9th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers,
– When will the Prime Minister be able to announce the personnel of the Seat of Government Commission ?
– The Government has received and examined a great number of applications for appointment to the commission, but I do not think there is any possibility of the personnel of the commission being decided before the session terminates.
– On many occasions I have asked the Prime Minister to explain to the House the circumstances of Australia’s debt of £92,000,000 to Great Britain on account of war-time expenditure, and an agreement in regard thereto of the details of which this House has not been informed. I have not much faith in the transaction, and I ask the Prime Minister again to make a statement to the House concerning it.
– The House, and the public generally, are quite cognisant of all the facts relating to that debt of £92,000,000. While I was in Great Britain certain negotiations took place in regard to it. Probably when the Supple mentary Estimates are under consideration I shall have an opportunity to deal with the matter in the way desired by the honorable member.
– Can the Prime Minister give to the House any information concerning a proposed conference between the various Chambers of Commerce in regard to port charges?
– Port charges were discussed at the last Premiers’ Conference, and since that date, with a view to making an arrangement in regard to light does and other charges upon shipping. ‘ A conference convened by the Melbourne Harbor Trust is to he held in Melbourne either this month or next month. I have all the information for which the honorable member has asked by correspondence, and I shall let him have it to-day or to-morrow.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to evidence recently given before the New South Wales royal commission that is inquiring into the new states proposals by the Chief Commissioner of Forestry in that state, that as the efforts of the Forestry Department were handicapped by the varying state laws and methods of control it was desirable that this matter should be placed under Commonwealth control? In view of the importance to Australia of its timber resources, will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of placing this matter on the agendapaper for the next Premiers’ Conference?
– I shall consider the honorable member’s suggestion.
– For two and a half to three years litigation between Mr. Driver, a contractor to the War Service Homes Commission, and the commission has been proceeding, and as all decisions of arbitrators and courts have been in favour of Mr. Driver will the Commonwealth bring it to an end and allow the law to take its course, so that justice may be done?
– I very much regret that this litigation has been so protracted; A decision given in this matter by the Supreme Court of Victoria, about a week or ten days ago, is now being considered by the legal advisers of the Crown, with a view to determining the future attitude of the Commonwealth. The Government is most anxious to terminate these long-drawn-out legal proceedings, and is prepared to take any action to that end which will not prejudice the interests of the taxpayers.
– Does the Prime Minister intend to make an explanation to the House of the withdrawal of the Commonwealth from the litigation in the United States of America in connexion with the purchase of wooden ships during the war ?
– All the facts in regard to that litigation are well known to the House already, and the subject has been dealt with in the Auditor-General’s report. The recently-announced withdrawal of the Commonwealth from the litigation was a mere concluding formality. However, I shall make inquiries, and if any information on the subject bae notbeen given to the House I shall make it available.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House whether applications were called for the positions of directors of the Commonwealth Bank Board? If so, how many applicants were received, who were the applicants, and how were the applications dealt with?
– Applications were not called for those positions.
– Parliament will shortly be in recess and will be unable to protect Australian and British shipping against the competition of Japanese companies. Has the Customs Department any power to’ prevent inroadsupon Australian and British shipping interests through the adoption of “ cut “ rates by foreign companies?
– So far as I am aware, the department has . no power to control overseas shipping freights.
asked, the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Firstly. - Men who become insane many years after discharge by reason of post-war accidents causing injuries to the head.
Secondly- - Men who have acquired disease after discharge from the Army which later brings on insanity.
Thirdly. - Immigrant British ex-soldiers who afterwards become mental cases from causes not associated with the war, and which are not accepted by the Imperial authorities as due to war service.
Fourthly. - Mental cases with comparatively sane periods who have enlisted during one of them, but whose disease has been discovered in camp, at home, or abroad before he has been submitted to any mental or nervous strain.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– It is not possible for the Commissioner of Taxation to supply this information without committing a breach of the secrecy provisions of the War-time Profits Assessment Act.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether any steps have been taken to call for tenders for the construction of the proposed 10,000-ton cruisers -
If not, will he inform the House as to the position of the matter?
– Immediately the decision of the Government to invite tenders was arrived at, the co-operation of the British Government was requested by cable and instructions were issued to the High Commissioner for Australia to take all necessary steps to expedite the calling of tenders. Advice has been received that the British Government will gladly co-operate and that a preliminary discussion to decide the best methods to be followed in connexion with the calling of tenders has been held. The preparation of plans, specifications, and conditions of contracts is rapidly being proceeded with, and it is hoped that the public notification inviting tenders together with full particulars for the information of intending tenderers will be made at an early date.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Proportion of British Manufacture
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether, in view of the dislocation of trade which will necessarily follow through insufficient notice to importing and exporting firms if his proposed regulation altering the percentage of labour and material in British-made goods is brought into effect on 1st April next, he will favorably consider the suggestion to make the proposed new regulation effective as from 1st June next, so that ample time may be available (a) to enable importers to have full knowledge of the requirements of the Customs Department; (b) to give an opportunity to Parliament to consider this important departure in British preference?
– In the opinion of the department ample notice has been given. The Government considers the departure from the principles of British preference is by Anglo-Continental manufacturers and not by the Trade and Customs administration. The spirit of British preference will be maintained.
Complaints by Mr. M. B. Young.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Why has the presentation to Parliament of the Public Service Board’s report been delayed, and when will it be tabled?
– The Government is unaware of any delay in connexion with the presentation of the report, which has just been received from the Public Service Board, and is being tabled to-day.
asked the Treasurer upon notice-
In view of. the financial stringency and adverse exchange rates which appear likely to hamper the regular marketing of our wool clip, will the Treasurer state what steps the Government intend to take to avert what appears likely to be a loss to the individual grower, and a national loss to the Australian Commonwealth ?
– In the Commonwealth Bank Bill, recently passed by the Parliament, the bank was authorized to take steps towards the proper regulation of banking in Australia. The new board of the bank is to meet for the first time to-day, and the Act will be brought into operation immediately. These are the steps which the Government has taken towards meeting the ‘situation to which the honorable gentleman refers.
