get their export returns from Great Britain.
– Would not that be an advantage ?
– I am not finding fault with that, but I contend that the profits of the bank should be used for the repayment of borrowed money. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) intended, by his amendment, that the profits of the bank should be devoted to thu redemption of capital. All capital that is redeemed results in a saving of interest, and all expenditure saved means revenue.
Mi-. Pratten. - If profits are added to reserves, the reserves in their turn will earn interest. ‘
– But the bill does not provide for that; it is designed to do something else, and makes the bank’s customers pay very high interest. If the honorable gentleman had given the bill full consideration he would be unable to agree with its provisions. If he does approve of the measure, then, considering the speeches he has made in this chamber on financial subjects, he takes a stand that is remarkably reminiscent of the “Yes-No” attitude of the late Sir George Reid on certain important public questions. I am satisfied that Ministers do not have much time in Cabinet to go into the details of the measures to be brought down, and it seems to me that they have not fully considered the effect of this bill. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) will be in a strange position when the people learn the exact nature of the present bill and also refresh their memories regarding the Minister’s financial orations. Of course, I realize that he will be able to justify his position to some extent, in that the bill was introduced before he took office. Instead of efforts being made in this chamber to establish a truly national bank, the measure is being manipulated in such a way that the Commonwealth Bank cannot possess that characteristic. I hope that steps will be taken in the next Parliament 1o place the bank on the basis originally intended. In 1910, a substantial majority of the electors endorsed the Labour party’s policy, and every alteration of the original act involving a serious change in the functions of the bank means a breach of faith with the people.
– The amendment before the committee is not unexpected, since the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) forecast it in his second-reading speech. I have listened with interest to the debate, and particularly to the remarks of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West). One aspect of the discussion is rather amusing to those who realize to what an absolute farce the proceedings of this Chamber can, without committing a breach of the Standing Orders, be brought. In speaking to people who have not the privilege of knowing how debates can be carried on in parliament, I have said that if all honorable members fully exercised their privileges under the Standing Orders, no business whatever would be transacted. Honorable members are now considering the third amendment that has been moved. The Leader of the Opposition, and those of his supporters who followed him, contended that the Government have not allowed sufficient time to discuss the measure, although when the Leader of the Opposition first spoke, he said that the bill could, without fail, be put through before the closing time this afternoon without the necessity for the application of the closure. The guillotine has been applied strictly in accordance with the Standing Orders, and yet the Opposition has discussed the bill in such a way as to deprive the debate of interest to honorable members. First there was an amendment proposed in the definition clause, and the first two hours were occupied in discussing that clause.
– The honorable member himself is now wasting time.
– It is advisable that Hansard should show how members of the Opposition have deliberately blocked progress. I, for one, strongly protest against the way in which honorable members opposite, although strictly in accordance with the Standing Orders, are blocking discussion on a very important measure. As the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) said a few moments ago, when the bill reaches another place proper consideration will no doubt be given to the amendments - an ample justification of the bi-cameral (system of government. What greater argument could be adduced in opposition to a single-chamber parliament - which I understand is advocated by honorable members opposite - when we find a few honorable members taking advantage of their privileges to mock one of the most important bills we shall have before us this session ? If honorable members opposite were seized of their responsibilities, they would give every assistance to the Government to have the measure fully discussed with a view to improving it. The first two amendments submitted, however, were identical. When the Leader of the Opposition ‘moved on the definition clause an amendment that the directorate be altered, and when he failed, as he was obviously destined to do, instead of accepting his defeat, he went on to the next clause, which dealt with the same subject, and moved a. similar amendment. The result was that the time of the committee was occupied in debating over again the question which had already been decided by a considerable majority. The Leader of the Opposition remarked that he did not wish to go over the same ground again, yet he deliberately did so. One member after another made what were, in effect, second-reading speeches.
– The honorable member is doing that now.
– If members of the Opposition think that the electors sent them here to block discussion on important business - a bill which they themselves admit ought to be passed - they are making a great mistake.
– Let the honorable member now make an! explanation of his attitude on the bill.
– Unlike some honorable members opposite, when I do that the people will be able to understand what I say. The extraordinary statement has been made that if the Government advance £6,000,000, or any sum, to the Commonwealth Bank, the money will not be capital. I do not know what it can he called if it cannot be properly designated as capital. We have also been told that it would be a liability on the bank. Is not the capital that the shareholders have advanced a liability on a bank? Personally, I am very glad to know that half the profits are to be earmarked for the very laudable purpose of the redemption of the national debt.. If there is anything that this party prides itself upon at present, it is the reduction already made in the national debt. Any steps taken in that direction will receive my hearty support.
– The Labour party has done more than any other party in that regard.
– In all its history the Labour party has never reduced the public debt. Its sole achievement has been the squandering of public money. When they are in opposition they protest loudly against a policy of borrowing, butwhenever they get into power they lose no time in increasing the public debt and in squandering public funds. The people know this. It is one reason why honorable members opposite have had such a long experience of the cold shades of opposition. Their whole stock-in-trade now is, “ You wait until after the next general election. We shall be in power then.” I was not in this Parliament prior to the last election, but I remember reading, time after time, the same predictions in the debates of former Parliaments, and I have no doubt whatever that after the next general election those who survive the election will be saying the same thing and from the same places in this chamber.
– The honorable member himself may not be here then.
– Well, the man who beats me will have to put up a pretty good fight. I regret that, as the result of action taken by honorable members opposite, the time available for the discussion of the various clauses in this bill is so limited. On the admission of their own leader, the Government have allowed ample time for debate. Possibly it was an unfortunate remark for the Leader of the Opposition to make, but the statement nevertheless is on record that he admitted that the time which the Government proposed to allow for the debate on this bill was ample. And then he deliberately set out to prevent discussion. The guillotine is nothing new. It has been in operation in the British Parliament for a great many years, and experience has shown that if the time allowed be used properly ample opportunity is given to members on both sides to discuss measures in a reasonable way. But when the occasion is abused, as it has been in connexion with this measure, the guillotine becomes the best instrument I know of to enable the Government to get its bills through without amendment. Were I a member of a Cabinet and anxious to get measures through without amendment, I know of no better method, provided, of course, the Opposition adopted an attitude of obstruction, of getting bills passed without amendment than by means of the guillotine motion. Honorable members opposite swallow the bait like a cod swallows a frog. They immediately set out to debate some futile amendment and lose sight of their opportunity to concentrate on the more important provisions of the bill. The guillotine process was never intended to work in that way. If the time allotted for the consideration of the various clauses of the bill is utilized wisely, there is opportunity, for fair debate and a proper consideration of legislation going through.
