9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr.Speaker (Rt.Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have been informed that, as the result of a meeting of the Nationalist party this morning, ithas been decided that the Government shall not proceed with the Grafton to South Brisbane Railway Bill. In view of the fact that the bill is based upon an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of New South Wales and Queensland, I should like to know from the Prime Minister whether or not it is intended that the bill shall be proceeded with?
– I have no knowledge of such a meeting; as a matter of fact, no meeting of the National party took place this morning. The Grafton to South Brisbane Railway Bill appears on the business-paper, and the Government has every intention of proceeding with it.
– I should like to know whether the attention of the Prime Minister has been drawn to a cablegram sent from London and published in the
Argua of this morning, under the headings Idle Territory - Country All Right - Improved Transport Needed - Views of
Lord Vestey.” Lord Vestey is reported to have said -
Recent cable messages report the cutting down of small sums included in the Estimates for roads and stock routes. Furthermore, the plan for better control has been indefinitely postponed. . . . The policy of development is going ahead in many parts of the world. It is a pity to see this magnificent Territory idle.
Poll owing upon this, I should like to ask whether the Prime Minister will Bee that an adequate amount is placed on the Supplementary Estimates for very necessary works in the Northern Territory?
– I have not seen the cablegram to which the honorable member has referred. The Government will indicate what it proposes to do with respect to the matters mentioned, and any further sums necessary to be expended will be included in the Supplementary Estimates.
– I am not particularly anxious for the close of the session, but as it is necessary that honorable members attending this Parliament from distant states should be given some time in which to make their arrangements, I ask if the Prime Minister can indicate when the session is likely to close?
– I am not in a position to tellthehonorable member when the session will terminate. That will depend on when the necessary business has been dealt with. With the co-operation of the Opposition, which I have no doubt the Government will receive, it should be possible to bring the session to a close in the course of the next two or three weeks.
– As I have gathered from a number of reliable sources that the session is likely to end when the necessary business on the paper haB been dealt with, will the Prime Minister inform the House what is that necessary business ?
– I think I have made it clear on previous occasions that the necessary business embraces the measures on the notice-paper- although it is not contemplated proceeding with some of the minor measures, which are merely machinery bills - and certain measures which have to be introduced in order to give effect to the policy of the Government as expressed in the budget.
– In common with other honorable members on this side, I am very far from desiring that the cession should close at an early date, and I am aware that, under the Standing Orders which Mr. Speaker so strictly - and, if I may be allowed to say it, so ably interprets - I may not ask a question arising out of an answer given to another honorable member. But, in a speech made by the Prime Minister recently - for the purpose of identification, I may say that in it lie spoke of blackmailers, cut-throats, sectionists, and other undesirables; the right honorable gentleman will remember the speech - he stated that the session was likely to close when the measures appearing on the notice-paper, with the exception of certain minor measures, were disposed of. Having regard to the fact that, in the process of debate, minor measures may develop into major measures, I should be glad if the right honorable gentleman would inform the House which are the minor measures on the paper that are likely to be jettisoned before the session closes?
– I have no recollection of having made any speech in which I referred to cut-throats, and I have, therefore, been somewhat embarrassed in the effort to identify the speech to which the honorable member refers. Indeed, I cannot remember making any speech in which I referred to the work which has to be done before the session closes. As the honorable gentleman has asked what are the measures with which it is not intended to proceed, I shall take an opportunity at an early date to inform the House what are the proposals of the Government.
– I wish, Mr. Speaker, to address. a question to you. Those of us who come to Parliament House between the hours of 9 and 10 o’clock in the morning are compelled to swallow quantities of dust stirred up by the sweeping pf the cleaning staff, which uses the most antiquated carpet appliances, so that as much dust arises as goes into the sweepers. I wish to ask whether better methods might not be adopted, including, if necessary, the laying down of rubber carpets.
– I am not acquainted with the system of cleaning adopted in the building, but I shall confer with the staff, and see whether it is advisable to install better methods, and, if possible, will have it done.
– The Prime Minister has stated in a speech that the people owe the National party an undying debt of gratitude for its action during the war in saving the honour and prestige of Australia. Therefore, I ask the right honorable gentleman, Who was the first Leader of this party that has saved the honour and prestige of Australia? What recognition has the Nationalist party made of his great services? What has become of him ? Is not to-day his birthday, and what does the Government propose to do to recognize his past services?
– The answers to most of the questions which the honorable member has asked are well within his own knowledge. The Leader of the Nationalist party during the period of the war, when it rendered such unforgettable services to Australia, was the right honorable gentleman who now represents North Sydney (Mr. W. M. Hughes). Whilst I do not altogether appreciate the form in which the questions are couched, it affords me very great pleasure to answer them, as it enables me personally - arid I am sure I may also add on behalf of the whole House - to congratulate the right honorable member on the occasion of his birthday. :
Honorable Members:- Hear, hear!
– Should I be in order in expressing my compliments?
– Not at this stage.
– Has the Minister for Defence received any correspondence from the Townsville Chamber of Commerce in regard to the survey of Magnetic Passage, about 35 miles from Magnetic Island ? This passage was recently negotiated by a vessel from Portland, in the United States of America, of 8,000 tons dead weight capacity,- and drawing 25 feet of water. It is urgently necessary that the channel should be buoyed or marked in some way for the convenience of shipping. Is any attention being given to the matter?
– I received a letter from the Townsville Chamber of Commerce to-day, and it has been referred to the Navy Board. The Geranium is in the vicinity of Townsville at the present lime, engaged in survey_ work. She has a seaplane with her, and some photographs of the stretch of water referred to by the honorable member have already been taken. The matter is receiving the earnest consideration and the immediate attention of the department.
– In view of the Prime Ministers statement that the session will last only another two or three weeks, has the Government yet decided whether the sugar embargo will be extended beyond the present term? If he cannot give a definite answer now, will he give one before the House rises for the recess?
– I did not say that the session would end in two or three weeks; I remarked that I saw no reason why it should not close within that period. The Government has not come to a decision about the sugar embargo. As the embargo will continue until next year, I do not think it is likely that an announcement will be made before the House rises, but the Government’s decision will be made known in ample time to enable those interested in the industry to know exactly where they stand.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
In accordance with the avowed policy of the Government of advertising the Commonwealth abroad, will he consider the question of having a new and highly artistic design of Australian stamps issued, depicting the industries and scenic beauty spots of the Commonwealth?
– Under present circumstances it is not intended to make any alteration in the design of the stamps now current.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 8. No.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for De fence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act1913-1921, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, viz.: - Federal Capital: Northern Main
Sewer - Extension of sewer from main intercepting sewer on Commonwealth-avenue, across Molonglo River, to serve the northern portion of the city.
The Public Works Committee has already investigated and reported to Parliament concerning the main outfall sewer at Canberra, the main intercepting sewer within the city boundary, and the main serving the southern portion of the city. The time has now’ come when consideration should be given to the construction of the branch to serve the north-eastern portion of the city. The present proposal comprises the construction of a main sewer leading northwards from the junction of the southern and main intercepting sewers on Commonwealthavenue, across the Molonglo River, and extending eastwards as far as Prospectparkway. At the present time, this district is served by local treatment works, the reticulation thereto being so arranged that it may easily be connected with the proposed sewer when constructed. The population on the northern side of the city is increasing. With the advent of private enterprise and the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra, the present works will be inadequate to meet the demand, and it will be necessary to connect the service with the main city sewerage scheme. The proposed development is in general conformity with the scheme submitted by the Federal Capital Advisory Committee in its first general report. A plan indicating the proposed route of the sewer is submitted herewith. This sewer will be laid in the form of precast concrete pipes of similar construction to those used for the southern intercepting sewer. The estimated cost of the proposed northern main sewer is £82,000.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-21, the following proposed work be referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works for investigation and report, viz : -
Federal Capital: Sewage TreatmentWorks.
The construction of treatment works at the termination of the main outfall sewer, at Western Creek.
The gravitation, sewerage scheme adopted for the Federal Capital involves the construction of works at the’ outfall to treat the sewage, in order that an innocuous effluent may he obtained for discharge into the Molonglo River. In 1915, the Public Works Committee, when considering the general sewerage scheme for Canberra, and approving of the main outfall sewer, suggested that “prior to the date on which it is proposed to erect treatment tanks, exhaustive inquiries be made, with a view to the installation of the most uptodate system then obtainable.” Since that time, methods of sewage disposal have been the subject of close investigation by experts in various parts of the world, and the results of these experiments, and the conclusions arrived at by leading authorities were carefully reviewed, before a method of treatment for the Federal Capital was adopted by the technical advisers of the Government. In Order that the sewerage scheme may be in operation by the time Parliament is transferred to Canberra, it is necessary that preliminary action should now be taken iii connexion with the treatment works, and accordingly a scheme has been formulated for reference to the Public Works: .Committee. The scheme provides for- the installation of a first unit of sedimentation tanks and trickling . filters to deal with 500,000 gallons daily, being the sewage from 5,000 people, plus the flushing water necessary for scouring the sewers in the initial stages, and for the installation of a small experimental unit capable of treating the sewage of 500 people by the activated sludge method, so arranged that either crude sewage or settled sewage from the sedimentation tanks can be passed through it. The present proposal provides for these units to be increased, as necessity arises, to treat the sewage of 10,000, and, later, of 25,000 people. It is designed to provide for immediate requirements at a minimum of cost, and at the same time offer possibilities of developing alternatives at a later date, after experience of Canberra conditions has supplied the necessary local data on which to form a definite opinion as to the direction in which future expansion should be made. I lay upon the table a plan showing the general locality of the works, and an outline of the pro- posed scheme. The estimated cost of treatment works to provide for 25,000 people is £60,000, of which, it is anticipated, £37,000 would be expended within the next three years.
– Parliament will be meeting at Canberra within three years, and I should like an assurance from the Minister that the treatment works will be sufficiently advanced to meet requirements at the date of the transfer.
– I understand that provision is being made to meet all requirements when Parliament first assembles at Canberra.
.- Proposed expenditure of this kind must be governed by the probable influx of population into Canberra. We have been told that a big city will grow there, and that as soon as the land is thrown open for selection many people will take up residential and business blocks. So far no attempt has been made to make the land available for selection, and population cannot go there until that is done. We were assured that the first sale of leases would be held in September or October, but it has been further postponed.
– It is not in order to discuss the land policy at Canberra in connexion with this motion, which relates to the ‘provision of certain sewage treatment works.
– I desire merely to get from the Minister some definite statement aa ‘to when land will be available for selection so that we may estimate at what rate the population of the city will increase.
– I cannot say when the land will be made available, but I do know that leases in the business area are to be sold shortly.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
WAYS AND MEANS (Formal).
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair - resolved in the negative.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 24th September, vide page 4719) :
Clause 2 -
Sections one, two, five, and twenty-nine of this act shall commence on the day on which this act receives the Royal assent and the remaining sections of this act shall commence on a date to be fixed by Proclamation :
Provided that a Proclamation under this section shall not issue unless and until, at a poll of growers taken in the prescribed manner throughout the Commonwealth, a majority of votes have been given in favour of the act being brought into operation.
.- By introducing such measures as this, the Government seems to be dealing piecemeal with our various industries, without any attempt to organize them at all. If our primary industries are to flourish, we must in a few years take uniform and comprehensive action to deal with Australian products, and to obtain markets for them overseas. I shall quote a few figures respecting the importation of currants into Britain. Last year the currants imported into Britain from Australia amounted to 77,000 cwt., valued at £278, 000, and from other countries, 967,000 cwt., valued at £3,000,000. Other dried fruits imported into Britain from Australia amounted to 102,000 cwt., valued at £483,000, and from other countries, 1,312,000 cwt., valued at £5,714,000. These figures show that there is a splendid market in Britain itself for Australian dried fruits. I believe that the scheme outlined in the bill, if put into operation, will be of some benefit to the producers, but assistance will be needed in other directions if their industry is to flourish at all. I have been greatly impressed with speeches recently delivered on this subject by party leaders in the British House of Commons. They seem to be unanimous that something must be done by way of organization to bring about the satisfactory marketing of the products of the dominions in Britain itself. The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Thomas), following in the footsteps of his predecessor, is strongly in favour of this. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), when introducing the bill, mentioned the Imperial Economic Committee that had been appointed by the Imperial Conference. I believe that committee was established to encourage trade within the Empire. The ex-Prime Minister of Great Britain (Mr. Baldwin) made a most important proposition. Mr. Philip Snowden, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when delivering his budget speech recently, referred to that proposal as one certainly of the most drastic character. A number of honorable members in this chamber would disapprove of it, but I am inclined to support it, because we should do everything possible to bring about a better trade understanding between Great Britain and the dominions. According to the Journal of the Parliaments of the Empire, Mr. Thomas, when dealing with this subject, said -
It is unfair to adopt the policy that, unfortunately, has been adopted in the past, of assuming that on these Empire questions one party alone is the patriotic party. It is not true. We resent it, and we shall be able to prove that it is not true. Equally we are prepared outside these fiscal controversies to consider every question without party bias or prejudice.
Mr. Asquith, the leader of the Liberal party, said -
There was a great deal still left undone in the development of Imperial resources, in the extension of credit facilities, in the improvement and transportation and the storage and marketing of produce.
Mr. Asquith welcomed the suggestion for the establishment of a permanent Imperial Economic Committee. The Prime Minister of Great Britain (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald) spoke in a similar strain, and said that the people of Great Britain had a perfect right to decide their own fiscal issues in the same way as the dominions had the right to settle their own domestic affairs. I shall now refer to the proposition submitted by Mr. Baldwin. When I was dealing with this matter the other night, the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) asked, by interjection, whether Mr. Baldwin had not since changed his opinion. So far as I know, the statement of Mr. Baldwin still stands that Great Britain should be prepared to take produce from Australia.
– I made that interjection: under a misapprehension. I thought the honorable member was referring to something else.
– Mr. Baldwin also stated that there was no reason why a satisfactory trade arrangement should not last for the best part of a generation.
– We would welcome such an arrangement.
– Mr. Philip Snowden stated -
The Colonial Secretary referred on the previous day to the discussion at the Imperial Conference on the question of a definite economic Council of the Empire- His Majesty’s Government had submitted to all the Dominion Governments a proposal of a definite character under that head. Mr. Baldwin had made one of the biggest socialistic proposals he had ever- heard. It is that the Government of Australia and the Government of this country shall come into an arrangement by which the whole of the food products of the great Australian Commonwealth shall be sent to this country under the control of a Government organization, and shall be distributed to the people of this country at a price only just sufficient to cover the working costs. In Government language, I may say that the right honorable gentleman’s proposal shall have our earnest consideration.
Mr.Foster. - It is a fascinating proposal.
-And we should encourage them in it.
– It is fascinating to the producers of Australia, but the British people have been entrenched for more than a century behind certain trade principles, and it will be a very difficult task to get them to occupy a new position. If we could eliminate the profits that are at present being drawn by many agencies in Great Britain from the sale of various Australian products, and organize our sales, it would be a splendid thing. Mr.Snowden proceeded as follows: -
Wo have already gone some distance in that direction, because this is what we have proposed to the dominions in regard to a permanent Economic Conference, that it should be set up for the purpose of considering the possibility of improving and preparing for markets and marketing within the United Kingdom the food products of the overseas parts of the Empire, with a view to increasing the consumption of such products in the United Kingdom, and promoting the interests of both producersand consumers.
I am whole-heartedly in favour of the proposal, notwithstanding that it is a radical departure from the established policy of Great Britain. Although the Australian proposal for inter-imperial preference made at the meeting of the economic committee of the Imperial Conference was objected to by Canada, it seems to me that when the leaders of the various political parties in England are favorable to something of that character being done, it should be possible to do it. It cannot be questioned that a more satisfactory scheme of marketing our products in Great Britain would be greatly to the advantage of both the Australian producers and the British consumers.
