9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether it is not possible to print stamps of varying denominations in more distinctive colours than those at present adopted. By way of explanation, I may be allowed to say that green is at present used for stamps of the denominations1d., 1s., and1s. 4d., and red for the 2d. and 1½d. stamps. The 2d., . 6d., and 2s. stamps are very similar in colour. This is very inconvenient, especially to large users of stamps.
– I shall bring the honorable member’s question under the notice of the Postmaster-General.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether he has noticed the report of the debate in the New South Wales Parliament, in which it is stated that a number of people are coming from the continent of Europe to Australia, and that twenty who were landed at Newcastle, being unable to obtain employment, are living upon the charity of the residents of the town. Are these immigrants introduced under the migration scheme? If not, will the Prime Minister try to prevent the introduction of people, who, when they arrive in Australia, have to live upon the people already here?
– I have not seen a report of the debate in the New South Wales Parliament to which the honorable member has referred. I shall have inquiries made into the facts, and let him know what the position is.
Mr. MACKAY brought up a report from the Public Works Committee together with minutes of evidence relating to the proposed establishment of an automatic telephone exchange at -Northcote, Victoria.
Ordered to be printed.
– I wish to ask a question of the Prime Minister, and as indicating its urgency I may say that I have received a letter from the manager of the Angaston Marble Quarries Limited to say that unless something is done to prevent the dumping of marble from Italy, the company’s quarries must bc shut down. The Prime Minister said in this House yesterday that Australia is not bound by commercial treaties made between Great Britain and other countries. If so, I ask why it is that a treaty made between Great Britain and Italy in 1883, before federation, should be binding upon the Commonwealth Government, seeing that it is the treaty which prevents the application of our anti-dumping legislation to the ‘ importation of marble from Italy.
– The honorable member has quite accurately repeated something I said yesterday in the course of a statement I made.” With regard to the latter part of his question, Australia is not bound by any treaty unless she is party to it. It is, of course, always open to Australia to adhere to any treaty. If the honorable member will put his question on the notice-paper I shall supply him with all the facts concerning the treaty to which he has referred.
– I ask the Prime Minister if the Government has yet considered the recommendations of the conference” of gold-mining representatives which met in Melbourne on the 7th December last, and made certain recommendations to the Government. I understand that a letter was sent two months ago by the Gold Producers Association to find out what had become of the recommendations of the conference, but that so far no reply to it has been received.
– I remind the honorable member that, in the budget statement, one of the recommendations of the conference, namely, relief from income tax, is referred to. Effect will be given to that recommendation when the Income Tax Assessment Bill is introduced.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs: .Is it a fact that practically every steamer which reaches Australia from Great Britain or the Continent of Europe brings pianos to this country? In view of the importance of the piano industry to Australia, is the Minister in a position to make any statement regarding the importation of pianos?
– I assume that .the honorable member refers to statements which recently appeared in the press in connexion with the alleged importation to Melbourne of 500 German pianos. I have made careful inquiries at the Customs House concerning this matter, and I find that, during the last few weeks, six pianos have been landed. There is, however, a consignment of about 50 on the way, which will eventually be landed here, and that consignment will be dealt with in accordance with the legislation now on the statute-book.
Mr. FENTON brought up a report from the Public Accounts Committee on the expenditure of the Royal Australian
Naval College and theRoyal Military College.
Ordered to be printed.
Dr. Stefansson’s Report
– Some time ago, I asked a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories in connexion with a report to be made by Dr. Stefansson. Has the report been received, and, if so, will the Minister lay it on the table of the House, or make it available in the Library?
– I have ascertained that Dr. Stefansson is making a report, but it is not yet to hand. When the Minister for Home and Territories receives it, it will be made available to honorable members.
– Has not Dr. Stefansson left Australia?
– He can still send in his report.
– I wish to ask the Prime Minister a question with respect to the Commonwealth Bank Bill. I this morning received a copy of a resolution passed by the Paddington Municipal Council to the following effect -
This council, now being aware that the objective is to destroy the Commonwealth bank as a trading bank, and to remove it from being a competitor of the private banks, emphatically protests against the present Commonwealth Bank Amendment Bill becoming law immediately, and this council requests the Federal Government to withhold the bill until a royal commission be appointed, or until the question is submitted to a referendum of the people, and that the council circularize all municipal and shire councils in New South Wales to take action by passing similar resolutions.
I have been asked to bring this resolution under the notice of the Prime Minister, and to ask whether he will comply with the request it contains.
– I realize that every consideration should be given to a request submitted by the honorable member’s constituents, but I regret that the Government cannot see its way clear to comply with the proposal contained in the resolution.
The following papers were presented: -
Navigation Act - Royal Commission - Report
By Mr. J. H. Prowse, M.P. (Chairman), and Mr. A. C. Seabrook, M.P.
By Mr. F. Anstey, M.P., Senator C. S.
McHugh, and Mr. G. E. Yates, M.P.
By Senator W. L. Duncan and Senator H. E. Elliott.
Ordered to be printed.
Papua Act - Infirm and Destitute Natives’ Account - Statement of Transactions of Trustees, 1923-24.
Taxation - Eighth Annual Report of the Commissioner, years1920-21, 1921-22, and 1922-23.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow:
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister; upon notice -
– The details of the new Empire migration proposals are at present the subject of negotiations between the Commonwealth, the British Government, and the states. As soon as finality is reached, I will make a statement to the House, giving the fullest details for the information of honorable members.
Pasturage : “Big Scheme “ - Liquor Ordinance - Indigent Chinese: Offer of Passage to China.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I have read the press reports to the effect that the PostmasterGeneral is stated to be conducting negotiations with a view to an extensive area in the Northern Territory being utilized for sheep raising. I have not so far received advice from the PostmasterGeneral of the nature of the negotiations he is said to be conducting, but I need hardly state that any proposals that will tend to assist in the development of the Northern Territory will be very sympathetically considered by the Government.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - .
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it proposed to appoint a royal commission to consider the points raised by the Tariff Board in their last report, in which it is stated that the position of Western Australia, under federation,, warrants consideration and special treatment?
– As announced by the Treasurer in his budget statement, the Government has decided to appoint a royal commission at an early date to consider the points raised by the Tariff Board, and to report thereon. commonwealth’ road grant.
asked the Minister for Trade ‘and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Representations have been made on behalf of a British firm, which it is said is considering a proposal to establish in Australia a factory for the manufacture of aeroplane engines, and certain information desired by the firm is now being compiled.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Will the power under Defence or any other constitutional method permit of the Commonwealth passing a law prohibiting the sale or the carrying of small firearms?
– It is not the practice of the Minister to furnish answers to questions of law.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1, 2, and 3. This information is being obtained, and will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I am having inquiries made, and shall advise the honorable member as early as possible.
– On the 7th August the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) asked the following questions: -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– On the 7th August, 1924, the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the following information : -
– When speaking on the budget yesterday the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) made certain allegations, the purport of which was that in the administration of the Land Tax Assessment Act partiality was being shown to certain large taxpayers. He made a deliberate charge.
– Does the right honorable gentleman propose to make a statement or to deal with the subject as an answer to a question?
– I wish to inform the House what action the Government intends to take.
– Am I to assume that the House desires this information ?
– Will the Prime Minister conclude his statement with a motion ?
– No. I merely wish to state that the Government proposes to appoint a royal commission.
– I object.
– As objection is taken, no doubt the Prime Minister will avail himself of another opportunity to make his statement.
– (By Leave.) - On the 31st July the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) stated in the House that a report was handed to Mr. Justice Powers, when he was recently in Darwin, by certain Malays, regarding an alleged attempt by the Northern Territory Administration to coerce coloured people into accepting wages lower than the ruling rate. The honorable member requested that a copy of the report should be obtained and laid on the table of the House. As a result of inquiries made of Mr. Justice Powers, it has been ascertained that no report by Malays was handed to him in or outside the court on any matter whatever while he was at Darwin, and that no Malay made a complaint to him personally, or through his associate, verbally or in writing, while he was in the Territory. A document, headed “ An appeal to His Honour Mr. Justice Powers on behalf of the coloured men of Darwin in their present condition,” signed by two well-known members of a union at Darwin, and not by Malays, was handed to Mr. Justice Powers at his hotel after the proceedings in all the cases in court at Darwin had closed, except the delivery of judgments. Certain complaints were made in the appeal, but as no copy of the document had been served on those complained of, and as the judge had no application before him, and had no jurisdiction to deal with the complaints, he did not attempt to take action. Mr. Justice Powers states that he has the strongest possible objection to submitting to any one but the sender any document or report received by him as a judge of the Arbitration Court, but not submitted in open court as an exhibit, especially if it charges persons with wrong-doing without giving them an opportunity of disproving the charges. The court cannot be used as a publicity department to publish to the world all the charges that any unionists or non-unionists may make to the judges of the court. The judges themselves can only ignore them, because the persons charged have not had an opportunity to defend themselves. Mr. Justice Powers does not feel justified, therefore, in submitting the appeal made in the manner mentioned to him as a judge to a Minister to submit to Parliament.
– I move -
That the bill he now read a second time.
This bill has been long wanted by the commercial community of Australia. It has three main purposes. The first is to apply in Australia certain rules relating to bills of lading - rules that, after some years of consideration and inquiry, have been passed into law in Great Britain and recommended for adoption by the Empire generally. Those rules were of international creation. The second purpose of the bill is to apply the Commonwealth law to any bill of lading issued in Australia, and to any bill of lading for goods coming to Australia. The third purpose of the bill is to make clear, distinct, and definite provision for the issue of a “ received for shipment bill of lading.” The terms of bills of lading have been subject to much contention owing to the lack of equity and uniformity. Ship-owners have inserted clauses modifying their liability, and shippers have demanded legislation to regulate the matter. The Imperial Shipping Committee, in a report made as long ago as February, 1921, recommended uniform legislation throughout the Empire. Before effect could be given to that recommendation, a movement developed to secure world-wide uniformity in bills of lading, and that resulted in a draft known as the “ Hague Rules, 1921.” In October, 1922, at an international conference in Brussels on maritime law, a set of rules based on the Hague rules was unanimously recommended as a basis for an international convention. In 1923, a select committee of the House of Commons again held an inquiry. The British Government had refused to take action on the ground that a bill of lading was a contract between parties, but the select committee strongly recommended that action should be taken. The committee mentioned also that in the United States of America an act was passed, in 1893, restricting shipowners, and that similar legislation had been passed in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. The rules recommended by the international conference in Brussels in 1922 were embodied in a bill in the Blouse of Lords, and the question was of so much importance that it was carefully considered by a joint committee of both Houses of the Imperial Parliament. The Imperial Economic Conference of 1923 passed the following resolution : -
This Imperial Economic Conference, having examined the rules relating to bills of lading recommended by ‘ the International Conference on Maritime Law, held at Brussels in October, 1922, and embodied in the Carriage of Goods by Sea Bill now before the British Parliament, is of opinion that in all essential principles they are based upon the Canadian Water Carriage of Goods Act 1910,’ and the Report of the Imperial Shipping Committee, 1921, and believing that there is a good1 prospect of international agreement in regard to bills of lading on this basis which would be ‘ of benefit .to every part of the Empire, considers that these rules can be recommended for adoption by the Governments and Parliaments of the Empire.
The British Government in September, 1923, forwarded the British bill, and in March, 1924, the Secretary of State for the Colonies intimated that it was intended to proceed with it. Later cabled advices show that the bill passed through both Houses without amendment. In view of all these circumstances, and of the fact that the British Government had passed the rules into law, and that they were recommended for adoption after the fullest consideration of the Economic Conference and the conferences which preceded it, it was decided to withdraw the Sea Carriage of Goods Bill originally introduced into this .chamber last year, and to substitute a fresh bill, which would give effect to these rules and also retain the provisions sought to be enacted in the previous bill. This involves also the repeal of the Sea Carriage of Goods Act 1904, as it will be replaced by the uniform rules and other provisions. The second subject of the bill is that of jurisdiction. The provision of the Sea Carriage of Goods Act 1904 that a bill of lading issued in Australia for goods going to a place outside is subject to Australian law, and that any stipulation to the contrary is void, is to be repeated, and a new clause enacted to provide that any stipulation in a bill of lading from outside Australia that purports to lessen the jurisdiction of Australian courts is void. In 1923 the Chambers of Commerce drew attention to the fact that foreign bills of lading stipulated that any action arising in connexion with them must be taken, in the courts “of the country of issue. This prevents Australian importers from proceeding against a ship in Australian courts, and necessitates the taking of action in a foreign country. A clause in this bill is designed to override that stipulation, and give the importer the opportunity of taking action in our own courts to settle the interpretation of the contract entered into under the bill of lading. The advantage of this is obvious. At present the ship-owner can- only be sued abroad in his own courts, but the proposal in the bill will give the Australian importer redress in out own courts, and save Mm from the expense of instituting proceedings in a distant foreign court. The third purpose of the measure is to provide for “ received for shipment “ bills of lading. This proposal is of great importance in the financing of- the shipment abroad of Australian products, particularly wool. At present bills of lading are issued after the goods to which they relate have been shipped. Delay often occurs in shipment, and in the absence of a bill of lading no documents are available upon which to finance the transaction. Various representations were made as to the advisableness of making provision for “ received for shipment “ bills of lading, which would be issued as soon as the goods came into the custody of the shipping company, and not, like ordinary bills of lading, after actual shipment. It was required, also, that such a document should be negotiable. An -amendment was therefore proposed to the bill introduced in 1923, to give effect to this requirement. The rules, however, provided for the issue of a similar document, and no further provision seemed necessary. It is felt, however, that there” might still be doubt as to the effect of this particular rule, and to obviate all’ uncertainty it is proposed to add a clause to the bill to provide that a bill of lading issued under article III., paragraph 3, of the rules shall for all purposes be deemed to be a valid bill of lading with the like effect and capable of negotiation in all respects and with like consequences as if it were a shipped bill of lading. It is advisable to. adopt the same shipping rules and bills of lading regulations throughout the Empire, and the Government has not deemed it advisable to alter in any way those that have been agreed to elsewhere. The additional clause that we propose to insert will be simply for the purpose of making it quite clear that “ received for shipment “ bills of lading shall be negotiable instruments. This is done purely to facilitate the financing of our wool shipments and to enable shippers to negotiate the documents as soon as the wool is received for shipment, instead of waiting until it is actually on board ship. The bill is introduced solely to assist commerce. It is purely a machinery measure, and is quite non-party in character. It will facilitate trade and will be of advantage to many exporters of our primary products.
.- I agree with the Minister that the proposals in the bill are based upon international experience which has proved to be of value. The matters with which it deals concern . the shippers and carriers. It is, as the Minister has said, purely a machinery measure, and need not occupy the attention of this chamber for very long. I should like the Minister to explain why the principal part of the measure is the . schedule. The clauses of the bill occupy two pages of print, and the schedule four pages in much smaller type.
– The schedule contains the Imperial regulations.
– Why could not the provisions of the schedule be put into the clauses of thebill? It would then be clear and in regular order. As drafted, the bill is a mass of intricacies, and very difficult to understand. Article III. of the schedule provides that the carrier shall be bound before, and at the beginning of, the voyage to exercise due diligence to make the ship seaworthy. A ship-owner is bound to do that under the existing law. What, then, is the object of re-enacting his obligation in this form? Clause 5, however, provides -
There shall not he implied in any contract for the carriage of goods by sea to which this act applies any absolute undertaking by the carrier of the goods (to provide a seaworthy ship.
What is the purpose of that?
– Imperial uniformity.
– Imperial uniformity may or may not be advisable. As I understand our existing maritime laws, somebody is bound to provide a seaworthy ship for the carriage of people and goods, and we employ officers to certify that a ship is seaworthy before it puts to sea. There should be some explanation of the apparent contradictions of clause 5 and article III., paragraph 1, of the schedule. The schedule seems to be full of matter that requires explanation. For instance, article I., defines “goods” as excluding “live animals and cargo which by the contract of carriage is stated as being carried on deck and is so carried.” Some goods are better carried on deck. For instance, in fine weather some fruits will carry better on deck than in the hold. Why is such cargo excluded from the definition of “goods.” Article V. says - “ The provisions of these rules shall not be applicable to charter parties.” Why? This bill purports to be legislation by this Parliament, but its half a dozen clauses are unimportant; the kernel is the schedule, which merely re-enacts imperial legislation. The only explanation the Minister for Trade and Customs has given is that the re-enactment is for the sake of securing imperial uniformity. I quite realize that such uniformity may be of great value and necessary, but, on the other hand, it may be very unwise. The mere statement that the measure will secure imperial uniformity conveys nothing. If a provision is good, it should be adopted, and if it is evil, it should not, regardless of whether or not it makes for uniformity. Article VI. says -
Notwithstanding the provisions of the preceding article, a carrier, master, or agent of the carrier, and a shipper shall, in regard to any particular goods, be at liberty to enter into an agreement in any terms as to the responsibility and liability of the carrier for such goods, and as to the rights and. immunities of the carrier in respect of such goods or his obligation as to seaworthiness, so far as this stipulation is not contrary to public policy.
The whole schedule is a repetition of “ provided,” “ notwithstanding,” and “ except in the case of “ ; it is a mass of provisions, exceptions, and reservations, and it is impossible for a layman to understand it.Whilst I am quite prepared to accept the assurance of the Minister that this is merely a machinery measure which is necessary to facilitate coastal and overseas trade, I ask for some explanation of its provisions beyond the mere affirmation that it ensures imperial uniformity.
– The Minister said that a bill of lading would be issued as soon as goods were delivered in the shed, and would straightway become a negotiable document. He did not specify which shed he referred to.
– The shed on the wharf is meant.
– The bill does not say so.
– I assume that ship-owners and commercial men are aware of the provisions of this bill, but did the Minister or his department consult the representatives of the stevedores and sailors to ascertain if they approve of the proposed legislation? It is often found after a measure has been passed by this Parliament, especially if it has had a hurried passage and there has been no opportunity for the press or the public to study its provisions, that serious mistakes have been’ made, and some sections of the community have been harshly treated. I should like an assurance from the Minister that none of the clauses or the schedule of this bill will undermine the provisions of the Navigation Act. It would be well, whenever practicable, to adjourn the debate on a bill after the Minister had moved the second reading, in order that honorable members and the public might have an opportunity of studying the effect of the Government’s proposal. We cannot pretend to have a knowledge of thetechnical matters involved in this measure. An allrisks insurance policy covers cargo from the time it leaves the shed at the port of shipment until it is landed in the shed at the port of destination. But there is an interval between the placing of goods on a vehicle at the warehouse and their receipt in the shed on the wharf. Presumably, the insurance policy will cover the cargo at that stage, too, because this bill provides that upon the cargo being delivered in the shed on the wharf, a “ received for shipment “ bill of lading shall be issued and become a negotiable document.
– From the time the goods come into the hands of the shipping firm it will be negotiable.
– I presume that shippers are covered by insurance against a possible fire at sea. The bill is one which can best be dealt with in committee, but I hope that the Minister in charge of it will give the necessary assurances as to its effect. I do not wish to assist in the passing of a measure which would encroach in any way upon the provisions of the Navigation Act, or interfere with the rights and privileges of those who go down to the sea in ships, or of those who are concerned in the transport of goods overseas. According to clause 5 of the bill, it would not appear to matter very much whether a vessel in which goods are shipped is seaworthy or not, but in the first clause of article III. of the schedule it is provided that -
The carrier shall he bound before and at the beginning of the voyage to exercise due vigilance to -
make the ship seaworthy.
I am not so much concerned about the safety of the ship or the goods carried in it as I am about the lives of those on board the vessel.
– The seaworthiness of the ship is provided for in the Navigation Act.
– Clause 5 of the bill says -
There shall not be implied in any contract for the carriage of goods by sea to which this act applies any absolute undertaking by the carrier of the goods to provide a seaworthy ship.
– The honorable member will notice the use of the word “ absolute.”
– I have noticed that qualification, but, in connexion with the transport of goods from port to port, I am specially concerned about the safety of the sailors who do the. world’s hard work at sea. “ Safety first “ is a slogan which should be applied not only to railway management, but also to the conduct of our mercantile marine. It- seems to me that this is somewhat one-sided legislation. The Minister obtains the opinions of shipowners and of commercial men engaged in the transport of goods by sea, but they are not the only persons concerned in the matter. I suggest that in legislation of this kind, the provisions of a proposed measure should be submitted also to the Seamen’s Union and the Stevedores’ Union.
What we want to do is to pass legislation which will be satisfactory to all whom it will affect.
– The provisions necessary to ensure the safety of sailors are contained in the Navigation Act. This is merely a bill relating to the carriage of goods. Article III. of the schedule provides that -
The carrier shall be bound before and at the beginning of the voyage to exercise due vigilance to -
Make the ship seaworthy;
properly man, equip, and supply the ships; and
make the holds, refrigerating and cool chambers, and all other parts of the ship in which goods are carried, fit and safe for their reception, carriage, and preservation.
The question has arisen whether the mere shipping of goods in a ship, reasonably supposed to be seaworthy, brings about an absolute warranty on the part of the shipowner to the shipper of the goods that the ship is seaworthy. Clause 5 of the bill provides -
There shall not be implied in any contract of the carriage of goods by sea to which this Act applies any absolute undertaking by the carrier of the goods to provide a seaworthy ship.
The intention of the clause is that after every precaution necessary has been taken it is notfor the owner of the goods to say to the owner of the ship that under all the conditions of the voyage, from its beginning to its end, he is bound to provide an absolutely seaworthy vessel, in spite of storms and weather conditions or other unpreventable occurrences. If clause 5 were not inserted in the bill the onus would be upon the shipping firm to warrant the provision of an absolutely seaworthy vessel, and if the vessel were wrecked from any cause whatever, the owner of the goods could claim their value from the ship-owner on the ground that he warranted an absolutely seaworthy vessel.
– The ship-owner would insure the vessel and the goods.
– He might or might not insure the goods, but if clause 5 were not inserted in. the bill he would have to insure the goods to protect himself in case of loss. The seaworthiness of a vessel is not dealt with in this bill, but the responsibility upon the ship-owner to provide a seaworthy vessel still remains under the Navigation Act. All that clause 5 of this bill means is that after the provisions of the Navigation Act have been complied with, there shall be no absolute warranty as between the ship-owner and the shipper of the goods that a seaworthy vessel has been provided. The bill will throw upon the shipper of the goods the onus of protecting himself by insuring them against the ordinary risks of the voyage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 9 agreed to.
– I move -
That the following new clause be inserted after clause 6 : - “6a. A bill of lading issued in accordance with paragraph 3 of Article III. of the rules shall for all purposes be deemed to be a valid bill of lading, with the like effect and capable of negotiation in all respects, and with the like consequences as if it were a shipped bill of lading.”
In the opinion of financial institutions, shippers, merchants, and brokers, clause 3 of article III. of the international rules relating to bills of lading set out in the schedule to this bill is not as clear as it might be. The new clause I have submitted is proposed, so that there shall not be a shadow of a doubt that financial institutions will be able to negotiate “ received for shipment” bills of lading. That is the only purpose of the proposed new clause. We must see that shippers in Australia get the full benefit of the intention of the Government in the introduction of this legislation.