– On the 23rd September, the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) asked, without notice, whether I had seen a statement in the Brisbane Courier, of 17th September, that the banana plantations in Fiji were being attacked by diseases, the worst of which, the sigatoka disease, was said to be far more serious than bunchy top; that this disease was said to be related to the noted Panama disease, and that it was rapidly spreading in Fiji. The honorable member further asked if necessary action would be taken to prevent the disease being brought into the Commonwealth? I promised to have inquiries made and to advise the honorable member in due course. I now desire to inform the honorable member that I have seen the statement in the Brisbane Courier, of 17th September, and have had inquiries made into the matter, from which it appears that sigatoka disease is prevalent in Fiji, ‘ and is very destructive. The cause is not yet definitely known, but it is understood that investigation is being made by various experts with the view to determining its nature and cause. By a proclamation under the Quarantine Act the importation of banana plants from Fiji into the Commonwealth is prohibited, but so far the importation of banana fruit has not been prohibited. Only a very small quantity of the fruit, however, is imported into the Commonwealth, and this is admitted only after a searching examination by quarantine officers, and after it has been definitely ascertained that it is not affected with disease.
The following papers were pre- sen ted : -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Report of the Repatriation Commission for the year ending 30th June, 1924.
Ordered to be printed.
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Fund Act - Auditor-General’s Report in connexion with the Statement of Income and Expenditure to 30th June, 1924.
Defence Act- Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1924, No. 147.
Dried Fruits Advances Act- RegulationsStatutory Rules 1924, No. 144.
Land Tax Assessment Act - Applications for relief from Taxation.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1924, Nos. 145, 146.
New Guinea - Statement of Accounts of the Expropriation Board, 1922-23.
Northern Territory- Report on causes of heavy Mortality in Stock after travelling between Wycliffe and Taylor, by Alfred J. Ewart.
Public Service Act- First Report on the Commonwealth Public Service by the. Board of Commissioners.
Superannuation Act- Report of the Superannuation Fund Management Board, 1923-24.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments) :
Section 1.4 of the principal act is amended -
Senate’s Amendment. - After “ gold “ insert “ or gold and copper provided that in this case the output of gold shall not be less than forty per centum of the total value of the output of the mine.”
.- The Government considers that this amendment shouldbe accepted because it simply amounts to a definition of the word” principally. “ which already appears in the principal act. The amendment will apply mostly to copper and gold shows which are working under disadvantages.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 4 -
Section 16 of the principal act is amended -
by inserting after sub-paragraph (ii) of paragraph (a) thereof tie following provisos: - “‘Provided also that any option exercised in pursuance of this subparagraph shall be irrevocable . . .
by omitting from paragraph (aa) thereof the words “ Every notice given by a taxpayer in pursuance of this paragraph shall be irrevocable;” and inserting in their stead the words “ The election specified in any notice given in pursuance of this paragraph shall be irrevocable . . .
Senate’s Amendment.- After the words “this sub-paragraph “, paragraph (d), insert the words “ for the purposes of an assessment for the financial year beginning on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and twentyfour, ‘ or any subsequent year.”
– This amendment was suggested by the parliamentary draftsman because he thought -that the present wording of the act might not fully achieve the object desired, which is to enable the live stock owner to exercise a fresh option under the bill for the assessment for the present financial year and future years, and if he so desires to have the same option used in his assessment for the financial year 1923-24.
Amendment agreed to.
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out the words “ shall be irrevocable “, paragraph; (f), second occurring, and insert the words “ for the purposes of an assessment for the financial year beginning on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-four, or any subsequent year shall be irrevocable, and shall-, if the owner in the notice of his election so requires, apply to the assessment of his income tax for the financial year beginning on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-three “.
Amendment agreed to.
by omitting sub-paragraph (ii) of paragraph (5) thereof and inserting in its-, stead the following subparagraph: “ (ii) the paid-up value of shares distributed by a company to its members or shareholders to the extent to which the paid-up value represents the capitalization of the whole or any part of the profits of the company, derived subsequent to the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and fourteen, exeept profits -
Senate’s Amendment. - Before the word “ derived “, paragraph (h), sub-paragraph (3), insert the words “ to an extent not exceeding one-third of the profits “.
Leave out the word “upon” and. insert in lieu thereof the words “ in respect of “,
.. - The Government proposes - to accept these amendments. It has been discovered that sub-paragraph 3 of paragraph h of clause 4 as it stands would permit the exemption of bonus shares which a company might have decided to issue to its shareholders by capitalising two-thirds of the profits of a year, and so preventing the Commissioner from applying section. 21 to those profits. The Commissioner could not secure payment of any additional tax from the company because the company could show that it had distributed two-thirds of its profits among its shareholders by way of shares. It will be seen that as section 21 of the act could not be applied to that case, the bonus shares would be exempt in. the hands of the shareholders. The object of the first amendment is to limit the exemption of bonus shares to those paid out of the onethird of the profits, which the law allows the company to retain in its own hands after having paid tax at1s. in the £1, without any liability to be called upon by the Commissioner of Taxation to pay any additional tax in respect of it merely because it has not been distributed to the shareholders. The reason for the second amendment is that the company does not pay any additional tax “ upon “ the profits, but it is required to pay the additional tax which the shareholders would have paid if the additional part of the profits had been distributed to them. The company is therefore required to pay the additional tax “ in respect of “ those profits.
Amendments agreed to.
Clause 8: -
Section 23 of the principal act. is amended - (/) by inserting after paragraph (n) of subsection (1) thereof the following paragraphs : - “ (o) such part of the assessable income of a taxpayer whose taxable income does not exceed Six hundred pounds -
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out the words “ whose taxable income does not exceed Six hundred pounds.”
– The Government asks the committee to disagree to this amendment. The Victorian law provided for the total exemption from income tax of sums paid to meet medical expenses, hut it was’ found advisable next year to limit the provision to incomes not exceeding £800, owing to the enormous loss of revenue involved. I move -
That the amend ment be amended by leaving out the word “ six,” .and inserting in lieu thereof the word “ nine.”
– I contend that there Gould be no fairer deduction than that allowed for medical expenses. At any time a member of the family of a working mau may have to undergo a serious surgical operation, and it may result in a doctor’s bill of £70 or more. A few days ago a case came under my notice in which the sum of £200 had to be paid by a taxpayer for medical expenses. In the first place, the Treasurer made the exemption applicable to persons in receipt of incomes of not more than £600 a year, and I remarked privately to him that the limit should be at least £800. In recent times we have allowed deductions that were very questionable. If the Treasurer operated upon me surgically and charged me £100, he would return that £100 as income, and would be taxed on it. Why should I be taxed on it also ? A man stricken with illness may be the breadwinner of a family, and may have to employ someone to take his place. It is some consolation to such a man when he submits himself to the surgeon’s knife to know that he will be able to deduct the fee from his taxable income.