.- Can the Prime Minister inform the committee whether it is intended that every grower shall have a vote, irrespective of the quantity of fruit he produces?
– That is the intention of the Government.
– I should also like to know by what method the Government proposes to compile the roll of fruit-growers for the purpose of taking the poll. A number of fruit-growers in South Australia, some of whom are in the Adelaide hills district, are not members of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, and they should not be overlooked. While I agree that it is highly desirable for all the growers to be members of the organization, provision should be made for those who are outside of it to exercise a vote on this scheme. I intend subsequently to move for the insertion of some provisions which will meet the difficulties created by the outsiders.
– The intention of the Government is that every grower shall have a vote. The officers of the Trade and Customs Department, who have this matter in hand, do not anticipate any difficulty in compiling a complete roll of fruit-growers who produce for sale.
– It must be remembered that this bill only deals with exporters.
– That is so, but practically every fruit-grower who produces for sale is an exporter.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 - (1.) For the purposes of this Act there shall be a Dried Fruits Control Board. (2.) The Board shall consist of -
Provided that an elected member may be removed from office by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the board.
Amendment (by Mr. Gabb) agreed to-
That in sub-clause 2, paragraph (b), the word “ producers “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “growers.”
.- I move -
That in sub-clause 2, paragraph (b), after the word “ growers,” just inserted, the words : “ in the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia, and one representative elected by the growers in the State of Western Australia,” be inserted.
The fruit-growers in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia are settled principally on the Murray, and will have no difficulty in appointing their representatives. I desire “ that an additional representative shall be elected by the producers of Western Australia.
.- The amendment contains a most extraordinary proposal, which I hope the Prime Minister will not accept. A poll should be taken of all the growers.
– -I assume that the growers of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia are content, as a body, to elect their representatives.
– I cannot see why the Western Australian growers should not be equally content with the proposal in the bill. In my opinion, the board is already too large. We keep piling these boards one on top of another, and during the past two or three years an enormous number of them has been created. I am more inclined to reduce than to increase the size and number of boards. If the growers, whose interests are identical all over Australia, are not satisfied with a majority decision, they cannot be satisfied with anything. There is no reason why state boundaries should be considered at all. The growers might prefer to elect three men from one state, and it may be assumed that if they did so, they would have every confidence in their representatives. The effect of the amendment will be to add one more member to a board that is already too large.
– Personally, I agree with the view of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) that it is undesirable to increase the size of the board. The number of members of such boards should be restricted as much as possible. There is, however, a great difficulty in arranging the personnel of this board. It is imperative that the growers should have confidence in it. The dried fruits areas of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia’ adjoin one another, and are situated mainly in the Murray River valley. There is no doubt that representatives elected by the growers in those areas would have their confidence. West ern Australia is in a somewhat different category. While I agree with the principle of electing representatives of the whole industry, I can appreciate the argument that the Western Australian growers will have more confidence in the board if one of ite members is elected by them.
– Is there any possibility of state interests conflicting on such a board?
– I do not think that there is any serious possibility of such a conflict. As a general principle, I am opposed to recognizing state boundaries, but in view of the peculiar circumstances of Western Australia, the Government is prepared to accept the amendment. The three representatives of Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia will not be elected one from each of those states; they will be elected by the growers in those three states as one body. There is another argument that can be advanced in favour of the amendment. To give the growers a fourth representative will give them a majority of representatives on the board. That was not provided for in the first instance, because it was felt desirable to keep the size of the board as small as possible. As the bill is a purely marketing proposition, and as a considerable sum of Government money will be involved, it is necessary, in the interests of the producers, to have on the board men who have an intimate knowledge and a wide experience of the marketing of this product.
.- The constitution of the board savours very much of Government control. The bill provides for one member to be elected by the Governor-General in Council, and two members of commercial experience to be appointed by the Governor-General. That means that three members of the board will be appointed by the Government.
Amendment agreed to.
I am inclined to moye -
That after the word “ experience,” paragraph (e), sub-clause (2), the following words be inserted: - “one of whom shall be nominated by the growers and one “.
As the bill now stands, both these representatives will be selected by the Government. The reason for this is probably that it was thought that if their appointment was left to the growers persons might be appointed who, although they might be experienced in the growing of fruit, might have little or no knowledge of marketing it. I think it would be better to provide for the nomination of persons for appointment to the board by the growers, and leave with the Government the discretion to select from the nominees those believed to be most suitable.
– The object of the clause is to ensure that one of the members of the board, with commercial experience, shall be a person acceptable to the growers He will, under the clause, be really a nominee of the growers. The only way in which this could be carried into effect would be by consultation with the Australian Dried Fruits Association. I can assure the honorable member that the Government has no intention of appointing to the board members with commercial experience without consultation with the representative body of the dried fruit growers. Before any appointments are made it will consult with the association. I, therefore, think that the amendment which the honorable member has suggested is unnecessary.
– In view of the assur- . ance given by the Prime Minister I shall not proceed with my amendment.
.- In subclause 5 it is provided that the election of representatives, under paragraph b of sub-clause 2, shall be carried out “ in such manner as is prescribed”. That is a vague expression. At a meeting held somewhere near Mildura, which, I think, was addressed by the honorable member for “Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), a request was made by the growers that the election Should be on the preferential system. I shall be glad if the Prime Minister will say whether the preferential system of election is to be adopted.
– In such matters, one would like to follow the electoral law of the Commonwealth, but in certain circumstances it might be found almost impossible to do that. I cannot see that any difficulty is likely to arise under this clause, because the growers will be electing three representatives for the whole body of the growers in the states concerned.
– Why not let them choose their own method ?
– That would not do, because different views would be held as to the course to be followed. The Government will lay down the method of election, and there should be no insuperable difficulties in the way of adopting the preferential system.
– I move -
That in sub-clause 7 the words “ Provided that an elected member may be removed from office by the Governor-General on the recommendation of the board “ be omitted.
The effect of the inclusion of this proviso might be that a majority might get rid of a minority on the board. It makes the election by the growers subject to the approval of the Government, and of the majority on the board. . Under this proviso the Government of the day, on the recommendation of a majority of the board, might remove any member, or any smaller number of members than the majority, from office. It is, in my view, dangerous to put such a degree of control into the hands of the Government of the day, and of a majority of the board.
– Would it not be more dangerous to have noprovision for the removal of a member of the board from office?
– I think not. The constituency electing the members of the board would be responsible for the character and behaviour of those whom it elected. If it elects persons who do not carry out their duties properly that will be its own fault. The proviso to which I take exception would enable a majority on the board and the Government of the day to remove from office members of the board with whose views they did not agree. That is a dangerous provision to enact.
.- I think it would be unwise to omit the whole of the proviso. The honorable member might propose the omission of the words, “ on the recommendation of the board.”. The Governor-General should have the power to remove a member of the board from office. Such action would not be taken except in very extreme circumstances, but extreme circumstances might arise in which it would be advisable to remove a member. The use of the words “ on the recommendation of the board,” might be regarded as an invitation to the board to try to get rid of a member obnoxious to the majority, but there should be power left with the Governor-General to remove from office an objectionable person.
– I hope the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) will not press his amendment. I quite appreciate the view he holds. Four of the members of the board will be elected by the growers as a whole, one will be appointed by the Government, and two will be appointed by the Government in consultation with those engaged in the industry. We must assume that a board of that character would not dream of exercising the power of recommending the removal of a member from office except in very extreme circumstances, or unless it were necessary to enable the board to carry out its duties under the act. As the final decision will rest with ‘the Governor-General, I think the honorable member may be sure that there is not likely to be any abuse of the power contained in the proviso to which he has taken exception.
.- We must make some provision for the removal from office of a member of the board, and I think the suggestion made by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) is a good one. I hope that the board will work smoothly, but it might happen that a member of the board who, in the opinion of the growers, would be their greatest champion, might not meet with the approval of other members of the board, and, under the proviso as it stands, a majority of the board could recommend the Governor-General to dispense with his services.
– The recommendation need not be acted on.
– Then why make provision for it?
– Otherwise the GovernorGeneral would have no knowledge of the necessity for the removal.
– If a member of the board became obnoxious to the majority, and his actions were inimical to the best interests of the growers, there would be nothing to prevent the secretary to the board communicating with the Government the fact that the board generally considered that the removal of that particular member would be in the interests of the industry.
– That would be the same thing as a recommendation by the board.
– I know of no other case in which provision is made for the removal of a member of a board on the recommendation of the board, but I agree that the Governor-General should have the power to remove a member from office.
– If the words, “ on the recommendation of the board,” axe not retained, the Governor-General. might, on his own initiative, step in to remove members of the board from office.
– The Government would have to go very nearly mad for a thing like that to be done.
– I think that all concerned would have to go mad before any hardship could arise under the proviso.
– Such a proviso is not to be found in any measure passed by this Parliament.
.- I hope that the honorable member for Kooyong will not persist in his amendment. Most of the objections that have been taken to the clause as it stands are based on theoretical grounds. It is possible, but it is not within the bounds of probability, that what has been mentioned as likely to occur will ever happen. If the suggestion of the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) were adopted, it would mean, as the Prime Minister said, that if a member of the board who was particularly active made himself a nuisance to the Government, it could remove him.
– A grave charge could then be laid against the Government.
– I have heard the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) make equally grave charges against the present Government. If the clause is left as it stands, no member of the board can be removed except on the board’s recommendation. But should the board make a mad recommendation to remove a sane man from the board, the Governor-General would still have the right to refuse to adopt the recommendation.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 5 to 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 -
The members of the Board, and the deputies of members of the Board while acting as such, shall receive such fees and expenses as are prescribed.
-Can the Prime Minister give any information as to what fees and expenses are likely to be paid to the members of the board?
.- No. The Government has given a good deal of consideration to this subjectj and has come to the conclusion that, as the board represents the producers, and will be financed with the producers’ money, it is really for them to determine what fees shall be paid to the board. It is impossible to predict what the producers will desire the board to receive by way of fees and expenses. One suggestion considered by the Government was that the fees should be determined by the board itself. There is something to be said in favour of that, for the board will consist of the elected representatives of the producers, and should be able to give expression to their views. The Government, however, saw great objection to allowing the board to fix its own fees, and consequently decided that the fees and expenses should be prescribed. After the board has been appointed it can consider how often it will have to meet, and what fees it thinks should be paid. If the amount is reasonable I have no doubt that the Government will accept it and prescribe it. When the board has been in existence for some time, its members will be subject to the will of their masters, the producers, but in the first place the Government, acting in the interests of the producers, intends to see that nothing unreasonable is done.
– The effect of the clause is that the fees will be fixed between the board and the Government?
– The board will be asked to make a recommendation, and unless the fees recommended appear to be unreasonable, they will be prescribed accordingly.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 agreed to.
Clause 10 (Meetings of the board).
– I see nothing in the clause to make the keeping of a full record of the proceedings of the board compulsory, and I suggest to the Prime Minister that a sub-clause be added to provide for it. It may not be essential, but it seems to me that, where a board is appointed to carry out the provisions of an act of Parliament, a true record of its proceedings should be kept.
– The Government contemplates that a full report of the board’s proceedings shall be kept. This board will be in much the same position as a board of directors of a private company, and all such bodies keep minutes of their proceedings.
– That is provided for under the Companies Act.
– Yes. I see no objection to accepting the honorable member’s suggestion.
.- Sub-clause 3 provides that at any meetings of the board three members shall form a quorum. When this sub-clause was drafted a board of six was contemplated, but, as the board is to consist of seven members, would it not be advisable to increase the quorum to four?
– I think it would be as well to retain the quorum of three. Although the personnel of the board has been increased by one, it is very probable that the Western Australia representative will not attend more than a few meetings of the board. He will be concerned with the general policy to be decided upon for putting the act into operation. But it is unlikely that he will be a regular attendant at the meetings. As this board will not be so large as that provided for under the Dairy Produce Export Bill, no provision has been made for an executive. It will probably facilitate the work of the Hoard if the quorum remains as provided for in the bill. I move -
That, after sub-clause (5 ) , the following subclause be added: - “ (6.) The board shall keep a record of its proceedings.”
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 11 and 12 agreed to.
For the purpose of enabling the board effectively to control the export and the sale and distribution after export of Australian dried fruits, the Governor-General may by proclamation prohibit the export from the Commonwealth of any dried fruits except in accordance witha licence issued by the Minister subject to such conditions and restrictions as the board approves.
– I am not quite clear as to which Minister is meant in this clause.
– It means the Minister administering the act.
– How will that be known?
– That will be made quite clear.
.- This clause embodies a principle similar to one contained in the Dairy Produce Export Bill. When a board is to be appointed with statutory powers, the question arises whether it should have control of the produce with which it has to deal, or whether that control should rest with the Minister. In connexion with the other bill, I gave notice of an amendment to the effect that the word “Minister “ be deleted, and the word “ board “ be inserted in lieu of it, but in this case the board itself should have power to issue licences.
– The honorable member desires to establish a bureaucracy.
– No. There is nothing in the bill to prevent the Minister from discriminating between applicants, and refusing to grant licences.
– What would be the purpose of a licence if there were no power of discrimination in issuing it?
– I object to discrimination being shown between traders. All the board should be able to do is to determine the conditions under which licences would’ be issued, and, in the absence of anything to justify discrimination being exercised against an applicant, the board should issue the licence.
– That involves discrimination.
– If the board is given power to issue and revoke licences, there will be no conflict with the power given under the Customs Act to pro- ibit exportation. Ministerial control means political control, and a Minister who was totally opposed to the principle upon which the bill is based could do an enormous amount of damage.
– The bill, as drafted, retains some control by Parliament. For goodness’ sake do not throw it all away.
– The Government will be represented on the board.
– And if the honorable member is logical, he will move to delete the provision for government representation.
– Members of the Labour party desire government control of everything, but I object strongly to the Government taking charge of a primary industry, when a board is to be elected by the producers to manage the export business. I thereforemove-
That the word “ Minister “ be omitted, with a view to” inserting the word “ board.”
– The Government cannot accept the amendment. The bill proposes to hand over control of the export trade to the board, and it is hoped that this power will be exercised in a way to which no exception can be taken. The object of leaving the issue of licences under the control of the Minister is that the Government shall have a power of veto, if the necessity should arise, but otherwise there will be no interference with the board’s control.
.- The various measures introduced by this administration for governmental or semigovernmental control of industries conflict so much with the electioneering declarations of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) that he does not know how to camouflage them. He is now seeking to remove all appearance of government control of the dried fruits industry. The declared policy of the composite government included opposition to government control; trade was to be allowed to follow its natural channels. But many of the measures introduced lately have represented a departure from that principle. I remind the honorable member for Richmond that if we did not have government control we should have bureaucratic control. He is proposing to hand over to a board, over which this Parliament will have only limited authority, the right to control exports, and to give licences to some people and refuse them to others. The honorable member urged that the issuing of licences should be automatic, and that there should be no discrimination; then he proceeded to arguethat discrimination would be necessary, but that it should be exercised by the board, and not by the Minister. The granting or refusal of a licence to export is a very big power. and its removal from parliamentary control through a Minister would be a mistake.
– The honorable member would deny to the producers the right to dispose of their own products ?
– Is that not what the bill does?
.- I move -
That the words at the end of the clause, “ the board approves,” be omitted, and the following words inserted in lieu thereof : “ may be recommended by the board and prescribed by the regulations.”
The clause provides that the GovernorGeneral may prohibit the export of any dried fruits, except in accordance with licences issued by the Minister, subject to such conditions and restrictions as the board approves. It would be possible for the board to prescribe varying conditions and restrictions in different cases. The conditions and restrictions should be fixed by regulation, and be available to all producers, who would then know to what standard they had to work. If that be not provided, an applicant for a licence might find that the board had decided to impose upon him special conditions and restrictions.
– The proposed amendment will make clearer the intention of the clause. It was not contemplated that the conditions and restrictions to be approved by the board would not be made public and apply to all applicants. The amendment is probably an improvement, and I accept it.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed -to.