With respect to some remarks which were made on the second reading of the bill, it must be obvious to honorable members that we cannot control or alter international bills of lading, but we can pass legislation to make our intention clear in regard to any extension of them. On the subject of the safety of vessels, there is no question that this bill does not in any shape or form affect present legislation in that regard. As I explained on the second reading of the measure, the bill has three purposes - to adopt international rules; to provide for jurisdiction in Australia with regard to any claims arising out of bills of lading from foreign countries; and to provide for the “received for shipment” bill of lading to which the bill refers.
– I understand the new clause is to provide that a “ received for shipment “ bill of lading shall be given when wool, for instance, is received in the sheds on the wharf, instead of on a vessel.
– When it is delivered into the control of a shipping company.
– At present, a bill of lading is given only when goods have been put into a vessel.
– Why is a change being made ?
– At the request of the commercial community.
– In the event of a fire occurring on the wharfs, would the wool be fully covered by insurance ?
– The shipping companies ; are not in all cases the owners of the wharfs. If a fire occurred on a ship, the shipping company would, of course, be responsible. If the shipping companies do not object to the provision, and are not relieved of any obligation, I do not think therecanbe any objection to the bill.
– The wool exporters desire it, and the shipping companies are agreeable. If the measure is passed, the exporters of our products will, in some cases, be able to obtain their money a few weeks earlier than they otherwise would.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted,
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this measure is to facilitate reciprocal trade in imported goods between New Zealand and the Commonwealth. The existing tariff agreement with New Zealand contains a provision under which British goods exported from Great Britain to New Zealand, and afterwards transhipped to Australia, are admitted into the Commonwealth at the British preferential rate of duty. Similar terms are granted to British goods exported from Great Britain to Australia and re exported from Australia to New Zealand. It will be noted that this arrangement concerns only rates of duty. It has been thought desirable that the principle should be extended to apply not only to therates of duty chargeable, but also to the values upon which such rates should be charged. For instance on goods exported from the United Kingdom to New Zealand, and afterwards re-exported from New Zealand to Australia, the value for duty should be based upon the f.o.b. British value as if exporteddirect from the United Kingdom to Australia. That is the essential principle of the bill. There is, however, the modification that the provisions of the bill apply to goods of any origin imported into New Zealand and re-exported to Australia., and that, whereas in the case of goods exported direct from an overseas country to Australia, the present Customs Act requires an addition of 10 per cent. to the f.o.b. value in the exporting country, it is proposed to add a further 10 per cent. on goods imported into New Zealand and after re-exported to Australia. If the original f.o.b. value in the exporting country was £100 the value for duty would be £100, plus 10 per cent., making £110 if the goods were exported direct to Australia, while the same goods, if exported from an overseas country to New Zealand, and afterwards re-exported to Australia, would have a value for duty of £121. The first 10 per cent. is an arbitrary approximation of the additional value given by freight and other charges which would be paid on goods exported to New Zealand. The second 10 per cent. is the statutory addition required by the Customs Act in regard to all goods liable to ad valorem duties, and is imposed to approximately cover freight and other charges for transport from New Zealand to Australia. The further provisions of the bill are inserted for safeguarding its essential principles, which I have just explained. Subclause 3 of clause ‘3 provides that, if the value of like goods in the country from which the goods were exported to New Zealand had increased by the date on which they were re-exported from New Zealand to Australia, it shall be assessed on the basis of the value in the original exporting country on that date. If goods were exported from Great Britain to New Zealand at a value of £100 f.o.b., and were re-exported six months later from New Zealand to Australia, at which date their value had increased to £200 f.o.b. in Great Britain, the value would be assessed on the basis of £200 f.o.b., because it is not intended to impose a lower duty on goods imported into Australia via New Zealand than on goods imported direct to Australia. Further safeguards are contained in sub-clauses 4 and 5 of clause 3. The benefit of the act in the matter of value for duty will be subject to the production of prescribed evidence in the form of the original invoice or a duly certified copy. In the absence of this evidence the goods will be liable to duty on the domestic value in New Zealand, plus f.o.b. charges, and plus 10 per cent. Clause 4 provides that the value for duty shall not in any case be higher than the domestic value in New Zealand, plus f.o.b. charges, and plus 10 per cent. This provides for cases in which the duty would be less if it were payable on the basis of the domestic value in New Zealand instead of on the basis provided in sub-clause 1 of clause 3. That is, the provisions of the bill are not intended to place an importer in any case in a worse position than he is at present. The provisions of the bill apply to goods of any origin imported into New Zealand and re-exported to Australia; they do not apply only to goods of British origin. The conditions of the bill have been agreed to by the New Zealand Government, which has passed an act under which like conditions can be extended to goods imported into Australia and reexported to New Zealand. It gives effect to the arrangement which has been agreed upon by the two governments. The bill embodies an extension of the principle which is contained in the tariff agreement with New Zealand of granting preferential tariff rates to British goods transferred from New Zealand to Australia, or vice versa, and will stimulate friendly and advantageous trading relations between the two countries. The provisions of the bill do not in any way prejudice the protective policy approved by this Parliament. It is a machinery measure, which will enable imported goods to be transhipped or re-exported at New Zealand ports for Australia on the definite basis provided for. New Zealand will treat imported goods transhipped and re-exported to that dominion from Australia in the same way.
It is eminently desirable that we should, as far as possible, secure what uniformity we can in connexion with trade between the Commonwealth and our nearest sister dominion. This small measure will, I believe, assist in that direction. It does not in any way interfere with our national policy, and, on the other hand, may have a tendency towards reducing the stocks of overseas goods in New Zealand and Australia. I submit the bill to the House with confidence.
Mx. FENTON (Maribyrnong) [4.19]. - I do not think any serious objection can be offered to the bill. I do not know whether I hold extreme views on protection, but we have to be very careful even in connexion with preferential arrangements not to facilitate the operations of importers. I believe in assistance being given in the matter of reciprocal trade between the dominions, where goods are manufactured, say, in Australia and exported to New Zealand, or vice versa, but I do not know whether it is not introducing a new principle if American goods imported to New Zealand can be re-exported to Australia. The Minister has assured the House that the duties imposed under the bill will not. conflict with the Australian Customs tariff. I understand that reapers and binders from America are admitted to New Zealand free, but, notwithstanding that, tha New Zealand purchaser pays as much for them as the purchaser in Australia. If a New Zealand firm desired to sell a reaper and binder to a firm in Australia, would the total duty imposed be 21 per cent.?
– The duty upon the imported article transhipped in New Zealand would be slightly higher than if the same article were imported direct.
– I was afraid that in our generosity we might be encouraging American exporters to exploit this market through New Zealand.
– There is not the slightest danger of that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message received from the Senate intimating that Senator H. S. Foll had been appointed a member of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, in succession to Senator B. Benny, discharged from attendance.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill.
Cattle Export Bounty Bill.
Commonwealth Bank Bill.
Post and Telegraph Bates Bill.
War Pensions Appropriation Bill.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 19th August (vide page 3291), on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1 - The Parliament- namely, “ The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Atkinson) read a further statement today in reply to my request that he should endeavour to obtain from Mr. Justice Powers a document relating to the employment of Malay labour in the Northern Territory. His reply was evasive, for he hedged it round with a statement that the question did not come within the jurisdiction of a judge of the Arbitration Court. I was well aware of that, and the Minister could have done more justice to me in that regard. When making my request, I distinctly said that the request did not involve any procedure of the court, for the document was handed to Mr. Justice Powers, on the eve of his departure from the Territory, by the editor of a local newspaper and another citizen. On the same subject, some time ago, the Minister read a long typewritten statement supplied by the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce), and in it was the following passage: -
Mr. Nelson’s allegations that the Administration is attempting to coerce coloured people into the acceptance of wages lower than the ruling rate, by a threat of discontinuing their supply of rations, has no foundation in fact.
That was intended to convey to the House the impression that my charge was frivolous. As a matter offact, my charge had good foundation, and if the Minister had read the document that I requested him to obtain, he would have seen that that was so. The document handed to Mr. Justice Powers is very long, but I intend to read some of it in order to demonstrate the unreliability of the information obtained by the Minister. It says -
Shortly after the arrival of the coastal contract shipping service auxiliary brigantine Rachel Cohen early in July, 1923, these men approached Health Inspector Kelly, and asked for a steamer passage to Broome, Western Australia. They were told to go and see the Government Secretary, who informed them that he would give them three full days’ employment per week at ten shillings (10s.) per day, the remaining fifteen shillings (15s.) would be retained for their passage money, pending the arrival of the s.s. Bambra. They asked for the same rates of pay and conditions of employment as the white men, and pointed out that they were doing the same class and the same amount of work. The Government Secretary informed these men that he could not concede to them the rates and conditions asked for, and told them that they were not to come back to him any more.
I had interviewed these men in the meantime, and as a result of my representations the Government Secretary promised not to employ them in conjunction with European labour. I informed him that the unions did not object to their employment provided the ruling rates of wages were paid and existing conditions were observed. I conveyed that information to the men. The document further states -
Acting upon Mr. Nelson’s advice, they again approached the Government Secretary, who told them they would not get any relief work, as it was union work, and they must, therefore, join the union - although Mr. Nelson had previously informed these men that the North Australian Industrial Union had no objection to their working. No rations were offered.
These quotations show that the Government used an economic weapon to smash the existing rates and conditions. I intend, by the same document, to prove that the Government did not confine its energies to this action, but constituted itself a bureau to recruit labour for outside employers at “ smash-down prices.” The Minister has said that my statement has no foundation in fact, but I am going to prove that it has a very solid foundation. The document proceeds -
About the end of March last, the Elcho Island Naphtha Petroleum Company Limited wanted a sailor, and one of the coloured men, who was an experienced seaman, was approach and offered the position at ten pounds (£10) per month. The rate is £16. This rate of wages he refused to accept, with the result that his relief work was cut off, and he was refused rations,because he would not accept wages below the recognized rate then ruling. The man referred to is a married man with young children. The same position was offered to another coloured man, who also refused the proferred employment on the same grounds - he is also a married man with children. The Government Secretary was approached in the matter,but refused to do anything. These men have received neither relief work or rations since.
I particularly direct theattention of the Minister to the following paragraph: -
In the beginning of May of this year, Mr. Cecil Frear, of Darwin, wanted a sailor for his lugger, and his agent, under instructions from Mr. Frear, offered eight pounds (£8) a month for a coloured seaman. One coloured seaman was offered the position upon these terms, but refused it. The agent states that he wired to Mr. Frear, who was then in. Brisbane, regarding the matter, and stated later that he had informed Mr.. Frear that the. sailors had refused the position. Mr. Frear replied that he (Mr. Frear) had interviewed the Administrator upon the matter, and the Administrator told him (Mr. Frear) that he would wire the Government Secretary to stop this man’s relief work. The withdrawal of this man’s relief work took place a few days afterwards. Four other coloured men were approached, and offered this employment upon Mr. Frear’s lugger, but refused to accept the low rate of wages.. Their relief work was also stopped, and the position has remained the same up to the present. Both the Administrator and the Government Secretary have been interviewed upon . the matter, but neither of them have taken any action, nor, apparently, are they likely to take any.
The statement concludes as follows : -
We take the present opportunity offered by your Honour’s visit to the Northern Territory to place these facts before you, and. we now make this earnest appeal to you in the hope that your high sense of honour and justice will urge you to use your best efforts to bring about the amelioration of this truly disgraceful state of affairs.
Should you deem it desirable, we are fully prepared to call sworn evidence to verify and support the statements already made.
The final sentence certainly merits attention from the Minister. The Government is using this economic lever to depress wages to such a low figure that white men will not be able to exist on them. These Malays are capable of doing as much work as the average man, and they have been in the Northern Territory for 29 or 30 years. Many of them are naturalized. The statement that I have read indicates clearly that I had good foundation for my remarks, and additional evidence on that point is the willingness of the people concerned to make sworn declarations on the matter. It is evident that departmental officers are not supplying Ministers with correct information with which to answer the questions of honorable members. That is serious. Surely we are entitled to truthful replies to the questions that we put to Ministers. When departmental officials camouflage the issues as they have done in this case, honorable members are discredited, and if Ministers lend themselves to that kind of thing, they are playing a low-down game.
Although some honorable members have expressed satisfaction with the budget proposals, I can assure the Government that I, as the representative of the Northern Territory, am very dissatisfied with them. They reveal a colossal ignorance of the. fundamental principles of colonization. The Government surely cannot have studied the problems associated with the development of the Northern Territory or it would not have made such totally inadequate proposals.
An amount of £4,200, compared with £5,000 last year, is provided for encouraging primary industries there. What real developmental work can be done with that amount in over 500,000 square miles of country? It is time we thought seriously about converting the Northern Territory into a reproductive asset. Settlement was first attempted there 100 years ago this year, and the story of this century of failure may be summed up in a sentence : We have failed to make adequate land laws and to provide reasonable transport facilities. In view of our professed desire to populate the Northern Territory with white people, the provision of £4,200 to encourage primary industry there is ridiculous. What can be done with such an amount to develop the cotton industry, for instance ? There are great possibilities of growing cotton there, and huge markets are available if it can be produced.. Then sheep raising can be made a most profitable industry. The Government has shown clearly that it does not realize the magnitude- of the task that is before it in developing primary industries there.
Exactly the same thing can be said of - the mining industry, for only £1,000 is provided for developing it. I say without fear of contradiction that many a Broken Hill is hidden in the Northern Territory. Its mineral deposits only need transportation facilities, but £1,000 will hardly sink a decent shaft. After all the representations that have been made to the Government, one might reasonably have expected more consideration for this aspect of Northern Territory development. The mining .industry has been of tremendous value to other parts of the Commonwealth, and ultimately it will be so to the Northern Territory. Just as it lifted other States from squatterdom to prosperity, so it will lift the Northern Territory. “When one or two companies have been granted a subsidy from this £1,000 nothing will be left for general developmental’ work. Truly, the Northern Territory seems to be under a curse. a
The totally inadequate sum of £1,000, as against £1,500 last year, is provided for road-making there. The members of the Corner party particularly will know that £1,000 will not make one decent road, let alone make possible the building of highways into the vast hinterland of Port Darwin. Of last year’s vote, only £817 was spent. No sane man will say that the whole amount could not have been advantageously spent. Unfortunately, when warrants are not issued in a particular financial year for the expenditure of amounts provided on the Estimates, the vote lapses. Last year £39,000 was provided for expenditure in the Northern Territory under the heading, “ Roads, water, buildings, and engineering,” but this year the amount is cut down to £20,000. Of last year’s vote only £15,000 was expended. We are hearing a good deal at present about transcontinental motor-car races, with a view to enlightening the people on the value of the Northern Territory. I consider that Australians are “ dead from the heels up “ for not realizing, many years ago, what a great asset they can make of this great Territory. An amount of £20,000 would not even provide water for its stock routes, to say nothing of doing anything adequate in the way of road construction. How many buildings could be constructed in Central Australia with such a sum ? Not a penny of the vote would be left after two or three hospitals had been built. I am forced to the conclusion that the
Government has no real desire to develop the Northern Territory.
Last year £50,000 was voted for expenditure in the Northern Territory under the Advances for Wire Netting Act, but only one settler ‘has made an application for a grant. The reason is not difficult to explain. Before a settler could use wire netting he would need to spend a large sum on an ordinary plain and barbed wire fence, and no ordinary settler in the Territory can carelessly incur an expenditure of that kind. The conditions under which the wire netting was to be made available were such that the settlers were unable to avail themselves of the Government’s offer. If the Government were really desirous of assisting those men that sum of £50,000 would be made available for the purchase of wire as well as netting, and that would enable the settlers in the Territory to reap some advantage from the grant. I hope that that suggestion will be brought under the notice of the Minister for Home and Territories. If the settlers could obtain wire as well as netting the whole of the money available would be absorbed in a very short time, and the southern portions of the Territory particularly would benefit. There is a big responsibility on the Commonwealth to prevent the further inroads of the rabbits, which are advancing from* the south in millions. The only effective means of combating them is fencing, and a cheap supply of wire as well as netting would conduce to the development of that country. If the settlers may not purchase wire, the greater portion of the £50,000 allotted to the Territory will remain unexpended.
The Estimates include no provision for telephones for the Northern Territory. That is an omission which should receive the serious consideration of honorable members. Means of communication are of the “greatest assistance to development, and settlers who are isolated and unable to keep in touch with the markets are considerably handicapped. The Postal Department is surrendering millions of pounds through the reduction of postage rates, and as cheap postage is of little advantage to the pioneers they are entitled to ask that greater telegraphic and telephonic facilities shall be given to them. I have put before the PostmasterGeneral the application of a few settlers for a telephone line to a place about 80 or 90 miles from the nearest telegraph station. They have offered to provide and erect posts to carry the wire at a cost of 10s. per post. If the Government were to carry out that work the cost would he about £5 per post. Although only six or seven settlers would be served immediately by the line, it is obviously the duty of the Government to assist those men in every possible way. The reply I received from the Minister was that the department did not anticipate that the line would pay expenses. Surely no reasonable person expects pioneering services to
Say their way. The question that the Minister should ask himself is whether he propose’d line would assist to develop he Territory, and no one will deny that telephones and telegraphs remove one of the greatest hindrances to settlement by breaking down isolation and allowing people in remote areas to keep in touch with the market. Since the overland telegraph line was built from Adelaide to Darwin, about 40 years ago, not a single yard of telegraph line has been erected in the Northern Territory. That is a reflection upon the Federal Parliament, which for the last thirteen .years has been responsible for the government of the Territory.
I desire to bring before the committee a few domestic questions affecting my constituency. I notice that the salary of the Chief Veterinary Surgeon and Stock Inspector remains at £650. This officer is a highly-trained professional man, whose services are much appreciated by the settlers. He is becoming discontented, however, with the inadequate payment he receives from the Government. Year after year an effort has been made to increase his salary to a figure commensurate with the value and importance of his services. He has to care for stock scattered over 500,000 square miles of territory, and is obliged to do a great deal of travelling under very trying conditions. Every stockowner in the Territory sings his praises; but this highly-qualified professional man receives only £650 per annum, whilst the Government Secretary, who was a school teacher prior to being appointed to his present position twelve months ago, is receiving £750. A Crown Law officer was appointed at £825, and although he has been at Darwin only twelve months, an increment of £25 has been provided for him this year. Obviously, a Crown Law officer in the Northern Territory cannot have sufficient work to do to keep him warm, even in that tropical country. The position of Medical Officer may be considered to correspond with that of the Chief Veterinary Surgeon, but the doctor enjoys, in addition to a salary of £600 per annum, which is to be increased this year by £25, the right of private practice, and the Government maintains a big institution which, for all practical purposes, is a private hospital for the patients of the Medical Officer. A patient entering the institution not only pays 35s. a week for his maintenance and treatment, but may also be charged by the doctor £100 or more for an operation. Even the manager of the state battery at Marranboy receives the same salary as the very capable veterinary surgeon. It would appear as if the chief qualification for office in the Northern Territory is lack of knowledge of the duties to be performed. Evidently the Chief Veterinary Surgeon is too competent and practical, and the Government desires to be rid of him. Certainly a man of his capabilities will not be kept in the Northern Territory by the paltry salary of £650, when other officers are receiving higher pay for less important work. I, therefore, appeal to the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories to see that justice is done to that officer.
The Government is persisting in a policy of administration in the Northern Territory which proved a failure 100 years ago. Europeans were first on the north coast of- Australia in the seventeenth century, and it was then” within the trading spheres of the Dutch and Malays. It is due more to good luck than statesmanship that the British flag waves over the great Australian continent, and we are able to pursue our White Australia ideals. In 1801, when Flinders visited the north coast with the object of formally taking possession of it for the British Crown, he met a fleet of 60 Malay proas, each with a crew of 30. The Malays had been trading on the Australian coast for 100 year’s or more. In those days commerce was more important to the nations than colonization, and it is well for us that it was so, be- cause the Dutch and Malays, who were thoroughly conversant with the north of Australia, were convinced that no European power would think of annexing it. The next British expedition there was in ISIS, when Lieutenant King arrived to continue the survey work commenced earlier by that indomitable navigator, Captain Cook. King founded in 1S21 the port known now as Port Essington, and it is recorded that he predicted that it would become the finest naval base in Australia. In 1824 the first settlement was attempted by Sir J. Gordon Bremer, at Apsley Strait, between Melville and Bathurst Islands. Three attempts were made to settle the Northern Territory, and each failed owing to lack of communication with the outside world and with the country in the interior. I am going to show that luck has been a big factor in the destiny, not only of the Northern Territory, but of Northern Queensland. In connexion with the failure of the settlement at Melville Island, it is recorded that the settlers had no fault whatever to find with the climatic conditions of the north, or with the fertility of the soil. Its failure was due ta the isolation of the place, to the fact that when the boats went away for supplies they were captured by the blacks and never returned, to the lack of provisions, the lack of implements of cultivation, the dread disease of scurvy, and the hostility of the blacks. The settlement was doomed to failure from the start because of lack of organization. It was merely a dumping down of a few men in an unknown country and they were left to their fate. Practically the same policy is being pursued to-day in the present administration of the Northern Territory. The next settlement formed was the Raffles Bay settlement, in 1827. It would be interesting to honorable members to look up the records of these various settlements. This second settlement was destined to have but a very short life, not because of the climatic conditions, or because the land was not fertile, but for the reasons to which I have already referred, and which were ignored by those endeavouring to bring about the settlement of the Northern Territory. In 1829 the Raffles Bay settlement was abandoned. This was due to the fact that the commandant of the settlement, touring round the coast of Australia, discovered the Swan River, and was so impressed by what he saw that he ordered the removal of the settlers at Raffles Bay to the Swan River. It will be seen in the records that the captain left in charge of the Raffles Bay settlement entered a protest on two grounds against the evacuation of the north of Australia: first that the territory they had chosen was admirably suited for settlement, as shown by the fact that their cultivation was everything that could be desired; and, secondly, that it would form, later, one of the finest bases that could be established in Australia for the protection of the great commerce that must eventually pass through the straits north of Australia. The captain of the settlement was, however, overruled, and in 1829 vessels arrived from Sydney and took away the people who had attempted for the second time to settle the northern portion of this country. During the next eight years, from the abandonment of the Raffles Bay settlement in 1829 to 1837, the whole of the north of Australia, including the north of Queensland, might have been annexed by any European power that cared to occupy it. It was luck, pure and. simple, and not statesmanship, that reserved it for Australians. In the year 1838 Sir J. J. Gordon Bremer was again dispatched to formally take over the north of Australia. The reason why he was -dispatched for this purpose is significant. In that year the British Government received information that the French were forming an expedition at Toulon for the express purpose of annexing the north coast of Australia. Upon the receipt of that information the British Government “ got a hustle on “ and dispatched Bremer to take possession of the country. In 1838 Bremer hoisted the British flag at Cape York; in Queensland, and formally took possession of the north of Australia in the name of the Queen. I refer to these matters to prove that, throughout the piece, luck, and not statesmanship, has preserved the north of Australia for Australia and the British Empire. It was in 1838 that Sir Gordon Bremer discovered the famous Port Essington. His records oan be seen m the Library, and honorable members would be interested to learn the significance which this old-time navigator placed on the northern ports from the defence point of view. He formed at Port Essington the third settlement which was attempted in the Northern Territory. That settlement, too, was doomed to failure. It lasted for eleven years, and then collapsed. The collapse was not due to the impossible nature of the country, its climatic conditions, or lack of fertility; it was due to reasons which operate against settlement in the Northern Territory to-day - faulty land laws and lack of communication. The land laws in force at the time of the third attempt to settle the Northern Territory were not any more satisfactory than those which are in operation to-day. They limited the holding of any settler to 5 acres; the tenure of a lease was seven years, and the rental charged was 5s. per half acre. Honorable members will agree that such conditions were impossible, and could not be expected to induce settlers in the south of Australia to go to the Northern Territory. At this stage luck again proved to be the most important factor in the future of Australia. In 1S46, when the third attempt to settle the Northern Territory collapsed for the causes I have mentioned, coupled with the fact that labour was not procurable for cultivation on any large scale, Mr. Gladstone decided to overcome the difficulty in connexion with the supply of labour by sending to Australia huge shipments of convict labour. After the experience of it in other parts of Australia this convict labour was not appreciated, and because of popular opposition Mr. Gladstone discontinued the attempt to send convict labour to the north coast of Australia. The settlement there was abandoned, and for the third time the north of Australia became a grey waste. It is very interesting to follow the history of settlement there. One of the first suggestions in connexion with it was the importation of thousands of Chinese coolies. That suggestion, fortunately for Australia, was not adopted. The next suggestion was that we should colonize the north of Australia with Italian “Redshirts” under Garibaldi himself. That proposal fell through, and there was then a renewal of Gladstone’s proposal to fill the north with convict labour. In the year 1876 a proposal was made which, if it had materialized, would have had a very important effect on the future nation of Australia. “We missed a very grave danger indeed in that year by the merest fluke, a danger which still threatens the north of Australia. In that year the South Australian Government was actually negotiating with the Imperial Japanese Government for the colonization of the north of Australia by Japanese subjects.