– The same argument applies to payments to the butcher and baker.
– A fee of £200 for an operation makes a big hole in a man’s income, whether he is receiving £600 or £800 a year. A family man may have to pay in a year for illnesses of two or three members of his family,. In addition to the medical expenses, there are expenses for medicine and nursing. I appeal to honorable members to accept the Senate’s amendment.
– I hope that the committee will accept the Senate’s amendment. If the principle of deducting medical expenses in one case is right, it is right in every case. To apply such a principle to only one section of the community is to be guilty of class legislation of the very worst kind. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has pointed out - and I, too, have previously drawn attention to the matter - that taxation is levied twice on fees paid to a doctor, and the Treasurer interjected that amounts paid to the butcher and baker were also taxed twice. Allowances that are analogous to medical expenses are’ made in all taxation acts in Australia. There arc, for instance, legal expenses incurred in protecting income. Medical expenditure is an extraordinary expenditure. A taxpayer is entitled to deduct from his taxable income expenses for keeping his horses or cattle in condition, but it is proposed not to allow as deductions money spent in protecting human life. Every citizen of the Commonwealth is entitled and is expected to spend money in maintaining the health of himself and his family, and should be allowed to deduct from his income the amount thus expended.
, - I support the amendment of the Government. The merits of the principle are not in question, for the principle has already been adopted. The question is, who shall be permitted to make the deductions? It appears to me that the section is intended to meet cases of hardship, and therefore the concession should be restricted to the smaller taxpayers. It has always seemed to me to be rather ridiculous that wealthy taxpayers should be able to draw the maternity allowance, which was provided for the alleviation of cases of hardship. . The section says nothing about which doctor shall be employed. It stands to reason that a man with a large income may, and very often does, employ a number of expert medical practitioners when an operation has to be performed on a member of his family; whereas a poor man is forced, unless it is a very vital operation, to employ the average medical practitioner. The same difference exists as to hospital expenses. It is not reasonable that a man .who is wealthy, and is therefore able to call in the assistance of the most expert practitioners, should be allowed to deduct his expenses from his taxable income.
– I regret that the Government has agreed to make the exemption apply to incomes up to £900. I am quite in favour of exempting poor men from the payment of taxation on medical expenses, but to very many wealthy men medical attention is given under conditions of absolute luxury, and payments incurred in respect of it should not be exempt from taxation. I was agreeable to a compromise on £800, but I protest against increasing the amount to £900.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate’s amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Senate’s amendment of clause 10 agreed to.
Senate’s Amendment. -
After clause 14 insert the following new clause : - “ 14a. After section 93 of the principal act the following section is inserted : - 93a. Where under any contract, agreement, or arrangement made or entered into in writing or verbally, either before or after the commencement of this act, a person assigns, conveys, transfers, or disposes of an income-producing asset on terms and conditions which include the payment for the assignment, conveyance, transfer, or disposal of the asset by periodical payments which, in the opinion of the Commissioner, are really in the nature of income of the person assigning, conveying, transferring, or disposing of the asset, that person shall be assessed to pay income tax upon those periodical payments.”
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The necessity for a clause of this description is increasing every year. It is inserted to prevent the great loss of revenuewhich will follow if no steps are taken to check the practice which is rapidlyspreading among persons having very large interests in sources producing extensive incomes to them, of selling those sources to companies incorporated expressly to take over the assets. The sale price of such assets, in cases where the practice has been adopted, is fixed by the vendor at an extraordinarily high figure. In one or two cases which have come under notice it has been slightly under £500,000. The terms of payment to the vendor are frequently spread over such extended periods as from 25 to 40 years for the obvious purpose of permitting the vendor to continue to receive, in the form of an instalment of purchase money, at least the same amount which he would have received as income had he retained the source of income to himself.
– Will this provision prevent any such practices as that being adopted ?
– It will stop one avenue of taxation leakage. We are closing up as they are discovered the loopholes by. which persons are escaping the payment of their income taxation.
Motion agreed to.
Motion (by Dr. Page) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
.- Although I am not quite sure that I shall be in order, I wish to call the attention of the Treasurer to the serious worry which is caused to many taxpayers by the preparation of their income-tax returns. In some instances taxpayers are more worried by the preparation of their returns than they are by the payment of their tax.
– Strictly speaking, the House is entitled to consider only the amendments that have been submitted by the Senate, or amendments that it is proposed to make on them. If the preparation of income tax returns is not covered by the question submitted to the House, the honorable member will not be in order in discussing the matter.
– I thought that I should probably be out of order, Mr. Speaker, but should like leave to make this statement. I promise to be very brief.
– The difficulty is that the honorable member’s statement may lead to a general debate.
– If the honorable member introduces this matter, I have one which I desire to discuss.
– In the circumstances it would probably be better for us to keep our procedure strictly in order.
– I agree with you, sir. All that I desire to say is that a certain taxpayer has informed me that after he had submitted his return to the department he was requested to forward to it his bank books. From his bank books the departmental officers extracted particulars respecting cheques which the taxpayer had drawn during the last four years, and it has asked Mm to supply details in respect to each cheque. The taxpayer is a hotelkeeper, and one cheque in the list was made payable to a brewing company. The amount involved was £64. The department asked for details. I ask you, sir, for what would a publican be likely to pay £64 to a brewing company? Another cheque was drawn in payment for certain sanitary services.
– I suggest that the honorable member hand the statement to the Treasurer for the purpose of inquiry.
– I shall be glad to do so. Perhaps that will be the best thing to do.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Assent to the following bills reported : -
Income Tax Collection Bill.
Income Tax Assessment . (Live Stock) Bill
Incommittee(Consideration of Governor-General’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenuebe made for the purposes of anact to provide for the guarantee of advances made upon the export of produce and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Bruce and Dr. Earle Page do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Bruce, and read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill, foreshadowed in the discussion of several measures introduced in this House, provides for the. guaranteeing of advances to a board controlling produce for export, up to an amount not exceeding 80 per cent. of the market value of that produce. The Dried Fruits Export Control Bill provided for the appointment of a board of control to grant licences for the export of dried fruits, and power was given to it to accept control of dried fruits placed in its hands. It is thought that a great number of dried-fruit growers will desire to take advantage of the offer of , the Government to make advances up to 80 per cent. of the value of the dried fruits placed in the hands of the board. Under this bill it will be possible to give effect to that policy. The control board having accepted control of dried fruits placed in its hands, will be in a position to approach a bank to obtain an advance against that dried fruit. That power is given under the Dried Fruits Export Control Bill, but if the scheme is to be successful, it will be necessary to obtain an advance beyond the amount that a bank would be prepared to allow on an ordinary banker’s risk. The bill empowers the Treasurer to guarantee a bank making an advance to a board controlling produce, up to 80 per cent, of the market value of the produce concerned. That is provided for by clauses 2, 3 and 4. Clause 5 provides for general assistance being given to primary producers as outlined in the policy of the Government. In the budget it was stated that an amount of £500,000 would be set aside for the granting of such assistance. Clause 5 limits the advances to this amount, and provides that the Government may render assistance to primary industries, but only after the proposals submitted by those industries have been inquired into, and a f avorable report has been received by the Government. The clause reads -
– Any primary produce ?