Clause 14 -
.- In the opinion of a high constitutional authority this clause would give to the Minister absolute power to grant licences as he sees fit, but I hold that the power is limited by the preceding clause. Does the Prime Minister think it necessary to insert after “ Minister “ the words “ subject to the preceding section “ ?
– Of course, this clause is governed by the .preceding clause, and the Minister would have no right to issue licences which would conflict with the conditions and restrictions imposed in clause 13. I do not think the honorable member need have any apprehension about the effect of the clause, but I shall fortify myself with a further opinion from the Crown Law Department.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 15 agreed to.
Clause 16 -
The Board may accept control of any dried fruits placed under its control for the purposes of this Act.
.- Does this clause mean that no compulsion is to be applied to the producers of dried fruits, and that the board shall control the export of only such dried fruits as the producers voluntarily place under its control ? If so, it appears to me that the clause conflicts to some extent with clause 19, which defines the particular powers of the board. A legal opinion obtained in regard to corresponding clauses in the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill indicates that clause 16 could with advantage be omitted, and the following limiting words struck out of clause 19, “ with respect to any dried fruits placed under its control.”
– The honorable member’s object is to introduce the principle of compulsion?
– Yes, and by the amendment I suggest the bill would be improved without any detriment to the main principle contained in it.
– If the amendment suggested by the honorable member were agreed to it would completely destroy the principle of the bill and make it a measure designed to do something absolutely different from what was originally intended. The bill gives no power to the board to acquire fruit compulsorily. The producers can deal with their fruit in any way they like, but if they desire to export it they must obtain a licence and comply with the terms and conditions therein laid down to ensure orderly and proper marketing.
Under clause 16 the board may accept control of any dried fruits that are voluntarily offered to it. The powers that it may exercise over dried fruits are stated in clause 19, and again expressly limited to dried fruits placed under its control. If we strike out clause 16 and the words “with respect to any dried fruits placed under its control” in clause 19, the bill will become an entirely different measure. For these reasons I am unable to accept the suggested amendment.
.- -I am aware that the design of this bill is that dried fruits for export must be voluntarily placed under the control of the board. Nevertheless, I intend to move certain amendments to make the clause read : - “ The board is hereby given power to take control of any dried fruits for the purposes of this act.” Several amendments will be necessary to the clause, and first I move -
That all the words after the word “ board “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ is hereby given power to take control of any dried fruits for the purposes of this act.”
– Does the honorable member think that in moving that amendment he is acting in the interests of the dried fruits producers in his district?
– I recognize that my action will not be popular in certain parts of my electorate.
– I believe that. The honorable member wants to destroy the principle of the bill.
– This amendment would certainly not be popular with those people in my electorate who may be termed “ outsiders,” but if carried it would in the long run act in the interests of the whole of the producers. The outsider should be compelled to contribute his quota of dried fruits for the export market, which is unprofitable. The producers in comfortable circumstances have no need to take advantage of the advances to be made under the bill recently passed, which will be obtainable only if a certain proportion of their dried fruits is exported. They will therefore have the full advantage of the profitable home market. On the other hand, returned soldiers who have settled, on the River Murray and the new settlers there, in order to take advantage of the advances under the bill recently passed, will have to contribute their quota of dried fruits for export. My object in moving the amendment is to remedy this unsatisfactory position.
.- The honorable member for Angas has moved an amendment which, if carried, will .make the bill more compulsory in character than it is now. The bill appears to provide for the voluntary placing of fruit for export under the control of the board, growers who so desire remaining free. That appearance, however, is only superficial, because clause 18 provides that when the board has been appointed no contracts for the carriage of dried fruits by sea to any place beyond the Commonwealth shall be made, except by the board acting as the agent of the owners of the dried fruits, or of other persons having authority to export dried fruits, in conformity with conditions approved by the board. The placing of fruit under the control of the board is a voluntary matter, but even if a grower had obtained a licence to export, he would be unable to export by sea unless the board made a contract for him, or approved of the exportation. He would be at liberty to export by seaplane or airship, but he could not export by steamer. The bill, therefore, is compulsory, and the amendment moved by the honorable member for Angas would produce no effect in the direction he desires, but might lead to a great deal of complication. The honorable member proposes that clause 16 should read - “ Power is hereby given to the board to take control of any dried fruits for export.” That language is so loose that interminable difficulties might arise under it. For instance, what is “ dried fruits for export “1
– I said “ for the purposes of this act.”
– Then I suggest that the honorable member should reconsider . the form of the amendment, because in its present form it would make the bill a general expropriation measure in relation to dried fruits. If it is intended to expropriate owners and acquire fruit compulsorily, or to acquire control of fruit compulsorily, the board would need to act very carefully, as otherwise it would, from a legal point of view, find itself in serious trouble. The amendment does not give all the power which the honorable member desires should be given to the board.
It is a common thing in all bills dealing with the expropriation of owners to provide for the payment of compensation, which is assessed in a particular way, and to include a clause providing for the disposal of the money resulting from sales. The amendment, as it stands, is dangerous. The honorable member for Angas has suggested that if agreed to it will enable the board to compel growers to export a certain quota of their fruit. I quite understand the object in view, but the amendment will not bring it about. “ Power to take control for the purposes of the act “ means to take control of fruit submitted for export, for which application for a licence is made.
– The bill can be altered.
– To do what the honorable member wishes would involve the recasting of the whole bill. No fruit is affected by the “ purposes of the act “ unless application is made for a licence. If application is made, a licence is granted on terms and conditions laid down, and then (he fruit can be exported only if the contract for sea carriage is approved by the board. As the bill stands, the board will have complete control of fruit which is being- exported, and the amendment proposed will not enable it to take control over any other fruit.
– I cannot accept the amendment of the honorable member for Angas. The Government has made it perfectly clear that it is not prepared to take power compulsorily to acquire dried fruits. The amendment would give that power. I agree with the honorable member for Kooyong, that if the amendment were agreed to the whole bill would need recasting. In actual practice the only result of the amendment would be to compel the outsider to contribute to the export quota. Under the bill, the board will have the greater part of the fruit for export placed voluntarily under its control. There will probably be one authority controlling the export of fruit in this country, and another authority in London.
.- I appreciate the motive of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) in moving the amendment, and also that of the Government in refusing to accept it. The Prime Minister has made it quite clear that he has rejected it on the ground not of impracticability, but of policy. It will be useless to appoint an Export Control Board without giving it full power to acquire compulsorily the fruit that is to be exported. What an unfair position the board will be in if it is able to increase the market abroad for Australian dried fruit, and the local producers will not give to it sufficient fruit to supply the demand. When a measure, to control the export of meat was before us some time ago, a provision was inserted at the request of the graziers’ organization to compel all graziers to make available a certain proportion of their produce for export. A similar provision should be inserted in this bill. Without the power to compel, fruit-growers to supply fruit for export the board will be not only useless, but dangerous. The scheme will fail unless compulsory power is given to the board, and the Government will have* to bear the responsibility -for its failure if it will not accept this amendment.
.- The legal opinion which I mentioned a few minutes ago was given by Professor Harrison Moore on certain provisions in the Dairy Export Control Bill, clause 17 of which is similar to clause 16 of this bill. The opinion is, therefore, applicable to this measure.
– Has the honorable member the full text of the opinion?
-I have the salient points in it.
– The full opinion does not bear out the contention of the honorable member..
– It has to be remembered that this bill is based upon a New Zealand measure, but Professor Harrison Moore points out that -
There is an important difference between the New Zealand Act, section 13 and clause 17 of the bill showing wider powers in the former than in the latter.
May I remind honorable members again that clause 17 of the bill referred to is exactly the same as clause 16 of this bill. The opinion proceeds -
Clause 17 -of the draft bill differs from section 13 of the New Zealand Act an that it operates merely when dairy produce is voluntarily placed under the control of the board, whilst section 13 of the New Zealand Act enables the board compulsorily to assume a complete or limited control over any dairy produce for export . . . The difference between clause 17 and section 13 (of the New Zealand Act) is accentuated by the difference between clause 20 of the draft bill and section 16 of the New Zealand Act. Section 16 is perfectly general . . . Clause 20 (of the Commonwealth bill) is not without ambiguity. I am of opinion that . . . the operation of the clause is confined to any dairy produce voluntarily placed under the control’ of the board . . Thus the power to make arrangements, and give directions for the -matters following instead of applying to all dairy produce . . . applies only to cases where the dairy produce has been voluntarily placed under control . . .
I am, therefore, of opinion that the board’s powers to control export are not as complete as are those of the board provided for in the New Zealand measures.
If the compulsory control of such matters as are within section 16 of the New Zealand act is essential to make an effective scheme, as it very well may “be, it is desirable that provisions be inserted in the Commonwealth bill similar to those in the Mew Zealand act.
For the reasons given in that legal opinion, I again submit my suggestion to the Prime Minister, that clause 16 and part of clause 19 of this bill should be omitted. The board would then have complete control.
– I agree with the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) that while the Government professes that this is a voluntary measure, compulsion runs right through it. How can we control produce other than by compulsory measures? The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) has moved a logical amendment. The Government is proposing to set up a body, with the authority of the country behind it, to export dried fruits under prescribed regulations, with the object of relieving a suffering industry, and of ensuring that our surplus dried fruits shall be marketed abroad under the best possible conditions. That proposal has been commended by honorable members of all parties, but the question is: How can it be most effectively and most equitably achieved? Whether the provisions of the bill will achieve it effectively only time will tell. The honorable member for Angas is concerned about achieving it equitably. He pointed out that certain advances are to be made to fruitgrowers under .a measure which has already been passed on the condition that a proportion of their produce is exported. Fruit-growers who are new to the industry, and particularly many returned soldiers, who have been settled recently in the fruit-producing areas, will be compelled to apply for the advance notwith standing that it will be less profitable to them to export their fruit than it would be to sell it in the local market.
– The export market was the more profitable during the war.
– We are not legislating for war time, but for peace conditions. The aim of the amendment is to ensure that not only the struggling fruitgrowers, but also the wealthy and wellestablished growers, shall export a fair quota of their surplus production. If the wealthy fruit-growers are compelled to export their proper proportion of fruit, the small and struggling growers will be able to sell a fair proportion of their production on the more profitable local market. That is as it should be.
– We ought to be taking steps to control the local market as well as the export market.
– I agree with the honorable member. The only satisfactory method of stabilizing an industry is to form compulsory pools under government control. It is very well known that the greatest enemies of the wheat-growers are wheat-growers who will not place their wheat under the control of the voluntary pools, and be loyal to their fellowproducers. If we have control, all the’ growers should be treated alike. I have always stood for the compulsory pooling of wheat, and I am prepared to support the compulsory pooling of dried fruits. We ought to take legislative action to prevent excessive quantities of dried fruits from being sent out of this country. We ought to see that local requirements are met, and that cannot be done without control.
– And the fixing of prices.
– 1 am as much in favour of fixing prices that will give the grower of produce a decent minimum rate for his labour as I am in favour of fixing a decent minimum wage for the workers in my electorate. I do not expect members of the Country party to endorse that statement. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) pretends to’ be an uncompromising freetrader. He speaks in favour of freedom in all things, and is an anti-socialist of the first water; but he is prepared to be even a socialist when it will profit him. I heard him criticizing the Government last night because it had not done something to secure preferential trade with Canada. I submit that preferential trade is not consistent with freetrade, but is, in fact, ‘ the antithesis of freetrade.
– Surely we must take advantage of markets.
– That is what the protectionist says. We say that we should take advantage of the Australian market for the benefit of the Australian manufacturer and the Australian producer. That is protection, and I am glad that the honorable member is veering round to the economic policy for which I stand. I wish we had control of local distribution and local markets. We have the spectacle to-day_ of fruit-growers starving on their land because they are unable to get reasonable prices, while the people in the cities have to pay famine prices for fruit.
– Those famine prices are not sufficient to pay the wages that the Arbitration Court orders the fruitgrowers to pay.
– The price of fruit in the shops of Melbourne would pay twice the wages that the Arbitration Court has awarded in the fruit industry. There would not be much need to talk of stabilizing exports if we could bring fruit to the Australian consumer at a reasonable price. Thousands of people in the large cities of Australia have not seen fruit on their tables for the past twelve months.
– The retailer buys the fruit for a mere trifle.
– I am not aware that it is the retailer who inflates the price. Many people come between the grower and the retailer. I realize that there is a surplus of dried fruits in Australia, and that the size of that surplus will increase in the next few years when the hundreds of thousands of acres of land that have been planted come into bearing. We shall then be faced with a very big problem.
– Australia is now importing dried fruits.
– That is so, but the quantity imported is very small by comparison with the quantity produced in Australia. Australia imported gold when it was producing it in large quantities. Such anomalies under the present sys tem are inexplicable. I suggest to the honorable member for Swan, who lectured us on economics, that we have probably gone too far in extending the fruit industry, and in settling returned soldiers on the land. Whether that is so or not, we must face the problem as it exists. If we bring thousands of people from overseas and settle them on the land, whether to produce wheat, fruit, or butter, without providing local markets by creating secondary industries in the towns, we shall be buying trouble, and setting up a balance against the men we are sending to the back country. A sound protectionist policy is required to build up our secondary industries. In providing for exporting the surplus of our produce, we should do it equitably. I commend the honorable member for Angas for his suggestion, which will be equitable as between the big and the little man, and the rich and the poor man.
– I agree largely with the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). If provision cannot be made in this bill for each grower to provide his quota for export, the bill will be practically useless. I am not a lawyer, but I .doubt whether the Commonwealth has the power to carry out the intention of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. -Gabb). It would involve, at least, the scrapping of the bill and the introduction of another.
.- One important consideration arises on this amendment. If the amendment means that the board shall have power to take control of any dried fruits and to compel the grower to export a fair proportion of them, it is very doubtful whether this Parliament has power to pass it. I have at this stage no interest in this bill other than the desire to assist the committee to produce a workmanlike act that will stand criticism. The Commonwealth Parliament has full power to legislate for foreign and interstate trade. It can deal with an article in foreign trade, and, therefore, it has power to legislate in the manner prescribed in clause 18, concerning contracts for the shipment of dried fruits. But, speaking generally, it has no power to deal with an article before it has become the subject-matter of foreign trade. In other words, it cannot empower an official to go into a man’s fruit-shed and say, “You must export 80 per cent. of this fruit,” any more than it can empower an official to say to me, “ You must export your watch and chain.” To say that I must export my watch and chain is not to deal with foreign trade, but to endeavour to compel me to make my watch and chain an article of foreign trade. As I understand the commerce power of the Commonwealth, the essence of it is that when an article becomes the subject-matter of foreign trade, we have power over it, but we have no power to compel a man to export his goods. Also, we have no power to control the local market. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) said he favoured control of the local market. It appears to me that from an economic point of view foreign andlocal markets hang together. I am not expressing any view of the general merits of the bill, but it appears obvious that a complete scheme would involve control of the local market. In time of war the Commonwealth, under its defence powers, can control local markets.
-Could the Commonwealth do that, with the consent of the states, in times of peace?
– The states could, by legislation, introduce a complete scheme for the control of all trade within Australia, and, with the help of the Commonwealth, of all Australian foreign trade. Power to control local markets during the war existed only under the defence powers of the Commonwealth. I remember the case of Farey v. Burvett, in which the validity of a regulation fixing the price of bread at Hawthorn was challenged. The High Court held that the Commonwealth had the necessary power under its defence powers, but not under any other power.
– The honorable member is opposed to the principle of compulsion, even if it were constitutional.
– I hoped that the honorable member would give me credit for ordinary good faith. I should. not have thought it necessary to repeat that I am speaking merely with the idea of assisting the committee, irrespective of my general views of the merits of this class of legislation.
– Very nicely put!
– I expect to be given credit for good faith. I am accustomed to it from those who know me, and I do not at all appreciate, and am not prepared to tolerate, any suggestion to the contrary.