– There was no Labour party in those days.
– That is so, but the honorable member must not forget that the distance from the north of Australia to Japan remains the same to-day, and that Japan and other eastern countries sooner or later must look to other countries to absorb their surplus population. I remind the honorable member also that if we do not populate the north of Australia we shall have no moral right to continue to hold the country. The eastern nations to which I have referred will be justified in attempting to secure the country, if we continue to neglect to settle and develop it after having held it for over 100 years. The South Australian Government actually negotiated with the Japanese Government to have the north colonized by Japan. A man named Wilton Hack was dispatched by the South Australian Government to Japan for the express purpose of consummating this scheme. The scheme of settlement was that the Japanese, with their women folk, were to be brought into northern Australia in thousands free, and were to be given free grants of land when they arrived here. The scheme provided not only for the importation of the labouring classes of Japan, but also encouraged the wealthy people of Japan to come to Australia by the offer of big concessions in land and of other kinds. This scheme so far materialized that the Imperial Japanese Government agreed to it, and the South Australian Ministers of the Crown at that time had actually signed the documents providing for the flooding of the north of Australia with Japanese labour. It was at this stage that luck again became a factor in our destiny. Internal troubles arose in Japan, and as a result the proposal for the settlement of the north of Australia by Japanese was suspended. Even after hostilities broke out in Japan, the man
Hack, representing the South Australian Government, tried to consummate the ideal of the South Australian Government by making arrangements under which the Japanese might come to Australia later on. If that scheme had materialized we should to-day be- involved in a racial entanglement from which we could never extricate ourselves. Imagine what it would mean to Australia if thousands of Japanese and their wives had settled in the north of Australia half a century ago. What would be our position today, and what would have become of the great ideal of a White Australia? It is astounding that the history of the past has apparently not taught members of this Parliament anything in connexion with the settlement of the Northern Territory. After all these things have occurred, the problem of settling the Northern Territory remains unsolved, and the position there to-day is very little better than it was in the days of which I have been speaking. The explanation of the tragic position in which the Northern Territory is placed is to be found in its isolation, lack of transport facilities, and the high cost of labour owing to the great distance separating it from the main centres of commercial activity. These are the issues which the Government have to face if they wish, to develop the Territory. For the last 46 years these facts have been emphasized by successive state and federal governments,, which have been responsible for the control of the Territory. An agitation for the construction of a north-south line has been iu progress without interruption for 46 years; As far back as the sixties the construction: of a line under the land grant system was persistently advocated; and, in 1886, that fine old South Australian., colonist, Mr. Simpson Newland, recommended the construction of the north-south line under that system. Although it is 38 years since Mr. Newland took a leading part in the fight for the construction of a railway, he informed me a few months ago. that, notwithstanding the delays, he still hoped to see the construction of the line commenced. I can imagine his feelings when he perused the budget recently submitted to Parliament,, and realized that, after so- many years of agitation, no practical effort is being made to develop that great tract of valuable territory. I can appreciate the feelings of Mr. Simpson Newland in the matter ; but I am not regardless of the feelings of a great number of Australian people who desire to see that portion of Australia occupied by a white virile race. In centering their activities in .the matter of expenditure in the gas-lit areas, .and leaving the Territory unpeopled and undeveloped, the Government are not playing the game. If the members of this Government possessed the colonizing instinct, which I very much doubt, they would bring down measures for the settlement of the Northern Territory, but their colonizing, instinct appears to be as dead as Julius Caesar. If the Northern Territory is to be developed, railways must be constructed; but we have not heard a word during the budget debate of what is contemplated in this direction, or of the manner in which the pledge to South Australia is to be honoured. The project of a north-south railway is apparently being used to influence the construction of a line through a back portion of South Australia to New South Wales. The situation ‘demands more definite action. The present or pre,vious Governments have never submitted a policy suitable for the development of the Northern Territory, and it is a subject which all governments seem to shirk. The present Government do- not even wish the members of this chamber to give them a lead, because when I have asked that means of ‘transport be provided for conveying honorable members through the Northern Territory, such requests have invariably been refused. In reply to a question only yesterday, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) said the Government did not feel disposed to grant facilities, and he reminded me that on a previous occasion the arrangements made were not used. That is an erroneous statement. Facilities were to be given, and representatives of the various parties in the. House expressed1 their intention of visiting the Territory, but at the last moment the Government pointed out that as. the representatives of the Ministerial party who were to make the trip had been appointed to various committees! and the remaining members represented- only one party facilities would not be provided. If honorable members traversed the country they would gain a practical knowledge of the land, would become conversant with the problems associated with land settlement, and would return, as did the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) and some other honorable members, ardent advocates of the possibilities of the Northern Territory. The Chief Commissioner of the Victorian Railways is repeatedly introducing slogans with- the object of increasing trade, and I suggest that in connexion with the Northern Territory we should adopt the slogan, “ The Territory every day and every way.” Until we secure some redress, I intend to hammer away in order that the Territory shall be given at least a fighting chance. If that occurred it would not be long before that portion of Australia would be in a position to control its own destiny. Session after session is concluded without the Government submitting any scheme whereby the gigantic waste which is now taking place could be stopped. In going through the Estimates the other day, I found that the Northern Territory has cost the. people of the Commonwealth £12,000,000, and that, with the accumulated deficit, the annual expenditure is approximately £500,000. A large amount of the money used in the Northern Territory has been acquired at about 3 per cent., and when present loans are renewed the interest will be in the vicinity of 6 per cent., and the increased annual cost will have to- be added to the accumulated deficit. That being the case, it will not be long before the annual cost of the Territory will be in the region of £1,000,000. If a business man were confronted with a problem like this he would naturally set to work to ascertain the cause. The cause in this instance is the lack of development and the absence of transport facilities, which at present is retarding the development of mineral deposits. The honorable member for “Wakefield” (Mr. Foster) is interested in a large mineral deposit in Central Australia, where the lode is 20 feet wide and that in an adjacent deposit is 12 feet wide, the ore being valued at £34 per ton. Under present conditions it is impossible to profitably work these deposits, whereas if they were in any other part of the Commonwealth a town would soon be established and thousands of people would find employment where they exist. As the position is well known to the Minister in charge of the Northern Territory, the possibilities of the mining industry should engage the immediate attention of the Cabinet. The only way in which the isolation can be broken down is to construct railways ; and if that is done we shall not only prevent further waste of public money, but afford a means of self-development and selfprotection which, after all, should be the objective of any Government. The incident I have quoted in connexion with the proposed settlement of the north of Australia by Japanese shows the good fortune which has attended us in regard to the Northern Territory, but that good luck may. not always be with us. If some other power desired to acquire a portion of Australia, particularly that portion which we have neglected, we should be unable to prevent an invasion, because . the means of transport are inadequate. The knowledge of the position should be an incentive to the Government to formulate a practical developmental policy, as by doing so they would render a great service, not only to the Territory, but also to the rest of Australia.
With a view to developing the Northern Territory, I have advocated the abolition of taxation, which would not be creating a precedent. When the question, of taxation was under discussion last year, I was fortunate enough to persuade the Government to accept an amendment exempting those engaged in primary production in the Northern Territory from taxation.. But that does not go far enough. I contend that secondary industries are quite as essential as primary industries, and if special conditions are provided for them for a number of years, they will be established. My sole object in advocating the abolition of taxation is to encourage development. This is not a new proposal ; it has been applied to other Commonwealth territories. If it was logical to apply ft tot other Commonwealth territories, it is also logical to apply it to the Northern Territory. Parliament, in amending the principal act relating to New Guinea, made the following provisions : -
Section 4 of tks principal act is amended by adding at the end thereof the words, “ But shall not apply to incomes derived from sources in Papua, or to any incomes earned in Papua by personal exertion by any person there.”
Not only did Parliament exempt New . Guinea from taxation, but it made the provision retrospective to the date from which Commonwealth taxation first operated. Parliament was justified in that action by the need for encouraging settlement there. A similar exemption should be granted for a period of ten years to the Northern Territory. The provision now applicable to primary producers should be extended to those controlling secondary industries and to all incomes derived from personal exertion. If that were done it would assist very materially in developing the Northern; Territory. Granting the request, moreover, would not involve the Government in any great sacrifice. The annual cost of the Territory is fast climbing up to £1,000,000 a year, and it is obvious that we must do something to stop the waste of public money. If taxation were remitted the increase that would take place in primary production and in the number of secondary industries would at least arrest the waste. The estimated revenue from all sources of taxation in the Northern Territory for the year 1924-5 is only £2,500. That would be a small amount to forgo, but the incentive that would be given to people to settle in the Territory and . erect works there would be a powerful factor in development. The small loss that would be involved in granting the request cannot be compared with the enormous benefits that would be derived. The loss in money would amount to £2,500 a year for ten years, but the greatest pessimist cannot argue that itwould be an irretrievable loss, for, with the ‘development of both primary and secondary industries that would take place, the increased, taxation that would be collected in one year would more than wipe out the loss. In addition to the building of railways and other necessary measures for the development of the Territory, the reduction of sea freights is needed. High freight rates are doing more to arrest development in the Territory than any other thing, except want of railway communication. It costs from £3 10s. to £4 a tonto ship cargo from the south of Australia to Darwin, but the boats that carry that cargo from, say, Sydney to Darwin, also take cargo from the same port to Java or Singapore at £2 a ton. It is obvious, therefore, that the Northern Territory is penalized in shipping freights to the extent of 100 per cent. That, however, does not indicate the total cost, as most of the cargo is shipped by measurement, not dead weight. When worked out on the basis of dead weight, most of the cargo sent to the Northern Territory costs about £5 5s. per ton for shipment. A shipping company in Melbourne is prepared to place a 2,000- ton boat on the run to Darwin on condition that the Government pays a subsidy on a sliding scale. The offer is that freights will be reduced by from £3 10s. to £1 15s. a ton, and fares from £25 to £15, first single, and from £16 to £10, second single. The Commonwealth Government would be required to make good the annual loss, but any increase in trade would automatically be offset against the subsidy. If the quantity of cargo increased the subsidy would be decreased proportionately. The proposal involves a lot in figures, but it also means a lot to the development of the Northern Territory. Calculated on the freights offering during the past twelve months - and they were the bedrock for many years past- -the cost to the Govern ment would be £26,000 a year. The amount of cargo carried to the Northern Territory last year was 3,600 tons, and it was on that basis that the offer to the Government was made. With freight rates as proposed, from 500 to 600 tons of base metal ores a month would be shipped. Ait offer to ship that quantity has already been made to the Minister. If costs can be reduced so as to allow the miners a margin of only £2’ or £3 a ton, they will ship enough ores ta load many vessels. Companies that are forming are prepared to ship 500 or 600 tons a month if the freight rate is made 35s. a ton. That would give the ship an earning capacity of £10,50*0 a year from ore alone. At the present time the quantity of cargo shipped from the north averages from 15 to 20 tons a month. It will be seen, therefore, that the offer made by the shipping company amounts virtually to a subsidy to the mining industry. On the Estimates there is a paltry sum of £1,000 provided for mining, and that money might as well be given to the miners in the form of reduced sea freights. The extra tonnage would mean that the annual loss on the running of the ship would be reduced from £26,000 to £16,000, but that estimate does not take into consideration the tonnage that would result from the shipment of such primary produce as cotton, which is now being grown extensively in the Northern Territory. As the earnings of the vessel increased as a result of this development, so would the Government subsidy delcrease. The problem of developing the Northern Territory is the problem of making it’ possible for the primary producers to get their commodities to market at a profitable price. Neither the mining companies nor the miners want an extravagant margin of profit. There are unlimited quantities of ore in the Territory, and the question is, How much will it cost to convey it to markets in the south of Australia ? If the shipping company’s proposal is accepted, it will develop the Territory more in five years than the Government’s tinkering will develop it in 100 years. That assumes, of course, that the fundamental requirement of land settlement is attended to. It is just as impossible to develop an island without the aid of a ship as to develop an inland country without railways. The freights now charged to Darwin are prohibitive, and I therefore urge the Minister to consider the proposal seriously. A reduction of freights would make possible the shipment of such commodities as lucerne. I know that settlers on the Adelaide River, where lucerne is being grown by irrigation, offered to supply that commodity to oversea shippers of cattle at £4 a ton. If a market can be found in Southern Australia for Northern Territory lucerne at £5 15s. a ton, giving the grower £4 a ton and allowing 35s. a ton for freight, I am satisfied that lucerne production will greatly increase in the Northern Territory in the next few years. It is necessary, however, that the growers shall be assured that the selling price will be such that they will have a reasonable margin over the cost of production.
As Central Australia is capable of carrying millions of sheep, I suggest that the Government should establish an experimental station there for breeding stud sheep which should be available to the settlers. The same suggestion is applicable to cattle. On the present experimental station at Mataranka, there are some excellent stud bulls, but there is not a cow there worth breeding from. Requests by the chief veterinary surgeon and stock inspector to remedy this have been persistently ignored. Seeing that both the quality and the quantity of the meat produced must be taken into consideration, the Government should take immediate steps to correct this anomaly. If the hig scheme for settling 20,000,000 acres in the Northern Territory, which was announced by the PostmasterGeneral in London, is to be made effective, the Government should lose no time in adopting the suggestions I have made. At present the cattle produced in the Northern Territory weigh, on the average, only about 500 lb. dressed, whereas the cattle grown iu Southern Australia turn the scale at from 800 to 900 lb. The necessity for improvement in the Northern Territory cattle is, therefore, apparent
Unfortunately, the Government has neither a developmental nor a defence policy, and so long as the Northern Territory remains the plaything of individual Ministers, we shall see repeated the history of the last 100 years. It is nothing less than a catastrophe that better progress has not been made in the Territory. An examination of its history will show that settlement has never been abandoned there because the land was not sufficiently productive, but solely because of the isolation. The settlers of to-day are obliged to accept the conditions of 100 years ago, and while such conditions continue no satisfactory development will occur.
.- Mr. Chairman- .
– I rise to a point of order. I wish to know the conditions under which the honorable member for Gippsland will resume his speech. “We may be establishing a precedent in permitting its resumption at all. I do not know for how long the honorable member addressed the committee last night, but I presume that he will only be allowed to’ continue until he has exhausted the 95 minutes allowed to him under the Standing Orders.
– That is so.
– I donot know whether he should be permitted to resume his speech at all, but 1 raise this point simply to make the position clear, and to avoid establishing a precedent. I haveno desire whatever to be discourteous to the honorable member.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Gippsland is being permitted to continue his speech as a matter of courtesy. When he was interrupted last night on account of the desire of the Government to introduce some either business, a promise was given to him that he would be called upon to resume the debate this afternoon. When the time came for its resumption, the honorablemember was engaged witha deputation. When the Chairman called on the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson), the honorable member for Gippsland was approaching the chamber, but the Chairman did not see him.
– He was not in the chamber when the debate was resumed.
– Whether he was here or not, he had the right to be called upon, but the honorable member for the Northern Territory was called upon instead. The position has arisen in consequence of a mistake by the Chairman, and the honorable member is being permitted to continue his speech now as a matter of courtesy.
– When the debate was adjourned last night, I was pointing out the necessity for improving the conditions under which our primary produce is marketed. I had portrayed the altogether unsatisfactory position in which our primary producers find themselves through having to sell their products in a freetrade market, and to buy all their necessaries in a protected market. In marketing their goods, not only are they obliged to pay exceedingly high freights, but they have to suffer losses caused by the adverse exchange rates and the deterioration of their products through transportation over long distances. Even in effecting sales to Australian consumers, they are obliged to suffer these deductions while export parity rates govern the local market. For instance, the producers of butter on their local sales lose the overseas freight equiva lent on exported butter ; theylose ¾d. per lb. in exchange, although the butter does not leave the country, and so should not toe in any way affected by the exchange position; and they also lose 1d. per lb. for deterioration, although the butter which they are selling is absolutely fresh. Under this paradoxical economic law, any increase in overseas freights and in exchange losses means cheaper butter to the Australian consumers. The position would not be so serious if that were the end of the story, but the producer also has to suffer in making his purchases. In some instances he has to pay nearly double the freetrade price for his tools of trade because he lives in a protectionist country. I gave some illustrations of that last evening. In my opinion such a lop-sided arrangement cannot last long. It may continue for some time, but cannot do so indefinitely. That arch-priest of high protection, the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), said, a little whileago, that the local market was invariably the best market. If he had said it ought to be the best market, I should agree with him. If the producer could obtain an Australian price for the produce he sold locally, this would undoubtedly be his best market, but when the price he receives locally is only equal to that which he receives for his exported goods, the local market is no better than the export market. From this point of view, Australia finds herself in the same position as some other countries. That will be shown from the following article which I quote from an American journal: -
Has the agricultural problem at last been solved? Such is the claim made by those who are advocating the passage of the McNaryHaughen Bill, now under consideration by Congress. The main difficulty with the farmer is plain enough. He is producing more than he can sell. The natural result is an abnormally low price for foodstuffs. Alone of American workers,the farmer does not enjoy the enhanced prices that have been the chief factor in the economic situation of the -last ten years. Wheat, and corn, and hogs bring more, it is true, than in 1914, but, compared with the advances in the output of industry, the rewards of agriculture are extremely low. Hence the disasters, the bankruptcies, and the foreclosed mortgages that now darken the agricultural regions. As remedies for this distress, an avalanche of proposals has descended on Congress in thelast four years. Practically all have involved some scheme of using public moneys for agricultural relief.
It will be seen from that statement that the position in the United States of
America is very like that in Australia. The article proceeds as follows: -
The .new proposal, which has made greater headway than any of its predecessors, has, at least, the virtue of ingenuity. It recognizes as the basic problem the fact .that the price of agricultural products is not made in the United States of America. American industry, for that larger part, is not obliged to compete with foreign industry. The tariff ‘protects it against such competition. The American workman pits himself against American workmen exclusively; his wages are fixed by domestic conditions, not by the standards of labour in other countries. But the situation of the farmer is quite different. He exports his surplus product. He sells this surplus product in the markets of tho world. A tariff, therefore, helps him not at all, since the products of foreign farms do not enter thi s country in sufficient quantities to compete with the American products. Because the American farmer sells abroad, his. competitors are the farmers of Russia, India, Australia, the Argentine, and other remote countries, and the price of his output is made, not in Chicago and New York, but in Liverpool. It is also true that the price fixed, in the world market rules in- the United. States of America as well as in other countries. No protective tariff can change this situation as long as the American farmer remains an exporter. And the American farmer suffers in two ways. He competes with the whole world, which means - at -least it means at present - a low price for the things he raises. On tho other hand, nearly everything he buys is produced in a protected market, which means high prices. Here is a gross injustice. Tha Government interferes on behalf of the industry, sets aside economic law, and protects industry from competitors, - which is merely an artificial method of increasing prices. The farmer, on the other hand, is compelled to shift for himself. The farmer understands that there is little likelihood of a reduction in th.e tariff. The Government interferes with economic law and suppresses competition for the benefit of the industrial worker. Why should it not do the same for the wheat-grower and the hog-raiser? The avowed purpose of the protective tariff is to increase the prices of manufactured goods.
– Oh, no !
– I join issue with the honorable member there. I submitthat whatever may be the real purpose of a protective tariff, it always results in increasing prices. It may be imposed in order to protect a local industry, but its effect is always to increase prices.
– The honorable member will not find that the farmers agree with him iu that statement.
– The article continues -
The advocates of the McNary-Haughen Bill believe that their measure will accomplish good results. The proposal is, in essence, one for building a kind of Chinese wall around that part of farm products which is consumed in the United States of America. It establishes an elaborate mechanism for separating the farmers’’ output into two classes, that which is consumed in this country and that which is exported. It is the exported portion that makes all the trouble, for this sold abroad establishes the price for which the domestic portion sells in the United States of America.
– The honorable member does not believe that statement.
– Indeed I do, and I refuse to credit that the honorable member, with his high intelligence, does not also believe it. The article continues -
If this exportable surplus could be segregated, then the crops consumed by the American people would go up in price, and the farmer would enjoy a measure of that prosperity to which he is now a stranger. How is this “ exportable surplus “ to be placed where it will not depress American prices?
It then proceeds to explain the scheme in detail. I submit that in Australia th; same difficulties obtain, but in an intensified form. We have to submit to far greater deductions in the form of ocean freights than do the American producers, and we have, in many instances, to pay nearly twice as much for our tools of trade.
– That is because the American manufacturer comas to the rescue of the primary producer.