– Yes. Any proposal submitted will be considered by the board referred to, and if it is reported upon favorably, the Government has power to render a measure of assistance.
– Apart altogether from any assistance authorized by previous acts of Parliament?
– Yes. The body referred to in the clause is the Board of Trade.The Government instructed the Attorney-General’s Department, when drafting the bill, to include that board in its provisions. Unfortunately, that board is not a legal entity, and it is therefore impossible to mention it by name in the bill. It is proposed that the Board of Trade shall be the authority to advise the Government in relation to the assistance to primary production. Under clause 5, the Government is, of course, asking the House to place it in a position to make an advance or to render assistance to a primary industry when, in fact, noact of Parliament has been passed appropriating the money which may have to be expended. In the past ithas frequently been necessary to take similar action. For example, I instance the unfavorable position of the fruit-growers last year and the measure of assistance that was rendered to them by the Government. That expenditure had subsequently to be ratified by Parliament. Any action the Government takes under this clause will later be subject to review by Parliament. It is essential that the Government should he empowered to assist primary production. Honorable members probably know that certain applications have been received in which it is claimed that, in the general interests of the community, a measure of assistance should be given to industries to aid in their stimulation and expansion. Clause 5 is designed to allow such claims to be dealt with. The expenditure under the clause is limited to £500,000, and that sum was set aside from the surplus of last year. The clause also provides that a return showing the reports and recommendations made and the assistance granted, shall be laid before Parliament on the four quarterly days of the year, and it will then, of course, be open to Parliament to review any action that may have been taken by the Government.
– Is the nature of the assistance indicated?
– No, save that it is limited to the export and marketing of primary produce.
– The words “grant assistance “ may mean a grant or a gift.
– Where a board already exists, such as the Dairy Produce or Dried Fruits Control Board, any advance made under clause 4 would not exceed 80 per cent. of the value of the produce.
– Does the bill apply to the export of wine?
– It applies to the export and marketing . of any produce.
– Governed by the aets that have been passed?
– Yes; and any assistance to production outside those acts would be governed by the provisions of this measure. The bill contemplates two things. First, it gives power to guarantee a bank in respect of advances made up to 80 per cent. of the value of produce, to a board constituted to control the export of any particular primary produce. Secondly, under clause 5, the Government is empowered, after report and recommendation by the Board of Trade, to render assistance in the marketing and export of primary produce, and such assistance is limited to £500,000. The Government could not endorse or approve of any scheme under which that expenditure would be exceeded. Under a recent decision of the High Court the Government has no power to give a guarantee until money is appropriated for it. In the case of, say, dried fruits, the advances to be guaranteed may amount to £1,000,000. It is almost inconceivable that there should be a loss by reason of such a guarantee, but unless there was power to appropriate money beyond £500,000 no advance for any sum beyond that could be guaranteed. The position is safeguarded to the extent that the Government cannot advance beyond £500,000 in relation to assistance to primary production as recommended by the Board of Trade. There would be no expenditure beyond £500,000 unless the guarantee exceeded that figure. Supposing the Government gave a guarantee of £1,000,000 upon dried fruits for an advance of 80 per cent. of the market value, and the fruits ceased to have any market value at all, the Government would be left with the guarantee; but I suggest that it is inconceivable that such a position could arise.
– It is possible.
– It is hardly possible. The danger of the obligations exceeding £500,000 in respect of guarantees “ is remote, and this bill limits the Government to an expenditure of £500,000. In the Appropriation Bill each year a certain amount is made available as an advance to the Treasurer, and in the event of an industry being in such straits that the Government considered it absolutely imperative that some assistance should be given to it - such was the position of the canned fruit industry last year - the Government might take action and risk getting the subsequent approval of Parliament. But a Government does not cheerfully imperil its existence by em: ploying the Treasurer’s Advance in that way.
– The present Government has had too many experiences of that kind.
– This Government has been subjected to such unmerited criticism for what it has done, that in future any Ministry would be inclined to look very coldly upto persons applying for assistance which involved the taking of money from the Treasurer’s Advance. But as a deliberate act of policy, the Government has indicated that it is prepared to aid primary industries in the export and marketing of their products, and has actually set aside £500,000 for that purpose. With that financial limitation, and the inability of the Government to act until it is fortified by a recommendation of the Board of Trade, the parliamentary control of the purse will be reasonably safeguarded.
– Would it be possible to spend portion of the £500,000 upon a subsidy to shipping?
– The subsidizing of freights in order to assist the marketing of produce would be possible under this measure; in fact, the bill covers any activity which would directly aid in the export and marketing of primary products. The honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) mentioned the Board of Trade. Branches of the board have been constituted in Melbourne and Sydney. The Melbourne branch consisted of Mr. Elder, who has since been appointed Australian Commissioner in the United States of America, Mr. Herbert Brookes, Sir George Knibbs, and Mr. Stirling Taylor. The Sydney board is composed of Mr. Claude Reading, and Sir Henry Braddon. During recent months the Government has been considering the advisability of establishing branches of the board in each state, and recommendations for appointments in Western Australia, South Australia, and Queensland have been received. If this bill is agreed to, and the responsibility for advising the Government in regard to these guarantees is placed upon the Board of Trade, action will be taken to constitute branches in each state. I remind the House that the members of the board give their services gratuitously. The motive for the formation of the board was that the best commercial minds in the community should be enlisted to assist the Government in regard to problems of trade and industry generally. I do not think there could be any better authority than the Board of Trade to report upon any proposals for guarantees that may be submitted to the Government. I hope that the bill will be accepted by the House. I repeat that it amply safeguards parliamentary control of the purse, whilst at the same time giving reasonable discretionary powers to the Government to do useful work in accordance with its definitely announced policy of rendering assistance in the export and marketing of primary products.
