9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Personnelof Commission - Tra velling Allowances of Officials.
– Can the Prime Minister announce the personnel of the Federal Capital Commission?
– I hope to be able to do so in the course of a few days.
– In view of the evidence given before the Public Works
Committee by Sir Brudenell White that in the early stages of the occupation of Canberra the travelling allowances to civil servants will amount to thousands of pounds per week, will the Prime Minister soy whether it is the intention of the Government to provide for the early and complete removal of the Seat of Government to Canberra, or merely for the meeting of Parliament there?
– Inquiries are being made by the Public Works Committee regarding the staff that will be required at Canberra in the early stages and the accommodation that must be provided. The whole subject of the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra is under the consideration of the Government, but it is quite obvious that when Canberra becomes the Seat of Government the Commonwealth will not be able to afford to have officials travelling to and fro between that centre and Melbourne each week.
Royal Commission on War Disabilities.
– The Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the war disabilities of returned soldiers is shortly to commence its investigation. Are we to understand that the special committee appointed by this House to report upon certain urgent soldier cases is not to hold any further inquiries until the work of the commission is completed?
– The Soldiers Committee of this House will continueto function whenever matters are submitted to it.
– When will the investigations of the Royal Commission be completed, and will the Government lay thereport upon the table of the House so that it may be discussed?
– I understand that the Royal Commission will meet on Monday or Tuesday next, and as soon as its report is completed it will be presented to the House.
– I read in this morning’s newspaper that at a meeting yesterday of the so-called Country party, the
Prime Minister’s junior, Dr. Earle Page, conveyed information to its members regarding the contents of Sir John Monash’s report on the cost of cruiser construction in Australia. Will the Prime Minister intimate to his junior that such information should he supplied to Parliament before it is given to a party meeting?
– I am not aware that any information on the subject has been conveyed by anybody to a party meeting.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed that at a large meeting convened by the Lord Mayor and held in the Sydney Town Hall last night, attended by representatives of the Chamber of Manufactures, the Employers’ Federation, the Australian-made Preference League, the Australian Industries Protection League, and trade unions, a resolution was carried expressing consternation at the proposal of the Federal Ministry to have two cruisers built in Great Britain, and demanding that they be built in Australia? Is the Government prepared to flout the wishes of the people of Australia as expressed in that resolution?
– My attention has been drawn to the resolution, but I have yet to learn that an expression of opinion by such a meeting necessarily represents the wishes of the whole of the people of Australia.
Seniority of Delegates to Assembly
– Has the Prime Minister received any communication from Sir Joseph Cook regarding the seniority of the members of the Australian delegation to the Assembly of the League of Nations? If so, has Sir Joseph Cook claimed that he should be senior to the delegates sent direct from this Parliament ? Will the Prime Minister announce that it is the intention of the Government and the Parliament to insist that at all times our direct parliamentary representatives shall take precedence over any other Australian delegates ?
– I have not received, and do not expect to receive, any communication from Sir Joseph Cook on that subject. It is perfectly well understood that when a Minister of the Crown is visiting Great Britain or any other place, he takes precedence over the High Com missioner there, and at any international gathering at which Australia is represented, any Minister of the Crown who is included in our delegation must take precedence.
Importations - Censorship
– Last year a deputation representing the Brisbane Returned Soldiers’ League, interviewed the Tariff Board regarding the flooding of the Australian market with American picture films. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs say whether any action has been taken by the department to limit the importation of films?
– That matter has not previously been brought under my notice, but several questions regarding picture films have been asked in the House recently. Investigations are proceeding, and I shall bring within their scope the matter mentioned by the honorable member.
– I, in common with other honorable members, have received communications from parents and others complaining of the character of many films presented in the various picture theatres. Some correspondents go so far as to say that these unwholesome films are influencing the youthful mind towards crime. Will the Minister for Trade and Customs instruct the censors to exercise more control over the films, so that the poisonous element in them may be eliminated ?
– Already, action has been taken to tighten up the censorship. I am sympathetic with the views stated by the honorable member, and I hope during the coming recess to place the censorship of films and picture shows upon a basis that will be more appreciated by the general public.
– In a communication I have received from the managing director of one of the principal paper mills of the Commonwealth, these statements are made -
The positionhas become desperate, thousands of tons of Dutch boards are coming in and our mills are closed, and have been for a fortnight. Never during the year have we been able to run full handed. For two years we have run at cost and even less, so that we have nothing for shareholders.
Dutch mills are running with labour 72 hours a week for 30s. ft week, and all material charges proportionately low. Our coal is 44s. a ton, their fuel less than one-third of this price.
Will the Minister for Trade and Customs give serious consideration to this matter with a view to the early revision of the tariff, and, in the meantime, instruct the Tariff Board to inquire whether dumping of strawboard is taking place 1
– If the firm concerned will send full particulars to me I shall have the matter investigated.
– Will the Minister .©presenting the Postmaster-General endeavour to hasten the departmental decision as to the person or persons to be granted permission to establish a wireless broadcasting service in Tasmania. Very great interest is being taken in broadcasting, and school teachers throughout the state are asking for this information for educational purposes. The decision seems to have been unduly delayed, and I ask the Minister to see that arrangements are completed as soon as possible.
– I am not aware that there has been any undue delay, but I shall be glad to investigate the matter with a view to expediting a decision.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House of the extent of Australia’s liability in connexion with the loss sustained on the Empire Exhibition at Wembley?
– The Commonwealth has no liability for losses in connexion with that exhibition. The Commonwealth and State Governments agreed to provide, jointly, £200,000 for an Australian exhibit at Wembley; we have no concern in the financial results of the exhibition.
– Some time ago I asked a question regarding the compensation to be paid to the relatives of ordinary seaman Ritchie,- of H.M.A.S. Brisbane, who met his death as the result of a homicidal attack upon him. This matter has been awaiting decision by the Navy Department for a long time, and I ask the Minister representing the Min ister for Defence to let me have a definite reply as to whether any assistance will be given to those relatives.
– I shall ascertain, what is happening in connexion with that claim, and see that a definite reply is given as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice-r-
– No information on the subject is available, but in any case, the honorable member will appreciate that this may be a matter of contract between the parties concerned, and, if so, the Commonwealth Government has no power to intervene.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Motion (by Mr. BRUCE) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next, at 3 o’clock p.m.
The following paper was presented : -
Railways Act - By-law No. 29.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-21, the following work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for its investigation and report thereon, viz.: - Establishment of an automatic telephone exchange at Brisbane Central.
I move this motion on behalf of the Minister for Works and Railways. The proposal embodied in it is to erect a telephone exchange building upon Commonwealth property in Elizabethstreet, Brisbane, and to install in that building an automatic telephone switching system having an immediate equipment of 10,000 subscribers’ lines, together with heating, ventilating, de- humidifying, compressor, air cleaning, vacuum cleaning, and air washing plant. The proposed building will be a fire-proof structure of seven floors. The plan ha& been considered in harmony with the scheme for the re-building of the Brisbane General Post Office, which will shortly be projected, and the comprehensive use of the available site for these purposes. The new exchange is required because the capacity of the common-battery manual switchboard that is now serving subscribers in the central exchange area isalmost exhausted, and it is impracticable to extend the plant in the existing building. It is necessary, therefore, to .provide an up-to-date plant to render more efficient service to present and prospective subscribers in that area. It is expected that the new building will afford accommodation for development for a period of twenty years from the date of the cutover. The annual revenue, based upon the actual and estimated number of subscribers’ lines connected at different dates, is as follows : - 31st May, 1924, actual, £135,601; 1st July, 1927, estimated, £158,668: 1st July, 1932, estimated, £183,773.
The estimated cost, excluding the cost of the site - £17,610 - is: Building, £80,000; ventilating, heating, dehumidifying compressor, air cleaning, vacuum cleaning, and air washing plant, £10,000 ; automatic telephone equipment and external line plant, £340,060; total, £430,060. It is desired that this matter shall be referred to the Public Works Committee as soon as possible. I lay upon the table the necessary plans, as required by the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act.
– The Minister will remember that some time ago I asked him how much the Commonwealth was paying in royalty for the use of the automatic telephone system. The reply which he then gave me was that automatic telephones had up to date cost us in round figures £1,000,000. I should like him to ascertain what proportion of that amount has been paid by way of royalty.
– I do not think that it is possible to obtain that information. A number of small royalties are paid to inventors by the manufacturers. No direct royalty is paid.
– I shall make inquiries to see if I can obtain the information for the honorable member.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Pratten) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.- The honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse) the other day advised me to take a little physical exercise. Consequently, in the early hours of this morning, before the House met, with the instruments of torture that I understand have been supplied with your consent, Mr. Speaker, I was cross-countered and uppercut in the most violent manner by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley), being nearly counted out and rendered speechless. You will, therefore, excuse me, sir, if I have taken upon myself the character of my early morning surroundings.
This bill is, apparently, a very simple one. It proposes, I understand, merely to extend the life of the Tariff Board. I was under the impression that the Government wished to get on with the business of the country. I therefore spoke to honorable members on your left, pointing out to them that the bill was unimportant, and brief, and not one to be discussed at length on the motion for its second reading. I urged them to curb their verbosity, in order that this House might dispose of the score or so of items on the notice-paper, making possible the termination of the session by the 1st instead of the 21st December. Imagine my surprise, when on the bill reaching the second-reading stage, the Minister came to the chamber armed to the teeth. He entered the arena of debate trailing his coat and spoiling for a fight. He put himself forward as the champion and high priest of protection, and challenged all and sundry to come forward and try to do their worst in mangling and destroying the industries of this country. He pictured the horrors that must follow if those industries are submerged beneath a flood of imports. What could one expect after a speech of that kind 1 The Minister did not wait for an enemy to approach him. He set up one argument after another, pummelled it, pounded it, wrestled with it, forced it through the ropes, dragged it back again, and dashed it on the floor until no life was left in it. He faced imaginary arguments, and shadow sparred for twenty rounds of three minutes each. Then, proclaiming himself the victor, he retired to his corner, saying that there was nothing in the bill, and that no one except himself need talk upon it. You will have noticed, sir, that the gentlemen on your left remained silent. I did not rise, nor did any of my followers. The bill could have slipped through. But while the Minister was doing this shadow sparring upon the stage of public life, proclaiming himself the high priest of protection, and the sole defender of the faith, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) was warned to take means for the holding of the freetrade fort, and he sent out signals to the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) to come to the rescue. Those honorable members summoned their cohorts, and thus the business of this chamber has been held up for two days. Upon a measure that contains nothing in particular there has been a long discussion, not by my supporters - who have been silent - but because of the verbosity’ and incoherence of honorable members of the Country party. They knew that in talking they were on safe ground, that nothing they might do would result in the overthrow of the Government.