– A few days ago the honorable member caustically criticized the immigration scheme under which people are brought from the Old World and placed on the land, but inevitably drift to the cities. The reasons for that drift are not far to seek. With the present-day competition between city and country, it is practically impossible for the country to hold its own. _ The artificial conditions of the city, which have been made possible by the high tariff, have drawn people from the primary industries into the secondary industries. I am satisfied that the high tariff can be regarded as largely responsible for the difficulties in the way of land settlement. The soldier settlers in Victoria are approximately £3,000,000 in arrears with their payments, and unless something very drastic is done to improve the position of the primary producers - returned soldiers and ethers- - it will be absolutely impossible for them to meet their obligations. Many of them, even if they owned their blocks, would still be unable to earn more than a meagre living. I had an interview a few days ago with a young returned soldier, who typified everything that is best” in brains, physique, and energy. He had started dairying a few years ago with a fair amount of capital, and in that respect he was better off than are many returned soldiers who are engaged in that industry. He worked industriously, and by dint of energy, supported by capital, he was just able to meet his liabilities. But he informed me that he had decided to leave dairy farming and return to a business of which he had gained experience prior to going to the war, because he could not continue in an occupation which did not ensure him a living wage and a fair standard of comfort for his wife and children. About a fortnight ago, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) asked, by interjection, why the dailymen had not ‘ organized to overcome their difficulties, instead of soliciting the. aid of the Government. During the last two or three years, the dairymen have been earnestly attempting to organize themselves. It is true that some years ago the primary producers throughout Australia had about as much cohesion as has a spilt bagful of marbles. But to-day they are organized to some extent, and I desire to place before honorable members what the dairymen in particular have done to better their position. Two and a half years ago, the dairying industry was faced with a crisis owing to the tremendous drop in the price of butter iu London. The position was intolerable, and something had to be done to rectify it. Representatives of the dairying industry from all parts of Australia met in conference, and evolved a voluntary stabilization scheme, by which it was hoped that fair prices might be obtained from local sales, no matter what price was obtained overseas. The crux of the scheme was this : An attempt was to be made to get an agreement with all’.the factories to obtain the import parity instead of export parity for butter sold in Australia. When we endeavoured to define the import parity we were confronted with the fact, that the only country that could be expected to export butter to Australia was New Zealand. Butter from that country, owing to the fact that it has the reputation of being of more even grade than the Australian article, realizes about £d. per lb. more than our product. The cost of exporting it from New Zealand to Australia would be equal to another ½d. per’ lb. Under the reciprocal agreement with . the dominion the duty on the butter would be 2d. It was found that, allowing for profit to the importer, it would be possible to increase the price of the local product for sale within Australia by 3½dper lb., without incurring any great risk of big importations from New Zealand. Such a conclusion having been arrived at it might be thought that the trade needed only to agree that the local price should be 3d. or 3½d. in excess of the exportparity and no further regulation would be required. A moment’s reflection will show, however, that a great deal more is required. At. the present time many companies are content to export a large proportion of their produce, because they find it as profitable to do so as to sell in the local market; indeed, when the Interstate Commission was sitting, it was discovered by a reference to the statistics for fifteen preceding years, that the export price for butter averaged 2 per cent, better than the local price. It was realized that in the event of two- prices being fixed, one for the local market and the other for export, every factory would endeavour to sell locally the whole of its production. There were two methods by which that obstacle could be overcome. One was the method adopted during the war, when the boot was on the other foot, and the Government forced the producers to sell in the local market at less than export parity. At that time every producer wanted to export in order to get the higher price, and the Government overcame the difficulty by compelling each factory to put a fair proportion of its output on the local market. That method applied to the present position meant that each factory must be induced to agree voluntarily to play the game, and take its fair share of the export trade. There were disadvantages in that system, however, the principal being the dislocation of the ordinary channels of trade. It was thought by those responsible for the voluntary stabilization scheme that everything possible should be done to allow trade to follow its natural channels, and that any factory which had a good local connexion should maintain it, and any factory which had a superior reputation overseas should be allowed to export the whole or part of its- products’ without being penalized. A very ingenious equalization arrangement was then evolved which would, have the s.ame financial result as if each factory exported! or sold on the local market its allotted proportion of butter. It was intended to work in this way : If at any particular time it were necessary that, say, 40 per cent, of Australia’s butter should be exported; and the. other 60 per cent. sold On the, local” market,, the factories, should be free to. sell in whichever market they chose, but in the event of a factory selling the. whole of its butter on the’ local market,, i.e., 40 per cent, in excess of ihe. quantity -which.: it. would be entitled- to, sell locally, it would be expected to pay into- a central fund in. respect of that excess; the difFer.ence between the price it would have obtained f&r the same quality of butter had- it been sold overseas, and’ the price it actually obtained’ on the local1 market by virtue’ of the stabilization scheme. If, on the otter hand, another factory sold only 20. per cent,., locally, and ex. ported 8.0 per cent., thus carrying a greater proportion of the export load than. i,t, need have done, it should, receive from, the- central fund, in respect of its 40 per- cent. o£ excess exports,, the difference between. the, grice it, reaped on the overseas, market, and the price, it might have obtained, in, the, local market. That. arrangement must be, regarded as absolutely fair.. Itv would interfere, with the. freedom, of. nobody.; it would allow everybody to sell where he li&ed… and what proportion he, liked, and would yield, the same financial result as. if there were definite, ratios fo.r. the export trade and the local, market. After, almost two and a. half, ye,ars of. effort., arid-, educational work we,, suceeded, in inducing 95. per cent. of, tin? factories, in, Victoria to agree tq,that scheme A similar, concurrence was, ob.1jain.ed ip.v New South Wales In,”, Queensland at scheme was f actuary in. operation, but it broke down through the competition from New,, South Wales, The same result,, would hav;e., occurred in, Victoria, or New So,u.th Wales, had either proceeded without the, coopperation of : ti]® other, I-j;.., might, be argued that if,, 95j p$r.. cent o£, the,, factories.! agreed to,, thesCheme. they, could afford^ to. ignore,, the other,, factories,, that. remained : apart,- It was, impossible to, dg,j that in… Victoria,, because a large number of the factories which were signatories to the agreement signed only on the definite’ understanding that it should be accepted unanimously. If a unanimous decision were not arrived at by the factories those conditional adherents would not be bound. And even if the whole- 95 per cent, of the factories, had.. committed themselves unconditionally to the scheme^ it would have been- impossible to carry it out, because the, S. per cent, minority would be free to. .evade their share of the; export trade. They would have been free to exploit the local, market with the whole of their output. It would have been possible for them to slightly undercut the selling price of butter, and, at the same- time, pay a slightly higher price for cream, owing to. the fact that they were- not taking their1 share’ of the export trade-. Everything humanly possible was done to, induce’ the minority factories to come into; line. Every argument that could appeal to reasonable men was’, adduced1. It was- pointed’ out that returned’ soldiers-, for example, would’ be- greatly benefited’, and! would stand* a chance of meeting their liabilities-,, if they came- into the scheme. Extraordinary though- it may seem, the scheme was defeated, and’, in- “Victoria at any ‘rate, by a 5’ percent, minority. It is- more than a coincidence, thai a majority* of the’ factoriesrepresenting the 5. per-‘ cent, minority that defeated! the scheme, were* sending their. butter through one< particular; firm Of’ speculating agents, that’, provided’ the directors of most.-of those factories with all kinds of arguments. against the- stabilization schema I personally.’ interviewed! the directors.; of various i non-consenting factories and pleaded, with them to come intothe’ scheme. Qf’ the, dairying,* industry;’ at. least we can say that it never came to theGovernment, federal’ or;’ states without. hia;vin.g first: oft alii tried- to, putt its’ own. house, in; order. Ite approached1 go.vernments only- asia last: resort when’ all voluntary proposals; had” failed! Semelittle. time ago, iti was. realized that voluntary efforts. had i failed, and: failed-^ completely; Iti was.* decided ‘ at’ an interstate conference, representing;- butter-i producers in-.alllthekStatesi.of ““Australia,- to? ask ‘that the. .big«stick) of’th’e. law. should ‘be-used’ tobeing about a stabilization scheme. It was realized that- iti was necessary to go not only, tor the Federal Government, but’ to- each of the State Governments, because whilst the Federal Government has control of export, and,, to some’ extent, of interstate trade, it has no control whatever over local trade within a state. It could not, even if it so desired, fix prices within the limits of a state. It was seen that it would be necessary to go to the State Governments for that. It was necessary to ask that the federal1 power should deal with exports and! interstate trade and that the state powers should, deal with local trade. The proposal now made in some respects goes beyond the original voluntary stabilization proposal. That proposal aimed at dealing with local trade entirely, whereas the proposal now made aims at improving our overseas marketing facilities - a very necessary thing to do. At present we have practically no marketing system overseas, and the position is at times chaotic. Two or three ships carrying, butter from Australia, and possibly a couple from Kew Zealand, will arrive ait the same time in the Old Country,, with, the result that a tremendous quantity of colonial butter will be suddenly pot upon the London market, when an inevitable big drop in prices takes place. One thing which could be done by a federal board of control would be to ensure that the butter market would be fed as it could absorb the butter offering, just as Bawra fed the wool market. In the event, for instance, of three shipsarriving with butter at the same time, with an interval of three weeks before the next would arrive, it would be possible to hold one shipment back for a week and another for a fortnight, and in that way stabilize the market. We- are at a disadvantage in competing with Danish butter, because it is put on the market absolutely fresh, whilst ours has lost some of its finest flavour through being, stored for over two months-. Danish butter spreads, easily,, whilst ours, coming from refrigerated chambers, is very hard, and in many cases needs to be worked up again. In some, cases it also needs to be blended. During a part of the year, Victorian butter, even without any artificial colouring, is often of top high a colour,, owing to the character of our grasses. If this highly-coloured butter is Mended with some of’ the Kew South Wales butter, the blend is paler and1 suits some markets bet ter. The export control board which we propose to ask the Federal Government to establish could have a London agency which,, if it were necessary, could blend or work up our butter1,, instead of having this done by some one who, if the results are very good, will sell it as Danish butter. The proposal now made would make possible a. control far beyond) that which we have at present, and our butter would remain in the hands of representatives of the producers until it was. actually sold. Under existing conditions-, it often loses its identity, and in many cases is not sold as Australian tatter at all. The quality of Australian butter’ has been greatly improved by pasteurization. Its keeping qualities, are much better than they used to be, and. there is no reason why it should not be sold tcn greater advantage if the market were fed gradually. The export control board could also do away to a great extent with the speculator, if it did not absolutely eliminate him. I believe it could entirely eliminate the speculator. I welcome the promise of the Prime Minister that legislation of this character on the lines of the New Zealand act will be granted’. I believe that the passage of such a measure, or, at any rate, the operation of the export control board, would strike at the root of a great deal of the opposition to- the voluntary stabilization scheme. Most of the opposition to that scheme came from speculators, and by eliminating the speculator we should remove ai great deal of the opposition to the scheme. It is necessary to secure- not only federal legislation, but also state legislation, to give effect to what is proposed. The various butter organizations are going- to approach the state legislatures to secure the establishment of local boards clothed’ with statutory power to impose such minimum prices as will1 give- the dairymen a living wage. There is only one link missing in the scheme, and that concerns’ the degree of control which can be exercised over the interstate trade. It is doubtful whether the Commonwealth Government can” constitutionally interfere in this connexion. Some authorities hold5 that it can, and others that it cannot. Until this gap is bridged, in some . way, there will always be the possibility of’ any such scheme being broken down by competition between one state and another. Even should all’ the states approve of the scheme, no State Government could prevent producers in a neighbouring state from sending butter oyer its borders at less than the fixed price in the state to which it was sent. This presupposes a measure of price fixing. I am aware that many honorable members do not, on principle, approve of price fixing, but we have to realize that desperate diseases require drastic remedies. As, in this country, we find that Governments deliberately pass tariff legislation which has the effect of raising prices, and also pass legislation which has the effect of raising wages, it is not unreasonable to say that, levels of prices and wages being fixed by those means, similar means should be adopted to fix the prices of products. A government which has deliberately raised the cost of living by means of the tariff and by the establishment of arbitration courts, cannot wash its hands of responsibility to the man who finds himself having to carry the load imposed by such legislation whilst he secures no benefit from it.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Price-fixing does not in any way enter into export control proposals. The State Governments, and not the Federal Government, are to be asked to; establish local boards, with statutory powers, to fix such minimum prices as will ensure at least a living wage to those engaged in the industry. All that the Federal Government would have to do with price-fixing would be to clothe the export control board with interstate powers to fix the minimum prices at which butter could pass from one state to another, so as to prevent any under-cutting of an interstate character, over which a state board would not have any control. Different opinions have been expressed as to the manner in which this would interfere with the free flow of trade between the states as provided for in the Constitution. Some legal opinions are to the effect that it would interfere with trade, and others are that it would not. One point which I wish to empha-size is that the flow of trade will not be interfered with, and that the minimum price fixed by the export control board, were it possessed of interstate powers, would be the selling price in all states. There would at least be no discrimination shown as between states. It has also been stated that price-fixing proposals place a premium upon inefficiency, and that an efficient person, conducting dairying operations, would obtain too great a reward. Personally, I would be (satisfied if the basis upon which that reward was fixed were such as to ensure a fair return to the person who was efficient, even if the man who was inefficient did not consider it reasonable. It has been said that price fixing would have the effect of making dairying so profitable that persons would engage in the industry in unsuitable districts, and that an exotic industry would arise there. It is undesirable, of course, that such a thing should occur. I agree with the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), in his opinion that it is uneconomical to have industries in districts to which they are unsuited. But I ask the right honorable gentleman if there are not exotic industries in this country supported by the tariff, which would have no possible chance of existing if it were not for the artificial assistance so- obtained. I have endeavoured to place before the committee, in broad outline, the proposals which those engaged in the butter trade have put before the Federal Government and State Governments. I now wish to submit another proposal to the committee. It is not an alternative proposal to the export control proposal, which I regard as satisfactory, but an alternative proposal to the efforts being made to induce the various State Governments to introduce legislation of a character which will enable the. prices for local sales to be in excess of export rates. The proposal which I now submit has at least the merit that it does away with the necessity for price-fixing. My suggestion is that the Government should impose a levy, or an excise duty, of at least Id. per lb. on all butter produced in the Commonwealth, whether it be sold locally or exported. In round figures the exportation from this country, averaged over a number of years, is approximately onethird of the total production, and a levy of Id. per lb. on the whole production would suffice to pay an export bounty of 3d. per lb. It may be said that if the matter ended there what would be the use of taking the money with, say, one hand, and handing it back with’ the other. The inevitable effect of such a bounty, even though the wherewithal were raised by the industry itself, would be that the local price and the enhanced export value -would find the same level. It would have the effect of raising the local price by 3d. per lb.
– What would be the position during the winter months, when we are not exporting?
– I understand that Australia, with the assistance of Queensland, is exporting for at least nine months of the year. If the federal control board should function, as we hope it will, and our sales of butter be spread over a longer period than at present, we may before long reach the time when we shall be exporting for almost the whole of the year. If that time arrives, and we have not some system whereby local prices oan be raised above export parity rates, we shall be compelled to accept little more than those rates for the whole period. If the export quantity happened to be 40 per cent, of the total, a levy of Id. per lb. would provide a bounty of 2£d. per lb., with the result that the local price would automatically increase by that amount.
– It would mean increasing the local price.
– Yes. I am sure the honorable member for East Sydney will agree that the effect of a bounty must be to raise the price in the local market. As an illustration, I may say that if I had two 1,000-gallon tanks connected at the bottom by a pipe, one being three-fourths full and the other onefourth, it would not be -long before the contents would be on the same level. The effect of my suggestion would be that the local price would automatically.be raisedto the export level, plus bounty, but the local consumer would have no cause for complaint, because an increase of 3d. per lb. above export parity rates only raises the price to world’s open market rates for fresh butter. The essential difference, between the scheme put forward by the dairying associations and my proposal is that in one case we would set up, by the sanctions of State Governments, elaborate administrative machinery to provide a gulf between the local price and the export price, thus endeavouring to brush aside the economic law by which the two would find the same level. This new suggestion would, I believe, result in making use of economic laws instead of flouting them. It would mean that with the help of a natural law we should achieve the result desired. It can alsobe said for the proposal that the increased cost to the consumer could not be regarded as the direct act of any government. It would be the working of a natural law. I have to admit that the natural law would receive some artificial stimulation in this case; but, nevertheless, there would be the working of a natural law. The difficulty raised by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) could be overcome by dividing the year into water-tight compartments, the export period and the non-export period, and making the levy during the former. Assuming for the sake of argument that the export season lasts only six months, the proportion exported during that period would be about one-half, instead of onethird, of the year’s output. A . penny levy during that period would provide an export bounty of 2d.; a levy of 2d. would provide a bounty of 4d., and a net gain of 2d. Looking at it from an Australian stand-point, I think the twelve months’ levy would give the best results, as we are exporting from one state or another almost the year round.
– How would we secure sufficient .butter for local consumption?
– I am glad the honorable member has made that interjection. Any one looking at the scheme superficially would think that if we had a bounty of 3d. per lb. on butter exported, exportation would be overstimulated. and an artificial shortage created on the local market. I do not think that is correct, because, if one looks deeper into the scheme it will be seen that as the price in the local market would be increased by the same amount, there would be no incentive to over export. That has been the case in connexion with bounties paid on exports. It has been found that the local market has benefited by the amount of the bounty. So long as the local values are controlled by the export parity rate the amount paid in bounties must necessarily result in an automatic rise in local prices. If the export value were ls. 4d. a lb., and a seller knew that he could obtain a bounty of 3d. a lb., he would know that the value of the butter on the wharf would be ls. 7d. a lb. Naturally, he would not sell the same grade locally at less than ls. 7d. a lb.
There is, therefore, not much iri the con- “tention that the bounty would provide an incentive to over exporting. Another feature of the suggestion is that the proposal would provide the Federal Government with power to deal with the whole business. In the scheme which has been placed before the Prime Minister, and which I have endeavoured to briefly touch upon this evening, it is necessary to have, not only the assistance of the Federal Government, but also the co-operation of the State Governments. There is a tremendously difficult task still ahead of the butter industry in its endeavour to obtain satisfactory legislation in each,1 of the butter-producing states.
– Satisfactory and similar legislation.
– Yes. If two or more states refused to pass the necessary legislation the gap could not be properly filled, and competition of an interstate character might result in the whole scheme breaking down. This scheme is particularly simple, and it can also be said that the Federal Government could handle it without any assistance from the states. If the Federal Government levied a sum on the butter factories of, say, Id. per lb. by means of an excise duty - and I am informed on the best authority that such action would be constitutional - it would provide a bounty that would raise the price of butter all over Australia, irrespective of any action that might or might not be taken by any State Government. It might be contended that such a scheme would act unfairly to the producers in those states that have mo export trade in butter. It might be said that it would act unfairly in states that export a lot of butter as well as in states that export practically nothing. But a feature of this scheme is that it would not make one iota, of difference whether a state exported 90 per cent, or only- 1 per cent, of the butter it produced, or none at all. Western Australia imports butter from Victoria, and the Western Australian price would be determined by the higher values ruling in the state from which she obtained supplies. The levy would be uniform, because it would be made on all the butter produced, and ‘the net result would be the same in each case - an aggregate increase of 3d. per lb, and “a net increase of 2d. per lb. The dairy farmers would all benefit alike, whether the butter was exported or sold locally. The adoption of the suggestion would also overcome the equalization difficulties with one stroke of the pen. An endeavour is being made to create machinery to equalize export and local sales, so that no factory that sells the whole of its output on the local market will get an unfair advantage over one that exports most of its output. I understand that efforts will be made, through the state legislatures, to bring that scheme to fruition. My suggestion would bring about equalization without any complications or difficulty. It would simply mean that each factory would provide its own equalization levy by paying a penny tax in the first instance, and it would not matter to a factory whether it exported a lot of butter or a little. I commend the suggestion to the Government. Something must be done if we are tol keep returned soldiers on their blocks ; it is impossible to allow the export parity to continue to control local sales. We must choose a means of placing the industry on its feet, and if one method has fewer objections than another, why not employ it? .If it is simpler than another, that should also commend it. I wish to make it quite clear that I accept personal responsibility for the suggestion; I do not put it forward on behalf of any organization. I submitted it to the interstate butter conference that met yesterday, and it was well received. A large number of those present at the conference considered that it presented great possibilities, and they said they believed that it would do all that I- claimed for it. They were sufficiently impressed by it to carry a resolution in favour of referring it to the various state organizations for immediate consideration. That is the stage the scheme has reached outside Parliament. Immediate relief could be given by the adoption of the scheme. The relief that may be obtained by the operation of an export control board must necessarily be somewhat delayed. I believe that such a board would do a great deal of good in time, but it might to© twelve months or two years before the effects of its operations would be Belt to any great exbent, whereas the provision of a bounty, levied on tha trade itself and brought into operation without delay, would tide the dairy farmers over their present difficulties. I apologize for detaining the committee so long on this question.
– I have listened with interest to the speech delivered by the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson), because I know that he takes a very keen interest in matters pertaining to the welfare of the man on the land; but I deeply regret to learn from his speech that he has gone cold on the proposal submitted by the Interstate Dairy Conferencein April for a Commonwealth scheme for the stabilization of the marketing of dairy produce by the Commonwealth Government. In the course of his speech, he raised grave doubts about the possibility of the Commonwealth Government putting into operation the unanimous proposal of the dairy associations of Australia.
– A few of them objected.
– I have not met any that objected.
Mr.Corser. - I do not say there were any in Queensland, but there were some in the Commonwealth.
– They were mainly proprietary companies, agents, speculators, and others who are fleecing tie dairy farmers. They waited on the Prime Minister, and advanced objections to the proposals of the Interstate Dairy Conference. But they had an axe to grind. They were an interested party. They are to-day the “hidden hand.” They are behind the Government, and they evidently have more influence in that quarter than the dairy farmers. I cannot help thinking that to some extent political expediency has actuated the honorable member for Gippsland in relaxing his fight for the stabilization of the dairy produce markets of Australia.
– That is not so. I am absolutely sincere.
– I accept the honorable member’s statement, but the evidence wo have in the abrupt resignation from the Composite Government of the ex-Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart), who is recognized as one of the best fighters in the Country party movement in Victoria, and his definite statement that the Government has not done anything for the dairy farmers of Australia
– He made no such statement.
– I shall read the statement that he made, published in the Melbourne Herald of the 8th August,1924 -
The statement declares that an election pact of any government was not contemplated when the Country party was formed. One condition of the formation of the Composite Government,” he says, “ was that the arrangement should not impose anyrestrictions on the Country party’s right to contest all seats at the next election. This assurance Dr. Page promptly gave, and I acquiesced in what I termed, at the time, an extremely risky political experiment from the Country party’s point of view.” After summarizingthe negotiations for the pact, Mr. Stewart makes the following startling comments: - “I hold it (the pact) to be a vicious attempt to usurp the rights and privileges of electors by allotting certain constituencies to one party and discouraging any contest by the other party to the pact. It is an attempt at a political conspiracy, which, if agreed to, would violate every political principle upon which the V.F.U. as an organization was built, andV.F.U. federal members elected, and would render our claim to be an independent party to be a mockery and a sham.”
That is the statement of the courageous, fighting member for Wimmera, who said, in effect, that the pact would be the end of the Country party, which, if it endorsed it, could no longer claim to be an independent party fighting for the man on the land.
– Those are not the full views of the honorable member.
– The newly-elected junior deputy whip of the Composite Government is most zealous in the discharge of his duties, and is naturally anxious to defend the pact.