– The honorable member will have to tolerate what he gets.
– I suggest that if the amendment has the effect intended it will probably invalidate at least a large part, if not the whole, of the bill.
.- The committee is now considering a clause that is capable of very wide application, and I should like at this juncture to make some observations on the compulsory sale and marketing of primary products. I candidly confess that I am not in love with legislation that interferes with trade and industry. I am not in love with compulsory tariffs. I am not in favour of compulsory legislation which, following upon the compulsory tariff, increases the cost of living so that the workers have to fall back upon compulsory arbitration to protect them from exploitation. Some of the members of the Country party - and I make the qualification because I do not desire to take upon myself the responsibility of speaking forthe whole of the members of that partyknow that, whether we are enthusiastic about these things or not, if we desired to alter them we should be defeated as we have been in the pastby an overwhelming majority. We are faced with the fact that we are in a helpless position, and must bear these imposts resulting from compulsory legislation, which vitally affect the primary producers, and are amongst the causes of the distress in the dried fruit industry to-day. The producer of dried fruits must pay wages fixed by compulsory arbitration, and is compelled to sell them in competition with producers in other parts of the world who have the advantage of coloured labour and in Mediterranean countries who have the advantage of cheap labour. The question arises, what are we to do?
– The honorable member would not abolish arbitration, and bring down wages in Australia to the level of those paid in Mediterranean countries?
– I should not like to do that. We have to face the position of the primary producer as we find it. Are we to helplessly beat our hands against the wall clamouring for things that are unattainable? When we are faced with, this system of regulated profits for manufacturers and regulated wages for workers, can we be fairly charged with inconsistency if we say that whilst we do not believe in a system which makes gifts and doles to others we are compelled to accept the results of that system and hop into the ring to secure our share along with the rest?
– We are prepared to help.
– I can quite understand that honorable members opposite are pleased with the trend of events. They can regard legislation, which goes even so far in the direction of compulsion as the bill now under consideration, with a good deal of satisfaction, because in supporting it they are achieving that which they have laid down as their policy. They are doing more, because they are placing those who have endeavoured to oppose some of the compulsory legislation to which I have referred in the inconsistent position of supporting this measure as a means of finding a way out of the difficulties in which that legislation has placed the primary producers.
– It shows that our ideals are better than those of the honorable member and his party.
– It merely shows that in these matters honorable members opposite have the advantage of numbers, because they do not hesitate to ally themselves with their life-long political opponents, as they did when the last tariff was enacted.
– The honorable member is speaking of himself. That is the very thing he did when he joined the Composite Ministry.
– I am speaking of the honorable member and the party to which he belongs. When it is a question of securing their political objective, honorable members opposite do not hesitate to join forces with their bitterest opponents.
– We joined our opponents to give effect to the principles of protection, but not for jobs.
– Honorable members opposite are interjecting very freely. When they are being hit they invariably squeal. ;. : .!
– I quoted the honorable member with approval yesterday morning and at great length.
– The honorable member would not hesitate to quote anybody if it served his purpose to do so. I come back to my point that honorable members opposite do not hesitate to join forces with their bitterest opponents to secure their objectives. We hear talk of the solidarity of the Labour movement, but the way in which honorable members opposite joined forces “with their political opponents to impose burdens on the primary industries under the last tariff was the finest example of solidarity I have ever seen in this Parliament.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Will the honorable member connect his remarks with the clause?
– I shall do so. ‘ I understand that by interjection the honorable member for Angas has foreshadowed other amendments, and his purpose is to enact the principle of compulsion to acquire dried fruits for export. I have come to the conclusion that while the circumstances, which I have briefly outlined, exist there is no other way in which we can effectively organize the marketing of primary products than by compulsion. This bill goes half a dozen steps in the right direction and stops short of providing for an effective control of the industry. I must, in the circumstances, say that I intend to support the amendments of the honorable member for Angas. I recently addressed at Mildura a most representative gathering of those engaged in the dried fruits industry. Those present represented about 2,000 growers of Mildura, Merbein, and Red Cliffs. The meeting passed unanimously a resolution in favour of a compulsory pool. If the amendments foreshadowed
Dy the honorable member for Angas are intended to give effect to that principle, I am, in the circumstances I have outlined, obliged to support it.
.- I think I might be accused of a lack of sympathy with my socialistic friends on the other side if I allowed a measure of this kind to pass into law without at least making an attempt, however feeble, to add something to the sum of wisdom developed in the debate. I have had the advantage of listening to the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), to whom the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) addressed a very pertinent but most embarrassing question, to discover what he really did think on the merits of the amendment. The honorable member for Kooyong appeared to believe that a grave attack had been made by the honorable member for Angas upon his good faith, which really was not in issue at all, nor had it been suggested as a subject for discussion by practical -politicians. I may say at once that I do not impeach the good faith of the honorable member for Kooyong. I have every confidence in that, but I do not admit that he is impeccable, or that his judgment is in all matters wholly faultless, as ho would seem to suggest by the tone he adopted towards the honorable member for Angas. I do not go so far, in the interests of a fellow member of an affiliated union. The honorable member has given us the advantage, at very moderate cost, of his legal opinion on the constitutional aspect of the amendment. I hardly think that the committee is prepared, at a moment’s notice, to pass judgment on that aspect of the case. I am convinced that the honorable member for Kooyong could, for an adequate consideration, present an equally convincing argument upon the other side, when we should be left in some doubt as to the true construction of the amendment from the constitutional point of view. I referred a moment ago to my socialistic friends on the other side, and my principal object in rising to discuss this bill is to say a word or two on that subject. It is true that the consumers who buy these various commodities, in respect of which we have been legislating so freely during recent months, have been very little considered. I represent persons who do not export dried fruits, butter or cheese, and who have no butter or cheese factories among them. I represent a handful of some 40,000 electors, mostly working people, who are under the necessity of paying, for the most part, substantial prices for the various commodities about which we have legislated so freely in this chamber. I am perfectly satisfied that whilst the Country party is moving in the right direction, is proceeding from the chrysalis to the full-fledged butterfly with a degree cf certainty of movement, it has not yet become in fact qualified to describe itself as the Socialist party in this House. We have had before us measures in regard to meat, wheat, wool, fruit, wine, and various other primary products, as they are called. Although the Country party was returned to this Parliament for the restoration of the great principles of constitutional government, and the eradication of government interference with private enterprise, we still find that honorable members in the Corner are not incurably opposed to government interference with private enterprise, so long as by that means there is diverted a sufficient sum out of the public funds into private pockets. The honorable member for Kooyong is as yet only in the elementary class of this new school. He is in a very high class in another school, but he is a first-form boy in the matter of socialistic development, and so he approached the whole subject with the utmost diffidence. He asked the other day, “If butter, why not potatoes?” or words to that effect. I ask, “If potatoes, why not peanuts, and if peanuts, why not dried fruits? Why not anything at all?” The honorable member is behind the times. He sits with the Country party, and gives tentative support to the Nationalist party, but he is not yet, like the members of the Country party, a convinced believer in the great principle of Socialism, for which my colleagues and myself, in our hesitating and careful way, stand. The honorable member rightly, asks, “Where will it end?” I listened to his speech with the greatest interest, and it reminded me- of an occasion in my youth, now some twenty years or more, in the back-wash of history.
– Does the honorable member intend to connect these remarks with the bill?
– Yes ; and you, sir, will see that the connexion is complete, if I am permitted to finish my illustration. If I am not, the committee will be the loser. I was about to say that, some twenty years ago I attended a bush concert, at which a young man sang a ballad about a love-lorn couple. It had about twenty-five stanzas; at the end of each, rendered in dolorous tones, was the refrain, “And I wonder where the dickens it will end.” Now, sir, you are about to see the relevancy of the story to the matter before the Chair. I may mention, incidentally, that the sentiment expressed by the singer began to be painfully shared by the audience, who also were asking themselves, “Where the dickens will it end?” You, Mr. Chairman, will agree that an uneasy feeling like that which agitated the bucolic mind of the country singer is disturbing the erudite mind of this King’s Counsel, who graces this chamber as one of its most brilliant members. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning), too, addressed himself to the measure from the point of view of price fixation. He has committed himself to this bill, I understand, as to that for the control of dairy produce. If, for the purpose of illustrating the powers that are given to the board, I may be permitted for a moment to refer to clause 19, it will be seen to what extent government interference with the great and eternal principles of private enterprise is proposed. No person is to export dried fruit - or, under the other bill, butter or cheese - without the consent of a board, and without obtaining a licence. In other words, not only are the rights of private enterprise to be seriously impinged upon, but, with the consent of the Country party and their Nationalist friends and servants, private enterprise has been driven off the grass altogether. Under clause 19 this board will have full authority to make such arrangements and give such directions as it thinks fit for the> following matters : -
The handling, marketing and storage of the dried fruits.
The shipment of the dried fruits on such terms and in such quantities as it thinks fit.
The sale and disposal of dried fruits on such terms as it thinks fit.
The insurance against loss of any such dried fruits either in the Commonwealth or in transit from the Commonwealth and until disposed of; and
All such matters as are necessary for the due discharge of its functions in handling, distributing and disposing of the dried fruits.
Most people would say that those provisions make a pretty considerable inroad upon the cherished principle that there should be no government interference with private enterprise. But the honorable member for Macquarie takes refuge behind the fact that there is no provision in the bill for the fixation of prices. “Ah!” he says, “that is the rock of ages with me. That is the reason why I support this bill when I cannot support the Labour party in its socialistic proposals.” Some day> - in the recess, perhaps - I may have time to write a book, and, if I do, its title will be The Economic Evolution of Fellow Worker Manning. His attitude towards this measure reminds me of the interesting history of that well-known character, Sairey Gamp. She, as will be remembered, was, in her own opinion, a confirmed teetotaller, though under stress of circumstances, and being required to do hard work, she occasionally, so she tells us, placed a bottle by the bedside, and put it to her lips just when she felt “ so dispoged.’ The honorable member for Macquarie is a whole-hearted teetotaller in the matter of socialism. He does not take it; he is opposed to it. But he places it by the bedside, and he puts it to his lips when he feels the need of it, and is “so dis.poged.” In the little book which I propose to write when I have the time, I may raise this question of speculative philosophy, “ What would the comrade’s attitude have been if the Government’ had made provision in the bill for acquiring the fruit - or it might be butter, or something else - at a price?”
– The same as it was with regard to the action taken about wheat ?
– That is so. I have an idea, that the comrade would say, first of all, “Well, have I any of this commodity for sale?”. Then he would ask,” “ What is the price the Government proposes to pay for it?” I think that if he had a commodity to sell, and the price was satisfactory, he would be prepared to take quite a liberal potation of socialism. Indeed, we might then expect to find him - in a purely political sense, of course - hiccoughing his firm opinion that, although he did not believe in socialism, he did keep it by the bedside, but merely kept it to put to his lips if he “ felt so dispoged.” The other evening I quoted with approval some remarks of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). I quoted them at great length, even at peril of being called to order, and I confess to having had greater difficulty then than I have now in connecting my remarks with the subject before the
Chair. He is a member of the Country party, and yet assails the Labour party. He has done so this afternoon. It is not a question of putting it to his lire when he feels “ so dispoged.” He stood in his corner this afternoon and told us that he supports the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), and will take the only further step necessary to establish a state enterprise in connexion with this industry. The honorable member should be in the arms of honorable members on this side, and our arms about his neck. But he says, “ Oh, you Labour members. I adopt your principles, but I attack you for .certain political reasons “ - incidental to his representation of the electorate of Wimmera.
– His song, “ Love me and the world is mine,” does not apply to the party opposite.
– Apparently not. He applied it to certain imperfectly healed patches of the” pact of which honorable members have some knowledge. He was referring to certain blackmailers who shall not be named, but whose identity has been indicated by my honoured leader. We have departed from the sound principles of constitutional government. We have seen the day come in our own time and generation when private enterprise is to be overwhelmed by government interference; when wool and wheat, peas, potatoes, peanuts, and other things are to be controlled by this Parliament in the interests of the people. Some have taken the plunge, ‘like the honorable member for Wimmera, and are swimming in these uncharted seas as confidently as if they had been returned to advance the great cause of socialism. Others, like the small boy, have taken off their clothes to bathe, but dipping their toes in the water, have remarked, “ Ah, but it is cold,” and do not take the plunge. Of such is the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham). I am glad to know that you, Mr. Temporary Chairman (Mr. Cook), as a representative of the primary producers, uphold the right of the Government to interfere with private enterprise. I congratulate you on the great success of your party in inducing the National party to bend to its will. On the forefront of the Prima Minister’s banner, when he came into this Parliament, and on the forefront of the banner of his spouse, the Leader of the Country party - these dual leaders - was “Restoration of Constitutional Government. Banishment of Socialism from the Land. We are the Australian Fascisti.” The Prime Minister declared himself another Mussolini. So they came, creating new hope in the hearts of the people, and telling them that for ever the dangerous revolutionaries were banished from power, and that in future sober and safe lines of government would be followed, in short, that there was to be a throwback to the reactionary times of half a century or more ago, in order that not merely industries, but the Commonwealth as a. whole, might be stabilized. There are. some people outside this Parliament who, seeing the Prime Minister - the still, strong man - sitting at the table, would imagine that he really is leading the Ministry and governing the Commonwealth. But the leadership comes from the Country party, the members of which are entitled to take to themselves all possible kudos for what they have done in this Parliament. Well may the honorable member for Wimmera look sad; I fear that he has backed the wrong horse. Let us look at the legislation that has been introduced during this session, and ask ourselves who has dictated it. The answer is that honorable members in the ministerial corner have dictated it in the interests of their masters who sent them here; and when the still, strong leader speaks as though he leads, he actually speaks and leads only as the pliant instrument of the reactionaries of the Country party, who, in turn, serve faithfully the squatter and the middleman under an unconvincing pretence of serving the working farmer. Thus the patchy pact has been maintained in part; I wonder for how long. Out of this situation there comes a homely illustration of the old proverb that “ Honesty is the best policy.” When principle gave way to expediency, all seemed well, for a time, and nothing but expediency appeared to matter, but gradually the mortification of distrust and suspicion is being set up in the body of the composite conspiracy party, whose disintegration is in process. One member leaves it, and then another leaves it, and comrades jump in to take the jobs that have been vacated. And by-and-bye, when they in turn have been conducted to the bathroom, some other colleagues, who vowed allegiance to them, will spring forward to grasp the spoils that have been laid down by the latest victims. So the pact will proceed until the next general election, when the trump, of the electoral archangel shall call them to account, and the compact be disrupted into invisible atoms.
– I remind the honorable member that there is nothing in the clause about the pact.