Now, let me come back to the Minister. That honorable gentleman is the sponsor for and the strong supporter of this bill. Is he the gentleman who was once a member of another place ? Is he the gentleman who, when the Tariff Board Act, which this bill extends, was introduced, violently opposed it, fought it from beginning to end, and denounced it as an instrument that would harass the industries of this country? Is he the gentleman who voted against it at every stage? Is he the gentleman who, on several occasions, even in this chamber, has referred to it in disparaging terms? He has, I admit, candidly confessed that he has now changed his opinions. It is most remarkable that his conversion and his promotion occurred in the same hour. We have previously seen these changes take place. I say of the Minister that he is not the only one who has changed his opinions. I know others in whom a marvellous transformation has taken place. When somebody has whispered something in their’ ear, and dropped something into their pocket, they have seen the Tight of a new faith.
When I looked at the Prime Minister last evening, I thought upon what he would have done to us had we acted as the Country party was doing. He would have said to honorable members on this side, “ Gentlemen, you are obstructing public business. We have 23 items to dispose of - 23 more nails to drive into our coffin. We must have time in which to do it. You have said sufficient, and must now remain silent. Otherwise I shall suppress you by applying the guillotine.” But I well understand why the right honorable gentleman did not do that to honorable members upon whose votes he depends for his existence. Still, he could have profited by past experience. If he was not prepared to go to the corner ‘himself, he. could have sent the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr) to whisper over the back benches that there was going to be a reconstruction of the Ministry. Had he done that there would have been silence. Everybody there would then have recognized the -virtues of the government measure. Had any of these honorable members in the corner been told that somebody was likely to die, and that he was likely to get his position,, he would have begun to see that this is the best board we could have, and that the Tariff Board is the most important institution in the country. The Minister supports it with ardour, fervour, and vigour. The Pratten of today attacks with violence and- savagery the Pratten of the past. I believe, with other honorable members on this side, that the board can be made an instrument for great public service.
– Hear, hear! The honorable member is quite right.
– I am glad that the honorable member sees the point. If I had had any doubts about the bill, they would have been dispelled by the comments of the Argus. One can see the necessity for a board of this character. Industries are. affected not merely by the tariff duties and rates of wages, but also by problems of production and transportation. A tariff, if applied unscientifically to an industry, might seriously injure it. In referring to the proposal that the powers of the board should extend beyond industries affected by the tariff, the Argus said -
Granting that under the administration of Mr. Pratten such a power would be exercised’ with unfailing judgment and with perfectly balanced discretion, there remains the possibility that Mr. Pratten will not always be in charge of the Customs Department. Should a Labour Minister succeed to office he would have good reason to be grateful to Mr. Pratten for having provided a weapon so useful for a prosecution of fishing inquiries into all branches of industry. Armed with the authority, a Labour Minister could pursue his inquiring way without being under obligation to consult Parliament. One can easily imagine the arguments with which a Labour Minister would justify his inquisitions if he felt called upon to offer any justification. He would recall that Mr. Pratten, a commercial man and a representative of business in private life, and a representative in public life of that school of thought which defended individuals against bureaucratic aggression, was the creator of the instrument which Labour found so suitable for its general purposes, lt will be useless, then, for the Nationalist and Country members to depart from their attitude of respectful and silent compliance with anything that is put before them.
We are thankful for that statement, and it is one of our reasons for supporting the bill. But a marvellous thing has happened. I understand that the provision there criticized has now been withdrawn, in compliance, no doubt, with the objections of the Argus, and possibly of those who sit behind the Government. Honorable members on this side do not regret its withdrawal, because, after all, there is more than one way to kill a pig. If the board has power to call evidence, to cross-examine witnesses, and to . examine books and documents, it will be able to get all the information necessary in the public interests, or for its own purpose.
I have been impressed with another feature of the comments in the daily press. The Minister has been questioned regarding the personnel of the board. He said - and I was very glad to hear him say it - that the personnel of the board was beyond question, that its members were as upright, as representative, and as capable as any country could reasonably expect to get. Accepting his statement as fact, can any one see any reason for changing the personnel of a board whose members are so upright, representative, and capable? lt is remarkable that, although the Government is usually ready to hasten into the breach to deny the accuracy of statements made by the press, it has not denied statements made about its intentions in this respect. The Minister has been asked whether the statement in the press that the members of the board would be re-appointed is true? It is a plain and simple question, and there is apparently no need for secrecy about the matter. The question is capable of being answered by a “ yes “ or a “no.” If it is answered by a “yes,” I assume that no one will be able to see any reason why such upright, representative, and capable men should not be re-appointed. If any one of them is not to be re-appointed, there appears to be no justification, if the reasons are honest, for not stating why. he .is not to be reappointed. Yet the Minister refuses to make any definite declaration of his intentions. When members of the Government are secret, silent, and evasive when they ought to be frank, they have no right to be surprised if they become the objects - and properly so - of public suspicion.
I understand that this bill will be followed by a Quarantine Bill. I believe it is a still smaller measure; that it will deal with fleas on dogs, or some matter of that kind. If the Government wishes to get on with public business, the Minister will not, in moving its second reading, ransack the world to discover what are the quarantine laws of the different countries. I suggest that we should proceed as quickly as possible to allow the remaining 23 nails to be driven into the coffin of the Government.
I have only two or three words to add to what I have said. I can readily understand that no Minister can make himself an expert in all the details of every business, but it is possible to train experts to prime him with the facts. The basic reason for creating the board was to assist in developing Australian industry by preventing the flooding of the Australian market with products from overseas. It was also intended to ensure that the manufacturers that were sheltered by the tariff laws of this country should not become instruments of internal exploitation. It is the duty of such a board to inform the Minister and Parliament of all the facts relating to ; our industries. It should look at questions not merely from one stand-point, through the keyhole of one man’s circumstances, but with the wider vision that takes in all the economic possibilities. But if honorable members will examine the two reports of the Tariff Board they will find them merely padding and puff. Any one reading the reports without prejudice must conclude that they were written by half a dozen men with half a dozen different minds. Some parts of them are amateurish in the extreme, but other parts show a wider vision. The amateurishness is conspicuous in the observations about Western Australia. Last year Parliament was informed by the board that the condition of the cement and maize industries was the result, not of the flooding of this country with foreign products, but of the operation of the’ Navigation Act, and as a result the country was put to unnecessary expense to inquire into the facts, which should have been within the knowledge of the board. It is now admitted by the board that the conditions it referred to were the result not of the operation of the Navigation Act, but of the flooding of this market with foreign products, and the board therefore recommends the application of anti-dumping legislation to the importation of the products concerned.
I am not attacking the board or any one connected with it. I want to see it function in the public interest. This board is capable of functioning in the public interest to a greater extent than any other board or commission that absorbs public money. The people of this country need a certain quantity of commodities, and our industries must be developed until those wants can be supplied without recourse to other countries. One of the duties of the board is to tell Parliament what are the average and normal requirements of the people; what internal machinery is available for meeting those requirements, and whether that machinery is adequate and efficient. Even a policy of protection was never meant to bolster up inefficient forms of production. The board should be able to tell us how much capital is invested in an industry, and how much of it is real and how much bogus capital. It should be able to say how much of the profits of an industry represent a fair return upon the real capi- tal invested .in it, and to what extent its capital is being juggled with in the share markets of this country. Let us assume that there are two industries started under the policy of protection. Let us call one “ A,” and the other “ B “. “ A “ is protected by a 25 per cent, tariff, and its products are essential to the success of “ B,” but taking advantage of its exclusive market, it raises the price of its products to the subsidiary industry, with the result that “B” is crippled. The cause of crippling “ B “ in such a case would not be high wages or want of protection, it would be that “A” had changed the instrument of protection into an instrument of exploitation. The board should inform Parliament of the interrelation of different industries. The object of protectionists is to make Australia a self-contained community, and they believe that it can be done without permitting any industry to exploit another. The Tariff Board should study the national interest, and not take narrow views like that of the man Who walks into a grocer’s shop and buys a pound of tea or a tin of fish irrespective of its country of origin. The Tariff Board has certain economic functions to perform, and it should place before Parliament all the information on which its recommendations are based. If it does that, it will have the genuine support of the Labour party, but if not it will soon be deprived of its powers.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) will have noticed that in the discussion of the bill, no member of this party has made the slightest insinuation against the integrity of the Government. This, he will admit, is exceptional. But the burden of insinuation and suspicion was taken up by the party in the Corner, and it has imputed almost bribery and corruption. Even if the breath of suspicion rests upon the Prime Minister or the Treasurer, we desire to keep at least the Minister for Trade and Customs pure and undenied. But if he wants to maintain his reputation for straightforward dealing, he must answer this simple question : Does he mean to re-appoint the present members of the Tariff Board, or does he propose to remove any of them, and to appoint others in their place, and if so, why?
– Has the honorable member a few friends whom he wishes to be appointed to the board?
– No. I am asking for information that should be known to the general public. The Government should place all its cards on the table, and not wait until Parliament adjourns before taking action.
.- I oppose the third reading of the bill. I was very pleased indeed to hear the speech of the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey). I regret that I have not looked up Hansard to read the speech of the present Minister for Trade and Customs on the original bill when it was before the Senate. Had that speech been quoted it would certainly have afforded honorable members strong reasons for criticism, and probably made the Minister a little more amenable to their wishes. I trust that when this bill is being discussed in another place, a little sound common sense will be shown, and that the Senate will insist upon all hearings before the board respecting applications for goods to be brought in under the provisions of the Industries Preservation Act taking place in the open, on sworn evidence. No one can read the reports published in the newspapers of the meetings held by the Chambers of Commerce, and the importers of Australia, without coming to the conclusion that there is very grave antagonism to the methods adopted by the board. I am not now speaking in favour of freetrade or protection, or of high or low duties. If the public knew that high duties had been imposed by Parliament for the protection of Australian industries they would accept the position for the time being, subject to present conditions, but now when goods are imported into this country the importers do not know what they will be charged. If we are to be a big primary producing country we must export our goods. One tax on the exporters of primary products is the exchange rate, amounting to about 3£ per cent, on all goods exported. Parliament should bear the responsibility for the imposition of high duties, but we are now giving to the Tariff Board a greater power than that of the Senate. It is wrong to give to the board the power to tax the people. In view of past complaints respecting the operations of the tariff, surely it must appeal to the good sense of honorable members that a proper inquiry should be made into all proposals to increase the taxation of the people. The manufacturers of secondary industries are complaining that it is impossible for them to carry on their businesses because of the excessive dumping duties imposed by the Tariff Board. I have received the following telegram from the Master Printers’ Association, with which body I believe the Minister for Trade and Customs is associated : -
Master Printers’ Association carried unanimously this afternoon the following resolution - This association protests against the methods of the Tariff Board, because firstly, it has proved itself to be not an interpreter of the tariff as fixed by Parliament, but a taxing authority more powerful than Parliament; secondly, it has enormously increased the tariff on certain items, to the great detriment of some of the secondary industries and of the great producing interests of Australia, acting thus in direct opposition to the decisions of Parliament; thirdly, it does its work in camera, allowing its beneficiaries to state their case, allowing no cross examination, not even notifying those interested that their interests are in danger.