– I am not the junior whip of the Composite Government. I have not been elected to that office.
– The honorable member no doubt wants to excuse the Composite Government for its many sins of omission and commission. He does not like the facts I am placing before the committee, but he will get them, and the electors of Australia will get them, from honorable members on this side many times before the next election. The dairy farmers who have been betrayed by the Government will not stand idly by and accept plausible excuses by the Treasurer as justification of the Government in not fulfilling its promises. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), in sacrificinga salary of £2,000 a year for a principle, was undoubtedly sincere. Continuing his statement to the Herald, he said: - “ Advocates of the pact attempt to excuse its formation ‘by loudly proclaiming the necessity for united front by the anti-Labour parties against what they term ‘ the rising tide of Labour/ and are stressing the fearful results of Labour rule, but the desperate plight of primary producers engaged in many branches of primary production is such that they are asking, in increasing numbers, if they could be in a worse position .under Labour rule? 1 believe the adoption of the pact, so far from preventing Labour rule, will have the opposite effect.”
What does the honorable member for Macquarie say to such a statement by. a member of the Cabinet, who was behind the scenes, and knew how the recommendations of the Farmers Union were received by the Cabinet? He was disgusted, and he resigned and walked out because his honour was at stake, and he put principle first.
– I venture to say that the honorable member for Wimmera will be here to support the Government’s proposals when they are brought forward.
– The honorable member for Wimmera will probably support the Government’s proposals relating to the export of butter, but that will not prove that he is satisfied with the way in which the Government has betrayed the dairy farmers. Two-thirds of the dairy produce of Australia is consumed in this country, and only one- third is exported. What does the Government propose to do for the two-thirds of the dairy farmers who produce for local consumption ? Will it throw them on the five State Labour Governments ? It appears to be a game of battledore and shuttlecock. The Treasurer made certain definite promises to the electors at the last election. According to the Brisbane Baily Mail, one of his reasons for coming into public life was to assist the primary producers.
– And it is one of my reasons for remaining in it.
– Then why does not the honorable gentleman assist the dairy farmers by doing something to stabilize the local market? Instead of doing so, he has pushed them off on to the State Governments.- They will now be obliged to send numerous deputations to various state Ministers, and a great deal of time - will be taken up, with the possibility of very little practical result.
– The Commonwealth Government cannot legally do as the honorable member is suggesting.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) was put up by the Government a few days ago to make a sort of electioneering speech on a formal motion for the adjournment of the House, which was talked out, and got the dairy farmers nowhere.
– There is no truth in the honorable member’s assertion.
– Let us look at the legal aspect of this matter. When the first committee of dairy farmers that dealt with this matter approached it, they obtained an opinion from Mr. W. F. Webb, Solicitor-General of ‘Queensland, to the effect that section 92 of the Commonwealth Constitution had been held by the High Court to bind the states, but not the Commonwealth, and would not preclude the Commonwealth Government from passing legislation to regulate the interstate trade if that were deemed to be desirable. The interstate dairy con- gress also obtained the following legal advice on the point : -
At the present time, and entirely apart from any delegated authority, the Commonwealth Parliament has power, under section SI (1) of the Federal Constitution, over interstate and overseas trade in dairy produce. The McArthur case has definitely decided that section 92 of the Federal Constitution does not bind the Federal Parliament The following arc quotations from the High Court’s judgments in the McArthur case, 28 C.L.H., at pages 557 and 558:-
– That deals only with interstate trade.
– I did not interrupt the honorable member for Gippsland when he was speaking, and I propose to deliver my speech in my own way. The honorable member knows that interstate competition has in the past broken down all schemes for stabilizing the market withina state. The statement continues -
Then come a cluster of provisions designed to place the control of foreign and interstate trade and commerce of Australia ultimately in the hands of the Commonwealth as representing the whole nation, and to remove that trade and commerce from the hands of the states, whose jealousies and local policies had occasioned so much jealousy and inconvenience, and whose inability, from the nature of the subject, ito deal severally . with interstate transactions in their entirety was a truism. Its (section 92) meaning is that, from the moment the Commonwealth assumed legislative control on a national basis of all the Customs, all state interference with interstate trade and commerce should for ever cease, and for that purpose Australia should be one country.
It will be seen, therefore, that those two authorities practically agree that the Commonwealth Government has power to legislate with a view to stabilizing the local market. If the Government is in possession of diverse legal opinions upon the matter, why were not some of them quoted to us ? It would have been much more satisfactory had the Government taken that course. Instead of doing so, it said to the dairy farmers, “You go back to your state governments and ask them to help you.” With the overlapping of state and Commonwealth authority, and the jealousies aroused by differing state interests, it will be well nigh impossible for the dairy farmers to reach their goal by the thorny path on which they have been driven by this Government, which tells them that it stands for their interests. The honorable member for Gippsland based most of bis arguments on the oversea trade position. Apparently, he forgets that there is very little, if any, export trade during the winter months. Although his theories may sound plausible to those who are not closely acquainted with the facts, they will not carry weight with the farmers whose stabilization scheme has been rejected by the Government. The honorable member for Wide Bay supported the stabilization scheme not long ago. I would like to know exactly where he standsnow in relation to it.
– I stand as firmly as I can on legal ground.
– I think both the Government and the honorable member are standing on quicksands, rather than on firm ground, as they will realize later at the elections. Does the honorable member find the same outside influence clutching at him as the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) complained about when he addressed this chamber on the sugar industry from the seat now occupied by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Sir Austin Chapman)? The right honorable member told us then that he found a very strong outside influence operating against him. The influence of the speculator, the market rigger, and the middleman, of which few honorable members know more than the honorable member for Wide Bay, has been felt by this Government, and has prevented it from giving effect to the dairy farmers’ own stabilization scheme. It was rather disappointing to read one paragraph in the Treasurer’s budget speech.
– The Treasurer is rather disappointing altogether.
– He is, politically. That is what the honorable member for Wim- mera (Mr. Stewart) thought when he resigned in disgust from the Cabinet. The Treasurer saidin his budget speech that the Government was examining the condition of the dairying industry, and fully appreciated the serious position in which the producers found themselves. His exact words are: - “The Government is satisfied that, in many of the industries, the methods of production, the degree of organization, and the system of marketing leave a great deal to be desired.” We have heard that kind of sympathy expressed many times. When the Prime Minister addressed the dairy farmers at one of their meetings, he said - “Your proposals, in their present form, are not quite acceptable. I would suggest that you make provision for a tribunal, composed of one representative of the consumers, one of the Government, and one of the producers to fix the price of butter in Australia. Then the Government will consider the matter.” What happened to that proposal ? Why did not the Prime Minister give effect to it ? I suppose that before he made that statement he consulted the Solicitor-General, and knew whether there were any constitutional difficulties in the way. The dairy farmers afterwards proposed the appointment of such a tribunal, but the Government would not then agree to it. The butter stabilization scheme was evolved by the best brains of the Australian dairying industry, and all they got for it from the Federal Government was the advice to propose it to the State Governments.
– The action taken by the Federal Government for the stabilization of the butter industry will be regarded as the biggest advance that has been made in the industry since refrigeration became a commercial process.
– The Treasurer had an opportunity to prove that and failed to do so. When the dairy farmers approached him as one from whom they had a right to expect sympathy, he rejected their recommendations and advised them to see the Prime Minister. That is the kind of sympathy that the dairy fanners, may expect from this Government, which stands, first of all, for the proprietary companies, the market-riggers, and the speculators. During the negotiations in connexion with the stabilization of this industry, the Premier of Queensland, Mr. Theodore, had. some communications with the Commonwealth Government. I quote the following from the Brisbane Daily Mail of5th August, 1924: -
I received a telegram whileI was in Melbourne said Mr Theodore, from the Queensland Council of Agriculture, askingme to discuss’ with the Prime Minister the stabilization scheme of the dairying industry. Owing to my brief stay in Melbourne I was unable to see Mr. Bruce, butI discussed the matter with Dr. Earle Page. Dr. Page stated that the Commonwealth Government had considered the request of the Interstate Dairying Conference, but the Government had seen formidable difficulties in the way of giving legislative effect tothe proposals, and regarded any scheme which necessitated a regulation of market prices as impracticable. I also discussed the scheme with the Premiers of Victoria and South Australia, who were: in Melbourne at. the time, with a view to considering joint action of the latter states acting independently of the Commonwealth Government. Both Premiers were willing to assist in any co-operative propositi1 calculated to secure stabilization of the home markets- and better methods of export.
The Treasurer is looking uncomfortable, and I have no doubt that he is feeling so, for prior to the last federal election he invited the country to support him on a very definite platform.
Dp. Earle. Page. - And a good platform, too.
– Perhaps it was, but there are a good many broken planks in it now. The honorable member said in his policy speech, “The Country party stands for the encouragement of industries essential to national development.” What industry is more essential to national development than the great dairying industry of Australia? Yet the Treasurer is willing to stand! by and see many dairy farmers throughout the country struggling to exist on less than a living wage.. Some of them have only £1 a week on which to support themselves and their families, and for that they work their wives and families from daylight to dark. When he was given an opportunity to assist these people he simply referred them to the Prime Minister, and they got next to nothing from him-. The Treasurer also- said, in his policy speech, that the Country party stood for -
The encouragement of all industries essential to national development by the formulation of comprehensive plans to secure the ready mobilization of our resources, the elimination of waste in primary and secondary production, the proper valuation of skill in workmanship, and the encouragement of industrial standardization..
Those are fine phrases, and no doubt they slipped glibly off hislips. This great genius of the Country party was going to sweep the country and later on lead this House. He did not attain to the leadership., but he is the Deputy Leader. He was even the Acting Prime Minister of Australia for eight months, and had an opportunity to give effect to manyof his high ideals. He appointed about a dozen royal commissions, but when the dairymen of Australia approachedhim he did absolutely nothing for them, nor did he do anything to bring to fruition the ideals which he said inspiredhim to seek entrance to the Federal Parliament. X desire to contrast the action’ of this Country-Nationalist Government with the legislation introduced by the Queensland Labour Government for the benefit of the farmers. It was the Queensland Labour Government that established the primary producers’’ organization scheme, with its district councils and central council of agriculture. That great organization has been built up and carried on without cost to the dairy farmers of Queensland, and it was from the central council of agriculture - the controlling body of that scheme - that the proposal for the stabilization of the dairying industry and the better control of the export trade emanated. Some of the other measures introduced by the Labour party in Queensland for the benefit of the man on the land are the Wheat Pool Act, the Primary Products Pools Act, the Co-operative Associations Act, the Fruit Marketing Organization Act, and the Primary Producers’ Organization Act. I mention them in order that the electors may have an opportunity of appreciating what the Labour party does for the producer when it is in control, in contrast with what the present Commonwealth Government, controlled by Flinders-lane, promised, but neglected to do when it had the opportunity. The Prime Minister has definitely rejected the scheme propounded by the dairy farmers for the stabilization ofthe Australian butter market, and the honorable member for Wide Bay is probably receiving daily, as I am, letters urging that the Government should adopt that scheme. I wonder what reply the honorable member gives to his correspondents. I tell those who write to mo exactly what the Prime Minister has said.
– I shall not mislead the people as the honorable member has done.
– The honorable member, when he moved the adjournment of the House a few days ago, in order to discuss the dairy produce stabilization scheme, well knowing that the motion would be talked out, andwould yield nothing tangible, was misleading the dairy farmers, as he misled the sugar-growers just before the last election, when he told them in a speech at Nambour that if the Hughes Government were returned to power it would renew the sugar agreement.
-That is not true.
– That speechwas published in the Brisbane Daily Mail.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member made that statement last year. I contradicted” it then, and he had to withdraw it. I askthat he be made to withdraw it now.
– That is not a point of order.
– Was the honorable member in order in saying that I made a statement that was not true?
– The honorable member made the same statement last year, and I contradicted it. To-night he has repeated it.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay must withdraw the assertion that the honorable member for Capricornia made an untrue statement.
– The honorable member for Capricornia knows that I denied his statement last year, and I deny it again now.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay must withdraw a statement that was unparliamentary.
– I withdraw the remark.
– The Brisbane Daily Mail of the 28th November, 1922, reported a speech made by the honorable member for Wide Bay at Nambour. The honorable member reads that journal regularly, and he did not contradict the report, which included this paragraph -
If the Nationalist Government is returned to power further sugar proposals willbe submitted, and 1 feel confident that the existing sugar agreement will be renewed, probably in a slightly modified form, but nevertheless satisfactory to the industry as a whole. Mr. Hughes is most anxious that something should be done to maintain the sugar industry, which was mainly responsible for the carrying on of the White Australia policy, and sugargrowers can rest assured that their interests will be adequately preserved by the Nationalist Government.
That agreement was not renewed. The honorable member interjected that he had stood as firm as he possibly could. I know that the foundations upon which honorable members oppositestand are very insecure. Their policy makes it easy for a sectionof the people toexploit the others ; if they sincerely desire to support a policy that is really worth while, I appeal to them to range themselves behind the Labour party.
– Every Government enterprise in the north has been a failure.
– The honorable member for Wide Bay must restrain himself.
– I had no desire to raise the ire of the ‘honorable member for Wide Bay, and I should not have quoted that dainty morsel of his speech at Nambour if he had not rudely interjected to me. No doubt the honorable member finds himself in an uncomfortable position. He told the dairy farmers in the Wide Bay electorate that he would fight for them, when all the time he knew that the Commonwealth Government had no intention of adopting any stabilization scheme which would strike a blow at the middlemen, exploiters, and market-riggers who support the Government.So, on the day when the Prime Minister was ready to announce the Government’s intention, the honorable member moved the adjournment of the House, knowing that his action would be futile. The secretary of one organization in Queensland wroteto me that the honorable member’s action took the dairy farmers nowhere, and he added, “ For goodness’ sake, see if something definite can be done, and mere demonstrations like that of the honorable member for Wide Bay are discontinued.’ I understand that the Prime Minister intends to introduce legislation relating to the export of dairy produce, but I remind the Government that only onethird of Australia’s dairy produce is exported. Why does the Government nibble at this problem ? The dairying industry is a national concern, and the stabilization scheme which the farmers have submitted to the Government is in consonance with thepromise made by the Treasurer on the hustings, when he said that the first and foremost plank of his policy was the protection of the primary producers. He, and the Government of which he is a member, have had an opportunity to carry out that policy, and they have done absolutely nothing. On the other hand, Mr. Theodore, the Premier of Queensland, has advised the other State Premiers by telegram that his Government is prepared to give effect to the wishes of the dairymen in their entirety, and he has asked the other State Governments to support him. That indicates what a Labour Premier is prepared to do for the dairy farmers. So far, he has’ received no reply to his offer. The honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) enunciated this afternoon a scheme for the imposition of an excise duty on dairy produce, in order to permit of a bounty being paid on export butter. I do not think that such a scheme would be a success. During the winter very little butter is exported, and, whilst there might be an appreciation of prices for a. period of the year, there would be no appreciation during the months when there was no export.
– June and July are the best months for butter production in Queensland.
– In certain partsof Queensland; but, generally, spring is the best season for butter production. In the southern statesparticularly, there is very little export trade during the winter months. In my opinion, firms like McKeever and Company, Weddell and Company, Haughton and Company, John Cooke and Company, and other middlemen who are gambling with butter, are opposed to the introduction of any scheme for the fixation of prices, and they are exerting all their influence to prevent the Government from giving effect to the proposals placed before it by the interstate conference of dairymen.
– Can the honorable member prove that statement?
– Absolutely. I obtained it from a most reliable source. I also urge the Government to assist the maize farmers by advancing to the Queensland Government two-thirds of the cost of erecting silos.
I propose to deal briefly with the sugar industry, than which there is none of greater importance to Australia.
– The butter industry is.
– It, too, is of vast importance. The Queensland sugar industry benefits the whole of Australia, and no one knows that better than you, Mr. Chairman, who have represented a sugar district ever since the inception of federation. The sugar industry has an output worth £9,000,000 a year, gives employment to 25,000 people, is the occupation of 5,000 farmers, represents a capital of £16,000,000, provides labour for 4,000 men from other states, and is one of the mainstays of manufacturers of machinery in Queensland and other states. I hope to convince honorable members that they should be more sympathetic towards this industry, and not callously indifferent as many of them are. As evidence of the growing importance of the manufacturing industries of Queensland on account of the sugar industry and Labour administration, I remind the committee that from 1912 to 1922 the value of land and buildings increased from £3,491,991 to £6,615,350, plant and machinery from £5,443,153 to £11,098,375, and the value of the output from £18,785,606 to £37,824,101. The value of raw materials treated in 1912 was £11,000,000, and in 1922 it had increased to £21,000,000. In that period of ten years Queensland industries increased enormously in output of factories, value of raw materials treated, value of plant and machinery, and of land and buildings. The sugar industry has played a very important part in bringing about that increase. Naturally, the people of Queensland are now asking what is the policy of the present Government with regard to the sugar industry. I read the budget speech of the Treasurer, and could find no reference in it to the future policy of the Government with regard to sugar. All he had to say was -
The pool created by the industry and the Queensland Government under the arrangement with the Commonwealth Government last year is carrying on satisfactorily under the management of the Queensland Sugar Board.
That was a very plausible statement to fill up the honorable gentleman’s speech, but it means nothing.
– The agreement has meant a very great deal to the Queensland sugar industry.
– That is so; but, if it were not for the Queensland Labour Government and the efforts of Labour representatives from Queensland in this Parliament, that agreement would never have been continued.
– I propose to quote now from another honorable member to show what unbridled expressions have ‘ come from members of the Country party in opposition to the sugar industry. I quote from a statement made by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), who has recently been elevated to the position of Minister for “Works and Railways in the present Ministry. At page 245 of Hansard it will be found that, speaking on the 2nd April, 1924, the honorable member said -
I would remove the sugar embargo and do away with Arbitration Courts and high tariffs.
This is the statement of the archpriest of conservatism, the real leader of the Country party, the man who is the real power behind the Treasurer, in the present Cabinet; the man who was recalled from a distant country to be promoted to the position of Minister for Works and Railways, to take up the cudgels on behalf of the Composite Government and secure the ratification of the pact. I ask the people of Queensland who voted for Country party representatives at the last election to turn them down now, if for no other reason than that the honorable member for Echuca has made such a statement as that which I have quoted. The honorable member’s appointment to a position in the Government is proof that the Government thinks more of the views to which he has given expression than it does of the interests of Queensland sugar growers. The Composite Government is composed of two sections. I have quoted the views of a member /of one of the sections. I now propose to refer to the Nationalist section, to which the honorable member for Wide Bay belongs. The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter) is in the same political fold with the honorable member for Echuca, whilst the honorable member for Wide Bay runs with the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook). At page 451 of Hansard I find that the honorable member for Franklin, when discussing the Canned Fruit Bounty Bill, said -
What I ask the Government to do is to lift the embargo on the importation of sugar.
The honorable member got into a white heat when he said that. He was very bitter in his denunciation of what he called the rapacious sugar industry, which he said was ruining the fruit industry. 1 ask honorable members to consider for a moment what it would mean to lift the embargo on the importation of sugar. The honorable member for Franklin would allow the importation of sugar grown by niggers in Fiji and Java, paid at the rate of about 6d. per day. Yet honorable members opposite say that they stand for the White Australia policy. They may do so at election time, but when we come down to hard facts we find that they stand for cheap labour. The honorable member for Wide Bay knows that. He knows the pressure which has been exercised by representatives of both sections supporting the present Composite Government, to secure the lifting of the embargo on the importation of sugar. I was reading the Queensland Hansard recently, and noticed a statement made by a member of the Country party in the Queensland Parliament, to the effect that Federal Labour members are, opposed to the Queensland sugar industry. I have been a member of this House since the last federal election, and I have never heard an honorable member on this side say one word against the Queensland sugar industry, whilst I have heard many honorable members opposite denouncing it. Hansard is, of course, a terrible nuisance at times.
– The honorable member will find it so in time.
– No; because, unlike the honorable gentleman, I shall be absolutely consistent. I have here a dainty morsel in the shape of an extract from what was said by the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) in a speech he made at Bundaberg. Honorable members on this side are blamed in connexion with the tariff, but according to the Brisbane Courier, of 13th November, 1922, this is what the Deputy Leader of the
Government had to say at Bundaberg regarding the action: of the Nationalist Government in proposing a duty on sugar of £11 per ton -
Concerning the effect of the> tariff,, the Government’s motion was brought forward, though it knew that it would not be given effect to. The Government’s motion was only an electioneering dodge. The Labour party got up and moved a notice that, in lieu of the. tariff, the agreement should be renewed, and the Government used all the forms of the House to prevent that going to a vote. That showed that it was a pure electioneering dodge.
– By both parties.
– I ask the honorable member for Wide Bay to say whether tho sugar-growers of Queensland did not ask for a continuance of the agreement. He knows, that they did; yet, as. a member of tho Nationalist party,, he supported that purely electioneering dodge..
– The embargo is in operation to-day.
– I have replied to the honorable member, who I know,, feels very uncomfortable. If I made a definite pledge to my electors and then went back upon it, I should feel that I was not acting, honestly,, and should also be uncomfortable. I therefore ask the honorable member for Wide Bay to. control, himself.
– Will the honorable member say what, in his opinion, should be our policy in dealing with the sugar industry ?
– I have no hesitation in saying that I support the continuance of the present control by the Queensland Sugar Board, with a continuance of the embargo against the importation of blackgrown sugar. The sugar-growers, have accepted a tribunal, representative of the consumers,, the Commonwealth Government and. the producers, to fix prices. I ask for a continuance of that policy and of the embargo on the importation of. sugar, which will give stability to the industry which has done so much for the development of the tropical parts of Queensland, a development which would be impossible but fox the sugar industry. In support of my statement that a continuance of the embargo on the importation of sugar is desired by the sugar growers, I quote a. resolution passed by the Bundaberg Chamber of Commerce, on the 10th. July, 1924. It is signed by Mr. G. Heathwood, the- president of the chamber, and is as follows: -
That the Prime Minister be requested to extend the embargo on sugar grown by coloured labour for a further period, thereby endorsing, the White Australia .policy in a practical manner.
That resolution comes from Bundaberg, which is in one of the sugar districts of Queensland. I now quote a resolution of a meeting of sugar-producers at Proserpine, in the electorate of Herbert. It is dated the 26th July, 1924-
Mass meeting of growers held on 26th instant unanimous resolution that the sugar tribunal be retained and the embargo be reenacted. Kindly support this resolution.
I have no doubt that the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) received the original, resolution carried by the mass, meeting referred to>. I hope he will stand by it, though I know he will1 have some difficulty in doing so. I. am giving the opinions of those interested in the industry in Queensland. According to the Brisbane Couvier, of 16th July, 1924). Mr.. Theodore, the Premier of the State, said, in the course of a speech he made -
It is, therefore, obvious that this- is not merely a sugar-grower’s matter, but one vitally affecting the industrial fabric of this State”. That being, so,. I say that the Queensland Government strongly supports the existing form of control, which has been demonstrated by experience to have had a most protective effect upon the industry, and is equitable to the workers, farmers, and consumers.