– Tha clause dia tinctly provides “that the board may accept control of any dried fruits placed under its control for the purposes of this Act.” If I have said anything that is inconsistent with the terms, of that clause I apologize, but it seems to me that everything I have said was directly germane to the clause, and to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Angas. I have referred to those gentlemen, who, for the advancement of personal interests, have diverted public funds into private pockets, and I have spoken of their methods. What, then, is my attitude towards members of the Labour party who support this and similar bills? I shall vote with them in support of the principle of the bill. Members of the Labour party do not oppose this class of legislation. We believe in the principle underlying it, and for the moment we are not concerned with the motives actuating members of the Country party. We support the bill in the hope that by a variety of amendments it may be brought completely into harmony with the views and policy of the Labour party. For that ‘ reason I approve of th6 principle of the amendment. I shall not, like the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), take the risk of pronouncing judgment as to its legality, and shall certainly not give an opinion in opposition to his, because that would be rank heresy, as well as a breach of the rules of the affiliated unions of which he and I are members. The Labour party stands for the interests of the primary producer, as it does for the interests of the wage earner and every other class of the community, but all we hear from honorable members of the Country party is a constant reiteration of “the primary producer” until at night one dreams that phrase. It is as if there were no person who had work to do in this country but the primary producer ; no , person who had to pay through the nose for primary products, and nobody worthy of considera tion other than the primary producer, for whom honorable members of the Country party claim to speak exclusively. A few evenings ago I entered a small shop in a main street of Melbourne . to buy some fruit, and the only apples for sale were quoted at 8d. per lb., and the oranges at 3d., 4d., and 5d. each. A few months hence when we travel into the country Ave may see within 15 or 16 miles of Melbourne trees laden with beautiful apples, and the ground strewn with windfalls which apparently are not worth gathering. Will the primary producers wake up and explain why in a country which produces a superabundance of fruit which will keep for a year, the majority of people of the working classes cannot afford the luxury of purchasing it. With the greatest respect I say to the dairymen, orchardists, and stockbreeders, that they could do a great deal more for themselves instead of constantly sitting on the doorstep of the Cabinet. I believe in Government interference with private enterprise, but I do not believe in the primary producer becoming a regular mendicant at the door of Parliament House. The long faces of honorable members of the Country party would lead one to think that the lot of the primary producer was similar to that of the dweller in the slums of some of the great cities of Europe and other continents, that they are reduced below the capacity of self-help, and must have the aid of this Parliament for everything. I do not agree with that. As a rule the primary producer has some independence, and enough grit and capacity to do something for himself by co-operative effort. One thing I wish him to do is to endeavour to organize the marketing of his fruit at prices which, whilst ensuring to him an adequate return, will bring that essential article of diet within the means of some of the poor electors of such densely populated districts as Batman, East Sydney, and West Sydney. Those people do not include any primary producers, but let them be considered sometimes. There is no reference to them in this bill, or in any other of the bills that have been introduced by the present Government during .this session, and if we talk about improving their lot we are at once accused of having hoisted the red flag of socialism, and honorable members of the Country party retire, precipitately, into their caves. In their caves for the moment I leave them.
.- I hope that the committee will vote for the amendment. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) has said that it does not give the powers which I seek to confer, and that in any case there are constitutional difficulties in the way.
– I said that if it does give the power that the honorable member desires to give - and I do not think it does - there are constitutional difficulties that will defeat it.
– I shall not presume to argue a constitutional question with a King’s Counsel, but the very opposite opinion has been given by other gentlemen as eminent in the. legal profession as the honorable member for Kooyong. Therefore, I am prepared to risk the amendment being declared unconstitutional, in the hope that it may do something for those engaged in the production of dried fruits. The honorable member was wrong in saying that I doubted his honesty of purpose. I merely expressed a conviction that he would not support compulsion on this question in any form. Whilst I have no reason to regard him as other than a gentleman, he belongs to a profession which ‘requires him sometimes to argue that black is white, and in this House I think he will do his best to show his party to the greatest advantage. His statement that I had been offensive to him was quite uncalled for. I desire to place on record the other amendments I shall move if that now before the committee is accepted. I propose to move the insertion of. the following provisions: -
If my amendment to this clause is agreed to, that amendment will follow later. I have read it in answer to the suggestion that if my amendment is carried I have really nothing to follow it, and therefore the withdrawal of the bill for a certain period would be necessary. The position is that the Government does not desire the bill to have a compulsory effect, nor to give the board the powers that it should have in order to function properly. I ask honorable members to support the amendment.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted (Mr. Gabb’s amendment) stand part of the clause - put. The committee divided.
Majority … . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 17 agreed to.
Clause18 (Contracts for shipment of dried fruits).
.- I wish to know whether the consent of the board has first to be obtained before dried fruits can be exported. A contract or order for a small quantity of dried fruits may be received from Java or Singapore. If it will be necessary for the board to approve of the contract before the Customs Department can certify that the dried fruits may leave this country, special regulations should be issued allowing the Customs Department to permit the export of small quantities of dried fruits by persons who obtain a licence and comply with the conditions therein laid down.
– This clause deals only with contracts for shipping, and not with the issuing of licences or with the powers of the board respecting them. Clause 18 provides that a contract may be entered into in conformity with conditions approved by the board. In the case of Eastern trade, I have no doubt at all that general conditions will be laid down under which a shipping contract will be permitted in the case of a person wishing to export dried fruits, and he will be able to make his shipping arrangements without obtaining the approval of the board for each specific shipment. I do not think that there will be the slightest interference in cases such as that suggested by the honorable member.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 19- (1.) Without limiting any authority speci fically conferred on the board with respect to any dried fruits placed under its control, the board shall have full authority to make such arrangements and give such directions as it thinks fit for the following matters: -
– I move to make this clause read as follows : - (1.) The board, with respect to any dried fruits placed under its control, shall have full authority to make such arrangements and give such directions as it thinks fit for the following matters: - . . .
This is a drafting amendment suggested by the Attorney-General’s department. It is not intended in any way to alter the purpose of the clause.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 20 and 21 agreed to.
Moneys held in the fund uninvested by the board may be lodged either at call or on fixed deposit, or partly at call and partly on fixed deposit, with the Commonwealth Bank, or with any other prescribed bank, and while in such bank shall be held to be moneys of the Crown.
.- This clause provides that uninvested moneys held by the board may be lodged with the Commonwealth Bank or with any other prescribed bank. Unless the Prime Ministercan assure me that such moneys will be lodged solely with the Commonwealth Bank, I shall move an amendment to delete the words “ or with any other prescribed bank.”
– There is really no need for the honorable member to move an amendment, because, if I understand rightly, his desire is that the finances of the board shall be conducted solely through the Commonwealth Bank. It is the intention of the Government that the Commonwealth Bank shall be employed wherever possible, but circumstances may arise which will make desirable and convenient the use of another bank. For instance, transactions might be required in a place where there is no branch of the Commonwealth Bank, and grave inconvenience, and possibly loss, might be caused to the producers if, in such a case, special banking arrangements had to be made.
– I do not think that the circumstances suggested by the Prime Minister are likely to arise. Branches of the Commonwealth Bank are established in every town in Australia. The Government should do all the business required under the provisions of this measure through the Commonwealth Bank.
Amendments (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to-
That the word “either” he left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ in an account “ ;
That the words “ in an account “ be inserted after the word “ partly “ second occurring.
– What about my suggestion ?
– I hope the honorable member will not press his proposal, for I assure him that the Government intends to use the Commonwealth Bank wherever possible. It is most desirable, however, that the power to use another bank should be given to the board if the need to use it arises. The phrase that the honorable member objects to is only a safeguard.
.- With all due respect to the Prime Minister, I am not satisfied to leave the clause as it is. I move -
That the words “ or with any other prescribed, bank “ be left out.
Amendment negatived. Clause, as amended, agreed to. Clause 23 agreed to. Clause 24 -
All moneys received by the board in respect of the sale of dried fruits or otherwise howsoever (except moneys forming part of the fund) shall be paid by the board into a separate account at a bank to be approved by the Minister.
.- I moveThat the words “ at a bank to be approved by the Minister be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof “ in the Commonwealth Bank “.
Accounts will be opened by the board in the principal cities of the Commonwealth, and in my opinion it should be mandatory for the board to trade with the Commonwealth Bank wherever it is possible.
– Although I cannot see any necessity for the amendment, I have no objection to it.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 25. to 29 agreed to. Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
.- I object to the manner in which the Temporary Chairman of Committees (Mr. Cook) dealt with an amendment I moved to clause 22. He put the question to the committee hurriedly, and in a manner which was not at all commendable. The Government were opposed to my amendment, but that ought not to have influenced the conduct of the Chairman. The amendment would have improved the bill; otherwise I should not have moved it. lt contained an important principle. I feel that I have been slighted, and therefore I move -
That the bill be re-committed for the reconsideration of clause 22.
Mr.SPEAKER (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt). - The redress that the honorable member apparently feels that he deserves is, of course, obtainable only in committee, for the House has no authority over the procedure in committee unless the committee, through its Chairman, formally reports it to the House.
– I am sorry that a misunderstanding has arisen to prevent the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) from testing the feeling of the committee on his amendment, which was of some importance. The Prime Minister, who spoke to it on two occasions, did not convince the honorable member, who was very anxious that the committee should decide the question.’
– He did not call fora division.
– That was because the amendment was put hurriedly, and in a way that did not make it clear whether it was being put or not.
– That was not so.
– I make no reflection on the Chairman of Committees. As a rule, when there is a misunderstanding, the clause is put again, and if the honorable member for East Sydney had persisted in a request that the clause should be put again, it would probably have been put again. He did not do so, and the question has been decided. The honorable member for East Sydney was indignant at the slight he thought he received. I cannot say that I feel strongly on the point, but I am inclined, on the whole, to support him.
– I very much regret that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) considers that he had not a fair opportunity to test his amendment when the bill was in committee, but the amendment was put and rejected in the ordinary way, and there was no call for a division. I was here at the time, and was under no misapprehension as to what happened. The honorable member should not now ask, when the bill has been passed through committee, to have it recommitted to test this point. He took no action in committee after the clause bad been put.
– I did my best. I could not punch the Chairman or throw anything at him.
Mr.BRUCE.- While I regret the incident, I cannot agree to the re-committal of the bill for the purpose of testing the point raised by the honorable member.
– I regret that a division was not called for in committee. We have had experience of boards similar to that proposed in the bill. The Commonwealth Government has a large interest in the AngloPersian Oil Company. Three representatives of the Government sit on the board of directors of the company. The first balance-sheet of the company showed that it was dealing with the Commonwealth Bank, but the next one showed t hat it had transferred its account to a private bank. I want to know why the Commonwealth Government’s representatives on the board agreed to transfer the account to a private bank. Is not the Commonwealth Bank sufficiently stable? It is impossible to get any satisfactory explanation by addressing questions to Ministers. The bill provides an opportunity to another board to continue that policy. The Commonwealth Bank should do all the financial business of the Commonwealth, and we should stabilize our bank as well as our industries.
Question - That the bill be recommitted - put. The House divided.
Majority … 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill, by leave, read a third time.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 1st September (vide page 4497), on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That the bill be. now read a second time.
– Since the inception of federation this Parliament has discussed many important measures dealing with defence, Customs, and other subjects, but nomore important question could come before us than that of the unification of the gauges of the railways of this country. When federation was established,each of the six states had already undertaken railway construction on different gauges. Queensland adopted the 3-ft. G-in. gauge; New South Wales, 4-ft. 8½ in ; Victoria, 5-ft. 3-in.; and South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania had built lines with varying gauges. One of the hopes based upon the accomplishment of federation was that a uniform railway gauge would be adopted throughout the Commonwealth. We have uniform postage, uniform telephone charges, and a uniform law governing quarantine and shipping. For the proper development of the Commonwealth a uniform railway gauge is essential. As the various states had invested millions of pounds in the construction of railways at the time of federation, they could not be induced to agree to the adoption of a uniform gauge. Many conferences were held between state ministers and the officials of the railways departments, but they were unable to reach finality in the matter. In 1920 a conference was held between the prime minister of the Commonwealth and the premiers of the different states, and they agreed that the best thing to do was to appoint a commission of experts from overseas to deal with the matter. One of the ablest railway men in the United States of America and one in Great Britain were selected. . These gentlemen were brought here at the expense of the Commonwealth, and with Mr. Garvin,, a capable big business man of Sydney, as chairman, they formed a commission to inquire into and report on the question of the unification of the gauges of the railways in the Commonwealth. After examining all our railway systems, and considering tho history of railway construction throughout the world, the commission recommended the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge as a standard gauge for the Commonwealth. After the presentation of the commission’s report, a conference of state premiers and the prime minister of the Commonwealth was held, which adopted that report. The conference agreed that, for cheapness of construction, capacity, speed, and safety, the 4-ft. 8-in. gauge should be adopted. In the course of the consideration of the bill for the construction of the transcontinental line in South Australia and Western Australia, a distance of 1,051 miles, there was a long debate on the subject of the standard railway gauge. Representatives of Victoria were anxious that the line should be constructed on the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge; some considered that the 3-ft. 6 -in. gauge should be adopted; and, after full consideration, this Parliament decided that the line should be constructed on the 4-ft.- 8i-in. gauge. The Commonwealth, in this case, led the way in the adoption of the standard railway gauge. At one time the states of the United States of America had railways of different gauges, but it was found absolutely necessary in that country to adopt a uniform railway gauge. That was done at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds. At thf- present time it is possible for a man to get into a train in America and travel in the same carriage for a’ full week across Canada or the United States. In Great Britain, also, it was found necessary for the economic working of the railway systems of the country and the safety of railway travellers to adopt a uniform gauge. In the bill before us the Government proposes the first step towards the adoption of a uniform railway gauge between New South Wales and Queensland. This is a bill for the construction of a line from Kyogle to South Brisbane. New South Wales already has two railways to the Queensland border, but those travelling to Brisbane must change at the border to a railway on the 3 ft. 6 in. gauge. This change of gauge is very inconvenient to the travelling public. It may be contended that as the bil! deals with the construction of a railway in which they only are concerned, Queensland and New South Wales should not call upon the Commonwealth to assist in its construction. New South Wales has already constructed a line along the north coast to Murwillumbah, and the construction of the line proposed by the bill would not bring more trade to that state. Each state in the Commonwealth is at the present time continuing to build railways of varying gauges. South Australia is building railways on the 5 ft. 3 in. gauge, and Queensland on the 3 ft. 6 in. gauge, and delay in the adoption of the standard gauge in railway construction in the different states must add to the cost of conversion later. A proposal has been made for the construction of a direct line from Port Augusta to Hay on the standard gauge, which would be about 500 miles long, and which it is estimated would cost £8,000,000. It would lini up the transcontinental line with the New South “Wales system, and give a uniform gauge - if the proposed Kyogle to South Brisbane line were made - from Kalgoorlie to Brisbane. Such a line should be constructed for the defence of the country.
– Development is the important consideration.
– The construction of such a line would also promote development. Some of the states object to this proposal. I should be prepared to support the conversion to the standard gauge of the existing line from Albury to Melbourne. Any one who travels between Melbourne and Sydney, as I do every week, must be impressed by the confusion which arises at Albury as the result of the break of gauge. Passengers arrive at Albury from Melbourne at night, and have to change trains in the midst of the confusion caused by the transfer of luggage from one train to the other. No one can contend that that is a satisfactory system. Going to Perth from Melbourne, a traveller by train must change from the 5 ft. 3 in. gauge to a railway on the 3 ft. 6 in. gauge, again to a railway on the 4 ft. -8£ in. gauge, and finally to another line on the 3 ft. 6 in. gauge. People who have travelled in other countries smile at the slow progress which Australia has made in the matter of railway transportation. The proposed line from Port Augusta to Hay would, as I have said, cost about £8,000,000, but it would open up new country and tap very prosperous districts in the Riverina and along the Murray River. To convert the line from Adelaide to Melbourne, and thence to Albury from the 5 ft. 3 in. gauge to the standard gauge would cost £21,600,000, hut we have spent much more than that for the defence of the country and to help the Empire. According to military experts we cannot do better for the defence of the country than adopt a uniform railway gauge which would facilitate the transport of men from one state to another in a time of emergency. It is estimated that the ‘cost of the line from Kyogle to South Brisbane would be £3,500,000. The New South Wales and Queensland Governments are prepared to pay their share of the cost of the line. Western Aus tralia, South Australia, and Victoria, are not prepared to contribute to the cost, because they contend that the line will not benefit them in any way. The Commonwealth Government is prepared to advance the money that would have been paid by the other states as their share of the cost of the line if they had come into the scheme, and that seems to be the best way to overcome the difficulty. The linking up of Queensland with New South Wales by the proposed direct line will result in shortening the journey from Sydney to Brisbane by six hours, and it will save 100 miles of railway travelling, eliminating the climb over the Liverpool and New England Ranges. This Parliament should know no state boundaries iu a work of this importance, and all the states should participate in the scheme. An agreement was made between the Commonwealth and the states of New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia to share the cost of the extensive irrigation and water conservation works undertaken on the River Murray, and, although Queensland, Tasmania, and Western Australia will not reap any direct benefit from that expenditure, they will derive an indirect benefit owing to the increased prosperity that will accrue to the Commonwealth. There can be no logical objection to the linking up of the mainland states with a railway of uniform gauge. The military experts are united in contending that the weakest point in the defence of the Commonwealth is the lack of that uniformity. Queensland is more exposed than any other state to attacks from the East, and, if that state is to be protected, it is necessary to enable troops to be moved there without the delay that breaks of gauge occasion. I hope that honorable members will view the subject from a national stand-point. It should be remembered that New South Wales contributes its share towards the grants annually made to Tasmania. The scenery along the north coast of New South Wales is recognized as unequalled in any part of the world. The soil is rich and the inhabitants of that belt of country are among the most prosperous in the Commonwealth. The district produces some of the finest timber, and there is every prospect of the railway having a buoyant revenue. Last year, 99,109 passengers changed trains at Wallangarra. All the fruit sent from Queensland to the southern states has to be transferred at Wallangarra from the narrow, gauge of Queensland to the 4ft. 8-^ in. gauge of New South Wales. No less than 250,000 head of live stock had to be transferred at the Queensland border last year. Queensland is a state with great promise, and I believe that it will eventually become the most productive part of the Commonwealth. New South Wales is anxious to assist in the development of that portion of Queensland which will be served by the proposed line. At the present time, the traffic northward, on the coastal line, passes over the Clarence River by punt, but the New South Wales Government has decided to spend £1,000,000 in the construction of a bridge over the Clarence. The provision of the punt resulted in a 35 per cent, increase in the traffic, and I have no doubt that when the proposed line is completed it will pay handsomely. The bridge to be erected will be the most expensive in Australia. I hope that the proposed new line is only the first instalment of the work necessary for the unification of gauges, so that the people may travel between Brisbane to Perth without changing trains. The bill should be supported by all honorable members who regard themselves as true Australians.