– The honorable member might now address himself to the clause before the committee.
– By speaking in general terms, I am following the example set by the honorable member last night when he entertained the committee with his views. I am about tired of sitting here listening to honorable members of the Opposition without saying something in reply. The clause should be accepted by the committee. The honorable . member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) explained the position fairly well. It must be obvious to any one that what he said with regard to the capital of the bank was correct. If the profits are used to repay borrowed capital the capital of the bank is not thereby reduced.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted (Mr. Charlton’s amend- merit) be so inserted - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 4
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That clauses 10 to 15 be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clauses 10 to 15 agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 1.5 to 2.15 p.m.
Clause 16 -
After section60ab of the principal act, the following sections are inserted in Part VII.: - “60ad. (1) Every bank shall, at the close of business on Monday of every week, prepare and make up a full and correct account and statement in writing, exhibiting details in accordance with the classification of liabilities and assets which is set out in the schedule. “ (5) If any such quarterly abstract is false in any detail, the bank shall forfeit for every such offencethe sum of £500; and, in addition to any other penalty, the managing director, manager, chief cashier, or clerk who has verified the abstract by statutory declaration, shall forfeit for every such offence the sum of £100.”
Mr.MAKIN (Hindmarsh) [2.17]. - I propose now to submit an amendment, of which I have given notice, to he added at the end of this clause. The amendment provides for the constitution of a board of appeal to deal with classifications, transfers, and dismissals which might occur from time to time, and if adopted will give some measure of security to the employees of the Commonwealth Bank.
– If the honorable member is proposing a new clause, as it would appear to be from the printed amendment circulated, he must move to have it inserted after, the remaining clauses have been passed.
– It is not a new clause, and I do not know why it should be shown as such on the printed list of amendments.
.- The amendment proposed by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) is not a new clause, but an addition to an existing clause.
– I think that ii so, and that it should not have been circulated as a proposed new clause. The honorable member for Hindmarsh is entitled to move to amend the clause in the way proposed by him; but there is a prior amendment in the name of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page).
– I protest against an alteration being made in the amendment as circulated.
– I move -
That after the word “is”, line 1, sub-clause 6, the word “wilfully” be inserted.
The clause provides for the insertion of two additional sections after 60ab of the principal act, one such being section 60ad, sub-section 5 of which reads : -
If any such quarterly abstract is false in any detail, the bank shall forfeit for” every such offence the sum of £500; and, in addition to any other penalty, the managing director, manager, chief cashier or clerk who has verified the abstract by statutory declaration, shall forfeit for every such offence the sum of f 100.
The amendment, which I have moved, merely provides that before the penalties mentioned are imposed the abstract must be “wilfully” false.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move -
That the following sub-sections be added to the clause : - (8.) There shall be a Board of Appeal appointed consisting of -
A chairman who shall be a person with the qualifications of a stipendiary magistrate or be a person of sufficient practical experience in handling and weighing all facts and proceedings before the Board in regard to the principles of the law of evidence and interpretation on broad principles of the jurisdiction in law of all cases before the Board;
A representative duly elected or appointed by the Commonwealth Bank Branch of the United Bank Officers’ Association; and
A representative of the Commonwealth Bank but such representative shall not be a person employed by the Bank in the par ticular department or branch in which the appellant officer is employed ; (9.) The Board shall have jurisdiction in the following cases: -
Before any officer is transferred or removed from his position or is dismissed or called upon to resign the Bank shall submit its intention to do so to the Board and the Board shall determine whether such proposed transfer or removal shall be made;
Where the Bank proposes to reduce the salary of any officer or officers, it shall give due notice (i) in the case of an individual officer to such officer, and (ii) where more than one will be ‘ affected to the General Secretary of the United Bank Officers’ Association, and the officer, officers or Association shall be duly heard by the Board and the Board shall determine the matter ;
Where any officer is prejudiced or affected in any way in regard to his conditions of employment as a result of any action or proposed action by the Bank he shall have the right to appeal to or apply to the Board for a decision on the matter;
In all cases before the Board the officer affected may be represented by any one appointed for that purpose by the United Bank Officers’ Association and the Bank may be represented by any person appointed by the Governor, but no barrister or solicitor shall be allowed to so appear;
In all cases in which application is before it the Board on such application may approve, modify or overrule the decision or proposal of the Bank; (/) The Board shall be vested with all powers to enforce the giving of evidence, the production of all books, papers, documents or other evidence or information required either by the Board, the Bank or any applicant or applicants in each and every case before it;
The Board shall have full power to deal with all applications to it in regard to individual salaries, classifications, hours and conditions of employment other than those dealt with by either the Arbitrator or the Arbitration Courts; (h) The Board shall have full power to deal with any charge charges, or accusations against any officer or officers. The Board’s decision shall be final and conclusive other than on the ques- tion of jurisdiction when any appeal may lie from its decision to a single Judge of the High Court of Australia who shall determine such appeal finally and conclusively ; and
All officers shall have the right to appeal to the Board on the following matters: -
Their rights to any particular positions or promotions; and
Their claims for transfer from any country or other position to any post.
The amendment must commend itself to the committee. At present there is no provision whereby officers of the Commonwealth Bank may secure redress against any form of tyranny to which they may be subjected by the management of the bank. Commonwealth public servants work under a board of appeal or a board of inquiry, and the amendment seeks to place officers of the Commonwealth Bank on a similar footing. There are many ways in which a despotic management may impose all sorts of unfair conditions upon officers of the bank; among others, transferring them to isolated places, depriving them of their classification rights, and withholding from them emoluments which rightfully attach tothe positions they occupy. The amendment provides complete machinery for dealing with such eases. I have been informed that strong prejudice has in the past been exhibited by the management of the bank against officers who have identified themselves with any association or union. The best interests of the institution are not thereby promoted, nor are the staff made satisfied and contented. As the right of appeal is allowed to officers in the various divisions in the Public Service, it is only fair to give the officers of the bank the same right, so that they may feel that a full measure of redress is secured to themby a tribunal free from prejudice and bias, which will give judgment upon the merits of their cases.