.- It is very evident, in connexion with the Government assistance of various primary industries, that the Commonwealth is embarking upon an unknown sea. We are lured on from day to day, and from measure to measure, in the hope that some benefit to the primary producers will result. This is but one of a series of bills to give assistance in connexion with the export of primary products.First we were asked to pass bills to constitute boards for the control of exports. When the boards were constituted, they were given collecting authority, so that they could approach the private banks and ask for financial assistance. In the budget there was an intimation that the Government had decided to set aside £500,000 to assist in the export and marketing of primary products, but there was no indication that the assistance to be rendered would be of the nature proposed in this bill, the purpose of which is to guarantee the financial engagements into which the various boards may enter. They are given authority to trade, not alone with the Commonwealth Bank, but with any private bank, so we are creating this peculiar position, that while the Commonwealth has a banking institution of its own, it is undertaking to find money to guarantee different boards who obtain advances from private banks. That is one of the weaknesses of the bill. The guarantees are to be subject to a recommendation by a board that has no legal status. The Board of Trade has never been legally constituted. Some of its members are gentlemen who make a living as “ guinea-pigs “ on various Government or semi-Government bodies. Hardly a board is appointed on which the names of the same gentlemen do not appear.
– They are paid nothing for their services on the Board of Trade.
– Perhaps not; but I have heard of a gentleman at Washington who was a member of a Government board, and who explained, “ We give our services patriotically. We get no fees, but we are allowed travelling expenses, and if one is wise and careful he can make more out of travelling expenses than he would out of definite fees.” The bill commits the Government to guaranteeing the boards to an unlimited extent in respect to their engagements with private banks. We have no idea of what the liabilities of the Commonwealth will be under this measure; but the responsibility for them rests with the Government. Having gone so far, no doubt we can travel the rest of the journey in the hope that at the end we shall find that the primary producers have derived some advantages. But these measures demonstrate that, whilst the representatives of the primary producers are opposed to Government interference in industry, economic determinism controls the situation, and they are prepared to sacrifice their principles when they can dip their hands into the public funds in order to improve their own industries.
. Honorable members have had very brief opportunity to consider the bill ; but I take this opportunity of saying that I cannot agree with the principle it embodies, or the course of action which it will authorize. The bill proposes to constitute a board to advise the Government in regard to guarantees, and the Prime Minister has said that that board will be the Board of Trade. If that is the intention, it should be definitely stated. The bill appears to give the Ministry power to bring any produce under its operations, and to create a board to deal with it and advise the Government thereon. If that is not intended, the bill has been very loosely drafted. We have already carried this form of assistance to private business further than is justified; but, having agreed to the bills relating to the control of the export of dairy produce and dried fruits, this measure is justified and necessary to provide the machinery for giving effect to the previous decisions of Parliament. I am not prepared to consent, however, to this assistance being extended over a wider field, as the bill appears to allow. The Prime Minister referred to payments made out of the Treasurer’s Advance during recess, for which the Government was brought to account in subsequent sessions. For that reason, he said, the Ministry is not prepared to take similar risks in future. I agree that it should not do so; but if this bill is passed in its present form, Parliament will give to the Government a general exoneration in respect of all guarantees that it may give.
– That is not so. The Government’s actions will be subject to parliamentary criticism when the papers are laid upon the table.
– The Government may be subject to criticism, but the bill gives it very wide powers. The Minister may, upon the receipt of a recommendation of any body constituted to advise him, grant assistance in regard to the export and marketing of primary produce. The. Ministry might give a subsidy to shipping, and even if it makes a serious mistake, it cannot be taken to account by Parliament ; or if it is, it may reply, “ The action was taken under the authority given by Parliament.” It is dangerous to create boards to advise a Minister so that he may act independently of Parliament during recess. What is meant by a board duly constituted? Surely that is very loose phraseology. I understand the Board of Trade has never been constituted by statute.
– It it not a legal entity.
– It was constituted by an administrative act, and another board may be constituted in the same way. Numerous cases could be quoted in which boards that have been duly constituted have given bad advice, and I might instance the Tariff Board, in support of that statement. The bill seems to embody a dangerous principle, for, instead of keeping the Government out of private business, it allows it to go further into it, and also gives the control of public funds to private bodies. Honorable members have had no opportunity to consider the bill carefully, as it has just been placed in our hands. I hope, therefore, that my criticism is not misplaced.
– I realize that the Government are responsible for this measure, but I do not think that such a dangerous principle as that to which it gives effect has ever previously been embodied in a bill presented to this chamber. No reference to the measure was made in the budget speech. If advances are made from the Treasury to the boards contemplated under the bill, P arliament will have no security for the money. Some time ago, a bill was introduced for the purpose of making an advance to a cooperative concern which did not even own the land on which the advance was made, and the Government had no hold whatever upon the company. The House should take a firm stand in the matter, and insist on security being provided. When Government business is to be transacted no reasonable opposition can be given to the accounts passing through the Commonwealth Bank. I have no doubt that I shall live long enough to see all the Government’s financial business conducted through the bank of the nation. The members of this Parliament must be a lot of fools if they agree to any other course being followed.
– The honorable member is not in order in calling members of Parliament fools. There are plenty of persons who profess to think they are, but we must not say it of ourselves.
– I have no desire to cast any reflection upon members of Parliament, and I regret the remark. I made, but it is sometimes necessary to use strong language to draw attention to one’s argument. The boards might be perfectly honest in their dealings, but it is incumbent upon Parlia ment to leave no loophole for the improper expenditure of public money. Ministers should realize the responsibilities they assume in bringing forward measures of this description. The proposal is virtually a step towards the socialization of the means of distribution. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) applied that description to the bill, and I do not object to it. We are told that these boards will not be capable of being sued or made in any way responsible for their acts.
.- I regard the bill as consequential upon legislation that has already been passed by this House. The Tariff Act gave a certain amount of protection to secondary industries, and resulted in the people of Australia contributing some £36,000,000 to the national exchequer. That money has been largely provided by the people who are in need of the benefits that this bill will confer. If the primary producers had not been called upon to contribute so largely to the Customs revenue, they would not be asking Parliament now to assist them in finding markets f or their products. Therefore, I say that this bill is, as a matter of fact, consequential upon past legislation. The bill, under the circumstances, is a fair one, and I support it.