.- I congratulate the Government on having brought down this bill, for it is the first practical step towards the consummation of an ideal that has long been cherished - the unification of the railway gauges of the Commonwealth. I do not intend to repeat the arguments of the ‘ honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley), but I agree with his contention that the proposal is of the utmost importance from the national point of view. The gauge that is accepted throughout the world as the best, and that has been adopted as the standard gauge for Australia, is that of the mother state of New South Wales. The Commonwealth has built the transcontinental line from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta on the 4-ft. 8£-in. gauge, but the other states have railways of 5-ft. 3-in. or 3-ft. 6-in. gauge, whilst South Australia has both gauges. The fact that the East-West line connects at each end with a railway of 3-ft. 6-in. gauge is responsible for heavy charges’ in transporting rolling-stock. It is a great pity that Australia does not enjoy the benefits of a uniform gauge as does the United States of America,’ where rollingstock can be sent over the lines of rival companies. Had it not been for the breaks of gauge, this country would have been saved the expense caused at Albury when fodder had to be distributed for starving stock. The honorable member for South Sydney supported the present . proposal on the ground of its value from a defence stand-point. Not long ago I referred to the comparative isolation of the various capital cities of Australia, and I likened them to a series of islands that had direct communication with one another only by sea. A person desiring to travel by rail between Sydney and Melbourne, or Sydney and Brisbane, or Adelaide and Perth, has to change trains, and in time of war when it became necessary to transport troops from one state to another, enormous congestion and delay would take place at the breaks of gauge. With a unified gauge delay at the borders would be obviated, and transportation of troops would be further facilitated by the interchangeability of Commonwealth and state rolling-stock. During the great war rolling-stock from Great Britain, and even from America, was used on the French and Belgian railways, because the 4-ft. 8i-in. gauge was common to all those countries. I am glad to say that the old parochialism and interstate jealousies which existed before federation, and of which the varying railway gauges are a relic, are dying out. At one time a New South Welshman was anathema to Victorians, and that feeling existed even during the early part of the war. When I transferred early in 1915 from a New South Wales regiment of light horse to a Victorian infantry battalion 1 committed two unpardonable offences - I was not only a light horseman entering an infantry battalion, but I was a New South Welshman joining a Victorian unit. But as the war proceeded and men from different parts of Australia were assembled in the various unite, interstate divisions disappeared, and we were glad to bo known only as “ Aussies.” The Australian Imperial
Force tried to’ bring back to Australia the same national spirit, and I believe that people of the younger generation are gradually freeing themselves of the old parochialism and interstate differences, and are taking pride in their citizenship of Australia as a whole. For the advancement of this projected railway I pay a tribute to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). In May of last year I had the pleasure of accompanying him - he was then Minister for Works and Railways - and the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson) over a big portion of the route to be traversed by this line, and we were able to see some of the country that will be opened up. Its developmental possibilities demanded consideration, but an interstate railway was required, and it was difficult to get it constructed by Queensland and New South Wales, because of their different gauges. An excellent opportunity w.as provided for the Commonwealth to help forward the scheme for the unification of gauges by assisting those two states to build a line from the terminus at Kyogle to South Brisbane. When the line is in operation it will do a great deal of developmental work, and the traffic will be sufficient to pay working expenses and interest, and possibly to establish a sinking fund. The area to be served, particularly the portion on the New South Wales side of the border, is probably the most closely-settled rural district iu Australia. Without seeing it it is impossible to imagine the richness of the country on both sides of the Macpherson Range. The visit of the honorable member for Wimmera made him an even more ardent advocate of the line than he had been before, and although he is a Victorian representative, he did a great deal to bring about the agreement which has permitted of the introduction of this bill. For that attitude he received a great’ deal of unmerited censure, and almost abuse, from the people and press of his own state, but being convinced that he was right, he persisted in his advocacy of the line. No credit is due to the Premiers of Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia, who in behalf of their respective states refused to bear any share of the cost of constructing the railway. However, in recent months there have been changes of government in each of those states, and I should like the Prime Minister to inform the House whether the present premiers have been consulted. It is possible that they may take a different view from that expressed by their predecessors, and that Victoria and South Australia, at any rate, will withdraw their parochial objections and recognize the national character of this project. The Prime Minister mentioned that the Government of New South Wales has promised to construct a bridge over the Clarence River to connect Grafton and South Grafton. I am sorry that that undertaking is not contained in the agreement. If the promise of the New South Wales Government is bona fide there can be no objection to its inclusion in the document that is now before the House. If that were done we would have some assurance that the bridge will be available for traffic by the time the railway is completed. Last year I was present at a reception by the mayors of Grafton and South Grafton to the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), the Postmaster-General (Mr. Gibson), and the then Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart). Among others present was Sir Joseph Carruthers, the leader of the New South Wales Legislative Council, and he definitely promised that the state government would construct a bridge over the Clarence River. I cannot credit a newspaper statement that he has since denied having made the statement, because it was heard by ali those who were present at that reception. To make assurance doubly sure the undertaking should be included in the bill. A bridge at that point has been promised for over 40 years. Between Grafton and South Grafton, the Clarence River is over half a mile wide, and has a maximum depth of 70 feet. It is a magnificent stream, but instead of being, as it should be, a great asset to the country, its very size and grandeur have acted as a bar to progress. Before constructing the north coast line from Sydney to South Grafton, the New South Wales Government should have built a bridge over the Clarence River as an outlet for the traffie from the rich lands of the north coast which are now served by the railway from Grafton to Murwillumbah. That railway commences on the north bank of the Clarence, and ends on the south bank of the Tweed. Its position is worse than that of the transcontinental railway. The town of Lismore, with a population of over 10,000 people, supplied with gas, water, electricity, and sewerage services, is absolutely unconnected by rail with any other part of the Commonwealth,, and will remain so until a bridge is built across the Clarence River at Grafton. For years past the New South Wales Government has promised to build this bridge. I should like the bill to contain a provision making it obligatory for the New South Wales Government to construct a bridge across the Clarence River. The agreement provides for the re-grading and re-laying of the line between Grafton and Kyogle. This is at present a light line laid with 60-lb. rails. In the summer time a cloud of dust follows the train, much to the inconvenience of the passengers in the rear carriages. The newest engine used on that line was built in 1S78.
– Is not a motor train in use on that line?
– Yes, but it runs regularly only between Casino and Kyogle. It is very necessary that that line should . be re-graded and rc-laid so that heavy express traffic can be carried upon it. The proposed line will run practically straight from Brisbane South, saving a distance of 100 miles in the journey from Brisbane to Sydney, and will give the magnificent north coast district of New South Wales access to the Brisbane market, which is at present denied to it. Although a representative of New South Wales, I am glad that this line will traverse Queensland territory. I am not a “ state righter,” as are many other honorable members. I do not recognize state boundaries. I represent the whole of Australia, including Tasmania. I appeal to honorable members to rise above petty jealousies and to think, not of individual states, but of Australia as a whole.
– Order ! If conversation in the chamber is persisted in, coupled with interjections, I shall have to take action and name some honorable member.
– The agreement provides for the construction of a railway 97 miles in length, at a cost of £3,500,000. This is not an exorbitant sum, considering the engineering difficultes involved in crossing the Macpherson Range. The line, when constructed, will carry not only an increased interstate passenger traffic, but also heavy timber and other traffic. No loss will be sustained by the Commonwealth, because the line, when in use, is certain to show a profit. We shall experience none of the losses that are from year to year incurred on the Oodnadatta railway. Again I ask honorable members to take a broad and national view of this agreement.
.- I do not intend to lecture honorable members on this subject, as did the honorable member who- has just spoken, because I believe that they are endowed with just as much intelligence as I have myself. Although a Queenslander, I intend to put the case for the proposed railway from Grafton to South Brisbane from the viewpoint of an Australian. It seems to me a pity that we should have state boundaries, and the consequent jealousies, in this country. Without them many existing petty jealousies would not have arisen. When important national projects, such as that to unify the railway gauges of Australia, are being discussed, people are inclined to consider only whether the district in which they live will be benefited. This railway is a national one, and is one of the links in the proposed scheme to connect up the various capitals of Australia with a uniform gauge railway. On that ground I appeal to honorable members to put aside party politics and state rights, and to support the agreement. It so happens that Queeusland and New South Wales are the states particularly interested in this railway, which really is the forerunner of others connected with the scheme. That the other states will not immediately benefit is no reason why honorable members should oppose this national project. The following is a report by the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner made to the Minister for Works and Railways in 1920 : -
It appears to me to be unnecessary to estimate for or consider at present the adoption of a uniform gauge throughout Australia. The gauges of many of the existing lines, which run from distributing centres, would naturally remain as they are for many years to come, even if the adoption of a uniform gauge was immediately decided on, and it would only be necessary to consider at the outset the provision of a uniform gauge connecting the capitals. This could be accomplished by -
ConnectingKyogle and Brisbane with a 4-ft.8½-in. gauge line. This, I understand, has been favorably reported on by both New South Wales and Queensland.
By building a separate 4-ft.8½-in. gauge line from Albury to Melbourne.
By building a 4-ft.8½-in.line from Hay to Port Augusta, via Crystal Brook, with a 4-ft.8½-in. connexion to Adelaide, via Morgan.
By altering the gauge from Kalgoorlie to Perth from 3 ft. 6 in. to 4 ft. 8½ in.
The foregoing would, inmy opinion, largely do away with the present difficulties and inconvenience caused by the varying gauges in existence throughout Australia, and could be followed as funds permitted, and as traffic developed, by the gradual extension of the gauge which has been adopted as the Australian standard.
This proposed line is to be constructed in accordance with the recommendation in paragraph 1 of that report. The fact that this work is to be carried out in New South Wales and Queensland should not deter honorable members of other states from supporting it. The re-conditioning of the line from Grafton to Kyogle, a distance of 85 miles, will cost £800,000; the making of the line from Kyogle to the Queensland border, a distance of 27 miles, will cost £857,000; and the portion from the Queensland border to South Brisbane, a distance of 70 miles, £1,250,000. The total cost of the work, which will be £3,500,000, is to be met by the Commonwealth providing one-fifth and the five states on the mainland four-fifths of the money on a per capita basis. The payments for which these various parties will be responsible are : - Commonwealth, £700,000; New South Wales, £1,127,000; Queensland, £410,000; Victoria, £819,000; South Australia, £267,000; Western Australia, £177,000. Unfortunately, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia are not prepared to. pay their share at present, and the Commonwealth will have to pay it for them until they see the light. The line will be of considerable benefit to the southern states and to Australia, for it is a section of a complete scheme to connect Brisbane with Perth. The present length of that journey is 3,040 miles, and trains have to be changed five times en route. Any one who has witnessed the struggles of a mother and her children at a. break of gauge station such as Wallangarra or Albury, will have realized the inconvenience, confusion, and discomfort that that involves, although that aspect of the matter is of minor importance. Break of gauge stations greatly increase the cost of transportation. At Wallangarra, for instance, a special transhipment staff has to be employed permanently. It is the same at Albury. The construction of the Grafton to South Brisbane line will reduce the travelling time of the Sydney toBrisbane journey from 26 hours to 20 hours, and will shorten the journey by at least 100 miles. The proposed line will pass through and encourage settlement in some of the finest country in Australia, and will make available to the rich Kyogle district and to the other northern river districts of New South Wales, which contain some of the best land in the Commonwealth, the important metropolitan market of Brisbane. Australia is not singular in that she has to face a break of gauge problem, for Great Britain and the United States of America have both had that experience. In the early days of railway construction in those countries various gauges were adopted in different districts, and, years later, these gauges had to be unified. Australia’s lack of foresight in railway construction is but another case of history repeating itself. The unification of railway gauges was a question of public importance in Great Britain as far back as 1846, but it was not until 1872 that the uniformity of gauges was secured. Two years after the first railway line was built in New South Wales, the then chief engineer for railways recommended to the government of the day that before the rails met at the Murray River the New South Wales railway system should be converted to the 5-ft. 3-in. gauge to secure uniformity with Victoria, but, unfortunately, his recommendation was not adopted. Coming down to more recent history, I refer honorable members to the report on the defence of Australia, dated the 11th July, 1910, which Lord Kitchener presented to the Commonwealth Government, paragraph 11 of which reads -
I would also mention that railway construction has, while developing the country, resulted in lines that would appear to be more favorable to an enemy invading Australia than to the defence of the country. Different gauges in most of the states isolate each system, and the want of systematic interior connexion makes the present lines running inland of little use for defence, though possibly of considerable value to an enemy who would have temporary command ofthe s sea.
Lord Kitchener, looking at the problem of the defence of Australia with the eyes of an expert, realized what a fearful danger our differing railway gauges would be to us if ever this country were invaded. Although some honorable members of this chamber tell us, in season and out of season, that the matter of paramount importance to them from a national point of view is the defence of the country, I regret to learn that they intend to oppose this bill. I hope that before doing so hey’ will give earnest consideration to the wisdom of making a start to unify our railway gauges for defence purposes. The unification, of railway gauges has been discussed at almost every premiers’ conference for the last 25 years, and you, Mr. Speaker, as an ex-premier of Victoria, have, I feel certain, participated in some of those conferences, and I have no doubt that you have taken your part in urging the desirableness of unification. The report of the conference of premiers, in Melbourne, in November, 1914, attributes the following remarks to Mr. Andrew Fisher, then Labour Prime Minister of Australia -
The Commonwealth Government was strongly in favour of a uniform railway gauge throughout Australia, and was prepared to go a long way in the matter of raising the money. This question had been discussed ever since federation, and nothing tangible had yet been done. Since the last conference, the matter had become more urgent, from a defence point of views. Failing an agreement on the question of unification, he asked the states to consider an alternative proposal to give the Commonwealth the power and facilities to construct a strategic railway to connect Adelaide and Brisbane, but taking a more direct route inland. This route would be much safer, from a defence point of view, and would shorten the distance between the centres very considerably. It had been advocated by the military experts. He asked what co-operation would the states afford the Commonwealth in the matter of Crown lands if it constructed the line.
– That is ancient history.