– The present Federal Government put it into operation.
– A renewal of the 1920 agreement would -have been more equitable, but I repeat that were it not for the efforts of the Queensland Labour Government it would never have been put into operation. Mr. Theodore further said -
I may also state that nowhere in my travels abroad! did I find sugar retailed to the .public as low as. 4-Jd. per lb:, the Australian price.
He has said that he is personally in favour of the continuance of the present form of sugar control. At a conference of branches, of the Local Producers Association, assembled at Mackay, according to the Brisbane B’adly Mail of the 19th August, 1924, the following resolution was agreed to:1 -
That this conference, of sixteen branches of the Local. Producers Association agrees to recommend’ the embargo and the sugar policy of the central executive of the Council of Agriculture’.
The Council of Agriculture in a letter sent to the Prime Minister, dated 7th August, and signed by Mr. L. R. McGregor, said -
I desire, by direction, to convey to you the following resolution on the above subject, arrived at by my council at its last meeting: - “ That the council support the continuance of the existing conditions of controlling the sugar industry, namely - Embargo, Sugar Board, and Tribunal.”
The whole of the people of Queensland are behind this policy, and Sir Mathew Nathan, the Governor of the State, in a recent speech, emphasized the anxiety of the growers as to what the future sugar policy would be. I want a statement from the Commonwealth Government as to what its policy will be when the time for the operation of the embargo expires. This will be on the 31st August next year, but the embargo will not be effective after theclose of the present year. I have made representations to the Prime Minister on several occasions asking for a continuance of the embargo. This is the reply I received from the right, honorable gentleman as late as the 18th August -
In continuation of my letter of 11th August on the subject of the resolution passed by the Bundaberg Chamber of Commerce urging the extension of the embargo on sugar grown by coloured labour, I desire to inform you that this matter has been brought prominentlyunder the notice of the Customs authorities, and the representations contained in the resolution are receiving consideration.
I trust the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) will give the matter that sympathetic consideration which the Prime Minister has mentioned. If he should need it I shall give him ample evidence to prove that the industry has been a means of relieving the consumers of a tremendous burden. A remarkable statement appears in to-day’s Age. If the representative of that newspaper is present I trust he will record the reply I have to make to the criticism concerning the Queensland sugar industry. The paragraph reads -
The rapacity of the Queensland sugar interests is well known. Citizens of the Commonwealth all through the war period were exploited by them in the most bare-faced manner, through the Commonwealth Government, which was to. some extent taken inby the winnings of the producers and processors.
The facts are that the Australian consumers obtained cheaper sugar during that period than did the consumers in any other part of the world. The saving gained by the consumers has been estimated at from £12,000,000 to £17,000,000, and a conservative estimate would be £12,000,000. Mr. G. H. Pritchard, who was for many years a bank manager in Queensland, and who is regarded as an expert in the sugar business, took out the prices of sugar during the control period and proved conclusively that the saving to the Australian consumers in consequence of the reasonable price at which the Queensland crop was sold was at least £12,000,000 sterling. During the period of Commonwealth control, from 1915 to 1922 inclusive, the quantity of foreign raw sugar purchased totalled 475,947 tons, at an average gross rate per ton of £37 19s. During the same period the Australian raws purchased totalled 1,412,000 tons, at an average price of £25 17s.11d. per ton, as against the average price paid for foreign sugar of £37 19s. Had the whole of the Australian requirements: of sugar been purchased on the world’s market at the price paid for the quantity imported, Australia’s sugar bill would have been £71,000,000 instead of £54,000,000. Making allowance for some of the sugar not being bought at the average foreign price quoted above, but at a lower price at certain interval’s, the saving would have been £12,000,000, according to the detailed figures given by Mr. Pritchard, a member of the Queensland Sugar Board. If the Queensland” growers had declined the present sugar control and accepted the world’s parity, plus duty, last year’s crop, 280,000 tons, such as the critics of the industry now advocate, they would have averaged about £34 per ton instead of £27 per ton, which they received. Had that been done the consumers would have paid, approximately, £2,000,000 more for their sugar. It is useless for newspapers to publish statements which they cannot prove. As I have stated, the crop last year was, approximately, 280,000 tons.
– The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) is following the honorable member.
– The honorable member for Franklin has to some extent relaxed his opposition to the Queensland sugar industry. He is now becoming one of its supporters, because he realizes the benefit it has been! to Australia. The crop last year was, approximately, 280,000 tons, and if the Queensland sugar growers had received the world’s parity, plus duty, they would have obtained £7 per ton more for their product, which would have meant an additional £1,960,000.
– Is the honorable member basing his statement on the world’s parity for the whole of the year?
Mi. FORDE. - No, on the. average price. World’s prices, of course, fluctuate, but my figures are based on the average prices during the months in which the sugar was purchased. I have shown that if the Queensland sugar producers had taken an ordinary business risk they would have benefited to a much greater extent. The article in the Age continues -
Up to the 30th June, 1925, the price of sugar is likely to be 4½d. per lb., but the amazing thing about the whole wicked business is that for a long time the producers and processors were receivingon the basis of 6d. retail. What must they have made at 6d.?
The facts are that the retail price of 6d. per lb. included1d. per lb. profit, or £9 6s.8d. per ton, as announced in this House by the Minister for Trade and Customs two years ago. The extra1d. per lb. was charged by the Commonwealth Government in order to recover the loss incurred on foreign importations for which the Government paid at prices up to £90 per ton, at a time when the retail price in other countries was over1s. a lb. During that period the prices were - in France,1s. 6d. ; in England,1s. 4d. ; and in America., the home of cheap sugar. 1s. 3d. per lb. During that period the Australian consumer was paying 6d. a lb., 5d. of which went to the producer and 1d. a lb. to re-imburse the Government for the huge losses incurred in importing sugar at prices up to £90 per ton, and selling it on the basis of £30 6s. 8d. per ton. The Minister for Trade and Customs will admit that the position is as I have put it.
– I cannot agree with the honorable member’s argument.
– I challenge the Minister to prove the inaccuracy of my statements.
– I said that I could not agree with the honorable member’s argument.
– If I had before me the statement made by an ex-Minister for Customs (Mr. Rodgers) I could prove that the Australian consumers were charged 6d. per lb. for sugar,1d. of which was used to meet the losses incurred in the purchase of foreign sugar. During the years 1915 to 1922, inclusive, 475,947 tons of sugar were purchased at an average rate of £3’7 19s. per ton, as against £25 17s.11d. per ton paid for Queensland sugar. In consequence of these transactions, the Commonwealth Government incurred a loss of over £2,000,000. If the then Prime Minister had been honest sugar would have been sold at10d. a lb., instead of 6d. a lb.
– The honorable member is speaking of a short period during control.
– I am quoting facts, and speaking of the whole period of Commonwealth control, from 1915 to 1922, inclusive. I have shown that 475,947 tons were imported, for which the Government paid as high as £90 per ton, and which were sold at 6d. per lb., when a much higher price should have been charged, and the consumers told the reason. These are irrefutable figures.
– Peak figures are not average figures.
– The average rate per ton gross for imported sugar was £37 19s., whereas the price for locallyproduced sugar during the period of control was £25 17s.11d.
– For which the public paid 6d. per lb.
– Yes ; but1d. of that price wasused to reimburse the Commonwealth Government for the loss of £2,000,000 on its transactions in relation to imported sugar. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) knows that that statement is true. As soon as the loss was overtaken the Commonwealth Government reduced the price to 5d. per lb., but that was three months before the present agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Queensland Government was entered into. The article in the Age continues -
In confirmation of the foregoing, it is interesting to note the remarks of an Australian citizen, who lives in the sugar districts of Queensland, and who recently wrote to Mrs. Glencross, president of the Housewives Association, on the subject. He says he went to the cane-fields 30 years ago, when black labour was in use, and the growers were in a poor way. Then the sugar farmers lived in grass huts or tin shanties, and drove about in spring-carts. To-day they live in fine twostoried houses, have every luxury, and ride about in motor cars.
I challenge Mrs. Glencross to produce the letter she received, and thus disclose the name of her correspondent. If he is honest, he will not object to his name being published. I know that the statement is absolutely untrue. I have never seen a two-storied house in a Queensland sugar district. Such statements, of course are acceptable to certain members of the community, and even if sugarproducers do occupy two-storied-dwellings, why should exception be taken to that? The representatives of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, the middlemen, the market-riggers, and speculators who are opposed to pools and the stabilizing of the dairying industry, occupy palatial homes, and why should not those engaged in the sugar industry have comfortable dwellings? Does the writer of that letter believe that our sugar-producers should carry on their operations under the conditions which existed when they employed black labour, and lived in grass huts or tin shanties? We do not want to see the men carrying on work under the conditions which prevailed 30 years ago, when they lived in grass huts and worked from daylight to dark in order to gain a livelihood. The wealthy landlords of Toorak or South Yarra, who do not produce any real wealth, are not referred to by Mrs. Glencross. She mentions in scathing terms to an increase of Id. per lb. in the price of sugar, but disregards the actions of a landlord who in 1911 charged 19s. 5d. as rent for a cottage and who now collects 34s. Id. for the same building.
– Not a word
– No. There is a difference of 14s. Sd. ; but Mrs. Glencross does not comment upon the actions of such people, because they are probably her political friends. The increase in rent in Sydney in that period, according to the Commonwealth Statistician, was from 21s. lOd. to 33s. Id. The increase in Adelaide was from 22s. 3d. to 29s. 4d., and in Hobart from 16s. Id. to 33s. 3d. The Hobart figures represent an increase of 17s. 2d. In Brisbane the increase was from 15s. dd. to 24s. 10d., and in Perth from 16s. 3d. to 22s. 7d. ; but in Melbourne it was from 19s. 5d. to 34s. Id., a difference of 14s. 8d. to every family. We have not heard one word of protest from Mrs. Glencross about that, but there has been a lot of squealing about the increase in the price (of sugar from 3d. in 1911 to 4£d. in 1924, a difference of approximately 9d. per week to a family. If she were sincere, she would tackle the big things and leave the little ones alone. The increase in the sugar bill since 1911 is infinitesimal when compared with the increase in the rents levied by the landlords. Based upon the average consumption, the cost of sugar to a family consisting of a man, his wife, and three children, would be ls. 6d. in 1911, and 2s. 3d. in 1924, representing an increase of 9d. per week. There have been huge increases in the prices of other staple articles of diet, and in clothing, as compared with which the 9d. increase in the cost of sugar is negligible. Very little has been said about the increased prices of other articles. The’ Melbourne Age this morning said -
The cane-growers are nearly all Italians in the northern districts of Queensland.
That statement is untrue, as any man who has been to Queensland knows. It is possible to find settlements in the north and centre of Queensland that are mainly Italian, but in the Wimmera of Victoria, and in the electorate of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), in South Australia, there are settlements that are almost entirely German. I am not saying a word against those Germans, but, because members of one nationality group themselves into a settlement, it does not follow that the majority of cane-growers in Queensland are Italians. Italians have a right to live, and my experience of them in Queensland is that they are very fine settlers. I say nothing against them. They are very industrious, and work from morning until night on their farms, and their tasks are often herculean. They generally stick to their job and see it through. Those who now object to the Italians on the cane-fields did not object to them during the war, when Italy had nearly 4,000,000 men in the field on the side of the Allies. The Italians were good enough, to fight for the Allies then, but, according to some people, they should not now be allowed in this country, or be permitted to own sugar farms. Such criticism is unfair. The official statistics show that the statement is untrue, for only 482 out of 4,918 sugar farmers in 4923 were Italians. This specious propaganda is used to discredit the sugar industry. This Italian “ dope “ is beside the question, either for or against the industry. It is foreign to the argument, and should not have ; been introduced. Objection could just as reasonably be taken against the Maltese. There are more Italians in Victoria than in Queensland, the figures being 1,411 in Victoria against 1,383 in Queensland. The disparaging statements about Italians are mere moonshineand balderdash, and are made by people who have no knowledge of the facts, and refuse to learn. On the 16th July of this year, the Argus, among a number of misleading statements, printed the following: -
The growers contended that the Australian consumer hadbought his sugar much more cheaply than was the case in othercountries. This was trueto some extent, hut the fact was ignored that since federation the Australian public had paid a veryhigh price for encouraging the industry in the shape of £6 per ton protection. . . . Facts to bo home in mind are that before the war sugar-growers did well out of £15 a ton and £6 protection.
The facts are that before the war the sugar-grower was not doing well. He was fleeced by the millers, notably the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and often had no alternative but to accept 10s. or l2s. a ton for his cane. He had to dependon the mills, and was, in fact, in the same position as the fruit-growers, who have to depend on the manufacturers,find themselves in to-day. The price paid to the growers was inadequate, but they had to take it or starve. But for the action of the QueenslandLabour Government in 1915 - action taken in fulfilment of a promise made at the previous election that it would establish cane prices boards - the sugar farmers of Queensland would still be exploited. The boards fixed reasonable prices for sugar cane, and a new era for the industry was inaugurated. The Queensland Government, in conjunction with the Fisher Government, decided in 1915 on the first sugar agreement, which fixed the price at £18 a ton, an increase of £3 a ton. In 1918 the agreement was renewed, and the price increased to £21. In 1920 the agreement was again renewed, and the price increased to £30 6s. 8d. In 1923 £27 a ton was offered by the Commonwealth Government, and the Sugar Tribunal appointed by the Commonwealth Government, upon which the consumers, the growers, and the Government were represented, unanimously decided that the price of £27 wasjust to the producers and workers, and would provide sugar ; at a reasonable price to the consumer.
– Does the honorablemember advocate a continuance of that price ?
– On present costs I am quite satisfied with the continuance of the tribunal and £27 per ton, with an embargo. Although in pre-war days sugar was 3d. per lb., and although the increase to 4½d. meant only 9d. a week increase in the expenses of a family, I ask those who disparage the Queensland sugar industry to bear in mind that in pre-war days wages on the sugar-fields were half what they are today. In 1907 and 1908 a field labourer received £1 2s. 6d. and his keep in the off season, and £1 5s. in the cutting season. In 1.911 the cane-cutters asked for 30s. for a week of 48 hours, and they had to go on strike to get it. On that occasion the growers gave evidence that they could not afford to pay 30s. a week for cane-cutting. They were then in a parlous condition, for they were not making enough profit to enable them to pay a decent rate of wage to their employees. Seeing that wages have more than doubled, £27 a ton for sugar is not much better than £15 a ton was in pre-war days. A protection of £6 aton in prewar days was not, as the Argus would lead one to believe, in addition to the price of £15 a ton. It is true that sugar now enjoys a protection of £9 6s. 8d. a ton, but jams are protected to the extent of £28 a ton; dried fruits, £37 6s. 8d. a ton; hops, £112 a ton; and boots, 45 per cent. We have often been told of the £3 a ton bounty that used to be paid on sugar cane grown by white labour. There was an excise duty of £4 a ton from 1902 to 1913, and, therefore, the bounty of £3 a ton, which was given to encourage the growing of sugar by white labour, was more than offset by the excise bounty, which brought into the Treasury a revenue of £2,700,000. Yet we are told that the sugar industry is “ spoon fed.” The present price of sugar was fixed by the Sugar Tribunal. We have heard a lot of talk about the export of 35,000 tons of Queensland sugar. The Australian consumer will not be asked to bear the loss on that, becausethe sugargrowers, although awarded £27 a ton by the tribunal, are only taking £26 a ton, and are placing £1 a ton in a fund to defray lasses that may be incurred in exporting sugar. If they were not disposed to act fairly and reasonably they might keep on hand 50,000 tons of sugar, and then come to the Government with a demand for a further embargo. They are acting straightforwardly in getting rid of their surplus, while charging the consumers no more than the tribunal said was a fair price. What is the state of the dried fruits and canned fruits industry? In his budget speech the Treasurer said -
The Canned Fruit Pools, established in 1920-21 and 1921-22, have at last been brought to an end. On this year’s Estimates is an amount of £154,000 to meet the remaining losses. The ‘total amount paid to the growers on the three pools of the years 1920-21, 1921-22, and 1922-23 was £336,952, and to canners £943,211. The total losses, including interest, amounted to £643,000.
Last year the Commonwealth Government provided a bounty of £140,000 to enable the fruit-growers to dump their fruit abroad. That was done at the expense of the taxpayers. I say nothing against it, for I recognize that the fruit industry is in a bad way. But the sugar industry has not come “cap in hand “ to the Government, .asking for a bounty in order to enable it to market its surplus. It. proposes to get rid of it on the best possible terms, and the industry will bear the loss.
– It might have been the last straw had the sugar-growers come to the Government.
– The sugar-growers, are reasonable people, and desire to carry on their* business with due regard to the interests of the whole of the people, and, that being so, the Government will doubtless be inclined to deal sympathetically with them.
– Does the honorable member know what price will be obtained for the exported sugar?
– I do not know that, but if it is less than the local price the industry, and not the taxpayers, will bear the loss. The Government fruit bounty caused the Government of the United States of America to increase the duty against the Australian product, and to impose what is called an anti-dumping duty, to prevent the dumping of Australian fruit in America. The exported dried fruit usually nets the producer from £20 to £25 a ton, but local sales usually net from £45 to £50 a ton. As the estimated cost of production is about £35 a ton,, really excessive profits are made on the dried fruits consumed locally, in order that the loss on the exports may be recouped. That is a notable illustration of the local consumer paying a high price in order to permit the producer to recoup himself for the loss on his exports. It is estimated that it costs the fruit-grower £35 a ton, or approximately 4d. a lb., to pub his fruit on’ the market, but local consumers are charged anything from ls. to ls. 6d. a lb. for it. There is a difference of lOd. per lb. between the price paid to the producer and the price charged to the consumer, which shows clearly that the middlemen who support this Government are making a huge profit. The fruitgrowers now have to export about threequarters of the annual fruit pack, and only one-quarter of it is consumed locally. The Australian consumers axe required to pay a greatly increased price for the dried fruits they need, in order to assist the industry. Last year, the Sugar Board exported about 20,000 tons of sugar without a loss, for the world’s parity price was abnormally high. Nothing was said about that, but now the unique position has arisen that for the first time in the history of the sugar industry, when there will probably be a loss on the export, there is a great outcry by Mrs. Glencross, and residents in the ‘southern states, who scarcely ever offer any criticism in respect of the losses, year after year, on the exports of dried fruits. The Queensland sugar-growers will cheerfully bear the loss on the export of their surplus sugar. They are putting £1 a ton into a fund to meet the loss, instead of rushing to the Government to relieve them of the responsibility. I wish to make it quite clear that I am not opposed to the Government rendering assistance to the fruit-growers. My point is that if the Queensland Sugar Board were out to browbeat the Government it would hold its surplus sugar and use it as a lever, next year, to secure a continuation of the embargo. Seeing that it is not acting in this way, I think the Government should show its appreciation. An interesting circular was made available by the Minister for Customs, two years ago, which threw some light on the relation of the sugar industry’ to the fruit industry. It showed that the Australian fresh fruit crop was disposed, of in the
Evidence was heard at Cairns, Innisfail, Townsville, Mackay, Bundaberg, and Brisbane from 69 witnesses, and, in addition, there were over 100 documents submitted as exhibits. . . . While it is true that there are individual cane-growers in the industry who are making large profits, the conclusion that we have come to on the evidence is that they are only a small proportion of the total num
The judge then quoted figures to show that there were approximately 4,918 farmers supplying cane, and he went on -
These figures show to what a very large extent the industry is one of small growers. From the field workers’ point of view, that position has its disadvantages, as the small grower does not employ much field labour. From a national point of view, it is desirable that there should be as many small growers as possible. . . . Statements of the profits made by farmers were put in as evidence. These show that except in individual cases, the profits made by the farmers are not at all large.
Referring to wages, the judge said -
We do not consider the wages in any way excessive for the class of labour, but, at the same time, we think they show that on the present scale the remuneration is adequate.
These judges are reliable men, who have the full confidence of the community. The Queensland Sugar Board in March was furnished with authentic information regarding the then retail prices of sugar. They were as follows: - Great Britain, 7d. a lb.; Canada, 11 cents, or 5½d., per lb.; United States of America, 9½ cents, or 4¾d. a lb. ; South Africa, 5½d. a lb.; New Zealand, 4¾d. a lb.; Australia, 4½d. a lb. It will be seen, therefore, that, in comparison with other countries, Australia should not growl about the price of sugar. The Queensland sugar industry is of great importance to the nation, particularly in regard to the maintenance of our White Australia policy. If people would study it with a view to assisting it, instead of subjecting it to carping criticism, they would realize how important the sugar industry really is, and they would favour its protection as much as they favour protection for the secondary industries of Melbourne and Sydney.
.- One must admit to a feeling of the futility of the effort when he sets out to criticize the budget proposals and Estimates, for no matter how much he may object to them, it is impossible for him to move for the alteration of a single item without considering the possibility of serious political results. It seems to me remarkable that, although an honorable member may move an amendment to any bill which the Government introduces and not fear such far-reaching effects as the downfall of a Ministry, he cannot move to amend the Estimates without such a fear. The prevailing practice was possibly necessarywhen circumstances were different from those that now obtain, and I suggest that in adhering so rigidly to the traditional practice we are not making that progress which is required by modern democratic developments. I submit that it should be possible for honorable members, not only to criticize the Estimates, but to move for their amendment without endangering a government. There must be many items in the Estimates which all honorable members would like to see amended, and yet their hands are tied. The position is not only unreasonable but absurd, and should be altered.
The enormous revenue and expenditure of the Government must strike any one who even casually examines the national balance-sheet. I know that this Government cannot be blamed for these very large figures, for they are the result of the war. The Government has had left on its doorstep, so to speak, some war babies and foundlings which it must nurse and care for. Our huge public expenditure is a legacy from the days when the Government laid violent hands upon private enterprise in the national interests. Doubtless it felt justified in doing so on account of the emergency which faced the country; this is now being continued, because of the practice which has been established and the precedent which has been laid down. In other words, an insidious demoralization of power has occurred in our parliamentary institutions, and to-day government is doing many things which are not in the interests of the country. I do not refer to the present Government particularly; but it is extremely difficult for it to discontinue those things which have been imposed upon it by past practice,, and that is the reason why the estimates of revenue and expenditure are so great. I think the Government is endeavouring to curtail expenditure; but, on the other hand, the policy of government subsidies and government control of this, that, and the other, has demoralized the public also, and even now the Commonwealth gets too much money, and is not making a serious attempt to put its re-‘ sources back into private channels. Today nothing extensive or important can be undertaken without an appeal for a government subsidy, or aid in some other form,. That is the explanation of the large figures of government expenditure. I have expressed my conviction from time to time that the sooner the Government can discontinue that sort of thing the better it will be for the country as a whole. This Parliament, which should be the national legislature, is continually having its time occupied, and its interest engaged by proposals which are designed merely to serve group interests, and certain parochial and small needs of ‘ the the country, instead of lifting its eyes to the larger national questions with which it might deal.
– It lifts its eyes to the larger questions, too.