– I regret that the bill has been presented so late in the session. Though small, it is far-reaching. Under it the wool exporters, or the exporters of any other primary produce, could go to the Government for financial assistance. The Minister has absolute discretion, and may advance up to £20,000,000, for the clause says, “ £500,000, or such further sums as are necessary.”.
– The honorable member agreed, without protest, to allow the Minister for Trade and Customs to increase taxation.
– The proposal in the bill is more dangerous than a tariff. Surely Parliament will not agree to give a Minister power to hand an unlimited sum of money to exporters. The electineering cry of honorable members opposite, was, “Trade should flow along its natural channels.”
– The bill will help it along its natural channels.
– Assistance is not needed when there is a natural demand for a product. The bill will assist trade along unnatural channels. Another slogan of the Government was, “ There is too much legislation,” but no Government that has been in office during the last twenty years has passed as many bills as this Government in such a short time. I foresee that the next Parliament will be called upon to repeal many of them, for they will by then have been proved to be impracticable, and detrimental to the interests of the people. I hope that the primary producers will benefit by the bill. Honorable members on this side are willing to assist the man on the land as much as possible. The Prime Minister has said that the members of the board will not be paid. I would rather they were paid, because then we should have control of them.
– Money will be advanced, not to the Board of Trade, but to the boards created to control the export of dairy produce and dried fruits. The Board of Trade will act only in an advisory capacity.
– I am pleased to know that. The bill is an instalment of socialism., which has been said by members opposite to be very pernicious to men on the land. If the Labour party comes into power it will continue on the same lines, will eventually take control of all the produce of the country, and will in that way assist the farmers to market their produce to the best advantage. During the war, when private enterprise failed, the Government stepped in, and by the application of socialism, saved the producers of this country from disaster.
– I rather regret the necessity for legislation of this kind, but although another “ economic revolution “ may be charged against me, I hope I am broad enough in my views to accept legislation of this sort when it is necessary. An honorable member has described it as “ consequential legislation,” but I say that it is “ essential legislation.” Condiditions for the marketing of our primary products are not at present normal, and it is therefore essential that the Government should give what assistance it can to enable markets to be exploited to the best advantage. At the same time there .is no doubt that the bill will give great latitude to the Government. It is quite impossible for Parliament to make such legislation fool proof. All it can do is to try to ensure that the bill will be administered in a way that will minimize the dangers that exist. Clause 5 provides that an advance may be made up to 80 per cent, of the value of the produce. I am glad that the clause says “up to 80 per cent.,” for in some circumstances 80 per cent, is sound, but in other circumstances is too much. Pour years ago the price of wheat was soaring to an abnormal height, and the Minister for Agriculture in New South Wales agreed to make an advance of 7s. 6d. a bushel. That was far below 80 per cent, of the value of the wheat in the world’s markets at that time, but, before the end of the season, the price had slumped until 7s. 6d. a bushel was more than the value of the wheat. The value of the wheat sold in New South Wales that year was approximately 7s. a bushel. As a result of that guarantee, the succeeding Government had to pay over £1,000,000 out of the consolidated revenue.
– The guarantee had a good effect in bringing an extra area of land under cultivation.
– The honorable member is putting forward a contention that is not correct, for the guarantee was given on the 13th May, when almost the whole crop had been sown. Every effort had already been made by the farmers, in anticipation of a good yield and high prices, to increase their acreage. I do not think that the guarantee made a difference of 100,000 acres, and it probably did not make a. difference of even 10,000 acres. It is useless for honorable members to say that such legislation should not be brought forward at the end of a session. We are here to see the business through, and, notwithstanding our anxiety to finish the session within a reasonable time, we ought not to let important legislation like this- go through without proper consideration. I feel sure that after considering it, honorable members will have to support it. I hope that the greatest caution will be exercised by those who are appointed to value any commodity upon which money is proposed to be advanced.
.- The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) says that the bill is all right at this stage of the session, and that we must go on and deal with it.
– Something must come at the end of the session.
– That is true, but if we were not in the dying hours of the session, this class of legislation would have to be submitted in a different way. There is no doubt that the bill is a wrong method of giving power to a Minister during a recess that will probably last for six months. There are limitations to what the Minister can do in giving guarantees or making advances under acts passed by this Parliament, but very little limitation is placed upon him in making advances or giving guarantees under this bill. I agree that assistance in the marketing and exporting of our products, and financial assistance of a legitimate character, should be given to -the primary producers, but I strenuously maintain that this Parliament should retain complete control of the purse. I agree with the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) that the bill confers the widest power that has ever been granted to a. Minister by Parliament. The only limitation is the restriction, in one clause, of a grant to £500,000.
– And that is dubious.
– I agree that it is very doubtful whether there is that limitation, but even that applies where no authority has been given by previous acts of this Parliament. Clause 5 applies purely and simply to those primary products in regard to which no authority has been given by previous acts of Parliament.
– That is so.
– Clause 7 gives the Minister power to provide any sum of money.
– But only for specified purposes.
– For the purpose of guarantees or advances in respect to the export of dried fruits, butter, or any of the products provided for in acts of Parliament. There is no limit to the amount that the Government can lose.
– No board has been appointed for the control of the export of wine. Only two boards are concerned - those for the export of dried fruits and dairy produce.
– If it is in contemplation to give advances to other primary producers, the Government should come down with a bill and allow the House to decide on what conditions the money should bo advanced.
– The Government would be willing to do that, but no one can say what emergency will arise in the future.
– I suggest that the right honorable gentleman is asking the House to indemnify him in advance. The result will be criticism such as we have heard during this session.
– I have no doubt that the Government will be subjected to criticism if it does anything of which honorable members opposite do not approve.
– I am inclined to think that the Government will be criticised when it deserves it, and it deserves it very often. I am certain that the Prime Minister, if he were sitting in Opposition to a Labour Government, would strongly criticise this bill. He would bring forward strong arguments, and would draw upon his knowledge as a business man, to show that it was bad business, and was simply authorizing in advance wrong things such as those for which the Government has been condemned during this session. The Prime Minister has said that he would submit bills relating to specific industries if he knew what industries would need assistance.
Sitting suspended from 1.2 to 2.15 p.m.
– Briefly, the bill provides that any bank in Australia may advance money for the exportation and marketing of primary products; that the Government may guarantee any banks that make such advances; and that the Minister on a report by any body of persons may authorize any bank to make advances which the Government will guarantee. The Prime Minister has told us that “ any body of persons “ means the Board of Trade, but the bill does not say so.