– The Government appreciates the position in which the bank’s officers are placed, and recognizes that there is a necessity to provide some means for insuring that the men shall have an absolutely fair run. But I venture to suggest that the machinery proposed by the honorable member is so cumbersome that it would practically hamstring the board in its management of the bank’s affairs. The Government offers an alternative amendment. At present, I understand, the difficulty is that officers of the bank are very often unable to reach the governor of the bank. The amendment which the Government proposes provides that where an officer of the bank is affected in his employment by the action of any authority of the bank other than the board, he may, within the prescribed time, submit in writing an appeal to the board, stating fully the action appealed against, and the grounds of the appeal. It is provided, further, that the board shall consider and determine any such appeal, and notify the appellant of its determination, which shall be final and conclusive. That will provide an easy passage between the employees and the board of directors.
– Have the employees the right under this bill to approach the Arbitration Court?
– That right is not denied them in anyway.
– The board of appeal which I have proposed would deal with transfers and classification.
– The proposal which the Government is putting forward makes provision for an appeal by any employee who considers himself aggrieved in any respect whatever. To appoint a board to deal with the rights of officers to particular positions, or promotions, or their claims for transfer to any post, would practically render the board of directors helpless.
.- The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) apparently overlooked the fact that he was addressing a body of men who know something about the Public Service and the manner in which it is controlled. No branch of the Public Service would tolerate for five minutes an appeal board consisting only of the employers. An appeal should be heard by an independentbody. The proposal of the Treasurer would mean an appeal fromCaesar to Caesar. The matter can be simply handled by bringing the officers of the bank under thecontrol of the Public Service Board, giving them the same status as public servants, the same rights and privileges, and the same tenure of office. The position of the officers of the bank to-day is intolerable. They can be dismissed at a moment’s notice.
The only change proposed is that from one-man control to control by a board. There is not the slightest change in principle. The principle underlying the constitution of a board of appeal is that it shall be independent and impartial and have represented on it the employees concerned. It is astonishing that the Go.vernment should insult the intelligence of honorable members by circulating the amendment referred to by the Treasurer. Were it not for the operation of the guillotine, and the fact that there are other amendments to be considered, we would be justified in holding up the clause until the Government changed its mind. These officers in the past have been tyrannically treated. Proved cases of victimization, because men have dared to join a union, can be placed before Parliament if the Government will give us an opportunity to do so. The right of access to the Arbitration Courts is not a protection to these men, even though they are registered in the court, because the management of the bank has been so subtle in its methods that it has taken fine care not to openly dismiss men because they have taken an active part in the affairs of the union. Men have been dismissed for fictitious reasons and have not been able to bring their cases personally to the notice of the governor of the bank. A tyrant visiting Melbourne has been able to impose his sweet will upon the men, and whenever one has come between the wind and him out he has gone, although he may have rendered good service for many years. If the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) wants the bank to be a success - which I seriously doubt, in view of the actions of the Government - the only way to achieve that object is to have a contented staff which will work in unison with the management and take a personal interest in the advancement of the bank. That is not the case at present.
.- I cannot help thinking that the Treasurer was ironical in the suggestion he made regarding the vexed question of control and the relationship of employer and employee. The Public Service Arbitration Act provides a tribunal for dealing with public servants, and that tribunal was created as the result of longsustained agitation by the Labour party. It does not operate with entire satisfac tion to the persons most concerned, but on the whole it represents a step in the right direction. The employees of the Commonwealth Bank are excluded from the operations of that tribunal, and whilst technically they are not excluded from the benefits of the general policy of conciliation and arbitration, they are really excluded by the attitude of hostility, at one time veiled, and more recently open, on the part of the management of the bank. Having regard to the favorable attitude of Parliament towards arbitration, this bill represents a deplorably retrogressive step, for it gives no protection whatever to the employees of the bank as regards recourse to the Arbitration Court or an independent board of appeal. The Government have made use of means ready to their hands for preventing the expression of public indignation in this regard, but they have not ready means of preventing the growth of serious discontent in the service of the bank; and that feeling is finding expression. The present acting governor of the bank at one time gave a sort of halfhearted permission to the employees to form an organization for registration under the Arbitration Act, in order to get the benefit of an award; but when members of the staff went so far as to assurethe staff generally that the acting governor was sympathetic with such organization, that gentleman issued a manifesto in which he declared his hostility to arbitration in terms that were scarcely veiled, and hinted that he would prefer an organization of the employees on the old familiar lines - a boss’s organization. We have progressed much beyond that,, and if the Government desires to have a contented staff in the bank, it will have to give the officers the arbitrationfacilities that are available to members of the Public Service generally, and to workers in every avocation. The Commonwealth Bank service must not continue to be the “ Cinderella “ of the industrial world. The amendment of which the Treasurer has given notice gives point to much of the criticism that has been uttered in regard to the management of the bank. Without attempting to threaten the Government, I assure Ministers that if they do not providemachinery such as is suggested by tie honorable member forHindmarsh (Mr. Makin), or some other means by which the employees may organize and get the results of organization in an ordinary lawful way, organization will proceed on lines which will not be conducive to the success of the bank.
– I draw attention to the fact that there are only five Government supporters in the committee, and there is not a quorum present. [Quorum formed..]
– I understand that the amendment which the Treasurer intends to move was circulated only this afternoon.
Dr.Earle Page. - Before 1 o’clock.
– The amendment moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh is now before the committee.
– The Treasurer outlined an amendment which he suggested should take the place of that moved by the honorable member for Hindmarsh. It is most unusual for a Minister in charge of a bill to circulate an important amendment vitally affecting a big section of Government employees, without affording them, an opportunity to consider it.
– Order ! The amendment indicated by the Treasurer is not before the committee.
– I can only protest against the iniquitous proposal that the Treasurer has foreshadowed.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr. Makin’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Maiority … … 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 17 agreed to.
Amendment (by Dr. Maloney) agreed to-
That the following new clause be added : - 16a. After section 62 of the principal act the following section is inserted : - “ 62a. The bank shall have power to accept any trust for charitable or public purposes only, and to perform and discharge all the accounts and duties of a trustee for charitable or public purposes only as fully and effectively as a private individual may when appointed such a trustee.”
.- I move -
That the following new clause be added : -
After section 62 of the principal act the following section is inserted : - “ 62b. Notwithstanding anything contained in this or any act, it shall be mandatory that all architectural work of the Commonwealth Bank of the value of £3,000 and upwards shall be open to the competition of all architects in Australia.”
In as few words as possible, I shall refer to a question which not only has agitated the minds of people throughout Australia, but has even found its way into the architectural journals of England and America. I refer to the fact that the whole of the architectural business of the Commonwealth Bank has, in the past, been carried out by a family of relatives of the late governor (Sir Denison Miller). While recognizing the nobility of the structures which have been erected, one must admit that any qualified architect, with unlimited money behind him, could erect buildings at least equal to those which have been constructed.