– It does not .do so sufficiently, and that is the the reason why to-day there is Conflict between the Commonwealth Government, which should be the National Government, and the State Governments, which should deal with many matters which now come before this House. In regard to the budget, I propose to deal first of all with taxation. I shall not go into the detailed figures, in the handling of which the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has proved himself such an adept, but shall refer to general principles. The Government is to be commended for having endeavoured to reduce the amount of taxation. The £2,000,000 decrease in income taxation has been received very favorably by the people, but the reduction ‘of taxation should not stop at that. I say without hesitation that I would rather that the direct taxation had been continued, and the indirect taxation reduced. I spoke in the same strain on the budget of last year, when I pointed out that it would be far better to lessen the burden of indirect taxation, which is at present pressing on the Australian people. They would benefit not only directly to the extent of such diminution of taxation, but also indirectly by an amount probably equivalent bo at least three times the direct loss of revenue. Therefore, any government which desires to lighten the burden of taxation would give the maximum of relief, and incur the minimum loss of revenue by a diminution of indirect taxation, especially through the Customs Department. Apparently that argument has not borne weight in the councils of the government. ‘There have been agitations from all parts of the Commonwealth - from taxpayers’ associations particularly - for the reduction of direct taxation, especially income tax. I have every sympathy with the taxpayers’ associations. They are perfectly justified in using their influence with this Parliament, which seems to have become the happy hunting-ground of various interests which desire to get selfish ends served. Therefore, I do not blame the taxpayers’ associations, but one would imagine that they represent all the taxpayers of Australia, whereas they represent only, a certain class, chiefly the direct taxpayers, and do not seem to be able to consider the requirements of those who pay indirect taxation.
– They neither consider them nor care for them.
– And apparently neither do honorable members opposite, for, whenever any words have fallen from me on the subject of Customs taxation, I have been laughed to scorn by them. The honorable member for Angas is not justified in casting stones at the taxpayers’ associations. The principal charge I make against honorable members opposite is that they are utterly inconsistent when they profess to be serving the interests of the poorer men and women, and yet do nothing to lighten the burden of Customs taxation, the indirect effect of which weighs heavily upon every man, woman, and child in the country, especially those of the poorer classes.
– If the honorable member had his way, there would be no work for the poorer people of Australia.
– I am so accustomed to hearing empty catch phrases and fallacies of that kind flung about on all occasions when there is no- opportunity of answering them, that I do not intend to stop to answer them now. Indirect taxation is most debilitating, and it must be accepted as a perfectly sound principle - in -fact, it was most unexpectedly enunciated by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) during this debate - that the derivation of an undue proportion of the revenue from indirect taxation is unsound. The honorable member complained of the large proportion of revenue from indirect taxation in comparison with that from direct taxation. I entirely agree with him.. Most people recognize that it is unsound to derive a large proportion of revenue from indirect sources. When on previous occasions I have quoted the large receipts from Customs duties, I have been told that they will soon decrease as our protective policy becomes effective. If honorable members really believe that, are they content to allow the revenues and government of the country to rest upon an uncertain quantity? Will they actually budget from year to year on a basis which they say is insecure? That seems an extraordinary method of finance. It would have been preferable if a certain amount of relief from indirect taxation had been given in the budget, and in order that that might be done I would have approved of the continuance of the direct taxation. If it be said that it was impossible to do both, because the money is not available to permit of a diminution of indirect taxation, I suggest that a certain amount of money is available which would have made it possible to diminish indirect taxation also. Again, the Customs revenue has not been accurately estimated. Last year I was ridiculed when I expressed the opinion that £28,000,000 was an absurd underestimate of the Customs revenue for the ensuing twelve months. But the event justified my prophecy. The Treasurer said on that occasion that the Customs revenue had been estimated conservatively, because’ the returns for June had been low. Later, when speaking on the budget, I pointed out that although the returns for June had been low the receipts for July had created a record. The Treasurer has used the same argument this year. Again the June returns were low and again the Treasurer has said that he did not think he would be justified in budgeting for more than £34,000,000 of Customs revenue. But again the July figures are high, even higher than those for the corresponding month of last year, and I can see no valid reason for supposing that there will be any great diminution of Customs revenue during the next twelve months. Apart from the fact that our export trade is likely to be good during the current year, the exchanges do not indicate any great change, and above all there is a very important factor which- appears not to’ have been token into consideration. It is quite unnecessary to remind honorable members that any money borrowed in England must come to Australia in the form of goods. The Government proposes to endeavour to diminish’ borrowing abroad; but the fact seems to be overlooked that the gift of £34.000,000 which the British Government will make to Australia for immigration purposes will have the same effect upon our trade as would the borrowing of that sum.” That gift or loan from Great Britain must come to Australia in the form of goods, and must have an enormous effect upon the Customs revenue during the next twelve months. Therefore, I see no justification for anticipating any great shrinkage in Customs revenue; it will be as great, if not greater, than the amount received last year. In. addition, there are other amounts floating about in the accounts of the Commonwealth which might have been employed reasonably and wisely to assist any project for reducing indirect taxation. It is true that the Estimates show a contemplated surplus of only £26,000, but that is by no means “ a full statement of the case. Already an amount of £600,000 is being carried as a floating balance to spare the Treasurer any embarrassment from time to time. There is also from the accumulated surplus of the past £500,000 set aside for the marketing scheme. £1,000,000 is set aside for defence purposes in addition to the amounts we have already voted for these purposes. We have voted £2,500,000 for naval construction. There is an extra £1,000,000 on the defence estimates for munitions and land defence, and another sum ear-marked from the surplus, making up £4,500,000 for defence purposes this year. I venture to say that the extra £1,000,000 set aside from the accumulated surplus need not be spent this year at all, and the money might well have been employed to meet any possible emergency due to a reduction of indirect taxation. With the amounts to which I have referred and the prospect of an increased Customs revenue we have reasonable grounds for reducing income taxation to the extent, possibly, of 10 per cent, of the revenue from existing Customs duties. That would give real relief to the people of this country to the extent of from £10,000,000 to £12,000,000 a year. Up to it-lie present reductions of taxation agreed to last year have been quite ineffective. The amount of the reductions was more than made up by the increased revenue from Customs. There was, therefore, no real relief to the people as a whole. The reduction of taxation amounted to something like £2,000,000, whilst the increased Customs revenue amounted to £6,000,000 or £7,000,000. The same thing is likely to happen this year. The reduction of taxation proposed in the budget would be more than made up by the increased revenue collected from the people through other channels. I feel sure that a radical reduction of the taxation which most seriously affects the poor man in connexion with every detail of his daily life would be welcomed by the working and middle classes of the community. These are the people who have- been asked to pay for years past. They are looking for relief, and are entitled to ask for it. Instead of affording this relief we have one interest after another asking for subsidies and duties. This is my great objection to the marketing scheme outlined here to-night with honesty and great ability by !the honorable, member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson). I admit that the case put forward by the honorable member is a perfectly logical and reasonable one, in view of what is being done for other sections of the community, but to say that because certain classes in the community are already protected we should protect the remainder is a wrong way to go to work. My view of the matter is that these subsidies to and protec-tion of other sections in the community should be withdrawn, and in this way the section represented by the honorable member for Gippsland would cease to be placed at a disadvantage. I cannot forget the very significant phrase uttered as an interjection when the present British Chancellor of the Exchequer was introducing his budget and announced the intention of the Government to reduce Customs duties. One of the Protectionist members of the House of Commons interjected, “Then this Government is going to sacrifice the producers to the consumers.” That is the point of view taken by the protectionist every time. The consumer need not be .considered, and the producer must be protected and saved from all forms of competition. Those who argue in this way forget that the producer is himself a consumer. He represents but a section of the community, whilst the consumer includes every man, woman, and child in the country. As Mr. Deakin once said in a very famous phrase, “ The seller is the courtier, but the buyer is the prince.” It is high time we gave consideration to the increasingly complicated legislation that is built round the Customs system. I shall not weary honorable members with a dissertation on free trade versus protection, but I do wish to refer to the increasingly complex machinery which has grown up around the Customs Department. Ifc is based upon a Customs Act which introduces the extraordinary principle that the burden of proof is on the defendant. That principle is utterly un-British, and opposed to all our ideas of justice and liberty. It is embodied in our Customs Act, and. -is the fundamental principle upon which the .whole of our Customs legislation is based and operated. The principle that a mau is to be considered guilty until he has proved himself innocent is wrong and mischievous. It reflects upon the community generally, and it should be expunged from our Customs Act. On top of the Customs Act we ha,ve built up other legislation such as the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act, the Tariff Board Act, and the regulations under these acts. They all constitute, a mass of legislation and regulations which it is almost impossible for any one to understand or administer. The Minister for Trade and Customs has admitted that this legislation is extremely difficult to administer, and any one who. has anything to do with it must be aware of the difficulties that arise in trying to interpret it. These acts constitute a system of legislative machinery which has built up the Customs Department into a bureaucratic octopus that has its tentacles on almost every branch of trade and industry in this country, and is tending to strangle them. I do not think this language is too strong to describe the position. If honorable members will ask any nian who ‘ is in daily contact with the operation of the Customs Act, he will tell them the same thing. I am not blaming the Customs Department, the Minister, or the officials who administer the act. The responsibility for it rests upon this House, which, if it did not frame the act, is responsible for its continuance. If honorable members took the trouble to> try to understand the bearing of these Customs Acts upon the life of this country, they would agree that it is time that they were ‘repealed.
– The people voted for the policy of protection.
– I should like to know when they did so. It has been said, again and again, that the people of this country voted for protection; but I say that never once since the establishment of the Commonwealth has protection been a vital issue at an election.
– The federation was brought about to give effect to the idea of a protected Australia.
– No, it was brought about because the people of Australia realized that it would remove the Customs barriers between state and state. It was only after federation was accomplished that, gradually and insidiously, this outside protective burden was laid upon Australia. Protection by the Customs has never been a vital issue at any federal election. I believe that our Customs legislation is mischievous and wrong, and some of it is so complicated that it is hard to say whether some of the actions of the department are legal or not. I brought up a certain matter a week or two> ago, and I have discussed it with the Minister for Trade and Customs since. The Minister quoted the section of the act under which the action was taken which I alleged was illegal and contrary to the act. I discussed that section with the Minister, and pointed out that it did not cover the case with which I was dealing. The honorable gentleman admitted frankly that he was new to the act, and that it is a difficult measure to administer. The Customs Department has introduced the principle of estimating the value of imports on the basis of the Australian selling price in imposing dumping duties in this country, and I contend that that is illegal.
– It was never intended.
– It was not. I contend that under the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act an illegal principle of Australian valuation is being given effect, and is being applied all round. No one can prevent it except by taking action against the Government, and what chance has an individual firm of beating the Government in a legal action, except at ruinous expense?- It is not right that these . things should be allowed to continue and, in justice and fairness, honorable members should see that they are remedied .
I wish to speak now, gratefully and appreciatively, of what is proposed in the. budget for Western Australia and Tasmania. As a representative from Western Australia I have felt, ever since the present Government came into power, that sympathy, consideration, and regard has been shown for that state which it never received before. We hear complaints, no doubt, from the west, but, on the whole, the Government is trying to act fairly towards that state, and also towards Tasmania in the peculiar circumstances in which they find themselves, owing to the disadvantages under which they labour as the result of federation. Even in this connexion, I want to say that I should have preferred some other method of relief. There is talk of special grants to the states, and of a royal commission to inquire into the peculiar disabilities under which they labour. We know that, under the Constitution, special action in certain directions cannot be taken by the Commonwealth Parliament in the interests of one state in contradistinction to the interests of the others. It is obvious that the disabilities Under which those states have laboured are chiefly due to such protective acts as the Customs Act and the Navigation Act, of which representatives of Western Australia have so often complained. I maintain that the best way to help these states would be to’ remove their disabilities. I have argued on the same lines for the relief of the primary producers. I suggest that the Government should remove the obstacles to their progress, rather than attempt to assist them by artificial means. We should remove the disabilities on the states rather than build up other disabilities in an attempt to balance conflicting interests. There is a special reason for this, too, for it raises the question of the relations of the Commonwealth and State Governments. One great objection that I have to the Commonwealth granting subsidies to the states and becoming implicated, as it were, in the financial condition of the states, is that the operations of the Commonwealth Government are encroaching upon the functions of the states. Loans are granted by the Commonwealth Government to the State Governments for various purposes.
– I call attention to the state of the committee. [Quorum farmed.’]
– The system of granting loans and subsidies to the State Governments is likely to interfere very seriously with their operations. I suppose that honorable members on this committee hardly believe that the debt of £70,000,000 owing by. the states to the Commonwealth will be repaid for a very great length of time, if at all. The subsidies that are paid year by year imply a certain amount of Commonwealth Government control. Grants made to the states put them under an obligation to the Commonwealth. The grant for main roads on a pound for pound basis gives the Commonwealth Government the right to dictate, to some extent, what -money the states must place on their Estimates. In my state the annual grant by the Commonwealth for this, purpose has been £96,000 per annum, which required the provision of a similar amount from the state exchequer. I have no hesitation in saying that the assistance granted by the Commonwealth Government is very much offset by the very serious burden laid upon the State Government by its having to provide £96,000. It is possibly true that if the Commonwealth Government did not grant that money the state would have to find it, but it would- find it in a different way. It would be raised very largely by local rating, but it is a very different thing when the State Government has to find the money by increased taxation.
– - It need not take it.
– That is rather an unworthy way to look at it. The Commonwealth Government wants to assist the states, but, in assisting them, demands that they must find certain sums of money.
– I doubt whether they would care to decline the Commonwealth grant.
– I do not think that they, would.
– I do not think that there is a state in Australia that is spending too much on its roads.
– Perhaps that is also true. The construction of main roads has been done hitherto out of the proceeds of local rating, but the money must now be found by the Government out of taxation. I know that the construction of roads is good for the country, and I am not complaining of the grant or suggesting that the states should refuse to accept it. The grant for wire netting was hedged round with a lot of details by which the Commonwealth Government controlled the State Governments.
– It was one of the worst pieces of legislation ever passed.
– I quite agree. The conditions gave the Commonwealth Government control of the issue of advances and wire to settlers, and to that extent it interfered with the legitimate work of the State Governments. I strongly objected, but the system has not been altered. The details have to be submitted to Melbourne, and the business is centralized in a way that is quite unwarranted. The Commonwealth Government cannot grant money to the states without having a certain measure of control, and if that continues it will involve the adoption, to an increasing extent, of the principle of unification. I am not expressing an opinion for or againstunification. Much can, be said on both sides, but as long as we are working under federation the spirit of the federation should be observed. Some persons may consider that it would bepreferable to have a system similar to that existing in Canada or South Africa. That may or may not be so, but so long as we have a federal system, it is not right to use the power of the purse to bring about a system of government not specifically provided for or contemplated by the framers of the Constitution. That is what is being done, and that is what I complain of. I suggest that it would be more honest, and would save much trouble in the future, if we convened another federal convention to consider this question. It is time that the relations of the states and the Commonwealth were again carefully investigated.
The defence proposals in the budget are easily the best part of it. The Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) spoke of the state of dilapidation of the defence machinery of this country. That dilapidation, if such a word is not too strong, is easily explained and justified. When the war ceased the people were sick and weary of war, and did not wish to hear anything about defence or militarism. They objected to spending money on defence. They said, “ We have had a stomachful of war. for the last few years, and now the less we hear about it and spend on it the better.” I have no doubt that the drastic retrenchments in defence expenditure made by the Government entirely reflected the opinion of the people of this country. It was inevitable that our defence system should get into a bad state, but it is equally inevitable that we must get out of the mess. The piecemeal methods of the past are no longer any good, and the Government should be commended for bringing forward a courageous project for the defence of this country and attempting, in a right and proper way, to develop it into a programme spreading over five years. I ask leave to continue my remarks later.
.- I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
I wish to give honorable members some information which I endeavoured to convey to them earlier in the day, but was prevented from doing so. When addressing the committee yesterday, in the budget debate, the honorable member forYarra (Mr. Scullin) made certain allegations, the purport of which was that in the administration of the Land Tax Assessment Act equality of treatment was not being given, and that partiality was shown to the large taxpayers. He made the deliberate charges that the Land Tax Department was not carrying out the Land Tax Assessment Act, that large landholders were not sending in their returns., and were not being prosecuted under the law. These charges are of the most serious character, and constitute a grave indictment of the Commissioner of Land Tax. Honorable members are aware that the collection of taxes has not been entrusted to the Government, and that Parliament has deliberately placed that duty in the hands of the Commissioner, who is appointed for a period of seven years, and is in an entirely independent position, similar to that1, of the AuditorGeneral. It is the Commissioner who makes the assessments, insists upon payment, and conducts prosecutions, when necessary. If the Government of the day interfered in these matters, there would be justifiable protest and outcry. It is unnecessary for me to assure the House and the country that the Government has not attempted to interfere with the Commissioner in the exercise of the powers conferred .upon him. As the charges which have been made are of so serious a character, involving the purity of the administration and the honour of the Public Service, I am sure all members of the House will appreciate that this matter is non-political, and would desire that the fullest and most searching inquiry should be made into. it. I am also confi-dent that the House would wish that the. Commissioner of Land Tax (Mr. Ewing) should have the fullest opportunity of replying to the charges which have been made against him. The Government, therefore, proposes that a royal commission shall be appointed, to inquire into and report whether the charges which were made by the honorable member for Yarra against the administration of the Land Tax Assessment Act are supported by the facts. Endeavour will be made to obtain the services of a judge to act as the royal commissioner. Before this commission Mr. Scullin will have every opportunity to prove his allegations, and the Commissioner of Land Tax will be enabled to defend his administration.
.- -It is quite true that early this afternoon I objected to the Prime Minister making the statement which he has just made. I did not desire to be discourteous to him, but I object to the Leader of the Government making use of the forms of this House to make a statement to which no other person can make reference. That has been done repeatedly of late. I wish to say that, with the consent of my colleagues, I shall, in the future, take every opportunity to prevent that course from being followed. Objection was made some time ago to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) making such a statement, and I shall object on every occasion when the Prime Minister or any member of the Government attempts to adopt that course, unless I am given an assurance that, following the statement, the Minister concerned will submit a motion which will enable the matter to be discussed by honorable members.
As to the subject-matter of the Prime Minister’s statement, it is quite true that the honorable member for Yarra .(Mr. Scullin) yesterday said that there had been partiality shown in the administration of the Land Tax Assessment Act. It is difficult to find out where the administration begins and ends, but certainly it does not end with the Commissioner of Taxation. The responsibility for the administration rests upon a Minister of the Crown. We do not so much assail the instrument of administration as’ we do the Minister who is responsible for the administration. We assail and impeach the guilty Minister.
The Prime Minister has said that the Commissioner of Taxation is in an entirely independent position and that no Minister has ever interfered with him. He has said that the Commissioner of Taxation stands in the same independent position as does the Auditor-General. I am not concerned at the moment with the position of the Auditor-General further than to say that there are certain cases in which Parliament has chosen, in order deliberately to place public officers in an independent position, to make special appropriations for their salary, so that they shall not depend upon the will and wish of a government for a rise or fall in their emoluments. But there are certain other officials concerning whose salary the Government has a measure of control, and ‘ it might go hard with them if they resisted pressure from the Government.
The Prime Minister has. stated that no Minister has ever interfered with the Commissioner of Taxation. Let us see how that deliberate statement will stand in the light of evidence at our command. I have in my hand the Seventh Annual Report of the Commissioner of Taxation, covering the years 1916-17 to 1919-20. I impeach the Minister for having permitted such delay in the presentation of the . Commissioner’s report. Who is to say whether the delay occurred at the volition of the Commissioner of Taxation or at the dictation of the Government.? I quote the following sentence from the paragraph headed “ Tax on Crown Leaseholds “ : -
This tax lias remained outstanding under a verbal direction to me-
This is the independent Commissioner speaking! He says that he was given a “verbal direction.” By whom? By a Minister of the Crown. The Minister who gave it to him was none other than yourself, Mr. Speaker, for you were the Treasurer at that time. I do not question, at the moment, whether you were right or wrong in giving such a direction to a public servant. You were the responsible Minister, and must take full responsibility for having interfered. I draw attention to your action in order to deny the statement made by the Prime Minister to-night, that no Minister of the Crown had ever interfered with the Commissioner of. Taxation. The Commissioner has placed it on record that you, sir, gave him a direction. The paragraph reads -
This tax has remained outstanding under a verbal direction to me by the Bight Honorable W. A. Watt, P.C., when Treasurer, pending an investigation by a royal commission into the taxation of lessees’ estates in Crown leaseholds.
That intervention may have been justifiable in the public interests. Payment of the tax was allowed to remain in abeyance pending an investigation by a royal commission. A royal commission subsequently investigated the position, and its recommendations, which were agreed to, were to the effect that the lessees we’re under legal obligation to pay their taxes, that they should pay them, and that it was the duty of the Commissioner of Taxation to collect them. These men owed enormous sums, and after having had a thorough investigation made of the position, the Government decided that the money should be paid. The succeeding paragraph in the same report reads. -
The report of the royal . commission was submitted in 1919, and the Acting Treasurer at that time, the Honorable A. Poynton, M.P., announced in his budget speech that’ the Government had decided to accept the recommendation of the royal commission to amend the Land Tax Regulations so as to permit the calculation of a lessee’s estate by capitalizing the difference between the rack rent of the land and the rent paid under the lease at 8 per cent, compound interest, instead of 4£ per cent., as at present.
Up to the present the regulations have not been amended in this respect.
The question of collecting the outstanding tax is under consideration by the Treasurer.
In spite of the declaration by the Prime Minister, here is documentary evidence from the commissioner himself that he was subject to control by the Treasurer, and that though a royal commission’s recommendation had been accepted, the Government had intervened and prevented compliance with the law. How dare any man occupying a responsible position as a Minister of the Crown, much less a Prime Minister, make a statement in this House on the assumption that’ honorable members are ignorant of the facts, and do not know that ministers and governments have from time to time given directions to the Commissioner of Taxes ?
Now let us consider for a few moments the merits of the accusation made by the honorable member for Yarra. Did he l In peach the instrument of administration ? Not at all. He impeached the guilty minister. After he had made his accusation it was within the power of the Treasurer to go to the head of this department, and ask him for a statement setting out the true facts of the case. The responsibility for doing so rested on the Treasurer. . The Treasurer could easily have obtained a statement which would have proved the truth or otherwise of the assertions of the honorable member for Yarra.- If he had wished to defend himself he could have done so, but he chose to skulk behind the Prime Minister. He should have accepted his responsibility, and said to the Prime Minister, “You shall -not speak’ for me’.’ My honour and integrity as a Minister are at stake, and I shall speak for myself and my department. I shall answer for my own rectitude. I shall defend myself against the allegations that have been made.” If he had felt that he was innocent, and was justified . in any action that he had taken, he would undoubtedly have accepted the responsibility. We have to face the fact that these accusations were not made for the first time last night, or perhaps I should say that the honorable member for Yarra, twelve months ago in this chamber, made certain serious allegations in regard to the remission of taxation on the wealthy men of this country. After having allowed payment of these taxes to remain in abeyance year after year, the Government came forward then, and said, in effect, “ These men shall not be asked to pay these taxes.” It introduced a bill, the object of which was simply to write off the whole amount that was owing in respect of the tax on Crown leaseholds. The Government desired to wipe a sponge over the slate.