Only the other day I read a similar telegram from Brisbane. I complain particularly about the great secrecy observed respecting the- actions of the board. I have received certain ‘information from what I consider to be a most reliable source.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has made a direct reflection on this chamber by suggesting that in another place a certain amount of common sense may be shown when a certain subject is there being discussed. He then proceeded to deal with certain decisions of the Tariff Board, and the conduct of its inquiries. I ask whether it is permissible, at the third-reading stage, for the honorable member to . traverse matters which were decided by honorable members in the second-reading and committee stages.
– It would be wrong for any honorable member to reflect upon this House or another place at any time! The Prime Minister asks whether the honorable member for Swan is entitled to traverse subjects about which the House, has come to a decision. On the motion for its third reading, latitude is given to review the course of a bill, but to “ rake up,” if one may use that term, decisions that have been arrived at either on the second reading or in committee is distinctly out of order. A general review of the course of the bill is permissible at this stage, but beyond that the honorable member is not entitled to go.
– Am I not justified in giving my reasons for opposing the third reading ? Last night, I unsuccess-1 fully attempted to get honorable members to agree that the board’s inquiries should be held in public, and I now wish to give my reason for opposing the third reading of the bill.
– It would be in order to oppose the bill in its present form, and to give reasons for doing so. The House is really concerned now with the bill as amended in committee.
– It is difficult for me to ascertain how far I can proceed on the third reading. This House, last night, arrived at a decision which will be detrimental to the interests of the minor secondary industries, and most injurious to the primary producers. I have obtained certain information on the subject of wire netting sent by the High Commissioner in London to the Minister for Trade and Customs. If the Tariff Board’s inquiries had been held in the open, this information would have been available to honorable members and the public, and, probably, the tariff administration would have been very different. I ask the Minister whether open inquiries will be allowed when the board is considering the imposition of antidumping duties upon wire netting, so that those concerned will be able to try to alter the extraordinary decision recently arrived at by the department respecting its importation. The British manufacturers are now charging 14 per cent, more for wire netting sent to Australia than for that sent to New Zealand or South Africa. This difficulty could, perhaps, have been obviated if honorable members had agreed to the amendment I moved last night, to have all inquiries open to the public. I shall take the opportunity later to deal with the board’s action regarding the importation of wire netting. If the methods of tariff administration, when the bill is passed, are made plain to the general public, I feel quite satisfied that immediately after the next federal elections drastic alteration will be made. I am sorry that the House did not accept the amendments I moved last night for the purpose of abolishing all unnecessary secrecy in the proceedings of the board.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Mr. PRATTEN (Martin- Minister for
Trade and Customs) [12.1]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purposes of this bill are to modify some of the provisions of the Quarantine Act, to remove certain obscurities from it, and to extend the powers of the Government to enable it to take action in emergencies, particularly in regard to diseases which affect animals and plants. A definition of “pest” is given in clause 2, because the definitions in the principal act do not clearly indicate that weed pests are covered. The administration has assumed that they are covered, but it is desirable that all doubt shall be removed. Paragraph a of clause 3 provides for an extension of the present power of prohibition of articles likely to introduce infectious or contagious diseases, to articles likely to introduce any disease affecting animals and plants. The amendment will enable the Government to prohibit the importation of any articles likely to carry the virus of such diseases as rinderpest, footandmouth disease, and diseases and pests affecting plants. Honorable members who are interested in citrus canker and broom millet pests will realize how important it is to give the quarantine authorities this power. Paragraphb of clause 3 will give the Minister power to issue a proclamation to prevent the spreading of disease from any place in one state to another place in the same state. At present the power of the Government is limited to prohibiting the removing of animals, plants, or goods from any place where disease exists to any place where it does not exist. It may happen that it is desirable to prohibit the removal of animals, plants, or goods from a portion of the Commonwealth where disease does not exist to another part of the Commonwealth, as was the case in Western Australia during the recent outbreak of rinderpest. Paragraph c of clause 3 will amend sub-section 3 of section 13 (1) of the act to permit action being taken, if necessary, to prevent a quarantinable disease, as well as a disease or pest affecting animals or plants, from spreading within the state, as well as from one state to another state, for the words “beyond the boundaries of that state “ are to be omitted from the act. During the outbreak of rinderpest in Western Australia it was not practicable to take action to prevent the disease from spreading from one portion of that state to another, although theWestern Australian Government desired suchaction to be taken. The powers in the act were limited to preventing the spread of disease from one state to another. Clause 4 provides for the making of regulations to govern the conditions under which animals or plants may be removed from a state in which there are diseased animals or plants, or noxious insects or pests. The power will be of service should any disease of animals or plants break out in a state, and the Commonwealth Government is desired by a State Government to take action in relation to interstate traffic. Such action has been desired on occasions, but the present power of the Commonwealth Government is limited to regulating interstate traffic for the prevention of the occurrence or spread of communicable diseases, and the term “ communicable diseases “ does not include diseases affecting animals or plants. There is very little if any contentious matter in the bill. The amendments have been introduced principally to extend the powers which already exist in regard to human diseases to diseases affecting animals and plants. The Commonwealth Government has been asked on occasions by State Governments to exercise such powers as this bill will give it, but it has been unable to do so on account of the limits imposed upon it by the Quarantine Act. I do not think that anything in the bill can be reasonably objected to.
.- This bill is a good argument for unification. It is extraordinary that a dog with a sore leg cannot lawfully be moved over the imaginary line which is the border between one state and another without a lot of trouble in the interviewing of state veterinary authorities. It appears to me that the bill is necessary because of state jealousies. If I had my way I would give the Commonwealth Government full control oyer all these matters. The necessity for a central authority was demonstrated by the recent rinderpest outbreak in Western Australia. The quarantine powers of the Commonwealth Parliament should be greatly enlarged. Years ago I preached in Newcastle, and in other centres of population, the gospel of “ One people, one flag, one destiny.” That is still my gospel, and itwas the object of those who voted for federation. The expense of bringing animals from abroad to Australia is at present altogether too great. I understand that if a dog is brought from England it must be quarantined here for three months, to prevent any possibility of hydrophobia being spread through the country. It is 51 years since I left England, but so far as I can remember hydrophobia was only likely to occur there during three or four weeks in the heat of the summer, and not three dogs in 1,000000 were affected by it. I have been told that it is most expensive to import pedigree stock from abroad. I had hoped to submit to the Minister some details on this matter, but I cannot do so for my information is in Sydney. I question whether our quarantine laws are not too severe. I suppose, however, this measure has been suggested by the departmental officers, and that therefore we should accept it.
– I join with the Minister in assuring the honorable member for East Sydney that this is purely a machinery bill. I hope that tha laudable object which the Minister has in introducing it will be achieved, and that it will not be a dead letter on the statute book as unfortunately quite a number of measures are. In view of the fact, that the Prime Minister has promised that the Government will appoint a royal commission to investigate all questions affecting the public health, and that plant and animal diseases will be included in the scope of the inquiry, we may well permit this bill to pass.
– If this bill can effectively prevent infected seed from being imported it will be of value to our agricultural community. Top-dressing is now the vogue throughout Australia, and I suppose that there will be more grass seed planted this year than ever before. That should be beneficial to the country generally. But it is necessary that clean seed should be sown. Anything that we can do to prevent such pests as dodder from being imported should be done, for, as honorable members know, dodder is one of the greatest pests that our lucerne growers have to meet. I am glad to hear from the Minister that the passing of this bill should result in a tightening up of our quarantine machinery, for unquestionably many serious pests have been permitted entry “into Australia which could have been kept out. Greater quantities of seed are being used in Australia now than ever before, and we must do what we can to eliminate the danger of importing the plant diseases now . afflicting other countries. I commend the Minister for a policy which I believe will be generally beneficial.
.- I am very glad that the Commonwealth intends to take complete control of all quarantine matters. I should like to see the Government go a step further and propose the annulment of existing state laws regulating interstate trade in produce. A certificate of inspection issued in one part of Australia should be accepted as a hall mark of healthiness throughout the Commonwealth, and if these inspections were carried out by the Commonwealth a present cause of irritation between the states would be removed.
.- I am very pleased that the Government is to appoint a royal commission . to investigate health matters. Drastic action is required throughout the Commonwealth to control plant and insect pests. They are a national menace, and cannot be coped with by state laws. If the corn borer should obtain a hold in Australia it would do incalculable damage. The Mediterranean fruit-fly- has cost . the orchardists of Australia hundreds of thousands of pounds, and goodness knows where its ravages will end. Among vegetable pests are the prickly pear in Queensland, and St. John’s wort which, although it has involved Australia in a loss of millions of pounds, is still unchecked, and it is spreading from one state to another. Those who -have had experience of that dreaded weed realize the amount of money that will be required to finance its eradication. I welcome the bill and the assurance that it will be placed on the statute-book for use and not for ornament.
– I, too, congratulate the Minister for Trade and Customs upon the introduction of this long overdue measure. Past administration of quarantine matters has led to confusion and irritation between the Commonwealth and State authorities. Because of the absence of a clear definition of the respective responsibilities of the two authorities, there has been inefficient control of vegetable and insect pests. The buffalo fly in the north of Australia is an instance. The honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr. Nelson) and I have been for months asking the Institute of Science and Industry to take steps to cope with that pest, which is doing an enormous amount of damage in the Territory and in the Kimberley district of Western Australia. The latest information I have on the subject from the Minister for Trade and Customs is that a letter has been sent to the Western Australian Government, .and that a certain amount of haggling is taking place between the two Governments as to which shall pay the cost of sending a qualified veterinary surgeon to the north to investigate the trouble. It is another instance, of Nero fiddling while Rome burns. By reason of the pest the cattle- in the Northern Territory are decreasing in value, and a possible export trade is being menaced. The Secretary to the North- West Department, which controls Moolabulla Station, a Government reserve for aborigines in East Kimberley) has informed me that cattle travelling from the station to the Wyndham Meat Works regularly lose up to 100 lb. per head on account of the attacks by the buffalo fly. The fly ie a minute insect that attacks the forequarters of the beasts and perforates the skin, and they are so harassed that they arrive at the abattoirs in an emaciated and pitiable condition. A deputation from Western Australia is at present in Melbourne to interview the Minister on this subject, and I hope that he will act promptly. Recently a serious outbreak of rinderpest occurred in Western Australia. There is not the slightest doubt that that pest was introduced from abroad. The Commonwealth controls quarantine, and if in spite of its regulations and departmental vigilance a disease is introduced into
Australia, the cost of eradicating it should be borne by the Commonwealth. Owners of dairy cattle in Western Australia BUtfered severe losses recently through the introduction of rinderpest into the state, and a claim was made upon the Commonwealth for £44,000 to. compensate them for direct and economic losses. Largely owing to the efforts of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson), the Commonwealth consented to pay £10,000, but such an evasion of responsibility towards a state that is financially in low water indicates a niggardly spirit on the part of Commonwealth Ministers. I hope that the present Minister will take steps to ensure that the mistakes of his predecessors shall not be repeated. This bill should provide that when any disease of animals is introduced into the Commonwealth the cost of its eradication and compensation for economic loss shall be a charge upon the Commonwealth Treasury. At the committee stage I shall submit an amendment to that effect.