Dr.Earle Page. - Will the honorable member make the amount £5,000 ? If so the Government will accept the proposed new clause.
– Yes. That would give satisfaction to the architects of Australia.
Proposed new clause amended accordingly, and, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Anstey) proposed -
That the following new clause be added : - 4a. Section seven of the Principal Act is amended -
by omitting from paragraph (ft) thereof the word “and”; and
by adding at the end thereof the following paragraph : - “ and (j) to provide creditsfor the purposes of -
advances upon broad acres;
assisting co-operative finance in primary and secondary production ;
assisting in land settlement and development; and
establishing a grain and fodder reserve against periods of drought.”
– I congratulate the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) on having made a close study of the Country party’s platform, and on having taken from that platform the new clause which he has just moved. I point out to the honorable member, however, that if he studies that platform a little more closely he will notice that it suggests that the rural credit system shall be established as an integral part of the savings bank department of the bank to carry out the various functions which his motion suggests. This hill has been introduced with the definite object of making the Commonwealth Bank a central bank; all other issues have been carefully excluded. Possibly the Commonwealth Bank Act could, with advantage, be amended in other directions, but the Government has tried to keep the issue clear and free from confusion. The powers which the bill will vest in the board of control are wide enough to accomplish what the honorable member desires. His amendment is, therefore, unnecessary. It would be unwise at this juncture to inaugurate a system of this kind without at the same time providing the requisite machinery to carry it into effect. In connexion with a system of rural credits, we must not lose sight of the essential fact that advances in these cases are required for fairly long terms. Australia requires a system whereby the producer can receive pay ment for his produce as soon as it is delivered at the store, even though it is not sold for eight or ten months afterwards. A central bank needs resources of a very liquid nature, able to be mobilized quickly. The Government in this bill has endeavoured to provide resources for the central bank which will be essentially liquidresources capable of being availed of in the shortest time possible. That is the reason for the capital of the bank being increased from a reserve of about £4,500,000 to £20,000,000 in all; firstly, by means of a loan to the bank ; secondly, by retaining unimpaired its debenture power, and thirdly, additional liquid sources are provided by giving the board the power to control the note issue. I shall not labour the point, but desire to inform honorable members that the Government has the whole question of the financing of our rural industries under consideration. When the plan has been thoroughly worked out, the House will be informed of the policy the Government proposes to pursue regarding the marketing of our primary products, and the provision of machinery to enable the bank to function with the greatest satisfaction to all concerned.
– What about socializing the means of distribution?
– We shall provide a proper system of financing the industries of the country, so that the marketing of our products will be done in an orderly manner.
Question - That the proposed new clause (Mr. Anstey’s amendment) be added to the bill - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
– The time allowed for the remainder of the committee stage of the bill has expired.
Question - That the remainder of the bill, and the new clause as printed and circulated by the Government, be agreed to, and that the bill, with amendments, be reported - put. The committee divided.
Majority … 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Remainder of the bill and new clause agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Dr. Earlb Page) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
.- A very respected and expert financier, named John Law, once propounded a scheme for the issue of notes on the lands in the Mississippi Valley, and for 200 years his scheme has been held up as one of the greatest wild-cat financial propositions ever put forward. I take this opportunity of drawing attention to the fact that after the second reading of the bill had been passed, and the gag had been applied in committee, the Government introduced the following entirely new provision : -
The Notes Issue . Department shall issue to the Commonwealth Bank or to trading banks in Australia, for money or approved securities lodged with the Commonwealth Bank in London, Australian notes of a value not exceeding the amount of the money or the value of the securities so lodged.
This proposal, not having been put forward at the second-reading stage, could not then be discussed, and, by the application of the gag, no opportunity was afforded to discuss it in committee. Even now I have no desire to comment upon it beyond saying that the Government are laying down a new basis for our currency. It will no longer be based on gold or securities within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth, but will be based, to a large extent, on securities outside the Commonwealth, and liable to destruction or depreciation from causes over which the Commonwealth Government will have no control. It is quite possible that the Government are now paving the way to a serious position which may eventuate in the near future. However, my main object in rising now is to call attention to the fact that at Traralgon, on the 15th August, 1922, the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) said that “ it was important that a rural credit branch of the Commonwealth Bank should be established, in order to foster rural production “ ; and that on the 27th
October, 1922, he told the rural constituents of Grafton that the work of the Commonwealth Bank should be the outstanding feature in connexion with Australia’s primary production. He also told his hearers that it would be his pleasure and duty to advance the establishment of a rural credit branch of the Commonwealth Bank. In order that he may take immediate steps to do so, I move -
That the hill be recommitted for the reconsideration of the following proposed new clause: - 4a. Section 7 of the principal act- is amended -
by omitting from paragraph (7i) thereof the word “ and “ ; and
by adding at the end thereof the following paragraph: - “and (j) to provide credits for i the purposes of -
advances upon broad ; acres ;
assisting co-operative finance in primary and secondary production ;
assisting in land settle ment and development; and
establishing a grain and fodder reserve against periods of drought.”
– The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) has a certain amount of doggedness in his nature, because he has. hung on to this particular proposition for, I think, three days. To him, apparently, a matter of such urgent importance to the whole community, as is this bill, the object of which is to provide efficient machinery to handle exchange problems, is a tremendous jest, or something that can be bandied about. The honorable member has received the assurance of the Government that the establishment of a rural credits bank is receiving consideration. He has been told that it is in the platform of the Country party. In the speeches he has quoted I distinctly stated that it was to be dealt with in connexion with the savings bank, and not the general business of the Commonwealth Bank, and the reasons for not providing for it in this bill were fully explained to him. In his second-reading speech he dismissed, with an airy wave of the hand, the whole question of overseas exchange, notwithstanding that I considered it sufficiently important to devote a considerable part of my speech to it. The exchange question is of vital interest to the producing interests of Australia, and tho Government believes that the establishment of a central bank will help to relieve the difficulties which now exist. It is- specially important that an immediate attempt should be made to improve tho position, for our producers will soon be attempting to dispose of their wool clip and wheat harvest. The sale of these products must be financed. That is one of the main reasons why the Government wishes the bill to be passed quickly. The honorable member for Bourke and his colleagues are not very much concerned-
– I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether the Treasurer is in order in again discussing the merits of the bill in a general way? I submit that he should confine himself to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Bourke. If he is permitted to make another second-reading speech, other honorable members will be entitled to do so.