– It is very necessary history .to honorable members who are in doubt. I understand that the honorable member for Darwin intends to oppose this bill, and it is therefore necessary to remind him of these facts. He is ‘always eager to obtain from the Government grants in aid of Tasmania.
– I have not said that I intend to oppose the building of this railway.
– Then I hope that I have been wrongly informed, and I shall look to the honorable member to support the bill, although I assure him that I do not wish to cajole him into doing so if he is not favorable to the proposition. Certainly, a few years have passed since the 1914 Premiers’ Conference was held, but the lapse of time has only made more ap1parent than ever before the necessity for unifying our railway gauges. The subject has not come to the front suddenly. It Kas been discussed,, as Mr. Fisher pointed out, ever since the establishment of federation.
– We all know that.
– The honorable member should speak for himself. He is a Victorian, and I believe he has decided to adopt the policy of the Age newspaper, and oppose the construction of this line, but I shall not allow him to stifle my discussion of the project.
– I hope the honorable member for Capricornia did not use the word “ Victorian “ as a term of reproach.
– I assure you, sir, that I did not, for if I have not grown to like the Victorian climate I have learned to appreciate her people. The conversion of the railway gauges of Australia to a standard gauge was first recommended by a Royal Commission on the 11th April, 1913, but the work was not proceeded with, on account of the prohibitive cost. That commission estimated that the cost of conversion of all lines to the 4 ft. 8£ in. gauge would be £37,164,000, which, it apportioned as follows: - New South Wales £120,000; Victoria, £6,117,000; Queensland, £12,578,000; South Australia, £6,228,000; Western Australia, £10,840,000 ; and the Commonwealth Government, £1,281,000. If an attempt were made now to convert the existing lines to the 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge, the costwould probably be at least twice as much as it was estimated to be in 1913. The estimated expenditure involved in carrying out the limited scheme to connect all the capitals proposed in 1913, was £12,142,000, . which was made up as follows : -
That expenditurewas estimated to be necessary to connect the different capitals with a 4-ft.8½-in. gauge line. The estimated cost of providing and equipping a main trunk line in 1921, including the conversion of all 5-ft. 3-in. lines in South Australia, is -
It was quite natural that the state premiers, in view of the opinions of the people in their respective states, could not agree to those proposals; but if they had acted as big Australians they would have agreed. South Australia and Victoria particularly objected. Sir Henry Barwell was then Premier of South Australia, and Mr. Lawson was Premier of Victoria. Notwithstanding the objections raised at thePremiers’ Conference, the Prime Minister has succeeded in getting the agreement for the line now under discussion signed by the New South Wales, Queensland, and Commonwealth Governments. Mr. Theodore, Premier of Queensland, signed the agreement on behalf of Quensland on the 16th inst., and during this week a bill will be passed through the Queensland Parliament to ratify it. A similar bill will be passed by the New South Wales Parliament, and we in the Commonwealth Parliament are now asked to do our part. I, first as an Australian, and secondly as a Queenslander, have very much pleasure in supporting the bill. I urge the Government to instruct the Railway Council, as soon as the agreement is ratified, to proceed with the work as expeditiously as possible. The, railway will take approximately three years to construct, and will give employment for that period to at least 1,000 workmen. A railway should not be built specially for the purpose of relieving unemployment, but the construction of this railway will relieve unemployment in both New South Wales and Queensland. For some time past the Queensland Government has been constructing a number of railways, some of which are nearing completion. Some of the men employed on them will shortly be out of work, and, as they are accustomed to railway construction, they could be re-employed on the Kyogle-Brisbane line. I appeal to all honorable members to vote in favour of the bill which, as it sanctions a big national project, is above party, and is worthy of the support of all honorable members of this chamber.
.- The bill is to approve, ratify, and confirm the agreement made between the Commonwealth of Australia and the States of Queensland and New South Wales, for the construction of a standardgauge line from South Brisbane to Kyogle. The preamble refers to the conference of Ministers of the Crown in July, 1920, which dealt with the unification of the railway gauges. That conference subsequently appointed a Railway Commission of two experts, who were brought from Great Britain and America. That commission recommended the adoption of a 4-ft. 8½-in. gauge for a railway from Brisbane to Fremantle, a distance of 3,488 miles. The bill deals with the construction of the first section of this greatnational line. The passing of this measure will be the most definite move yet made to give effect to the important recommendation of the commission, and will permit of a commencement being madewith a great national work that has been too long delayed. I feel sure that the merits of the proposal will so recommend themselves to the House that the bill will be passed without amendment. The cost of this line will be £3,500,000. Under the agreement, the Commonwealth is undertaking to pay £1,963,000, which is its one-fifth share, together with the amounts to be paid, temporarily, I hope, of £819,000 on behalf of Victoria, £257,000 on behalf of South Australia, and £177,000 on behalf of Western Australia. This is unfortunately necessary, because these three states are not yet willing to join in the scheme of unification. I hope that the action of the Commonwealth and the States of Queensland and New South Wales will induce the other states to stand up to their responsibilities. The length of the line to be built in Queensland is 70 miles, and in New South Wales 27 miles, while 85 ‘ miles of line between North Grafton and Kyogle is to be regraded, re-ballasted, and laid with 80-lb. rails. As the work will take approximately three years to complete, I hope that a start will, be made at once. The line is of national importance, and marks a forward move in the history of the development of the Commonwealth. It will be of undoubted strategic value for defence, and of immense advantage from a commercial point of view. It will allow of the quick carriage of fruit, perishable goods, and produce generally, from Queensland to the southern markets, without the difficulties we now have to contend with because of the break of gauge. Its advantage in time of drought cannot be over-estimated. It will also open up large tracts of new fertile country. In Queensland it traverses the whole of the fertile basin of the Upper Logan and its tributaries. The opening up of this rich district must result in increased production, increased population, and increased prosperity. It will also make available immense timber areas, and will help to develop further the rich lands of the Northern Rivers district of New South Wales and give to the settlers there a ready market for their products in Southern Queensland, which I maintain is their natural outlet. It will also effect a great saving of time in the journey between Brisbane and Sydney. At present the distance between those capitals by the route over the New England Range is 715 miles, but when the new line is constructed it will only be 608 miles. This will mean a saving of five hours and twenty minutes in the travelling time. It is very much to be regretted that the route in Queensland does not touch the very important town o£ Beaudesert, but misses it by about 4 miles. The residents of that town and district are amongst the most public-spirited and progressive people in Australia. Having the utmost confidence in the future prosperity and development of their great district, they commenced in 1902 the construction of a 3-ft. 6-in. gauge tramway. This tramway was, with loans obtained from the Government, extended through Innis Plains to Rathdowney, and from Christmas Creek to Lamington, in 1909-10. The line was built in sections, first from Beaudesert to Taboomba, a distance of 12 miles and thence to Rathdowney, a further 10 miles, on the right hand, and to Lamington, a further 10 miles, on the left hand. Trams are being run daily between Beaudesert and Taboomba, and to Rathdowney and Lamington, on alternate days. Including sidings, there is a total of 39 miles 29 chains of single line. The cost of construction and equipment to 1922 was £92,770 12s. 8d. Railway rollingstock is used to a large extent, and the tramway is maintained in a condition equal to that of government lines, and is subject to an annual government maintenance inspection.. The loans obtained from the government and the financial posi-tion of the line is shown in the following table : - £ 8. d.
The figures for the traffic for the year ended 31st December last were as under: -
A portion of the last year being droughty, the gross earnings were not then so great as in the previous year, the figures for 1922 being £17,099 lis. The Beaudesert Shire Council, the progressive body which constructed this tramway, is naturally concerned about its position now that it is proposed to run the South Brisbane to Kyogle line through the territory served by the tramway. It is intended that the only stopping-place in Queensland on the interstate line should be Taboomba, This town is the council’s tramway junction, and is in the very heart of the area it serves. A considerable time ago, in connexion with an examination of the War Service Homes timber areas, I accompanied the exMinister for Works and Railways (Mr. Stewart) on a visit to this district. Incidentally, I am glad to say that these timber areas are now all satisfactorily disposed of, and the important timber industry in that district has again revived. At a civic reception- tendered to Mr. Stewart the proposal to construct this line was brought before him by Mr. Ernest Bell, M.L.A., other speakers, and myself. The Minister assured us that the council would not be overlooked when the de-‘ tails for the construction of the line were being considered. I should be glad, on behalf of my constituents, if the Prime Minister would intimate what the Government proposes to do for ihe council, now that the details of the construction of the railway line are being considered by the House. There I leave the matter for the present, feeling sure that the justice of the claim for consideration will commend itself to the Prime Minister and the House. This bill meets an urgent national need. The unification of our railway gauges cannot be deferred indefinitely. The longer it is delayed the greater the cost will be. I am glad that under this bill a commencement of this work is about to be made. I heartily support the bill, and trust it will have an early and safe passage.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Latham) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 18th September (vide page 4499), on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a bill to amend the Income Tax Collection Bill of 1923, under which nothing was collected. Honorable members are aware that its object was to provide for compensation to officers retired from the Service in certain circumstances. It was believed in 1923 that great economies would be brought about by the amalgamation of the Income Tax Departments of the Commonwealth and the states. We were invited to believe that in the first year no less than £260,000 would be saved as the result of the amalgamation The amount that was saved to the Commonwealth during the first year was about £60,000.- There was a transfer of some 600 officers from the Commonwealth to the State Departments, and whatever was saved to the Commonwealth in this way was transferred as an additional expense to the states. Apparently the dreams of the Treasurer in this connexion were not realized. Six hundred officers were transferred to the State Services, about 400 were transferred to other departments of the Commonwealth Service, and 150 voluntarily retired, and of this number some 100 have drawn compensation under the act of 1923. The taxation exemption has been raised from £200 to £300, and, apparently, it is believed that as this will lead to a smaller number of persons being assessed as taxpayers, a smaller staff will be required to carry out the work of the Taxation Department, and the services of other officers may be dispensed with. This bill is introduced in order that temporary employees, and returned soldiers whose services may be dispensed with, may receive compensation in the same way as those who were compensated under the original measure. In so far as the bill provides for compensation to returned soldiers and temporary employees whose services may be dispensed with, there is no objection to it, but I wish to direct the attention of the Treasurer to the need for a little extension of its scope. In June of last year the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), asked the Treasurer if it was a fact that he had promised that returned soldiers temporarily employed would be given an opportunity to sit for an examination, and whether the Income Tax Collection Bill would be amended in order that that might be done. The Treasurer replied that these men would be given the opportunity to sit for an examination. There is some doubt as to whether that is provided for in this bill. In the interval, a number of men have gone up for examination, and some have failed, not because they did not gain sufficient marks in the examination, or did not pass in the required number of subjects. They were returned as rejected because in some instances though they were required to get 1,300 marks, they secured 1,500, and in some cases because, though they passed in the required number of subjects, they failed in others. I say that every returned soldier, and every man whose services are to be dispensed with, whether he has in the meantime passed an examination or not, should be given an opportunity to pass an examination. He should not be asked whether he had attempted to pass an examination or was unable to pass it by reason of his war disabilities. He should be given the opportunity to sit for an examination, and if he could demonstrate that he was a person qualified to occupy a permanent position, he should be entitled to compensation under this bill. If the Treasurer will agree to the amendment of the bill in such a way as to provide for that, he will facilitate its passage, and prevent a great deal of discussion.
– The bill, as prepared, carries out exactly the promise made to the honorable member for Yarra in this House last year; but the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) has brought under my notice certain anomalies which have arisen in the carrying out of examinations, and I have a proposal to submit during the committee stage of the bill which will ensure that what he desires shall be done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section twelve of the Principal Act is. repealed and the following sections are inserted in its stead : - “ 12. - (1.) The provisions of this Act inrelation to the payment of compensationto officers shall, in the some manner as they apply to officers, apply to -
temporary employees who -
during the period of their temporary employment in the Taxation Branch were not afforded an opportunity of competing at an examination for entrance ‘ to the Commonwealth Service or failed to pass any such examination owing to war disabilities; and “ 12a.- (1.) If, in consequence of any . alteration effected by any Act passed during the year One thousand nine hundred and twenty-four in the law relating to income tax payable under Commonwealth law, there is a decrease in the work involved in the collection of that income tax so that, at any time prior to the twenty-first day of December One thousand nine hundred and twenty-five, the services of any officer of the Taxation Branch, or of any officer transferred to the service of a state under an arrangement made in pursuance of section four of this Act, are no longer required, that officer may, subject to this section, be paid compensation in accordance with this Act upon his retirement from the Branch or Service (as the case may be) as a direct consequence of the decrease in work. “ (2.) Compensation shall not be paid to any officer retiring from the TaxationBranch or from the service of a State unlessthe Public Service Board certifies that there is no office in the Service of the Commonwealth to which the officer could be suitably transferred. “ (3.) Compensation shall not be paid to any officer retiring from the service of a State unless the Commissioner or other authority controlling the service of that State certifies that the retirement of the officer is necessary as the direct consequence of the decrease in the work of collecting income tax payable under Commonwealth law caused by the alteration in the law relating to income tax.”
– I want to register my protest against the principle involved in this bill. It provides that public servants who have been employed by the Commonwealth for a certain length of time are entitled to compensation if their services are dispensed with. This principle was first adopted in connexion with the defence retrenchment scheme. It was followed last year, in the Income Tax Collection. Act, providing for compensation to officers of the Taxation Department retired as a result of theamalgamation of the State and Federal Taxation Departments. . I strongly object to the adoption of the principle that if officers are retired as the result of the abolition of a department or retrenchment in the Public Service, they should be compensated. I see no reason why employees of the Commonwealth Government should be placed in a different position in this respect from persons in private employ and workers generally. The principle was wrong when first adopted, and I strongly protest against its perpetuation in this bill.
– I would remind honorable members that the circumstances connected with the defence compensation scheme and the Taxation Department compensation proposal were very exceptional. In the case of the Defence Department a very drastic scheme of retrenchment was brought into operation, and many of the employees of the department would have been dealt with very harshly indeed if they had been suddenly thrown upon the labour market without compensation. In connexion with retirements from the Taxation Department the honorable member should remember that the officers of the department were led to believe that their employment would be more or less permanent, and they suddenly found it brought to a termination. The position which arose in connexion with these retirements isquite different from that which obtains in the Service generally, when one or two officers are found to be in excess of requirements, and their services are dispensed with. To meet the matter referred to by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), I move -
That sub-paragraph (ii) be omitted with a view to insert the following sub-paragraph : - “ (ii) were in the employ of the Taxation Branch on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and twentythree, and have been or are retired after that date; and “
Section 12, as proposed to be amended, will apply to practically all the temporary employees who are returned soldiers, and to all who in the last fifteen months have been retired, or will be retired in future. Section 12a applies the principle of compensation to those whose services are now dispensed with on account of the policy of the Government in raising the exemption, and puts them in the same position as those whose services have been dispensed with, and have been compensated in the last fifteen months, owing to the economy resulting from the amalgamation of federal and state departments and the consequent diminution of work.
.- There are, as the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has said, special circumstances connected with the bill, but there is one feature to which I particularly draw attention. The persons to be compensated are temporary, and not permanent employees, and it should not be recognized as a general principle that temporary employees should receive compensation. One of the distinctions between the two classes of employees is that a permanent employee has statutory rights to compensation, and a temporary employee has not. This ought, to be treated as a special case, for otherwise the Government will be laying up for itself a good deal of trouble in future.
– This alteration is proposed in response to a promise made by successive governments.
– I realize that.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
– I move -
That the bill , be now read a second time.