.- I do not desire to offer any captious criticism of the measure, for I know the Minister will do what he can to smooth out the existing difficulties of quarantine administration. During the recent outbreak of rinderpest in Western Australia the relations between the Commonwealth and state authorities became very complicated, and as a result of a dispute as ito which was financially responsible, the sufferers from the outbreak did not get a fair deal. Diverse views are held regarding the manner in which the pest was introduced. Quarantine is a federal concern, but I understand that certain powers were delegated by the Commonwealth to the state. The state authorities- believe that rinderpest was introduced from Colombo where, we have since discovered, it had been raging for six months, whilst the federal authorities say that the disease was introduced from another source owing to the laxity of the state administration. However, when the disease was introduced the eradication of it became a federal responsibility. The whole question should have been dealt with on a national basis. At the time of the outbreak I was the only federal member in Western Australia, and I decided to endeavour to induce the
Commonwealth. Government to take control. I waited upon the Premier of Western Australia and pointed out to him that the disease was a federal concern, and that the state authorities could not deal with it effectively. At one stage there seemed to be a possibility of its getting beyond control, and that would have been a serious matter for Australia generally. As soon as I represented the situation to the Acting Prime Minister he acted promptly, and so did the federal officers. When Senator Pearce came to Western Australia to represent the Federal Government in connexion with the control of the outbreak, he was undecided whether the Commonwealth should assume entire responsibility for the eradicatory measures or share the work with the state. Ultimately he and the State Government decided to share it. That had very disastrous results for those who were called upon to make sacrifices. I hope the Minister will take action to prevent similar confusion should an outbreak of such a serious nature occur again. Had we been able to look to either the federal or the state authority I believe we should have been able to fight the matter much more effectively. I think the state should have had no say; the matter should have been a national one entirely, and the claims ought to have been satisfied without any quibbling. These men were promised that if they agreed to co-operate in an endeavour to eradicate the disease, and thus save Australia, they would be fairly, justly, even generously recompensed. The Federal Government has failed in its duty. I did my best from the beginning to make this a federal matter. I particularly requested Senator Pearce to take over entire control, and I asked the Premier of Western Australia (Sir James Mitchell) to agree to that course. I presume that the State Government considered that it would be an exhibition of weakness if it did not insist on some say in the matter. Payment was agreed to on the basis of actual loss only, each government being responsible for half the expenditure. After these people had sacrificed so much, and virtually saved Australia from enormous loss, the Federal Government gave them only £7,000 as a kind of charitable payment. That was a wrong attitude to adopt. Subsequently, another £10,000 was made available, for
Hr. Wa I son. which I heartily thank the Government. I hope that it will agree to a further payment cf £10,000, which would almost meet the last claims that have been made. There has been a lot of bickering, a lot of political jealousy, and a lot of unnecessary hardship inflicted, because of the dual control that has been exercised. I hope that in future we shall not have a similar experience, but that the Government will do its duty faithfully and honestly by those who are affected.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
Section thirteen of the principal act is amended -
By inserting in paragraph e of subsection (1) thereof, after the word “ disease “ the words “ , or disease or pest affecting animals or plants “ ;
– I move -
That after the word “ plants “ in paragraph o, the following words De inserted : - “ Provided that, should any animal disease be introduced into Australia, its eradication, and economic recompense to the sufferers from such introduction, shall be a charge upon the Treasurer of the Commonwealth.”
– The Government cannot accept the amendment. It really contains two propositions. One is that the Commonwealth Government should accept all responsibility for losses that are recognized as legitimate and proper when action is taken to stamp out any pest that may have been introduced into this country ; and the other is that it should recognize economic losses which result from the tak-‘ ing of such action. The Government is unable to agree to the first of these, because it would mean a complete reversal of the existing practice in regard to the administration of the Quarantine Act. That is a federal act, and the responsibility for sit is upon the shoulders of the federal authority. But each state has an Agricultural Department, and it has been a practice of very long standing, which has worked extremely well, for those departments to administer the act under the Federal Department of Public Health. I think that the states themselves would be very sorry to see that practice altered. The introduction of a disease may be due to the lax administration of the quarantine regulations cr to a direct defiance of those regulations by the state department. If the Commonwealth accepted responsibility, even for the ordinary and recognized losses, this Parliament could not be content to allow the administration to remain in the hands of another authority, which would have no responsibility for results flowing from bad administration, or direct neglect to observe the instructions of the primary and paramount authority - the Commonwealth Government - through its Department of Public Health. The Government, also, could not possibly accept the suggestion that when action has to be taken to eradicate a disease or a pest the Commonwealth should be responsible, not only for the direct losses that occur, but also for the economic losses that may be occasioned by the action taken. I do not think that honorable members opposite seriously subscribe to the contrary view, and that they are prepared to say that the government of a state or of the Commonwealth must be responsible for the whole of the economic losses that flow from action that has to be taken to eradicate a disease or a pest in the interests of the whole nation. To what would that course lead, if followed ? Honorable members at the moment have in their minda the outbreak of rinderpest in Western Australia, aud they are judging the matter by statements that have been made to them concerning that particular outbreak. Unfortunately, a certain amount of political colour has been introduced into that matter. That, I think, is regrettable. The amendment would cover an outbreak of small-pox in a big city, in which it was found necessary to segregate a certain area. Any one carrying on business in that area would be subject to loss by the stoppage of his business, and possibly the loss of his connexion. Is it reasonable to ask the committee to endorse the proposal that the government should be responsible for losses of that nature? Such an obligation has not been recognized by any other country. I made very close inquiries into the matter whilst I was in Great Britain. There, great trouble was experienced with foot-and-mouth disease. The principle of compensation for direct destruction of property is generally recognized, but there has never been a recognition of the principle that a government is responsible for economic losses. If we were to recognize that principle, we should be going altogether too far. I wrote to the Premier of Western Australia on the 13th June last a letter, in which I set out the whole position. Whilst dealing primarily with the outbreak of rinderpest, I also laid down the principle governing the responsibility of the Commonwealth towards claims for compensation. I stated the present practice in relation to the administration of the Quarantine Act by the Agricultural Departments, and expressed the view that that was a good way in which to administer the Act. I also pointed out that if the Commonwealth were to become responsible for the total losses, inevitably it must assume full responsibility for the administration of the act. and must not be dependent .upon the administration of another authority over which it had no direct control. My letter was as follows : -
Melbourne, 13th June, 1024.
I desire to acknowledge receipt of your letter of 24th May, relating to the question of compensation payment in connexion with the outbreak of rinderpest in your State.
The payment of the amounts specified in the statement with your letter has been authorized to the extent indicated in my letter of 26th January last. The detailed arrangements will be carried out between the Commonwealth Rinderpest Compensation Board and your Department of Agriculture.
It would be appreciated if a statement of the outstanding expenditure could be forwarded early.
The request that the Commonwealth should carry the whole liability and the considerations advanced in your letter under reply, bring under discussion the nature of the arrangements between the Commonwealth and the Governments of the various States with respect to the administration of the Quarantine Act in its relation to diseases of animals and plants
As you are aware, it has hitherto been considered advisable and practically advantageous that the State Departments of Agriculture should act as the authorized representatives of the Commonwealth, and should discharge the legal and administrative functions under the Quarantine Act.
This co-ordination of Commonwealth and State functions has, in the past, proved to be so advantageous and to be so free from administrative difficulties that no suggestion of any disturbance of this arrangement has been advanced. The Commonwealth has paid to the State Governments various amounts in respect of these activities on an assessment mutually agreeable, and varied from time to time, according to the volume of work done.
This arrangement has implied a mutual confidence and a mutual recognition of the advantages afforded. It has hitherto involved, not only a recognition of the obligation on both sides to give fully satisfactory service, but also implication of a joint liability in various directions.
The principles involved in the administration of the Quarantine Act are, in their practical application, liable to extend themselves into somewhat complicated issues, and, in order to avoid a conflict and confusion which could very easily result, each fresh development should be deliberately studied with full knowledge of possible issues and with full experience of past events of a similar nature.
Using the recent rinderpest outbreak as an illustration, if the principle were admitted that the Commonwealth must bear all expenses involved, then it must also bo admitted by your Government that the Commonwealth should have a complete management of the outbreak from the commencement. The adoption of that administrative basis would inevitably entail the further surrender “by the State of control of all intra-state diseases of animals or plants, and all control of interstate trade which might involve risks of the introduction into any one State of such diseases.
It is, of course, understood that your Government would not be prepared to contemplate any developments so far-reaching as that indicated, and it is not considered by this Government that any such development would be in the interests of good administration.
It was a complete recognition of the difficulty which would have occurred by this logical extension of the precedent which would have been created by Commonwealth control of the outbreak in any form, that inspired the form of Commonwealth assistance which was offered to the State.
The rinderpest outbreak was controlled from first to last under State authority; the regulations controlling it were made by the State Government; the Board of Control was created and authorized by the State Government, and while the Commonwealth was prepared to render, and did render, assistance, all steps were carefully taken so that there should be no evasion of State authority in respect of the outbreak.
Without wishing to introduce any debatable matter into this discussion, it may be permissible to refer to the introduction of the infection. Inasmuch as the root of introduction is unknown, and likely to remain unknown, no advantage can be served by a discussion as to the allocation of responsibility. As illustrations, however, of the principles involved, may I take the liberty of reminding you of two administrative arrangements made by your officers which constituted technical breaches of the Quarantine Act of rather more than minor importance.
The officers of the Department of Agriculture, administering the Quarantine Act, made arrangements with other* State officers for the admission of sheep skins from Singapore into Western Australia under conditions which were not permitted by the quarantine regulations, and accumulated manure from stock carried on boats from Singapore was sold to farmers at Fremantle.
These two administrative arrangements were made without reference to the director of quarantine, and represented a departure from the prescribed procedure adopted by all State Departments as the administrative code under which their work for the Commonwealth Government was carried out.
Either of these occasions may, or “may not, have been associated with the introduction of rinderpest, but any discussion of this responsibility would now be idle. The general principle involved, however, is clear.