– The honorable member for Bourke also strayed from the issue a little when he addressed the House; but I assumed that honorable members would desire some latitude, seeing that since these proceedings must terminate in seventeen minutes, there could be no violent abuse of the Standing Orders. However, I ask the Treasurer to confine himself to the question of the recommittal of the bill on the grounds stated in the amendment.
– I have made it abundantly clear, Mr. Speaker, that the Opposition does not desire a discussion on the important matter of our exchange difficulties. This bill has been before the House for almost a month, yet the honorable member for Bourke took four weeks to incubate and submit his amendment on rural credits. It appears that the Opposition has suddenly had a wonderful inspiration, and thinks that here is a chance to prevent the Government from rendering rapid and reason a’ble assistance to the producers. Honorable members opposite know very well that one of the functions pf the Commonwealth Bank is to stand behind the primary producers and stimulate the development of the country. It is rather surprising to find that although a Labour Government has been in power for nine years in Queensland, it has made no effort to introduce legislation of the kind desired by the honorable member for Bourke, For seven years, that Government gave no consideration whatever to the men on the land, but when it found that its hold on the country was slipping, it introduced some specious legislation to try to regain its lost ground. I do not think that the motives of the Opposition in supporting this amendment of the honorable member for Bourke will he any more misunderstood by the general public than were their motives in failing to support the Government’s recent effort to obtain Imperial preference. Had we succeeded in securing Imperial preference, the prospects of profitably marketing our produce would have been increased enormously
Honorable members interjecting, Mr. SPEAKER. - I must remind honorable members that laughter and uproar are equally disorderly. I hope that they will maintain silence until the Treasurer concludes his remarks.
– The most rapid way that the honorable member for Bourke can secure the end he has in view is to assist the Government to pass the bill. That will do something tangible to enable the producer to get the maximum price for his production. That really is the object of the Government. In proof of my statement, I have only to mention the action it took last year during the crisis in the fruit-growing industry
– What about the Crown leases?
– I shall deal with that matter too.
– But not at present. Dr. EARLE PAGE.- I desire to show, Mr. Speaker, that before the producers can hope to place their products on the market at a reasonable cost, they must be protected from exploitation by governmental agencies, and from inequitable rents for their leaseholds. After this Government took action last year to remit certain taxation that had been imposed on our landed proprietors, the Labour Premier of Queensland adopted an attitude which was diametrically opposed to that of the Federal Parliamentary Labour party.
– The Treasurer will realize that he is not now within the scope of the question before the House.
– He is woolgathering.
– He is in the cow yard; he is outside the boundary fence.
– The honorable member for Gwydir is disorderly.
– I apologize, Mr. Speaker.
– One of the objects which the honorable member for Bourke says he has in view in moving his amendment is the promotion of land settlement and development. Can he suggest a readier means of settlement than by making rents low ?
– That is not the question before the House.
-The New South Wales Government, which was drawn from the Nationalist and Progressive parties, has already provided for a system of rural credits, but it was bitterly opposed by the Labour party. This Government considers that the establishment of a central Hank will assist that scheme. Legislation has also been passed by other countries to provide for rural credits, but the honorable member for Bourke should have some regard to the proper procedure. The United States of America first established a central bank and a federal reserve system; then farm loan banks and associations were formed, and later, rural credits societies were established. A central banking system was necessary before an effective system of rural credits could be established. The procedure of the United States of America is the one that we shall have to adopt. If the honorable member for Bourke were permitted to put the cart before the horse, a successful system could not be inaugurated. A proper method of rural credits can only be constructed on the solid rock of experience. It cannot be built on the shifting sands of expediency. Mr. King O’Malley desired to establish a bank of issue, rediscount, exchange, and reserve.
– I rise to order. It is quite evident that the Treasurer is deliberately attempting to talk out time. He is not giving any consideration to the matter before the’ House.
– I have been listening carefully to the Treasurer’s remarks. When he was interrupted he was talking about a system of rural credits.
– He is talking now about Mr. King 0’Malley’s banking scheme.
– He is not talking at all now, but when he was interrupted he was discussing a system of rural credits. As long as he discusses that matter, I shall allow him to continue.
– Mr. King 0’Malley’s idea was to establish a national bank of issue, re-discount, exchange, and reserve. In 1917 he brought forward a rural credits system and received very little support from his colleagues. His own book was lying on the table of- this House a couple of days ago and I noticed, in looking at it, that he found it necessary, in order to educate his party on his views, to form what was termed a “ torpedo brigade.”
– The Labour party went to the country with King O’Malley’s rural credits system on its platform.
– Although the Labour party went to the country with that system on its platform, the assistance of caucus had to be obtained before the ministry could be forced to consent to it.
– That is absolutely untrue.
– Order !
– The caucus-
– The honorable member will be good enough to observe the rule that when the Speaker rises silence must be kept. The Treasurer’s remarks are now outside the terms of the motion.
– I was trying to connect Mr. King 0’Malley’s 1917’ system of rural credits with the motion moved by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey). I am glad, indeed, that in carrying out our programme for extensive rural legislation we shall have the united and unanimous support of the Opposition, including the honorable member for Bourke, with his wide knowledge of financial matters all over the world.
– We shall all be dead by the time the honorable member brings down that legislation.
– I am not so pessimistic as the honorable member. The honorable member’s amendment may have a result quite unexpected by him, since it may hasten the day when we shall be able to bring down to this House a concrete proposal for a system of rural credits. There is an essential difference between a central banking system and a system providing for loans to farmers, rural credits, &c. In the case of the central banking system, the assets and the resources . of the bank must be available at short notice. At a time of temporary stringency we must be able to mobilize those resources in the quickest possible time, and wherever there is a weak spot in the system, to concentrate our efforts on it to try to prevent a disaster. On the other hand, the outstanding feature of the rural credits system is that the terms of credit must be long. Farm mortgages should operate for ten years, or even longer, to enable a farmer to have a reasonable prospect of considerably reducing his mortgage by the time it falls due. A reasonable rate of interest should be charged, and provision made to enable the produce of the farmers and pastoralists to be marketed in such a way as to prevent these people from being forced to sell immediately, at a sacrifice, owing to shortage of money. They should be able to obtain a fair price for their produce at the time it is fit for market. At present our producers have frequently to sell at a sacrifice because they are in need of ready cash. The institution administering a system of rural credits must be able to make advances over long terms. When the proper machinery has been created, we shall be able to bring into being a satisfactory, well considered, well based, and progressive system, that will enable the producers of this country to come into their own.