The measure expresses the proposal of the Government, which was outlined in the budget speech, that,for the future, tax shall not be collected on payments for admission to entertainments where the commissioner is satisfied that the whole of the net proceeds of the entertainment are, or will be, devoted to (i) the erection, maintenance, or furnishing of halls for public purposes, or memorial halls for the use of soldiers or sailors who served in the great war, or (ii) for such purposes as are, in the opinion of the Commissioner of Taxation, either religious or public. It will be a condition of this exemption that the commissioner must be satisfied that the entertainment is not provided directly or indirectlyfor the financial benefit of any person connected with the promotion of the entertainment, or of any person employed or engaged by that person for the purpose of the entertainment. The Government considers that entertainments with these objects are as much entitled to complete exemption from the tax as those for which exemption at present exists under section 12 of the principal act. The requirement of the bill that the Commissioner of Taxation shall be satisfied on all the points upon which exemption is dependent is considered necessary for the effective and economical protection of the revenue, and desirable from the point of view of prompt administration of the act. The amount of revenue involved by the proposal cannot be estimated with any degree of reasonable accuracy, but it is considered to be small. The exemption proposed would not relieve promoters of such entertainments from the necessity to apply to the Taxation Department for exemption, because it will be necessary for the department to be satisfied that the entertainment is one which falls within the exemption. Promoters of these entertainments, as in all other cases, will, therefore, continue to be liable to tho penalties provided by the principal act for failure to register the entertainments with the department. The proposed exemption will operate from the date when the act receives the royal assent.
.- The Trades Hall authorities in Sydney arc compelled to pay income tax, and their chief source of revenue is the Eight Hours’ Day demonstration, which assists to liquidate the building debt.
– This measure deals only with the entertainments tax.
– The Eight Hours’ demonstration is an entertainment, but the authorities need all the money they receive to cover their expenses. In fact, they have a hard struggle to square the ledger.
– The honorable member asked for a remission of income tax when I was Treasurer.
– I intend to take every opportunity to bring forward this grievance.
.- I am sorry that the Treasurer has not seen his way clear to repeal this measure, and leave entertainments taxation solely to the states, but I am glad that the Government has made some slight concessions. I do not know whether enter tainments for charitable purposes are exempt, but, if not, the matter is worthy of consideration. I have often brought under the Treasurer’s notice the fact that the revenue derived from the tax on small social entertainments in country districts is so negligible that it seems hardly worth the expense to which the department is put in collecting it. I am aware that, since the difficulties attending the collection of this tax in the country have been brought under the notice of the Government, the regulations have been modified to some extent. For instance, application can now be made to any postmaster, but the regulations are nevertheless troublesome. Those organizing small entertainments have to register them and supply information in great detail. I am satisfied that if the tax were abolished so far as the entertainments to which I have referred are concerned, the loss of revenue would be negligible. The tax should apply only to entertainments conducted for the sake of profit. The present proposal is to exempt entertainments held for religious .or public purposes.
– The department interprets the law very liberally.
– It has not done so in my state until within the last year. I admit that recently the department has been a little more liberal in its administration of the act. I have received a great number of complaints from people living 250 miles or more from Perth who, if they were holding a little entertainment or dance, involving a charge for admission, had to apply to the department m Perth for permission to hold the entertainment, purchase tickets, and carry out a lot of other preliminaries, which were preposterously out of proportion to the small amount of revenue that the Commonwealth would receive from its tax. I am sorry that the Treasurer has not seen his way clear to fully exemp’t small entertainments of that character, but I hope that the time is not far distant when the collection of entertainments taxation will be left entirely to the states.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Treasurer the claims of trustees of recreation grounds. For instance, the trustees of the Yarraville Cricket Ground hold an annual sports meeting, the net proceeds of which are expended in improving the recreation reserve. Those trustees are performing auseful service in the interests of the public generally, and I think the proceeds of the annual sports gathering should be exempted from this taxation. Will the Treasurer inform me whether they are so exempt?
– From time to time I have represented to the Treasurer the advisability of exempting from the entertainments tax amateur sports meetings. The inestimable value of healthy sport to young people, and even to those of us who are no longer young, must be conceded by all honorable members. I am very disappointed that the Treasurer has not by this bill exempted the proceeds of amateur sports meetings from taxation, but I hope that next year he will do so.
.- Clause 2 grants exemption to entertainments for” such purposes as are, in the opinion of the Commissioner, either religious or public.” I should like the Treasurer to inform me whether the words “ either religious or public “ embrace charitable purposes. I do not think they do. If it had been the intention of the Government to exempt entertainments for charitable purposes, the word “ charitable “ would have been included in the bill, but it must have been omitted through an oversight. I ask the Treasurer to accept an amendment for its inclusion.’ There is at Newtown, near Hobart, a sanatorium for consumptives. For many years it has been doing magnificent work. It is maintained principally by public subscriptions and a government subsidy, and it is open to anybody whose circumstances preclude them from entering a private institution.
– I think it would be covered by the words ‘ ‘ ‘ public purposes.”
– I am not sure of that. Some time ago an entertainment was held to raise funds for the institution, but owing to unfavorable circumstances the proceeds were very small, just about sufficient to pay the entertainments tax. I conveyed to the Treasurer a request that the tax should be remitted, but although the Commissioner, to whom the matter was referred, expressed his sympathy with the committee of the institution, he said that, the case was parallel with many others, and the act precluded him from remitting the taxation, or repaying the amounts already received by the department.
-Under the existing law., entertainments, the whole of the proceed^ of which are devoted to. philanthropig, religious, or charitable purposes, are exempt.
– Does that mean the gross proceeds, or the net proceeds after paying fees to artists, the cost of advertising, hire of hall, and other incidental expenses?
– If the expenses do not exceed 50 per cent. of the gross takings, the proceeds are exempt from this taxation.
– Owing to unfavorable circumstances, the expenses of the entertainment to which I am referring were slightly over 50 per cent, of the gross proceeds. :
– If that was due to bad weather, the Commissioner could remit the tax.
– He did not do so. The Treasurer was good enough to look into the matter and refer it to the Commissioner.
– I think that the matter is one that could be more suitably discussed in committee.
– It may not be necescary to refer to. it in committee if the Treasurer will say now whether religious or public purposes include charitable purposes.
– I am glad that the Treasurer has introduced this bill, because I have always held that the trouble involved in obtaining an exemption from the tax is even more irksome than the tax itself, especially to people in country districts several hundred miles from the state capital. On a previous occasion I tried to obtain a concession for the country bands that brighten life in rural towns, and give a musical education to many young Australians. For over 30 years the band at Inverell, in my home town, has been under the direction of an honorary conductor, and he has donea great deal towards the musical education of the young men in the district. He is a notable instance of the unselfish work that is doneby many bandsmen. The proceeds of the entertainments given by the band are expended wholly in extending its usefulness to the community. No individual receives any financial remuneration from the operations of the band. A country town without a band is a very dead place, and I think the Commonwealth might well take a broader view of activities of this kind, which are both recreative and educational, and recognize that inasmuch as these bodies make life in the country more enjoyable, they are entitled to consideration and assistance. Country bands, even if subsidized by the local councils, should not be required to pay a tax on their entertainments.
Dr.Earle Page. - Would not a band bo a public body, and, therefore, be viewed as a public purpose?
– If the Treasurer will give me an assurance to that effect, and will instruct the commissioner accordingly, I shall not delay the House further. It is ridiculous to tax a band entertainment, the proceeds from which are used for the building of a band hall. The entertainment tax causes considerable trouble. At times the right denomination of ticket cannot be obtained. I have experienced this difficulty myself, and I would rather pay the tax twice over than suffer the inconvenience caused through being made the unofficial collector of the tax for the Commonwealth.
– I wish to know from the Treasurer whether a society running a weekly picture show for the benefit of its sick and funeral fund will be exempt from the provisions of the bill. It could hardly be called a public purpose.
Dr.Earle Page. - I scarcely think so.
– It is about time that the Government evacuated the field of taxation on entertainments. It is true that the exigencies of war demanded it, but the present is a good opportunity for the Treasurer to add to the lustre that already attaches to his name by abolishing this tax altogether.
.- Under the bill, a charitable entertainment, the expenses of which are more than 50 per cent. of the receipts, is subject to taxation. This imposes a hardship in many cases, because bad weather at times causes small attendances at entertainments.
– In that case an entertainment would be exempt.
– I know of one case that was not exempt. A race meeting was held in Launceston for the benefit of hospitals. It was found that the expenses were more than 50 per cent. of the takings, and the tax was demanded. The Treasurer should make the operation of the bill retrospective to the 1st July of this year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
Section twelve of the Principal Actis amended by inserting at. the end thereof the following paragraph: - “; or (e) that the whole of the net proceeds of the entertainment are, or will be, devoted to -
the erection, maintenance or furnishing of halls for public purposes, or of memorial halls for the use of soldiers or sailors who served in the war which commenced on the fourth day of August, One thousand nine hundred and fourteen ; or
such purposes as are, in the opinion of the Commissioner, either religious or public, and that the entertainment isnot provided directly or indirectly for the financial benefit of any person connected with the promotion of the entertainment or of any person employed or engaged by that person for the purpose of the entertainment.”
– The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) dealt with amateur sports, but it is not possible to deal with that case at present, because of the difficulty of drawing a line of demarcation respecting public purposes. The case of the country band mentioned by the honorable member for Gwydir would probably come under the heading of public purposes. The majority of band instruments are bought by public subscription, and the band’s activities are essentially of a public character. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) dealt with charitable entertainments. Section 12 of the principal act which it is proposed to amend expressly deals with that subject. It reads -
Entertainments tax shall not becharged on payments for admission to any entertainment where the commissioner is satisfied -
that the whole of the takings thereof are devoted to philanthropic, religious, or charitable purposes, without any chargeon the takings for any expenses of the entertainment; or
that the entertainment is of a wholly educational character (any question on’ that point to be determined, in case of difference, by the commissioner) ; or
that the entertainment is intended only for the amusement of children, and that the charge is not more than sixpence for each person; or
that the entertainment is provided for partly educational or partly scientific purposes by a society, institution, or committee not conducted or established for profit.
Philanthropic and charitable purposes are expressly provided for in that section. If the whole of the proceeds of an entertainment are devoted to charitable purposes, it is exempt from taxation, but if the expenses amount to more than 50 per cent. of the takings, the tax must be paid. It is not fair that, under the cloak of charity, certain promoters of entertainments should endeavour to make considerable profit for themselves. Honorable members will find that the provisions of this bill will be liberally interpreted.
.- I differ entirely from the Treasurer. In the event of the expenses of an entertainment’ exceeding the takings by 50 per cent., a tax will be imposed, and the commissioner under this bill will have no power to exempt the proceeds from taxation. The experience of the past few years has shown that in many cases this procedure has not worked fairly. The Treasurer should, at least in this bill give the commissioner a discretionary power, so that in certain circumstances entertainments for charitable purposes will not be taxed when the expenses amount to more than 50 per cent. of the takings.
– It would open the door too wide.
– It would not open the door too wide if the commissioner were given this discretionary power.
– Several small associations connected with the gold-mining industry onthe Murchison run weekly picture entertainments and devote the proceeds to sick and funeral funds. Many miners suffer from miners’ phthisis, and for their benefit these entertainments were commenced.
– Would not that be for a public purpose?
– No. because the entertainment is run for the benefit of the society concerned. The secretary has been running this picture show himself, and has even been his own lanternist, simply for the purpose of raising a few shillings each week to help this fund. I certainly think that the entertainment should be exempt from taxation. I move -
That in paragraph (e), sub-clause (ii), after the word “ public,” the words “ funeral, sickness, or accident fund of any association “ be inserted.
.- I trust that the Treasurer will take steps to exempt such entertainments as a “ Scotch night “ that I had in mind which is held, by a Scottish organization to raise funds’ for educational, religious, or charitable purposes. I am an Irishman, but I want the Scotchmen to get justice. If the entertainment presented by the American Chautauqua party is exempt, I certainly think that evenings arranged by national societies to keep alive the national spirit should also be exempt.
.- I consider that imposing the entertainments tax on certain private dances is making taxation a fine art. Many small private dances are held in various halls by ten or a dozen people, simply because the participants have not a room in their own homes large enough for dancing. They contribute sufficient between them to pay for the hire of the hall and the pianist. It can hardly be contended that those dances should be taxed. If the entertainment of the Chautauqua party is exempt on the ground that it is educational, I submit that certain lectures which I have given on “ Central Australia and the Northern Territory “ should be exempt on the same grounds.
– A Scottish society that I have in mind holds an annual sports day to obtain funds for the upkeep of a Caledonian hall in that district. I should like to know whether that fixture should be taxed or not? The hall is used for public purposes at times.
.- I support the amendment. The Treasurer ought to be glad to exempt from taxation such entertainments as that mentioned by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green). The waterside workers at Port Adelaide often hold entertain- ments and socials to increase their sickness and accident fund. They should be encouraged to do so.
– In order to meet the cases put by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) and some other honorable members, I am willing to amend section IS of the principal aci by inserting in the proviso after the words “ adverse climatic conditions “ the words “ or unforeseen circumstances.” I think that the oases submitted by thu honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green) and the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) are covered by the word “charitable.”
– The entertainments that I mentioned are not for charitable purposes.
– And I have been informed by the departmental officers that the entertainment I mentioned would not be classed as a charitable entertainment.
.- The suggested insertion of the words “or unforeseen circumstances “ would cover the case put by the honorable member for Denison, but it would not meet the circumstances outlined by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie and the honorable member for Angas. Although I personally believe that the words “charitable” and “ philanthropic “ are wide enough to cover such entertainments, . they are not so interpreted by the departmental officers. The entertainments that have been described are really for provident funds.
– If the amendment moved by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie is agreed to practically every friendly society entertainment will be exempt.
– And why not? I take it that the entertainments tax is intended to apply to entertainments promoted for private profit, but not to other entertainments. Surely that is the principle that underlies the measure. If that is so - and I do not think any honorable member will contend otherwise - there should be no objection to accepting the amendment It is the duty of the committee to exempt from taxation entertainments organized for benefit societies. The loss will be very small, and should not be objected to.
Payments to insurance companies a-nd to friendly society lodges are exempted from income taxation.
.- I hope the amendment will be considered seriously, and that exemptions granted on the lines proposed will be general. A trade union organization that has its own hall and gives entertainments two or three times a week should not be specially exempted unless all similar entertainments are exempted. All entertainments that are not promoted for personal profit should be exempted. ‘ Entertainments promoted for the assistance of charities to raise funds for country football or cricket clubs, or purely for amusement, should not be taxed.
, - I see the danger of asking the Trea: surer to do too much. Revenue has to be provided. The Government should abandon the entertainments tax entirely, for it was a war-time measure. Tha amendment seeks to exempt entertainments for assisting funeral, sickness, and accident funds. Such entertainments axe promoted for the purposes of benevolence or self help. To exempt dances and amusements is a different matter. Employees in an industry who seek to provide sickness, accident, and funeral benefits for their co-workers are not in the category mentioned by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). Although I am a member of the Labour party, I would be the last man in the world to ask the Treasurer to give special concessions to trade unions. I am not actuated by political motives. When m,en try by a small entertainment to provide benefits for their fellows in case of sickness or death, it seems more than paltry to levy a tax upon them.
– I have been deeply impressed by the arguments of honorable members, but I am at a disadvantage in that it is impossible for me, at a moment’s notice, to- see exactly what the effect’ of the amendment will be, I suggest that the committee pass the clause, and u subsequent new clause that I shall move to meet the views of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe). If that is done I shall take an opportunity of discussing the amendment with the Commissioner of Taxation, and when I have ascertained all the facts I shall have the subject discussed in another place, when the bill is there.
– I wish to emphasize again the point made by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin). in regard to income tax. The Government exempts the individual from taxation on payments made to friendly society and similar funds, and the rule that is applied to the in dividual should be applied to the mass of individuals.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause agreed to.
Motion (by Dr.Earle Page) agreed to-
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ (3.) Section 13 of the principalactis amended by inserting therein after the words climatic conditions ‘ the words ‘ or unforeseen circumstances ‘.”
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report, by leave, adopted.
Bill, by leave, read a third time.
House adjourned at 10.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 September 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19240925_reps_9_109/>.