Under arrangements which have existed for the past fifteen years, Stale officers have administered the Quarantine Act on behalf _ of the Commonwealth, and have dealt with animals and plants at the time of their importation under a uniform code prescribed for their use, no departure from which was sanctioned, except by special authority, and the control of interstate movements of either plants or animals, and of epizootics, or outbreaks of plant diseases occurring within any State, were left entirely to State administration and control. If the Commonwealth is expected to bear the whole expense of the control of animal and plant diseases occurring within any one State, then it is logical that the Commonwealth should have also the executive control from the commencement, not only of such outbreaks when they occur, but of the routine continuous administration necessary for the prevention of such outbreaks. The latter alternative represents an arrangement which would neither be practicable nor advisable.
It appears to this Government that the wisest course is that now adopted as a result of experience, and to limit the Commonwealth activities in respect of disease occurring within a State to financial or other assistance offered to the State.
It is considered, therefore, that in the instance at present under discussion there is no justification for the Commonwealth assuming the whole financial liability, or for increasing the range of compensation payments beyond those which have already been publicly notified.
If the amendment is carried, and the Commonwealth Government is made responsible for all the losses that may result from an outbreak of any character, it must have full administrative control, and take steps to ensure that the quarantine regulations are not departed from, as waa done in the two instances I have quoted.
– Is the bill acceptable to the states?
– Yes; but not the amendment. There is no doubt that the states would not concur in the step that would logically follow if the Common- wealth accepted responsibility for all losses.
– Will not the bill involve the Commonwealth in increased financial responsibility ?
– It will give the Commonwealth certain reserve powers. The Government takes such a serious view of the matter that it is prepared to accept the responsibility provided for in the bill, but it would not be right for it to accept the responsibility that the carrying of the amendment would place upon it. The system of administration through the state agricultural departments has existed for fifteen years, and has worked admirably. It is reasonable that the different governments should arrange between themselves what action should be taken, and how much compensation should be paid. If the amendment were carried, and the whole responsibility placed upon the Commonwealth, honorable members on both sides of the House would insist upon this Government having absolute administrative control. For that reason the first part of the amendment cannot be accepted by the Government. The other part of the amendment seeks to commit the Commonwealth to a recognition of compensation for economic losses incurred as a result of outbreaks of disease among human beings, animals, or plants. That proposal goes much further than anything hitherto done. It is a responsibility the magnitude of which noman can visualize. I ask honorable members to put out of their minds the rinderpest outbreak in Western Australia, which, owing to the prompt measures taken, was of comparatively minor dimensions, and to ask themselves whether they are prepared to recognize the principle of paying compensation for economic losses incurred as a result of all outbreaks. The Government cannot accept the amendment, and I appeal to the honorable member who’ moved it to withdraw it.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– The Prime Minister did not seem to grasp the purport of my amendment, because he considered that if it were inserted in (he bill, many difficulties would arise that could not possibly be met by the Commonwealth authorities. He even suggested that there is a certain amount of political colour about this amendment. Such a suggestion is not worthy of the Prime Minister of this country, although it has been frequently made to belittle unanswerable arguments that from time to time are used by honorable members on this side of the House. The Prime Minister pointed out that under this amendment if small-pox broke out in Australia the expense incurred would immediately be a charge upon the Commonwealth, and that this Government could not possibly undertake the immense expenditure necessary to compensate people who were quarantined because of contracting the disease. It will be readily seen that my amendment proposes nothing of the sort. The Commonwealth Government should bear the whole responsibility of the administration of the Quarantine Act. At present, portion of the responsibility is thrown upon the states which are entrusted with certain functions really outside their jurisdiction. The Government disclaims any responsibility respecting the loss on outbreaks of disease confined to a state. The administration of the act has caused a great deal of dissatisfaction. Recently there was an outbreak of rinderpast in Western Australia, and what has occurred in connexion with it has prompted the Minister to introduce this measure. The bill is a step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough. An outbreak of rinderpest or any other disease is just as likely to occur in some other part of the Commonwealth, and if the Government cannot bear the consequent expense, then how is it possible for those affected by the disease to meet their losses ?
– This amendment is the most outrageous proposal that has ever been submitted to this House.
– The honorable member will have an opportunity later to prove his statement. If, at Quorn, there were an outbreak of a disease introduced by imported camels,and the people in that district suffered serious loss through the destruction of the affected cattle to protect the interests of the whole of Australia, there would be no honorable member more eager than the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), to champion their cause.
– I would not degrade myself by such an action.
– I am doing nothing but my duty. The honorable member has done things that perhaps I have considered degrading. The Prime Minister said that the responsibility for loss through outbreaks of diseases was not recognized by any Government in the world, but he admitted that when an outbreak of foot and mouth disease occurred in Great Britain, the Imperial Government bore the loss. That Government acted without pressure.
– I do not think so, because some time elapsed before it consented to bear the loss.
– Even admitting that this principle is not recognized in any part of the world, that is no argument against my amendment, because we in Australia at times pride ourselves upon our advanced legislation. The Commonwealth Government is in a far better position to meet any loss incurred through disease than are the people affected. The Prime Minister also stated that it would be unwise to discuss the recent outbreak of rinderpest in Western Australia, because we did not know whence it came, but he suggested that it might have been introduced by the admission of manure or something of that kind from Singapore. If the administration of quarantine is left to the state authorities the Commonwealth will disclaim all responsibilities for losses incurred through outbreaks of disease. The amendment is timely.
– Can the honorable member give a definition of “ animal”? A human being is an animal.
– I had not that in mind, but if the honorable member moves to amend my amendment so as to include human beings, I shall not object. In Australia, situated as we are close to Oriental countries, there is always the risk of the introduction of Asiatic diseases which would affect cattle and other stock. Therefore, our quarantine laws should providethat in the event of any portion of Australia being attacked the Commonwealth Government should take action immediately, and not throw upon the state concerned responsibility in respect of economic losses.
.- I am afraid the honorable member for Kal- goorlie is doing his best to compel the Government to withdraw the bill, because no government could face responsibility for economic losses. I understood the honorable member to say that the course he suggests follows the procedure of the Imperial Government. I happen to know that that is not so. As a boy in England I remember an outbreak of rinderpest there, and the heavy losses of stock that resulted. Eventually the British Government took drastic measures to stamp out the disease, which threatened to spread throughout the United Kingdom. A committee, consisting, I think, of a representative of the Treasury, a veterinary surgeon, and a competent valuer of stock, was entrusted with the task of combating the disease. Cattle that were found to be affected were destroyed after examination by the veterinary officer, and then were valued, the losses being shared equally by the Government and the owner of the stock. I speak from personal knowledge, because I know the losses sustained by my parents in connexion with that outbreak. It is impossible to properly define the economic value of stock or of a business. The Government, in agreement with the states, has put forward a reasonable proposal, which ought to be adopted without delay.
.- I asked just now whether this bill had been brought in with the concurrence of and in agreement with the State Governments, and I understood the Minister to say that it had. If so, I should like to know further whether in the course of the negotiations the State Governments have made representations that the Commonwealth should assume monetary responsibility to the extent indicated by the amendment. This is of considerable importance, and it affects the interests of the State Governments as well as the Commonwealth. It would be better that important matters like this should be the subject of negotiation between responsible governmental authorities than that they should bo fought out on the floor of this House. I approve of the laudable object which the honorable member for Kalgoorlie has in view. Every one acquainted with the rinderpest outbreak in Western Australia knows how strenuously honorable members from that state on this side of the House fought to obtain what was considered fair and adequate compensation for the sufferers. The recent additional contribution made by the Commonwealth Government was the direct result of their representations. That the compensation might have been greater is undoubtedly a fact. Nevertheless, we realize that we are getting on very debatable ground when we refer to the subject of economic losses. I am afraid that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is asking for something which really cannot be granted. To insert the amendment without very careful definition of what are economic losses may be dangerous. The term may admit of a very wide interpretation indeed, and may commit the Government to expenditure which at present is little dreamed of. I am the more constrained to differ from the honorable member for the reason that the following clause, which gives the Commonwealth Government additional power to undertake internal control of any outbreak, cannot but have an important bearing upon the question of compensation in future cases. The additional powers of prohibition and control which the Commonwealth Government is assuming under sub-clause b will, if they are exercised, impose upon the Commonwealth moral, and possibly legal, obligations to make good losses which result from the exercise of those powers greater than existed during the recent outbreak of rinderpest in Western Australia, which undoubtedly was the cause of this bill being drafted. All the powers conferred by the bill may already repose in the Commonwealth, but they have been dormant hitherto. Now the Commonwealth is undertaking to exercise them, and that will impose greater liabilities upon the Federal Treasury, irrespective of economic losses, which are almost impossible to define. I say that without wishing to prejudice the claims which have been submitted from Western Australia. There is such danger in introducing into legislation a vague phrase, not safeguarded by clear definitions and provisos, that I cannot support the amendment.
– I can agree, to some extent, with the argument of the honorable member for Perth regarding the indefiniteness of the word “ economic,” but surely the principle which the amendment contains could be affirmed by using some other words’ which would safeguard the public purse against unreasonable claims. We might substitute the phrase “ fair and just claims.” The Minister for Trade and Customs laughs at that suggestion, but those words -are used repeatedly in Commonwealth legislation. -
– As a rule,, there is some authority to determine what is a just and fair claim.
– I admit that, and, if claims arose out of action taken by the Commonwealth in connexion with an outbreak of disease amongst animals, they could be adjusted by a board of qualified men. When the Prime Minister illustrated the difficulties associated with the principle of compensation for economic losses by mentioning a supposititious outbreak of small-pox, he rather strengthened the case for the amendment. If, on account of an outbreak of smallpox, it were necessary to quarantine an area, and a shopkeeper in that area, say a tobacconist, were involved in losses, through the temporary closing down of his business, he would have a just claim upon all the taxpayers to compensation for loss sustained in tie interests of the whole community. Surely when property is destroyed for the protection of the whole public, the loss should be borne by the whole public, and not by one individual. I do not think any honorable member would oppose the payment of just and fair .claims for such losses, but the phraseology employed in the amendment may be so vague as to invite excessive claims. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) instanced the destruction of stock by the Imperial Government when he was a lad, and the payment of compensation to the amount of only half the value of the stock.
– ‘And the people who received that compensation were mighty grateful.
– In those days people were mighty grateful for any assistance from the Government, but . times have changed.
– And for the worse, in many respects.
– No; surely people are better off to-day than they were in the days of the honorable member’s youth. The position is rather more complicated in Australia, because the responsibilities of government are divided between two authorities.
– And you bleed both’, whenever you can.
– We cannot bleed tho Western Australian Government very much.
– You may not bleed the Western .Australian Government, but you bleed the Western Australian people.
– Much of our trouble is due to dual control and conflict of jurisdiction. While the governments dispute, the people suffer. As the Commonwealth controls quarantine, it should assume entire responsibility.