– The time allotted for the consideration of the remaining stages of the bill has now expired. I shall put the respective motions without further debate.
Question - that the bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of the proposed new clause (Mr. Anstey’s motion) - put.
The House divided.
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - that the report be adopted - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the bill be now read a third time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . 6
An honorable member whistling,
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
The following papers were presented : -
Tariff Board - Annual Report to June, 1924 - together with accompanying Schedule.
Ordered to be printed.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at Brocklesby, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Broadcasting Regulations - Rinderpest Outbreak in Western Australia: Compensation for- Economic Loss - Wire Netting : Dumping Duty.
.- r I move -
That tho House do now adjourn.
I am pleased to inform honorable members that the regulations relating to broadcasting will probably be issued in the course of the next few days, and that I am now able to outline their provisions. Honorable members know that in an attempt to- define the basis upon which broadcasting should be permitted, a conference of all interests concerned was held in Sydney. It was decided that operations should be conducted by means of sealed sets, and that individual wave lengths should be apportioned. That system was tried, but, unfortunately, experience proved beyond question that the basis recommended by the conference, and adopted by the Government, would not lead to a rapid expansion of broadcasting. Consequently, further conferences were held, and the recommendations made by them have been under the consideration of the Government for some time. Very great difficulty has been experienced in evolving a system that, while it would promote broadcasting to the fullest possible extent, would be equitable to all the interests concerned. The regulations shortly to be issued will provide for the continuing of existing licences to broadcasters, but sealed sets will be entirely abolished, and open sets substituted. Every one will be able to receive broadcasted programmes provided he or she has a receiving set and has paid the required licence-fee for the service. There will be two types- of broadcasting licences. One will be for class “A” stations, which will obtain revenue from licence-fees, and the other for class “ B “ stations, which will not receive any revenue from that source. Both types of stations will be allowed to broadcast advertisements, but class “A” stations will be permitted to broadcast advertisements only for limited periods. The stipulation will be that advertising matter must not exceed five minutes at a time, and must not aggregate more than 30 minutes in a regular programme, or 60 minutes in twelve consecutive hours. Advertisements must be preceded by a suitable announcement, so that any one listening-in will be warned that for the next five minutes at the most advertisements will be broadcasted. Those who do not wish to listen to the advertisements will thus not be compelled to do so. The minimum powers on which the stations shall operate are stipulated. Existing licensees will- be permitted to operate “A” class stations, and in Queensland and Tasmania, where no licences have yet been issued for broadcasting, one . “ A “ class station will be .authorized in each case. The two existing licensees in each of the state3 of New South Wales and Victoria will receive 70 per cent, and 30 per cent, respectively of the fees available for distribution in those states. One of the stations will operate on a power of not less than 5,000 watts, and the other on not less than 1,500 watts. The higher percentage of fees will be allotted to the station operating on the higher power. If the apportionment of the fees in the ratio of 70 to 30 per cent, is objected to by the broadcasters, they can go to arbitration to determine what the proportions should be. The total amount to be apportioned between the two will, of course, be the amount provided out of the licensing fees for distribution to the broadcasters. In other states, where there is not more than one licensee of the “ A “ class, the allotted revenue collected within the state will be paid to that licensee. The licence-fees will be collected by the Postmaster-General’s Department. There is also provision that where a reasonable public demand exists licensees will be expected to establish, additional broadcasting stations, including relay stations. Subject to a satisfactory service being rendered, the regulations, so far as they relate to class “A” licensees, and the amount in respect of each class of receiving-licence fee apportioned to the broadcasting licensees, will not be altered within a period of two years from the date of issue. At the end of that period rights are reserved to review the position and make such alterations as may be deemed necessary. It is impossible to estimate the extent to which, broadcasting will develop in Australia in the next few years. If the system proposed is successful, and if firstclass programmes are broadcasted, it is possible that there will be tremendous expansion, but, on the other ‘hand, there is no certainty that that will be so. The Government feels that it is essential to place broadcasting on a definite basis, and at the same time to retain power to alter the basis upon which broadcasters are remunerated for their programmes. The date fixed will enable a reliable estimate to be made of the probable expansion of broadcasting. In default of satisfactory service reservations are provided to cancel a licence, or any portion of tho rights secured thereunder.
– Does this affect the position in Western Australia?
– Only one broadcasting licence has been issued in that state, and there will be only one. The licence-fees are on such a low basis that the revenue to be derived cannot possibly be sufficient to support more than one broadcasting station at the present time in each of the States of Western Australia, Tasmania, and Queensland. The point I have just made is that the licences can be revoked if a satisfactory broadcasting programme is not given. Honorable members will realize that such a provision is essential, because the success of broadcasting depends to a great extent on the public being impressed by the programme rendered.
– Who is to be the judge of these programmes?
– The PostmasterGeneral. For the purpose of fixing receiving licence-fees . the territory will be divided into three zones, giving roughly a 250-mile radius in the first zone, a radius of 150 miles extending beyond the first in the second zone, and the rest of the territory of the state constituting the third zone. The basis on which fees are to be charged is different in each of the zones. The fees are to be based upon the principle that the licensee who is in the 250-miles zone will probably receive a better service than the licensee who is situated further away, and, consequently, licensees in the inside zone will pay a larger amount, though only a fraction more, than those in the outside zones. The proposed fees per annum are : -
Ordinary licence, 1924-25, Zone 1, 35s.; Zone 2, 30s.; Zone 3, 25s.
Ordinary licence, 1925-26, Zone 1, 30s.; Zone 2, 25s.; Zone 3, 20s.
Special licence for hotels, entertainments, &c, where profit is to result, Zone 1, £10; Zone 2, £9; Zone 3, £7 10s.