– If words can be inserted in the bill which will make that quite definite, I am quite agreeable to accept such an amendment.
– If “ any body of persons “ means the Board of Trade, why cannot it be definitely stated?
– Frankly, I must tell the honorable member that I do not know, but I am informed that the bill must be drafted in this manner.
– I suppose that we must be guided in these matters by our legal advisers, but it seems to me to be a strange way of doing things. I should like to see something more definite in the measure with regard to the nature of the advances that are to be made. The drafting is so loosely done that it is not at all clear whether “ grant assistance “ means a loan or a gift. The Minister, apparently, will have power to grant money by way of loan or gift to any body of persons who are connected with the exportation and marketing of our primary products.
– The amount appropriated is only £500,000.
– I dispute that.
– I am quite prepared to amend the measure, tomake it quite definite that that is so.
– I am glad to hear that. The meaning of the bill appears to me to be that the total amount which may be lost is £500,000, but that any amount may be guaranteed. Clause 5 specifies that the amount that may be expended shall not exceed £500.000, but clause 7 reads -
There is hereby appropriated for the purposes of this Act out of Consolidated Revenue the sum of £500,000, and such further sums as are necessary from time to time for the purposes of the Act.
The measure is drafted in the widest possible terms. During the recess the Minister may travel through the country, handing out gifts to any body of persons who are concerned with the exportation and marketing of our primary products.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
In this Act, unless the contrary intention appears - “ Board” means an association of persons which the Minister declares, by notice in the Gazette, to be a Board controlling the export and marketing of any Australian produce to which this Act applies.
– No definition of Minister is provided. I should like to know the meaning of “ Minister “ in the definition of “ Board.”
– It means the Minister administering the measure.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 3 -
The Minister may, by notice in the Gazette, declare that the produce, specified in the notice, the export and marketing of which is controlled by a Board, is produce to which this Act applies, and thereupon that produce shall be deemed to be produce to which this Act applies.
. -Although produce is mentioned in the clause, the term is not defined in the definition clause. Does it mean all produce or only primary produce?
– It means produce controlled by a board for the purposes of export. The only boards at present in existence are the Dairy Produce Export Control Board and the Dried Fruits Export Control Board.
-But provision is made in a subsequent clause for the Minister to appoint additional boards.
– That is not so.
.- It seems to me that clause 5 enables the Minister, upon the receipt of a report and recommendation from any body of persons constituted to advise him upon matters relating to trade and commerce, to grant assistance for the export and marketing of any primary produce. Would Bawra come under the provisions of that clause?
– No. The only boards to which the provisions of the measure are applicable are those controlling’ exports.
– There is a wheat board which controls exports.
– That is not a board, but a pool.
– But the Minister may appoint other boards by proclamation.
– That is the point that I am trying to make. Do I understand from the Prime. Minister that the only boards which will be affected by this measure are the two that have been mentioned ?
– That is so, but its provisions may later on apply to other boards. The power of appropriation under clause 7 will be exhausted when £500,000 has been spent.
– On the assurance of the Prime Minister that the only boards to which the provisions of the bill will apply are the Dairy Produce Export Control Board and the DriedFruits Export Control Board, I am satisfied.
.- I do not think that the Prime Minister intends to mislead the committee, but I feel sure that he is doing so. It appears to me that under the provisions of clause 5 the Minister may appoint any number of boards, for there is no definition of “ produce “ in the bill, nor is there anything, so far as I can see, which provides that the terms of the measure shall apply only to dairy produce and dried fruits. I do not argue that the provisions of the bill should be limited to those commodities, . but I think that we ought to know where we stand. The only body that should have the power to constitute boards to control export is this Parliament.
– I agree with the honorable member.
– The trouble is that the bill does not make that clear. I should like to hear the view of the Prime Minister on the point.
.- The definition of “board” is- an association of persons which the Minister declares, by notice in the Gazette, to be a board controlling the export and marketing of any Australian produce to which this Act applies.
The only two boards that have been constituted so far are the two that have been specifically referred to. Any other boards will have to be appointed by the passing of a bill through this Parliament in the same way as those two were appointed. Although the Minister has power to declare by notice in the Gazette that the export and marketing of certain produce controlled by a board is produce to which this measure will apply, he has no power to appoint a board unless it is given to him by Parliament. When such a board is appointed, he may, under the provisions of clause 5, grant assistance to it in the same way that assistance will be granted to the dairy produce and dried fruits boards. It will be necessary for this Parliament to give control of the export and marketing of primary products to a board before the Minister will be able to make advances to it.
– It appears to me that the Minister may create boards and give them power to deal with the export trade.
– That is not so.
– Is. Parliament the only body that can appoint a new board?
– Yes. The appointment of any board to control the export and marketing of produce, involving the granting of wide powers, would obviously be the subject matter of a measure to be introduced in this Parliament.
– How will that affect clause 2?
– Clause 2 defines; a “board” as meaning an association of persons which the Minister declares by notice in the Gazette to be a board controlling the export and marketing of produce.
– It says, “any Australian produce.”
– It would be useless for the Minister to declare a board for any other purpose, because clause 3 provides that the board shall have power to control only the handling and marketing of produce.
– Clause 3 includes the words “produce to which this act applies.” Therefore, the bill applies to any produce.
– Under clause 5 the expenditure is limited to £500,000, but there is no limit to the amount that can be guaranteed to a board for the purpose of providing advances up to 80 per cent. of the value of the produce controlled. Although that power seems to be unlimited, in a sense it will be limited, by the circumstances surrounding the industry.
– The Minister has power under clause 2 to declare by notice in the Gazette any body of persons to be a board. That is very definite.
– If it meets the wishes of the House, I shall have clause 2 redrafted to make its intention clear, and it can be recommitted later.
– Does sub-clause 4 of clause 5, providing a limit of £500,000, conflict with sub-clause 2 of clause 4, relating to an advance of 80 per cent. of the market value?
– No. Clause 5 applies only to cases in which the Government can assist certain industries after favorable report, but the amount is limited to £500,000, which sum applies only to that clause. Under clause 4, advances can be guaranteed up to 80 per cent, of the value of any produce that is controlled by a board.
– The appropriation of £500,000 cannot be exceeded.