– Hear, hear!
– I think the Minister for Trade and. Customs (Mr. Pratten) indicated that the state governments favour this bill. Is their approval of recent date?
– Probably an amicable settlement of this matter could best be made at a Premiers’ conference. If there are some matters which the state authority can administer better than tho federal authority, let them be transferred to the state, but quarantine can be more efficiently controlled by the Commonwealth, and it should undertake the whole of the work. I am very glad that it was possible to stamp out the rinderpest in Western Australia, at a comparatively small cost. If that disease had spread to Queensland, which contains half the cattle of Australia,, what a loss it would have meant to the meat consumers throughout the Commonwealth ! The consequences of an outbreak of disease might be widespread and calamitous, and, therefore, the Commonwealth should assume full responsibility for quarantine, in pursuance of the powers vested in it by the Constitution.
– If the steps taken to prevent an outbreak should prove unsuccessful, would the honorable member consider the question of compensating the beef barons of Queensland?
– During the last election campaign I was asked whether I had voted for the payment of bounties to the beef barons . of Queensland, and I replied that I had done so. I also explained why I had done so. I said that, owing to the depression in the meat industry and the difficulty of selling meat overseas, every one connected with the industry, from the biggest beef baron of Queensland to the most humble worker, was prepared to do something to bring about a better condition of affairs. I explained that if the members of the Australian Workers Union, the largest industrial union of Australia, were willing to submit to a reduction of wages in order that the industry might go ahead, I was quite prepared to see that the Commonwealth, by the payment of a bounty, would contribute its share towards keeping the industry going. No matter what station in life a man may occupy, honorable members of the Opposition will stand by him if he is suffering an injustice.
– I was referring to the enormous sum that would be involved in the payment of compensation to the beef barons.
– In times of dire calamity the community must always foot the bill for whatever steps may have to be taken to prevent the possibility of greater loss. If the expenditure of £40,000 in Western Australia upon the compensation of people who suffered loss prevented rinderpest from spreading, the cost to the Commonwealth was very small. The same principle applies in other directions. Australians are ordinarily healthy people, and our plants and stock have so far been fairly immune from the ravages of pests and disease, but’ we must listen to advice given by men like the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse), and throw upon the Commonwealth Parliament the responsibility for preventing the introduction of those pests and diseases.
– Have- we the power toassume the responsibility?
– If we cannot do it under the powers we already possess’ we should take steps to enlarge our powers in that regard. But surely the Commonwealth can do what it has already done in Western’ Australia.
– I believe that the Commonwealth intervened in Western Australia with the consent of the State Government.’
– At any rate the Commonwealth did intervene. I would not blame any government for taking the most drastic steps to prevent the spread of disease. No one will contend that the Federal authorities should stand idly -by, if through the laxity of a state government, the whole of the stock of the Commonwealth was threatened by disease spreading the most ruthless destruction in its train.
.- I think that the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is making a mistake in referring in his amendment to “ economic “ losses. The difficulty is to determine exactly what are economic and what are actual losses. The honorable member is no doubt submitting his amendment with the laudable object of benefiting many people who are called upon to make a sacrifice for the good of the whole community, and I believe he is prompted to do so because of what occurred during the recent outbreak of rinderpest at Fremantle. But if claims for economic losses in connexion with that outbreak are to be recognized, every business man in the area affected, and, in fact, almost every resident would have the right to submit a claim, as all suffered loss to a greater or less extent. By way of illustration, I may say that when the cows were destroyed there was very little milk available for distribution in Fremantle, and as most of what was made available had to be conveyed to the consumers over long distances it became sour before it was consumed. That was a loss which the consumers might claim to be compensated for as an economic loss attributable to the outbreak. I think I could support the honorable member if he would omit the word “ economic “ from his amendment. Let me give one or two illustrations of what was termed “ economic loss “ in Western Australia, to show that the line was drawn a little too finely. A certain lady that I know had a dairy, consisting of 70 cows, contiguous to the city. Her stock had not a suspicion of rinderpest. The dairy was situated within a mile of where the outbreak occurred. The authorities went to her and said, “We are going to destroy your cows, your fodder, your buildings, and everything connected with the dairy.” They did so, and they compensated her for the market value of the cattle, the fodder, and the buildings. She had a round that she had built up over a period of many years. I have known the dairy for at least fifteen years. She had built her business on a very solid basis, because the cows were well conditioned and well fed, and the milk was delivered in good condition. Consequently she had a very fine reputa tion. She employed three carts to deliver her milk. Would honorable members say that she was adequately compensated when she was paid only for what was actually destroyed? The loss of her business was, unfortunately, greater than the loss of her stock. She had in her employ three men, whom she had either to discharge or continue to employ on wages. Her horses and carts, and all the paraphernalia of the dairy, lay idle for five months, and her milk round was ruined.
– That proves my point.
– That was designated economic loss. I say that it was actual loss.
– What would economic loss be?
– That is the point. A man whom I know had a piggery which it had taken him some years to establish. He was situated in a town where he was able to get the swill from the restaurants and the refuse from the ships to feed his breeding and his young pigs. He commenced his business heavily handicapped by debt, but he had wiped off his’ obligations, and was getting on to his feet. Just before the outbreak, when I was over in Western Australia, he said to me, “I am going to come out all right yet.” He was working night and day to try to overcome his difficulties. Pigs are not subject to rinderpest in any way. A test was carried out by inoculating certain animals with the disease. They developed it for a day, and then threw it off. The authorities said to this man that his pigs might be carriers, and they would have to destroy them. They did so, and paid him merely for the value of the pigs. He was idle for five months, and had to look for a job. His rounds were gone, and his breeding destroyed. He was purchasing his premises on time payment, and the stoppage of his operations prevented him from meeting his payments. The bailiffs took possession until a man whom I know bought them off. That man was sacrificed to prevent the disease from spreading. His loss was termed economic loss, and the authorities considered that he waa adequately compensated when they paid him only for the destruction of his stock. I say that the loss of his business and of his time was as much an actual loss as the destruction of his stock. Dairymen were compelled to herd their cows and put them in a small area. I have seen 30 or 40 cows herded for ten weeks in an area no bigger than this building. The owners were told that their animals must not be allowed to roam for fear that they would spread the disease. The feeding had to be done with bran and chaff. Many of the cows were dry, and all of them could have obtained a certain amount of food outside. That was treated as an economic loss, and the owners were not given one penny. Do honorable members consider that that was fair? If the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) confines his amendment to actual loss, I shall support him. Many of the claims included in the total of £45,000 are not just ones. I have said so from the first. I have gone carefully into them, and I believe that £20,000 would be sufficient to meet the actual loss occasioned by reason of the fact that these people were called upon to sacrifice themselves to save Australia.
– The honorable member means an extra £20,000.
– That is so. I am referring to the last list of claims; the others were settled on a half-and-half basis. The claims adjudged by the board to be economic were, in my opinion, actual. The onion-growers had their crops nearly ready, and were told that they must not sell them.. After five weeks, when they had lost the market, they were allowed to sell under certain conditions. They had to peel the onions, put them on a tray, and dry them, with the result that instead of getting £8, £10, or £12 a ton for them, they received only £3 or £4. The growers of rhubarb suffered in the same way.
– The losses that the honorable member calls “ actual “ the board called “ economic.”
– The board made a mistake. The word “ economic “ should never have been used to describe such losses. I admit that many of the claims made were ridiculous. Members representing Western Australia have not submitted one claim that can rightly be termed economic. The assessment of the amounts to be paid is another matter. An independent and capable board is necessary to do that. The people who have suffered in Western Australia were promised that if they co-operated with the officers of the department, and assisted to confine the disease within the area by agreeing to do everything possible to eradicate it, they would be justly and even generously treated. The Government cannot go back on such a pledge. I was present at a meeting of several hundreds of people one Sunday morning, and those present contended that the disease was not rinderpest. I was not surprised at that, for I remember that when swine fever broke out in the early days, and I was a heavy sufferer, I refused to believe that the disease was swine fever. Afterwards I was convinced that I was wrong, and that the officers of the department were right. It has been proved in this instance, also, that the officers of the department were right. The people, however, contended that the Government was unnecessarily penalizing and sacrificing them, and they threatened to resist to the utmost. The representative of the Commonwealth Government, Mr. Robertson, against whom I have nothing to say, was placed in a difficult position. In my presence he said to these people, “ If you do not agree to cooperate with us we shall bring all the force of the Commonwealth to bear upon you. This destruction must take place, and we are going to carry out our orders. But if you will agree to co-operate, I undertake to say that you will be generously and fairly treated.” I cannot agree to the use of the word “ economic.” All the people ofFremantle, even the drapers, could put in a claim for economic losses, and after I have seen some of the claims that people make, I cannot imagine where claims for economic losses would end. The word “ actual “ should be substituted for the word “ economic.”
– According to the literal meaning of the speech of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson), he should support the amendment of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green). He considers that a grave injustice was done to certain people in. Western Australia, because they were not compensated on an economic basis. He mentioned a woman who had to destroy a certain number of her stock, and, in addition, lost her milk round, which was in a very prosperous condition. The honorable member said that it was an injustice that she did not receive compensation for the loss of her milk round.
– I said that her loss was an “ actual “ one, caused by the order to destroy her cows.
– Although the honorable member said it was an actual loss, the department said it was economic. “ Economic “ appears to be the correct word. If the honorable member moves to substitute the word “actual “ for the word “ economic,” and the department still maintains that the woman’s loss was economic, she will not receive the compensation to which he says she is entitled. I should say that her actual loss was the destruction of her cows and other property. If I understand the English language, the correct word to apply to the loss of her milk round is “ economic.” We are merely bandying words. The feeling of the committee seems to be that if the Government instructs people to destroy their property in order to prevent the spread of an epidemic, it should compensate them for the losses they suffer. I admit that the word “economic” would have a very far-reaching effect, and might, for example, go even beyond the loss of the lady’s milk round which has been mentioned. I suggest, if the amendment of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is defeated, that the following amendment would fill the bill: -
Provided that upon instructions being issued by the Commonwealth Government, involving the destruction of stock or property to prevent the spread of the disease, compensation for losses sustained by owners in carrying out the Government’s instructions be allowed such owners by the Commonwealth Government on a fair and just basis.
The Government has admitted the justice of claims for the destruction of property, and has paid £10,000 in satisfaction of a claim. By that payment it admitted a moral obligation, and it ought not to object to accepting a legal obligation. What is the misfortune of Western Australia to-day might be that of New South Wales, or the otherstates, tomorrow.
– Does the honorable member’s suggested amendment exclude every one indirectly affected?
– It says, “ the destruction of stock or property.”
– It provides for the compensation of those directly affected by the order of the Government. I think that is fair.