Broadcasting, so far, has been confined to sealed sets. Any broadcaster could have a wave length granted to him, supply a broadcasting service, and collect his own clientele, charging whatever price people were prepared to pay, but that is now to be a thing of the past. The receivinglicencefee on one of the sealed sets in Sydney was £4 or £5 per year. Honorable members will notice that under the present proposal there is to be a reduction in the licence-fee for the second year. The Government feels that it must do this, notwithstanding the fact that it is in a position to alter the whole basis of the arrangement with the broadcasting companies after two years. There may be a tremendous expansion in the number of receiving licences issued, and, as the broadcasting companies are to receive part of the licence-fees paid for the service rendered, the position at the end of the first year may be such that the broadcasting companies will be receiving an amount far in excess of what the service being rendered merits. Therefore, for the first year, we have fixed a figure which we think will give a reasonable return to the broadcasters. We have reduced the fee for the second year, and at the end of the second year it will be open to the Government to review the whole basis of the remuneration to the broadcasting companies. It must be recognized, on the other hand, that there may not be such an expansion as is anticipated, and the amount derived by the companies under the present proposals may not give them sufficient remuneration to ensure the giving of a first-class programme. The Government is, therefore, prepared to consider taking some action so that there will not be a reduction of revenue to the broadcasters in the second year. That, however, Will not affect the reduction in the licence-fee. Some such action may be particularly necessary in those states where there are comparatively small populations, and where there may not be an expansion of broadcasting sufficient to create a revenue large enough to ensure a first-class service. Dealers will be licensed and will be charged per annum as follows: - Zone 1, ?5; zone 2, ?3; and zone 3, ?2. There will be no restrictions on the design of equipment or the sale of apparatus by registered dealers. Experimental licences will be issued in cases where the. department is satisfied that the applicant possesses sufficient knowledge to undertake scientific research and investigations. The charges per annum will be: - Zone 1, ?1; zone 2, 17s. 6d. ; zone 3, 15s. The revenue to be collected by way of licence-fees will be apportioned between the department and the broadcasting licensees. The amount that the post office will retain out of each fee is 5s. ; the balance will go to the broadcasting company, where there is only one in the state, or will be apportioned between the two broadcasting companies operating in the larger states. Penalties are provided for breaches of the regulations. One must lay considerable stress upon this point, for, under the original proposal, with sealed sets, only a person who had made a payment to the broadcasting company could receive the service which that company was giving; but under the new regulations there will be open sets in use, and anybody who has one can pick up any programme. Obviously, it will be most necessary to police these regulations, and be very strict in regard to them, for a person receiving a broadcasted programme without having paid his licencefee, will be almost in the position of a man receiving goods without having paid anything for them. The complete regulations are almost ready, and the Postmaster-General’s Department hopes to issue them within a few days.
.- I should not have delayed the House at this stage were it not for the fact that I have an urgent matter to bring under the notice of the Government. The sparse attendance at the moment of honorable members on the Opposition side is due, I might mention, to a presentation being made to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), prior to his departure for Europe. I desire to refer to the subject of, the rinderpest outbreak in Western Australia. The honorable member for Fremantle “(Mr. Watson) has been particularly busy in trying to get compensation for the economic losses sustained by those who were affected by the outbreak. Honorable members from the western state have waited patiently, and to-day, in answer to a deputation that waited on the Prime Minister on the 12th June, the ‘ following reply was received by me: -
In connexion with the representations that were made by the deputation of senators and members of the House of Representatives on the 12th June in regard to the question of payment of the economic compensation in respect of the rinderpest outbreak in Western Australia, I desire to inform you that the Government gave full consideration to this matter. It has been decided however that, apart from the creation of an undesirable precedent, there is no basis for such claim against the Commonwealth. In the circumstances the claim for economic compensation cannot be recognized. . Yours faithfully,
Atkinson, for Prime Minister.
– The honorable member for Fremantle had the matter fully in hand.
– I was a member of the deputation of representatives of Western Australia that brought the matter under the notice of the Government.
– What about me?
– But the letter I have received shuts out the possibility of obtaining what the deputation asked. It is a refusal of the request. If the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) intends to he silent under this outrage, I do not. Mr. Robertson was sent by the Commonwealth Government to Western Australia at the time of the outbreak, in order to inquire into the matter and deal with it, because it was of Australianwide importance. Mr. Robertson acted with a ruthless hand, and justly so in his efforts to stamps out the pest.
In one case a woman with, a milk round had her cattle destroyed, and she was paid only for the loss of her herd. She received no compensation for the loss of her means of business, and she has now no means of livelihood. I could quote other instances where the results of the action of the Government were equally serious. It is said that £21,000 was paid by the Commonwealth, and that a similar sum was granted by the Government of Western Australia, which I claim should not have been required by the Commonwealth to pay anything towards making good the loss of the cattle and pigs and the loss due to the burning of barns. Nothing, however, has been done to repair the economic loss sustained. The people concerned were so infuriated at the time that the honorable member for Fremantle had to go with Mr. Robertson, and try to explain to the justly-indignant settlers the object of the action of the Commonwealth authorities. A meeting was convened, and Mr. Robertson assured the farmers that, so far as he was concerned, he could say that the Commonwealth would see that full compensation was paid. With that understanding the settlers submitted to the destruction of their property, so that Australia should be saved from the menace of a dreaded cattle disease. Claims for loss of business have been put in to the extent of over £50,000. I have no doubt that in this case, as in others, some people submitted larger claims than they should have presented, but the loss can be readily assessed, and there is no reason why the Government should not pay just compensation. This is not a state matter. The Federal Government was responsible for the destruction of the cattle, and it should make good the loss. The action taken was for the protection of Australia generally. Why should a few struggling settlers in one part of the continent be made to suffer? The Government has been openhanded enough with regard to other claims. Recently, it paid to the Central Wool Committee £275,000 in respect of a claim which we on this side of the House contended had no foundation whatever. Last year the Government agreed to remit £1,300,000 in taxation to certain large land-owners. In this  matter, practically the whole of the people of Western Australia are up in arms, and no wonder, because the action of the Government in destroying stock took away the means of livelihood from quite a number of persons. Compensation for the loss of cattle is not sufficient. I want to know what compensation this Government intends to give the people who have lost their means of livelihood. Why should a small body of people in my state be penalized? Their claim is a just one, and I trust that the final word has not been said on this matter by the Government. I was surprised to receive this letter. I had not expected that the question would be so definitely closed. I do not intend to let the matter rest without my protest, and an effort to see that justice is done. I hope that the efforts made by the honorable member for Fremantle will yet be successful and compensation for the economic loss will be paid to the people concerned. It is a reflection upon our system of party government that honorable members representing the people most concerned are content, except in the case of the honorable member for Fremantle, to sit in this House with folded arms, and allow this claim for economic loss to be disposed of without a protest. Practically, in this matter, the honorable member for Fremantle stands alone so far as those on the Government side of the House are concerned. Up to the present there has not been a public protest in this chamber, but I am prepared, anyhow, to speak. I hope that the Government will yet do justice to these people.