– And that was not the action of the Commissioner.
– No, it was the action of this Government and this Treasurer. On that occasion the Treasurer told the Parliament and press, and through them the country, that the amount of taxation on leaseholds that was outstanding was £1,300,000. He has since informed us that that was incorrect, and that the total amount outstanding was £1,600,000. Only to-day the honorable member for Yarra was told that at least £500,000 is owing in taxation on freehold property. May I remark at this point that, after a silence of three years, the Commissioner of Taxation has presented a report covering the years 1920-21, 1921-2, and 1922-3, which has only just been put into the hands of honorable members. It contains a long list of the names of small taxpayers who owed a few shillings and have been prosecuted for neglect to pay their taxes. Full publicity can be given to the omissions of these poor people, but nothing must be said of the wealthy classes of the community who have deliberately refused to pay the. taxes due on their Crown leaseholds. The failure of the small taxpayers to pay a few miserable shillings is published to the world, but not one word is said in criticism of the big taxpayers who have refused to meet their obligations. If the full amount owed by some of the small taxpayers were collected, it would not pay for printing their names in this report.
The Government cannot evade its responsibility by making the Commissioner of Taxation a scapegoat for its own incapacity. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) asked the honorable member for Yarra yesterdayto define his accusation, the honorable member replied that he made his charge against the administration. Therefore, the responsibility of answering that charge rests not upon an official, but upon the Minister who controls the Taxation Department. His duty was toinvestigate the facts, and, if he was worthy of his position and the honour which the country has conferred upon him, hewould have taken his for tune in his own hands, and in this chamber defied the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), and asserted that there was no truth in the allegations concerning Kidman. But does the Treasurer say that? He is silent. He shelters behind the Prime Minister, and allows him to be his spokesman and defender. Is there any truth in the allegations made regarding an ex-member of this House (Mr. Jowett) ? Again, the Treasurer is silent. He skulks behind the Prime Minister. Irrespective of what the honorable member for Yarra has said, we as a party demand that the responsible Minister shall stand up to these charges ; that he shall not unload his responsibility upon an official; that he shall not hide behind the Prime Minister, but shall take upon himself the duty of meeting: the accusation which has been made. We absolutely ignore any reference of this case to a judge. What authority will the Government give us to investigate the records of the department and peruse the files relating to Kidman’s assessment 1 Does Kidman owe the amount stated by the honorable member for Yarra ? Produce the files relating to Jowett’s assessment, and show whether or not he owes money to the department. All the Government proposes’ to do is to refer the matter to a judge, and shut out the possibility of honorable members obtaining essential information. We repudiate such a reference. We demand that the responsible Minister in charge of the department shall admit or deny the accusation that has been made.
– Having regard to the cirstances in which the taxation of Crown leaseholds was debated last year, the statement made by the Acting Leader of the Opposition is remarkable. Every honorable member will recollect clearly last year’s debate. When, after three or four days of continued vituperation from honorable members opposite I rose to reply, for two hours the clamour was such that I could not be heard. And honorable members know quite well that on every subsequent occasion when I have attempted to refer to this matter, honorable members opposite, including the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), have raised points of order, and otherwise obstructed me, lest I should have an opportunity of throwing light upon the subject. It is idle for the
Acting Leader of the Opposition to suggest that the Government has attempted to evade its responsibility. When we came into office we found that for five years the collection of the taxation on Crown leaseholds had been suspended, and we decided that the lessees were in an absolutely false position. They were entitled to know what their liability was; and the Government, not in a spirit of cowardice or evasion, but with courage, submitted its proposals to Parliament and the people. There was no skulking on our part. We put our fortunes to the test in this chamber, and the whole subject was fully discussed.
– And the Government was beaten.
– At any rate, we had the courage of ourconvictions, and placed our proposals before Parliament. I ventured to say then, and every thing that has taken place since bears out my contention, that it is not possible to discover an equitable basis upon which that taxation may be levied. The charge has been made, to-night, that the figures I gave to the House were incorrect. I gave to honorable members the figures that had been supplied to me by the Taxation Department. I was informed that, last year, there was assessed and outstanding a sum of £1,300,000, and that because of the review of assessments which followed the decision of the House that all taxation owing to date should be collected, the total amount now assessed and outstanding is £1,694,000. I gave that information to the House at the earliest possible moment after receiving it. In what respect have I misled the House ?
– The Treasurer did not tell us that last year.
– I said last year that the amount assessed and outstanding was £1,300,000, and it increased to £1,694,000 only this year when the revised assessments were prepared. Honorablemembers will recollect that when I discovered that revised assessments were being sent out that did riot conform to the regulations and altered the facts that I had placed before the House, I made a statement in this chamber. The Government thereupon appointed a royal commission to investigate the whole incidence of the taxation of Crown leaseholds, in order to discover whether or not therewas a method by which such taxation could equitably and justly be collected.
– Has Kidman furnished a return ?
– I am unable to give that information. It is. impossible for me to carry in my mind the details of the Taxation Department, or to separate the amount of tax due on freehold and leasehold properties, respectively. A considerable time will be required to separate the accounts, and let the House know the exact position. In any case, it has not been the practice, hitherto, ‘ to give information to Parliament concerning the taxation of any individual or company. In regard to the matter that was raised yesterday by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), it seems to me that the proper time to reply will be when I am closing the general budget debate. Honorable members raise all sorts of issues, and instead of, like a jack-in-the-box, jumping up to reply to every speech, it is preferable that I should conserve the time of the committee by a general reply to the whole debate. It is my intention to do that. When the Government decided that a royal commission should be appointed, it was the Prime Minister’s right to announce that decision. It is a matter of government policy, and as such was properly announced by the head of the Government. I know of no instance in which the appointment of a royal commission was not announced by the Prime Minister. There has been no attempt on the part of the Government to evade its responsibility. At the earliest possible moment, to-day, the Prime Minister told the House what the Government is prepared to do.
– Is the Government prepared to collect the taxation that is due?
– A royal commission is already investigating the means by which that can be done. The figures I have given to the House show that the Government is trying to ensure that the will of Parliament, in regard to the collection of arrears, shall be observed. The suggestion that we have attempted to evade our responsibility is absurd. The general criticisms of the Acting Leader of the Opposition will be answered at the proper time, at the end of the budget discussion. In the meantime, the Prime Minister, on behalf of the Cabinet, has announced to the House the proposed investigation of his definite charge against the administration of the department of land taxation.
.- If anything will indict the ‘ Government before the people, the announcement by the Prime Minister and the speech by the Treasurer to-night will do so. The Treasurer apologized for his connexion with the administration of the Taxation Department after the Prime Minister had said that the Government took no responsibility for the administration of that department. The Government’s actions, following the charges I made against them yesterday, have been an absolute climbdown. The Treasurer asked honorable members to recollect the circumstances of the debate in the House last year on tho taxation of Crown leaseholds. I, too, ask them to review the proceedings of last year. The honorable gentleman brought before Parliament a proposal to remit certain land taxation owing by- the big pastoralists over a period of seven years. He was challenged by me and other honorable members on this side, and we were supported by honorable members on the Government side, and, after a long discussion, ‘ the majority of the House instructed the Government not to remit the taxation, but to collect an amount of £1,300,000 that was due to the Treasury by the big land monopolists. How did the Treasurer obey the instructions of the House? For twelve months he did nothing, and when Parliament reassembled, and we, in the discharge of our duties to the taxpayers, asked that this money should be collected, and pursued the honorable gentleman with questions, he skulked behind a royalcommission appointed to inquire into the incidence of this taxation and the means by which it could be collected. That inquiry has nothing to do with the issue I raised. The Treasurer is the political head of the department that collects the taxation of this country, and, if he is not a mere rubber stamp, he is responsible for the actions of the department. When you,. Mr. Speaker, were Treasurer, you accepted your responsibility in connexion with every problem that arose in the collection of taxation. You acted as a man should, and gave your instructions to the
Taxation Commissioner who; after, all, is merely the servant of the. Government and the Parliament. You directed him to suspend the taxation of Crown leaseholds because there was some difficulty over the matter of assessment. For your attitude on that occasion I have no quarrel with you. When I spoke on this matter a year ago, I commended you for accepting your responsibility and appointing a commismon to investigate the matter. When that commission reported that the taxation should be collected, the political heads of the department, after you, sir, had vacated the Treasurership, refused to carry out the recommendations of the commission. The Commissioner of Taxation, in his seventh annual report, said that the royal commission had upheld the attitude of the department, that Mr. Poynton, the Acting Treasurer, had promised that an amendment of the act would be made in accordance with the recommendation of the commission, and the taxation collected, and that the matter was awaiting the decision of the political head of the department. In his second last report the Commissioner said that the collection of the arrears of taxation due upon Crown leases was being considered by the Treasurer. It has been considered by different Treasurers for the last six years. That money could be collected when Labour was administering the affairs of the country. There was no need to shelter behind the Commissioner of Taxation when a Labour man was at the Treasury, or when the Right Honorable W. A. Watt, was Treasurer. But to-day there is a cowardly skulking behind a government servant. The Treasurer tries to deny his responsibility, and to suggest that I made a charge against a public servant, when he knows full well that my charge was directed against the Prime Minister, the Treasurer, and every other, member of the Government. The Treasurer when asked the definite question whether large sums of money are owing by these big men, as has been stated throughout this country for the last twelve months, says, “ I do not know.” Surely the honorable gentleman should know. What a lamentable admission of failure. Is it not time that the honorable gentlemen was impeached upon the floor of this chamber? He would attempt to place me in the position of levelling charges against a public servant for actions for which the Treasurer and not the public servant is guilty. The honorable gentleman is not going to put me into any such position. I made my charges in this House. They refer to a whole series of actions by the Government which indicate weak administration or lax administration, and it is the responsibility of the Government to say whether or not what I charge it with doing has been done. Even the tabling in this House of an annual report which a public servant of this department is called upon to make is the responsibility of the Treasurer. We want an investigation into the Taxation Department and into the administration by the Government. The Government would make me the. prosecutor of a public servant against whom I have no complaint, against a man whom I do not know. I charge the Government with vacillation, and with endeavouring in a cowardly way to shirk its ‘responsibility. I make my charge against the Treasurer, and the Prime Minister, of playing up to the big land monopolists of this country in the first place by failing to collect land taxation from them.
– The honorable member has made it against the Commissioner.
– That is not true.
– Order ! The honorable member will realize that it is unparliamentary to say that a statement made by another honorable member is untrue.
– I withdraw. The statement made by the honorable member is incorrect. The Prime Minister in his cute way tried to shift responsibility from the shoulders of the Government, because he could not answer the charges made. He realized that in face of the evidence. A sum of £2,000,000 in land tax is outstanding, and in face of the statement by the Treasurer that £1,330,000 of this amount is owing by Crown lessees, leaving £800,000 owing on freehold and other lands - although that statement has been amended to-day - in the face of the definite statement that Kidman and Jowett, the big land monopolists, owe this country £200,000 in land tax, the Government cannot refute the charges, and knows that it cannot do so. So it slinks behind the Land Tax Commissioner. The administration of this public servant has not been’ challenged. There has been no charge of corruption made against Mr. Ewing, or any officer ofhis department. The charges have been made against the Treasurer and the head of the Government. The charge of partiality in this connexion is proved by. the fact that although the Treasurer has published the names of small men owing land tax, which I do not quarrel with, he refuses to give the names of the big men. It was his action, and not that of Mr. Ewing, that I impeached. Let the Government take the charges as levelled against itself; let it institute any kind of investigation it pleases, and give free access to all documents relating to charges made by myself or any other honorable member on this side against Ministers for the way in which they have played up to the big land monopolists of the country, and allowing Sir Sidney Kidman to retain £100,000 of land tax owing by him, and to defy the award of the arbitrator in connexion with the Kidman and Mayoh contract, and the coffin ships supplied by that firm. Let the Government institute an investigation into these matters, and acceptits responsibility, and I shall stand by every charge I have made.
- Mr. Speaker-
– Will the Prime Minister’s remarks close the debate-?
– Yes. I called upon the Prime Minister, but if he desires to give way to the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), he may do so.
– I give way to the honorable member.
.- I think that on the merits of this question sufficient has been said for the present, but I have been eager for the opportunity of associating myself at the earliest possible moment with a repudiation of the stand taken by the Prime Minister in regard to this matter. I say candidly that I am amazed by the statement made by the right honorable gentleman in this House to-night. In thirteen years’ membership of this Parliament I never before heard so weak and unjustifiable a surrender of the rights and duties of Parliament, particularly by a leader, as I heard this evening from the Prime Minister. -I do not desire to go into the merits of the taxation of Crown leaseholds, and the collection of the tax due upon them, the intricate details of which this House has already had occasion to discuss. I go no further than the statement made by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr.Scullin) yesterday, and the attitude adopted towards that statement by the Prime Minister .yesterday and to-day. The Leader of the Government has said, and I think rightly, that he regards the statements of the honorable member for Yarra as of a most serious character. To that extent we are entirely with the right honorable gentleman. He says to-night that they are statements reflecting upon the Commissioner for Land Taxation, that they in fact have nothing whatever to do with the Government, and that before a royal commission which is to meet at some future time we should justify the aspersions we have made upon an officer of the Public Service, over whom the Government has no control. My answer to that is ‘ that the Government was responsible for the appointment of this officer, and if it is said that he was appointed for a term of seven years the Government has the power, through this Parliament, to cancel his appointment within seven weeks. This is rightly so, because it would be a sad day for this country if this Parliament had to surrender its powers and the responsibilities of government to any departmental officer, irresponsible both to the Parliament and to the country. Fortunately that is not the position. All I want to say now is that when the honorable member for Yarra made these grave statements with regard to not only the administration of a- public department, but the administration of the affairs of this country by. the Government, an obvious- and plain duty rested on Ministers. It wa3 their duty to say ‘ that they could not be expected at a moment’s notice to make a satisfactory or complete reply to the charges of the honorable member. T;hat would have been unreasonable to expect. But their obvious duty was to say that these charges being serious and having been made on the floor of this House by a responsible member, they, as a responsible Government, would answer them here. That entirely sums up the duty of the Government in the position in which we stand. When a member of this House makes charges against the Government in regard to the administration of a public department, or a public servant, is the Government to say that such an officer may or may not have failed in his duty, and it will appoint a royal commission to inquire into his conduct? If the.
Prime Minister had called for a report from the officer concerned, giving his ver-sion of what happened as a justification for the position he took up, it might be that he would have elicited facts which would reflect seriously upon that officer; That might or might not have been the case, but the right honorable gentleman’s’ first and clear duty was to answer in this House charges that have been made in it.’ I venture to add that there is a shrewd suspicion in our minds, knowing the history of this matter as we doj that the reason the right honorable gentleman did not come with his defence to this House, as he should have done, was that, having no defence, he thought the matter might be lost in the mists df an investigation by a royal commission or some board of inquiry. We ask the Government to make its answer, and later on there will be time enough, if necessary, to ask its subordinate officer to make his answer.
, - I shall not occupy the time of the House for long, as I know the Prime Minister wishes to’ reply. I want to say to the right honorable gentleman that thd Treasurer has failed - utterly to answer the gravest part of the charge made ‘by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), and that is that a- certain gen’tleman, Sir Sidney Kidman, owes £100,000 to this country. The Treasurer has had the papers before -him since the charge was made. The Prime Minister is going to reply to the present debate, and I’ put Lt to the right honorable gentleman that, as the Treasurer has. failed to answer the question put to him, if there is anyhonour left in the Government he will, in his reply, and in carrying out his duty to the House and the country, say whether the charge levelled against the Government is true or not. If he does not answer, the only conclusion that can be drawn from his failure to do so will be that this grave charge has been proved to the hilt.
– The very fervid speeches which have been made by honorable mem: bers opposite, and the hectic excitement they have evinced during the last half -hour, shows very plainly that they appreciate the fact that they have once too often flung about these charges which they are so fond of levelling against people.
– It is a cowardly action of the Government to withdraw behind a public officer when Ministers are themselves guilty. I made my charges against the Government.
– The honorable member for Yarra must not further interject.
– The House will notice that the hectic atmosphere has not yet entirely disappeared.
– Dirty, cowardly action !
– Order ! I demand that that statement be withdrawn, and inform the honorable member that further interjections will be treated as disorderly.
– I withdraw.
– The matter is a simple one.
– Yes, it is.
– Honorable members have made speeches giving the history of the taxation of Crown leaseholds; continually repeating the statement that the Government stands for the big men, and using similar expressions. Any action that the Government has taken regarding Crown leaseholds it is perfectly pre-‘ pared to defend on the floor of the House, and it will make its defence in the budget debate. We have had a very considerable discussion about the taxing of Crown leaseholds. The Treasurer made a statement on the subject which it was difficult to hear, because honorable members opposite, thinking that some of the thunder which they employ for purely political purposes might be destroyed by a reasoned and clear statement of the position were anxious that nothing of the sort should be given.
– You got a fair hearing.
– Further charges concerning the taxing of Crown leaseholds were made yesterday. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) did not then say anything new about the subject. What he said he had said a dozen times before; and the delightful thing is that, whatever answer he may get he will say it a dozen times again. It is part of his stock-in-trade, his propaganda for the next election. The Government accepts all the responsibility for any action it has taken in regard to the Crown leaseholds. Ministers stand up to everything they have done. We are quite prepared to answer the charges of honorable members opposite; they need not worry about that. But, unfortunately for himself, the honorable member for Yarra yesterday made a slight slip. He did not confine himself to the stuff that he usually flings at the Government, and which Ministers do not really mind very much. We have a. true appreciation of the honorable member, and what he has said does not disturb us. But, unfortunately, the honorable member went a little too far, and as he has attacked some one else, he must bear the responsibility. The Government must protect its public servants when they are attacked by honorable members opposite. In their vendetta against Ministers; - which I do not understand in the very least - they get carried away, and what the honorable member did yesterday was a very serious thing.
– What you did to-night was very serious. You made statements that were not true.
– The honorable member said, when he was speaking yesterday, that in the administration of the land tax special treatment is being meted out to certain large interests in this country. The implication there was that action was being taken by some one to give them preferential treatment. Now, there are only two ways in which this could be done. It could be done by the deliberate action of the Commissioner for Land Taxation, and if it were done by him it would be a grave and gross breach of his duties ; or it could be done by the Government exerting pressure on him, and making him what the Acting Leader of the Opposition called a “ pliant instrument,” and if that happened, the Commissioner would again be guilty of a grave dereliction of duty. The Commissioner is not guilty of anything of the sort.
– He is looking after your pals.
– There we get again a poisonous statement like that made before.
– The honorable member for Ballarat will obey the ruling of the Chair, and not interrupt.
– Yes .
– The honorable member must not answer the Chair in that way.
– The honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) has intensified what was said yesterday by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), and has cast further reflections on this unfortunate officer.
– Rubbish !
– That is not true.
– The honorable member’s words meant nothing else.
– The reflections are on you, and on your Treasurer.
– Honorable gentlemen apposite are very anxious to make reflections on the Government, but they are not doing so. They are making them on this unfortunate officer.
– That is a lie.
– When the Government says that it is prepared-
– An honorable member on the Opposition bench has described the Prime Minister’s statement as a lie. The honorable member responsible for that statement must withdraw it, and apologize to the House.
– Who is he?
– I do not know.
– I do not know who is responsible, but I know that the Prime Minister has made statements-
– The honorable member is not in order in addressing the Chair.
– You apologize for the party.
– If the honorable member who made the interjection will disclose his identity, he must withdraw and apologize.
– As honorable members opposite do not appear to be prepared to stand up to their statements, we shall have to accept an apology from the whole party. These things have been said against the Commissioner; but when the Government takes action which will give an opportunity to the Commissioner to vindicate his character-
– It is the Treasurer’s character that requires vindication.
– It will also give an opportunity to honorable gentlemen to prove some of the charges which they have made. We are conscious of the atmosphere that has been created about the Opposition bench. The Opposition has really become a disorganized rabble; its members have been rushing about asking each other what they had better do next in this maze in which they have landed themselves. I do not propose to dwell further upon this subject, but I wish to make it clear to them that the Government is quite prepared to stand up to its responsibility in regard to the Crown leaseholds, about which they are so fond of talking. I would point out that the honorable member for Yarra brought in these Crown leaseholds yesterday incidentally, and said all that he usually says about them, but he felt that he had better try to cover new ground..
– And the new ground stands against your Government.
– The honorable gentleman had a great deal to say about the land tax.
– And I repeat it.
– The honorable member for Yarra must not continually interrupt. Parliamentary debate cannot proceed in this way, and I must take action to preserve order.
– If I maysay so, I entirelyagree with you, Mr. Speaker. The honorable member spoke of other kinds of land tax besides that on Crown leaseholds.
– I wonder how much you have to pay.
– He introduced other questions on which the Government is quite prepared to meet him. Ministers are ready to deal with everything be has to say.
– I would remind the House that the budget debate is still in progress. The Treasurer has not yet replied.
– Does your pal Russell owe anything?
– I warn the honorable member for Ballarat.
– I am asking a question.
– The honorable member is not entitled to do so.
– I withdraw the question if he will not answer it.
– With regard to all the matters the honorable member for Yarra raised yesterday, whether they concern the administration of the Government or its policy, Ministers are prepared to take full responsibility for what has been done. We also take responsibility for anything that is done by our public servants. But it is our duty to see that the public servants get fair play, and we are giving to the Commissioner for Land Taxation an opportunity to refute the charges which have been made against his administration.
– Cowardly sheltering!
– The Prime Minister is indulging in tedious repetition. He has said that twenty times.
– The honorable -member for Hume is out of order.
– But under great provocation.
– The Government would also like to impress upon honorable membersthe fact that the Commissioner for Taxation is placed in a special position, which differs greatly from that of most other public servants. I am sure that no member of this Parliament, unless he is trying to do so for political purposes, would suggest that it would be right and proper forthe Government to interfere with the Commissioner in carrying out the duties entrusted to him by Parliament. The Government does not purpose-
– I rise to a point of order. I draw your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the Prime Minister has made a statement to the effect that no Government has interfered with the Commissioner, and that statement has been contradicted in the Commissioner’s report.
– The honorable member for Bourke ought to know that that is not a point of order. He must know it as well as any other honorable member.
– It was a very effective interjection.
– Evidence of the trouble in which honorable members opposite find themselves is piling up. When the Acting Leader of the Opposition cannot say what he wants to say in any other way, he rises to a point of order that is not a point of order. I shall not delay the House further, but I tell members of the Opposition, and tell them very clearly, that the Government intends to appoint this royal commission, and to give the Commissioner of Taxation an opportunity to refute the charges made against his administration by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). It will be for the honorable member for Yarra to substantiate everything he has said.
– If the Prime Minister will put himself in the dock, I shall charge him and his Treasurer.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.42 p
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 August 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240820_reps_9_108/>.