– Dairymen and others in Western Australia were asked to consent to the destruction of property and stock, and in doing so carried out the directions of the authorities. I do not think the Minister (Mr. Pratten) will say that the Government is not under any obligation in this matter, and objection should not be raised, seeing that those who sacrificed their property and stock came to the rescue of their fellow-countrymen. I understand the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) has framed his amendment to provide that rinderpest sufferers should all be compensated, not only for the direct losses, but also for the incidental losses.
– Losses incurred owing to the loss of business?
– Yes. When the honorable member for Kalgoorlie brought this matter forward on a previous occasion, I believe the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) spoke in favour of compensation for economic losses.
– Yes, as the term was then understood.
– The board in the recent rinderpest cases declared that certain persons seriously affected, but not in a direct manner, were deprived of compensation to which the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson) thinks they are justly entitled. Even if we reject the amendment of the honorable member for Kalgoorlie, and carry the one of which I have given notice, many may still be deprived of compensation to which they are justly entitled.
– Not if the honorable member’s amendment is carried.
– The objection has been raised that if compensation were paid for economic losses, a larger area would be involved and ft greater number of claims, including those of business people, would be submitted. I admit that some safeguards must be provided, otherwise a large number of unreasonable claims will be made.
.- As a member of the Australian Meat Council, this is a matter in which I am closely interested. When an outbreak of rinderpest occurred in Western Australia
I realized the seriousness of the position; and I should like at this juncture to express my appreciation of the able manner in which, the departmental officers carried out their work, during the epidemic. Owing to my association with the industry I have been brought into closer touch with the subject than perhaps many other honorable members. When the outbreak occurred I thought it would be the end of the cattle industry in Australia - at least for a long time to come. The Australian Meat Council took the matter in hand and urged the Commonwealth Government to do all it could to stamp out the disease. When I was in the Philippines, seventeen years ago, this devastating scourge was rampant. Whole herds of cattle and carabao had been destroyed, and thousands of acres of the most fertile land were not under cultivation, as all the beasts of burden were dead. We can easily imagine what would have happened in Australia if the disease had got beyond control. 1 was a member of a deputation to the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), which was arranged by the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Watson), in connexion with this matter, and I say unhesitatingly that at that time we advocated payment for economic losses. I did not then realize, as I now do, what payment on that basis would involve. I am now of opinion that it is unreasonable to expect the Government to compensate for economic losses. I am afraid that in this particular case the departmental officers did not take a very broad view of what the honorable member for Fremantle terms actual losses, and if they had I am sure honorable members would not have been able to support some of the claims made, as many of them are unreasonable. We all admit, however, that in cases of this kind there are many direct losses. Economic losses cannot be considered in a general sense, because the term is too comprehensive, and if that basis were adopted compensation would have to be paid on a much larger scale. It is really a question of whether the Commonwealth or the State Government should be responsible. There are certain quarantine functions which are purely state matters, and over which the states must exercise control. If the states were not allowed that right, they would be the first to say that the Commonwealth should not interfere. We can imagine, for instance, an outbreak of a disease in an isolated portion of a state, in which case it would be the responsibility of the the state authorities concerned to exercise control. It is, I think, very doubtful whether the Commonwealth would have the constitutional right to control such an outbreak. Personally, I should prefer that all health and quarantine matters should be under the control of the Commonwealth authorities. Although the Commonwealth in this instance exercised its right, it is not unreasonable for the state to bear a proportion of its responsibility. The members of the delegation from the Australian Meat Council which some time ago visited eastern countries to inquire into certain phases of the meat industry ascertained, on .reaching Perth, that, although rinderpest was rampant at Colombo, and the authorities there were having the greatest trouble to combat the disease, the Commonwealth and state officials in Perth were not aware of its existence, at Colombo. The quarantine authorities in Australia should take the necesary steps to keep in better touch with the position in other countries. We cannot be too careful in such matters. As a result of the outbreak near Perth, cattle from Australia were prohibited from, entering the Philippines and other eastern countries. If we considered the full economic loss, the shipping companies, as well as the men who were prevented from shipping their cattle, would have to be compensated, and the thing would break down under its own weight. It is, however, a matter of national importance that the country should be kept free from disease. I pointed out recently that the suggestion that the justification for the legislative action taken in the Philippines to prevent the importation of cattle from Australia was that the previous outbreak of rinderpest in that country was the result of the Western Australian outbreak is absolutely absurd. The original outbreak in the Philippines was due to conditions arising out of the war with the United States of America. Owing’ to the strict quarantine regulations, and the absolute prohibition of the importation of stock from Asia, they had, prior to the American occupation, neither pleuro nor rinderpest in the Philippines.
– Has the Australian Meat Council taken any action in connexion with the buffalo fly pest?
– That matter has been under consideration. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner) referred to the possibility of the introduction of citrus canker into Australia. Already our fruit-growers are confronted with great difficulties. If there is even the slightest possibility of a disease of the nature of citrus canker being introduced, we should absolutely prohibit the importation of fruit. The honorable member for Robertson also referred to the danger of the foot and mouth disease being introduced from California. This matter warrants the most earnest consideration of the department. So serious is it, that m many of the American states the importation of fresh fruits from California has been absolutely prohibited. If there is the barest possibility of this dreadful disease being introduced into Australia, I say, unhesitatingly, that the department is not doing its duty if it does not prohibit the importation of Californian fruit. Fortunately for us, this disease has never affected Australia ; and we should take every precaution to see that it never does. I trust that the Minister will give this matter his most serious consideration. If other American states consider that the danger is so real that they have prevented Californian fruit from entering their territory, it is our duty to take similar action.
– This bill will give us greater powers in that direction.
– In that case, it will have my heartiest approval. I am not an alarmist, but I feel that stringent legislation is necessary in these matters, for the welfare of this country.
.- A good deal of discussion has taken place regarding the economic loss caused by this outbreak. I have tried to find out what constitutes an economic loss. Personally, I should consider that if my wife purchased 4 lb. of beef, and that after being cooked it weighed only 3 lb., that would be an economic loss. Further, if £1 per head less was received for cattle exported from Australia than was received at an earlier date, I should look upon that as an economic loss. I agree with the hon orable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) that those persons who suffered loss because of the action of the Commonwealth Government should not be called upon to bear the whole of that loss, but that the community should be called upon to share it. More than fifty years ago there was a serious outbreak of rinderpest in the south of England. On that occasion the British Government compensated the people for the loss of their dairy stock. In New South Wales, when the western portion of the city of Sydney was affected by plague, Sir William Lyne’s Government went so far as to resume the greater portion of the property affected. A number of persons, including myself, were appointed to inspect properties and to condemn them when their destruction was considered necessary for the eradication of the plague. In every case the Government compensated the people for the losses incurred. The Commonwealth has its Lands Acquisition Act. If the Government desires to resume land for public purposes, the owner is asked to place his valuation on it. If that valuation is not satisfactory to the Government, the land is valued by a Government valuer and an offer is submitted to the owner. If the parties cannot agree on the price to be paid, an arbitrator is appointed, and on his decision compensation is paid. Generally, there is a compromise between the two parties. To show that the Government does not desire the person whose land is ‘ compulsorily acquired to suffer any loss, the act provides that he shall receive 10 per cent, over and above the valuation. When the foot and mouth disease broke out in Great Britain about 52 years ago, a heavy loss was incurred by the owners of stock. The British Government magnanimously compensated the sufferers, and bore the whole expense of eradicating this dangerous disease. Any outbreak of disease affecting human beings, animals, or plants should be immediately eradicated in the interests df the national welfare. In view of the wide knowledge that the Prime Minister has obtained during his visits abroad, I am surprised that he does not accept the amendment moved by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green). We can consider this measure dealing with the eradication of diseases in our calm moments. Hasty legislation, attempted in the midst of an outbreak, would probably be regretted. We should seize this opportunity to safeguard the interests of those who may suffer through outbreaks of disease. The honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes) will remember that when the plague broke out in Sydney, the Government of the day compensated those who suffered actual loss by the destruction or removal of their property to safeguard the national welfare. The amendment simply confirms this principle. I am sorry that the Prime Minister has failed to grasp its purport.
– I move -
That section 3, sub-section (a) be amended by inserting rafter theword “ plants “ the following words: - “Provided that upon instructions being issued by the Commonwealth Government involving the destruction of stock or property to prevent the spread of the disease, compensation for losses sustained by owners in carrying out the Government instructions be allowed such owners by the Commonwealth on a fair and just basis.”
This is the amendment which I foreshadowed a few minutesago. I hope the Minister will see his way clear to accept it. It provides that the owners shall be compensated on a fair and just basis if stock or property are destroyed under instructions issued by the Commonwealth Government.
– This bill has its genesis in the difficulties experienced in connexion with the removal of cattle from Broome to Perth during the rinderpest outbreak in Western Australia. The State Government requested the Commonwealth to take certain action, but the request could not be complied with owing to a defect in the law. Other incidents during the last few years indicating the necessity for some amendment of the law have also come under the notice of the Government. During the last influenza outbreak the governments of Victoria and New South Wales requested the Commonwealth quarantine authorities to take action as between the states, but lacking the necessary legislative authority, this could not be done. This Government, being progressive and up to date, has introduced this small machinery bill to remove those defects in the law. By taking to itself a reserve power it will be enabled to take action as between state and state if required to do so by a state government. In the event of another outbreak of disease such as that experienced in Western Australia recently, the whole of the circumstances will be taken into consideration, and the question of compensation considered. For these reasons the Government cannot accept the amendment. It prefers to act in co-operation with the states whenever the occasion may arise. There may not be the need for many years. Either yesterday or to-day one honorable member bitterly complained about the quarantine regulations imposed upon imported stud stock. He declared that all sorts of examinations were made by veterinary officers, and that the animals were placed in quarantine for several months. As I have said, if another serious outbreak, such as occasioned the debate this afternoon, occurs, all the circumstances as they arise will be taken into consideration, and the Government will act in co-operation with the state governments concerned.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted be so inserted (Mr. Parker Moloney’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendments; report adopted.
Bill (by leave) read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate with a request.
Cruiser Construction in Australia -
– I move-
That the House do now adjourn.