– I merely want to draw attention to the fact that the matter about which we have heard so much just now from the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), has been in the hands of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson) for some considerable time, and that he has been conferring with the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and myself, who represent the people interested. I may add that we proposed, if necessary, to bring the question before the House, and that as far as we are concerned the claim has not been disposed of. If the honorable member for Kalgoorlie had conferred with myself or the honorable member for Fremantle, he would have realized that every effort is being made to ensure a satisfactory solution of the difficulty. In this matter the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has not shown that courtesy usually extended by one member to another, and, I fear, has introduced a party element to the question which may be detrimental to those who have suffered by the action taken to stamp out tho epidemic. I shall leave it at that.
In order that a wrong impression may not be created, I want now to draw attention to an answer which I received to-day from the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) in connexion with the dumping duty on wire netting. The answer suggests that the Brisbane importer whose advertisement was referred to, was importing wire netting. The advertisement in question referred to barbed wire, and had no reference whatever to wire netting manufactured in Australia. In the circumstances, I hope that the Minister will reconsider the question, and see whether the dumping duty should be imposed.
.- The honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Gregory) has seen fit to deliver a lecture on etiquette to the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green). The “honorable member himself is not such an exemplar as to be privileged to lecture other honorable members in this House on etiquette. ¥e have been told that the matter has been in the hands of the “honorable member for Fremantle (Mr Watson). If so, why does the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) jump into the breach ? Why does he not leave the business to the honorable member for Fremantle? Although this question does not affect the people of my own division I can see a strong case for demanding that justice be meted out to the people concerned. In the letter received by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie the Government states that, in view of the undesirable precedent that might be created, the claim against- the Commonwealth for economic loss in connexion with the rinderpest outbreak, cannot be recognized. I wish to goodness this government would take notice of some of the precedents established by it during the last two years. It has paid away large sums of money for which there wa» neither moral nor legal claim, and whilst in this case there may not be a legal claim for compensation for economic loss, there is certainly a strong moral claim. The Government, in order to combat the rinderpest outbreak, sent officers to Western Australia and ordered the people in the affected area to destroy their stock. I have no quarrel with that. The Gover.uni.eut, in my opinion, took the right course. The expenditure of scores of thousands of pounds would not bo too much to prevent the spread of an. awful disease like rinderpest in Australia, because, unchecked, it might involve tha Commonwealth in the loss of many millions of pounds. If, as is suggested, this question of economic loss is a state matter, why did not the Commonwealth Government leave it to the state? As a matter of fact, the prevention of the spread of any disease in Australia is essentially a Commonwealth matter, and the Commonwealth Government quite properly took steps to see that stock that were diseased, or stock likely to spread disease in a given area, were destroyed. Having done that, it was clearly the duty of the Government to pay, not only for the value of stock destroyed, but for the whole of the loss incurred by the people as a - result of the Government policy. This question should not require argument at all. It is an elementary principle of justice. The economic loss following such action may be much greater than the actual value of stock destroyed, because in a milking season one cow may return in butter production alone her full market value. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie waited patiently until he received this letter, and then he took the first opportunity of making his protest in the place where his voice ought to be heard, namely, in this chamber. This matter cannot bo confined within the boundaries of any particular division in the Commonwealth. It concerns every honorable member in this chamber. Why do. not honorable members opposite get up in their places and protest ? Why are they like dumb, driven cattle.? Evidently, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is the only one with sufficient courage to speak in -this matter.
– The honorable member is making this essentially a party matter.
– I am not.
– He is.
– The honorable member, by his silence, is making this a party matter. Since he has become Whip of this Government he has not dared to open his month in criticism of its actions. Prior to his appointment as Whip, and when he was sitting in the corner as an alleged critic of the Government, his voice was often heard, but since his fortunes have been linked up with those of this composite government . he says nothing. If the honorable member was doing his duty to bis constituents, if, for once in a while, he could forget party interests, and give some thought to the welfare of the people he represents, he would try to see that justice was done in this matter. I commend the honorable member for Kalgoorlie for having brought this question up to-day.
– I very much regret that the rinderpest outbreak in Western Australia should have been treated, as it has been to-day. Every honorable member who knows anything about the matter is aware that the* id aim for payment of compensation for the economic loss sustained by the people whose stock were destroyed, bus been pressed to the fullest degree by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson). That honorable member has left no stone unturned in urging their claims, both as to the amount of compensation for the loss of stock, and compensation for the economic loss. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) was one of a deputation, attended by nil the members from Western Australia, which placed the claim before the Ministry.
– I sent him an invitation to join us.
– I think that all those who were present on that occasion will admit that the honorable member for Fremantle was the moving spirit, and that,, at the time of the outbreak, he rendered the greatest possible assistance to the Government in dealing with a very difficult situation. I entirely agree with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that the ordinary courtesies usually observed by one member to another should have been shown by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, to the honorable member for Fremantle, who should have been advised of the action which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie proposed to take to-day. The matter could very well have been left with the honorable member for Fremantle. It is lamentable that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), having no knowledge of the subject at all, should simply peruse the letter quoted by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, and then proceed to deal with it from a strictly party stand-point. I very much regret the way in which this matter has been treated, because it is a very serious question. To many of the people concerned it is a life and death matter. No one who has had to consider it, could have any feelings other than those of the deepest sympathy for the owners whose stock had to be destroyed. But in this question there is involved probably one of the largest issues which the government of any country could be called upon to face. I refer to the claim for compensation for economic loss sustained as the result of action taken by the Government. There have been outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in Great Britain and in America, and outbreaks of other diseases in other countries. On every occasion this question of economic loss has been discussed and disallowed. Obviously, if it were admitted it would be impossible for any one to say where the principle might lead a government in the future. It was on these grounds, and on these grounds only, that the Government felt obliged to refuse to admit the principle of responsibility for economic loss in connexion with the rinderpest outbreak in Western Australia. As regards the other side of the question, compensation for the destruction of stock, the Government has paid its full share. It is not on that point, however, that the greatest stress is laid by the honorable member for Fremantle. He has been urging the payment of compensation for economic loss sustained by the people concerned. As I have already said, this principle, if admitted, might have very far-reaching effects in the future. That being so, no honorable member should treat it from a party stand-point; there should not be any attempt to make political capital out of it. I regret the stand which the Government has had to take on the claim for economic loss; but after the fullest investigation, we came to the conclusion thai it was impossible to admit the principle. No one can say what outbreaks may take place in the future. They may not be confined to our flocks or herds. There may be outbreaks of epidemic diseases amongst the people. If we admitted the principle, and paid compensation for economic loss to people against whom action had to be taken in the interests of the nation, it would be impossible to say where it might lead us in the future. For this reason the Government had to refuse the claim.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 July 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240711_reps_9_107/>.