I desire to give to the House some information regarding the report by Sir John Monash upon the cost of cruiser construction in Australia. In answer to a question in the House a few days ago, I said that the report had been received and that the Government proposed to lay it upon the’ table and afford honorable members! an. opportunity of discussing it when the Defence Estimates were under consideration. Unfortunately, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) is ill, and probably will be absent from the House for some days, and, in order to avoid unnecessary delay, I am making the report available to the House to-day. Honorable’ members will remember that when the Defence Equipment Bill was before the House I indicated that the Government, before coming to a decision as to whether one of the two cruisers proposed to be constructed to replace the Melbourne and Sydney should be built in Australia, would obtain further information as to the probable cost of such construction. I alsoindicated that the Government would submit to the House such information before giving effect to any decision as to where the second cruiser should be built. The reason for the necessity for further inquiries was that the cost of a cruiser built in Australia had been estimated by the Naval Board and the Commonwealth Shipping Board at figures showing a very wide divergence. The Naval Board estimated that a cruiser built in Australia would cost £3,400,000; while the Commonwealth Shipping Board estimated the cost at £2,898,000. These figures were based upon the assumption that to build a similar cruiser in Great Britain would cost £1,900,000. That estimate was supplied to me by the British Admiralty when I was in Great Britain, but subsequent to my return to Australia, information was received that an improved type of 10,000-ton cruiser had been designed with an additional gun, an extra speed of 1½ knots, and considerably lighter armament, the cost of which would be £2,100,000. The method of computation adopted by the two boards was to divide the original figure of £1,900,000 into sections indicating cost’ of labour, material, &c, and then to add the estimated increased cost that would result from the Australian rate of wages and the higher price in Australia of material employed. The increase in the cost, consequent upon the designing of an improved type of cruiser, necessitated a revision of the figures of both the Naval Board and the Commonwealth Shipping Board, and further increased the divergence between their respective estimates. In order to try to reconcile these two divergent computations, I announced to the House that the Government had requested Sir John Monash, whose integrity and ability are well known, to meet representatives of the Naval. Board and the Shipping Board, and to examine with them their methods of computation and the estimates arrived at. Sir John Monash consented to act, and the Government has had an opportunity of considering his report, which I lay on the Table for the information of honorable members. It states definitely that it is impossible to arrive at a reliable comparison of costs in Australia and Great Britain on the information available. He stresses the fact that essential data upon vital matters as to type and. design has not yet been obtained. He points out that the cost of armament, as communicated by the Admiralty, is unexpectedly high and greatly in excess of the amount included in the respective estimates of the Naval Board and the Commonwealth ‘Shipping Board, and that the horse-power of the machinery required to give the desired speed is not accurately known. In the report the two Australian estimates are stated and compared. The Naval Board estimates are set out in detail, and are rejected by Sir .John Monash for the reason that the allowances for transportation charges upon imported material, cost of Australian labour, and cost of overhead charges are excessive. The Shipping. Board’s estimates and methods of computation are described, and a summary of results is given. These estimates are considered by Sir John Monash as reliable, subject to the important proviso that they are in all respects for the type of cruiser which will have to be built. The Shipping Board’s revised estimate, based on information received subsequent to their original estimate as to the cost of armament, is £3,335,000, as compared with the Naval Board’s revised bedrock estimate of £3,700,000. Sir John Monash states in his report that he regards the Shipping Board’s estimate as the more reliable provided that the assumption made as to the requisite engine power proves to be correct. He finishes his report with certain general conclusions which I give verbatim, - “ The Commonwealth Shipping Board, during this inquiry, declared repeatedly its keen desire to be commissioned to build this cruiser; and the Naval Board also expressed, unequivocally, its sympathy with that desire. Personally, I sincerely share these aspirations as leading to the accomplishment of a worthy national achievement.
But cold economic and financial facts have to be boldly considered in order to determine what is really best for the Australian people, as a whole.
There has emerged from this inquiry the certainty that, upon any set of assumptions, the cost of building a 10,000-ton cruiser at Cockatoo Dock would be roundly £1,000,000 sterling more than the sum for which such a cruiser could be purchased from a British dockyard and delivered in an Australian port. This sum is almost exactly the amount likely to he expendable, in this country, upon the actual wages to artisans of every class and their helpers (excluding foremen and supervisors) in the building of such a cruiser. It is, in fact the sum which would provide wages, at. standard rates, for an estimated period of about three years, to some 1,300 workers.
The aspect to which I desire to draw your attention is that this £1,000,000 would be “permanently withdrawn from the whole population of the Commonwealth, for the immediate but very temporary benefit of a negligible percentage of its population; whereas if this, large sum could be saved by the outright purchase of this cruiser from a British shipbuilding firm, it could be made available, in its entirety, for the immediate benefit of the same industrial class, for reproductive works from which the whole of the people could permanently benefit; or alternatively, could otherwise be usefully employed for defence purposes.”
The Government has given very careful consideration to the report of Sir John Monash and, as a result, has come to the conclusion that without the detailed plans and specifications of the most uptodate 10,000-ton cruiser, it is quite impossible to form a reliable estimate of the cost of building such a vessel in Australia. It has accordingly decided that such plans and specifications must be obtained, and that tenders shall be invited in both Great Britain and Australia. The tenders to be sought in Great Britain will be for - (1) One cruiser built in Great Britain; (2) for two cruisers built in Great Britain; (3) for one cruiser built in Great Britain and one cruiser built in Australia. The tenders which will be invited in Australia will be for one cruiser built locally. As British firms contemplating the construction of a cruiser in Australia will require to acquaint themselves with conditions of labour, material, sites, &c, it is proposed to ask the Admiralty to make the plans and specifications available to the High Commissioner at once in order that tender’s might be advertised for without delay. At the same time the Admiralty will be requested to forward plans and specifications to Australia, and tenders will be invited immediately upon their receipt, ample time being allowed for local builders to furnish their quotations. The course proposed to be taken will not only enable an accurate comparison to be made between the cost of construction in Britain and in Australia, but will also enable the Government to gauge accurately what concessions must be granted to Australian industry by reason of increased wages and cost of local material. After the tenders have been received, the Government will take whatever course it considers best in the interests of Australia. It does not propose that the lowest tender shall necessarily be accepted irrespective of whether the’ cruisers are to be constructed in Britain or Australia, but will give the fullest possible consideration to all the factors involved, and take the responsibility for any decision at which it may arrive. In conclusion, I can assure the House and the people of Australia that the Government is unanimous in its desire that one of the cruisers should be constructed in Australia, and will so decide, if, in view of all the information which will be available to it after the tenders have been received, it feels justified in so doing.
.- I am pleased to know that at last the Government has made up its composite mind /’to present Sir John Monash’s report to the House. It has delayed doing it as long as it possibly could with any show of decency. Now that public opinion has compelled it to make available a report which was_ unpalatable to it, we find it immediately retreating to another trench; It has decided that, as * means _ of further delaying the work of building cruisers in Australia, complete plans and specifications must be obtained from Great Britain, and tenders must be called. X want honorable members to note that, although tenders are to be called in Great Britain for two cruisers, no Opportunity is to be afforded to the Australian dockyards to tender for more than one cruiser. And after all this delay we shall, in about six months’ time, be given an opportunity to consider tenders for the building of one cruiser in Australia. When the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) first brought before Parliament tho necessity for building cruisers, hedeclared t that time was of the essence of the contract, and he said that, as we must have these vessels iimmediately, tho work could not be done in Australia because of the great loss of time involved. Yet now we find the Government putting off once more the construction of cruisers in Australia. However, at this late, hour on Friday afternoon I shall say no more, except to point out that honorable members who support the Government will place themselves in_ a serious position. If they adopt a policy of sending all government work outside Australia, and of finding employment for workers in other countries, the people who send them here will want to know why they have adopted that policy. Before I conclude I want an assurance from the Prime Minister that Parliament will have an opportunity to discuss the Defence Estimates at a reasonable hour,’ when a proper decision may be come to upon this important matter. If the Defence Estimates are brought forward in the middle of an all-night sitting, or in the early hours of the morning, and possibly after the guillotine has been put in operation, no such opportunity will be afforded, and in such circumstances tho discussion would be a farce.
– I am pleased that the Government do not propose to enter into a contract for the construction of cruisers until they have, received the plans and specifications, without which tenderers could not possibly submit tenders. I am pleased that it means delay, because the world is changing in respect to defence matters. The conference now being held at Geneva may entirely alter the type of cruiser permitted to be built, and may change our whole policy of defence. The world in general will benefit if the nations find it possible to cease the building of engines of destruction. We shall then be in the position to build more Bay liners, which will be an asset to the country, and help to develop it. Several’ articles have appeared in the morning papers indicating that the Prime Minister has been negotiating with a private company toplace a hae of speedy steamers in the Australian trade. I know that the PrimeMinister will approach the matter in a proper way, but I think he would pursue a better policy if, instead of subsidizing a private company to compete with our own vessels, he spent the money in adding fast steamers to tha Commonwealth Government line. The Commonwealth is already subsidizing the Orient Steam Navigation Company to carry mails. The subsidy that is paid to that company would very nearly meet the interest on the capital that would be necessary to construct two or three additional “ Bay” liners. I feel confident that’ the Prime Minister ‘ will not do anything rash ; but the House should be given the opportunity to discuss any proposal involving competition by another line with the Commonwealth Line of Steamers in the Australian trade. I hope the Geneva Conference will, be followed by another, with a view to bringing about further disarmament and the preservation of the peace of the world.
– The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) need not be apprehensive that the Government will take any action to enter into an arrangement to subsidize a new line of Diesel-engine ships before affording the fullest opportunity for discussion and obtaining the approval of the House. I most certainly give the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) my assurance that the fullest opportunity will be given to the House to discuss the question of where the second cruiser shall be built. When the Defence Equipment Bill was being considered, I gave the undertaking that the Government would not take any action in regard to the second cruiser until the House had had a further opportunity to discuss the matter. The honorable member appeared to suggest that undue and unnecessary delay had been shown in the tabling of the report of Sir John Monash. Let me remind him of the facts. I should at any time have been quite prepared to make a statement relating to the report, and to lay it on the table. The honorable member knows, however, that members of his party have shown an unwillingness to accord to the Leader of the House thatcourtesy which is generally considered to be his right.
– The right honorable gentleman would not accord that courtesy to the Leader of the Opposition.
– The alternative to my making a statement was that I should move a motion for the printing of a paper. Such a motion would involve a debate upon this particular matter, which would be followed immediately by a debate upon the same matter on the Defence Estimates. I accordingly stated that I would bring forward the Defence Estimates as soon as possible, and, while they were under consideration, I would afford the opportunity for a full discussion of this matter. Unfortunately, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Bowden) has been taken ill. When I saw that a delay was going to occur that I had not anticipated, I decided to table the report this afternoon. I can assure the honorable member that if the Minister for Defence had not been taken ill, it was my intention to ask the
House to postpone consideration of other Estimates, and to give precedence to the Defence Estimates. I should then have allowed full opportunity for the discussion of this matter. I ask honorable members for some consideration, because I desire, if it be possible, that the Minister for Defence shall be present when the Defence Estimates are being considered.
– Will the right honorable gentleman allow the discussion to take place next week?
– If it is likely that the Minister for Defence will be absent for a considerable time, I assure the honorable member that Ishall bring the Defence Estimates on in his absence, and allow the discussion to take place.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 4.19 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 September 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240905_reps_9_108/>.