– The appropriation of £500,000 can be exceeded for the purposes of the guarantee. It may happen that under the measure dealing with the control of dried fruits, £1,000,000 worth of produce will be placed in the hands of the board; and an advance of £800,000 obtained, representing 80 per cent, of its value. If the guarantee limit were £500,000, the Government could not guarantee a bank the whole of the £800,000. The full amount of the guarantee must be covered. In such a case, it is inconceivable that the loss would be more than a fractional part of the £800,000; indeed, a sum well inside £500,000.
. -I want the advice of the Prime Minister regarding clause 2, and the powers of the board respecting advances. I have received from the Western Australian growers the following letter, which was sent to them by the Australian Dried Fruits Association :-
I do not know bow your association stands this year with regard to export, but unless you have already or intend to export the same’ percentage, as all other A.D.F.A. growers, namely, currants 80 per cent., sultanas 82J per cent., and lexias 62£ per cent., which are the percentages declared up to the present, your growers will not be able to qualify for the advance..
This is an intimation from the Australian Dried Fruits Association to the growers in Western Australia that unless they conform to certain regulations they will have no opportunity of obtaining any advances for export under the act.
– What legal standing has that association?
– None whatever. That letter seems to me to be incomprehensible. I want it made perfectly clear that the Minister controlling the act will conserve the interests of all the states, and prescribe no regulation that works an injury to one state, as against the others..
– If the letter referred to purports to deal with this bill or the Dried Fruits Export Control Bill, whoever sent it wrote utter nonsense. There is no possibility, under either of these measures, of that association fixing the export quota. The letter is probably a reference to the advances bill which was passed by this House a long time ago. That is quite a different matter, because, under that measure the advance was based upon the export quota of the preceding season.
.- I understand that -clause 2 is to be redrafted to define “ boards “ as meaning boards controlling the export and marketing of dried fruits and produce.
– The wording I suggest is, in effect, that boards controlling the export and marketing of dairy produce and dried fruits shall be given powers under act of Parliament.
– In that case, clauses 2 and 3 will be narrowed down to dried fruits and dairy produce.
– Yes, until Parliament passes a further act dealing with some other produce.
– The Prime Minister states that the bill will be limited: to guarantees for dairy produce and dried fruits. This will undoubtedly exclude a wheat guarantee. For some time there has been before the Government a proposal from the various State Governments respecting a wheat guarantee. I ask -the Prime Minister, in the event of the states, arriving at an equitable proposal, for a guarantee for the coming season’s wheat, to accept it even although Parliament is in recess. It is on the cards that a fresh proposal will be placed before the. Government. Fox years past the Commonwealth Government has provided a . wheat guarantee. At a recent conference with representatives of the states, the Prime Minister laid down certain conditions1 that precluded any pos.sibility of the proposal of this Government being accepted. But within the next few days proposals may be submitted which will make such a guarantee possible. Apparently,, the Government considers it essential to provide guarantees -for those engaged in the production of dried fruits and butter, but the growers of wheat have at least, equal claim upon the consideration of the Government. When the Prime
Minister was asked to provide a guarantee for the coming season’s wheat he offered to do so, upon the condition that there should be one marketing authority and one chartering authority. Those conditions could be effectively complied with if a Commonwealth compulsory pool were established.
– The Commonwealth has not the constitutional power to apply compulsion, except in war time.
– I am not aware of any authoritative interpretation of the law to that effect, and I, as a layman, am of opinion that the Commonwealth has the requisite power. By this bill Parliament is arranging to give guarantees in regard to dairy produce and dried fruit.
– But there is to be no compulsion.
– The export of those products is to be controlled by boards to be constituted by the Commonwealth Government.
– The boards will control only the produce voluntarily handed over to them-.
– What the Commonwealth can do for the producers of butter and dried fruits it can do for the wheat-growers also. Will the Government’s proposal to confine the assistance to the producers of dried fruits and butter prevent the Commonwealth from giving a guarantee for the coming season’s wheat? If so, the Government is breaking faith with the wheat-growers.
– Did not the Government offer a conditional guarantee ?
– The promise was hedged about by such conditions that the State Governments could not accept it. Last year, and in the preceding year, the Commonwealth provided a guarantee without those conditions, and I should like an explanation of the Government’s change of policy.
– The Prime Minister’s suggestion emanated originally from the growers.
– Does the honorable member desire to give the Government power to create other boards independent of parliamentary approval ?
Mr.PARKER MOLONEY. - The proper course for the Government to adopt is to introducea bill relating to each industry that is to participate in the guarantees. The Government has done that in regard to dried fruits and butter; it should da the same, in regard to wheat.
– The Government has already stated definitely what it is prepared to do.
– But the Prime Minister imposed conditions that could not be accepted by the representatives of the states.
– They could have been accepted, but the State Governments could not agree to them.
– The Victorian Labour Government is providing for a compulsory wheat pool, and the country members in the state legislature are supporting the proposal. In fact, their -leader said that the majority of the wheat-farmers in Victoria are in favour of a compulsory pool.
– The Commonwealth Government used its best endeavours to secure for them a guarantee.
– But not upon the same conditions as obtained last year.
– The Prime Minister definitely announced last year that the Commonwealth Government would not establish other wheat pools, and he is now trying to get out of his difficulties by offering a guarantee, subject to new conditions.
– The Prime Minister did say last year that there would be no Commonwealth guarantees in respect of future wheat crops, but evidently the Treasurer, representing the Country partyin the Cabinet, thought that something must be done to make the wheat-growers believe that the Government desired to give them a guarantee, and accordingly an offer was made by the Prime Minister, but surrounded by conditions that could not be accepted: I regret that the session will terminate without a promise by the Commonwealth Government that an adequate guarantee will be provided for the coming season’s wheat, upon thesame conditions as obtained last year.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4- (1.) The Treasurer may, if he thinks fit, guarantee to a hanking corporation carrying on business in the Commonwealth the amount of any advance made by the corporation to a board in connexion with the financing of any scheme for the export and marketing of the produce under the control of the board. (2.) Any . guarantee made in pursuance of this -section shall not be to an extent greater than eighty per centum of tlie market value of the produce in respect of which the advance is made. (3.) For the purposes of the last preceding sub-section the market value of any produce shall be determined by the Minister. (4.) Any guarantee under this, section may be subject” to such conditions as the Treasurer specifies. (5.) Where a guarantee is subject to conditions and it appears to the Treasurer that any of those conditions have not been observed, he may revoke the guarantee, and, upon notice in writing of the revocation of the guarantee being given to the banking corporation to which the guarantee was given, the Treasurer and the Commonwealth shall be relieved of all .liability under the guarantee.
– The fact has already been emphasized that the guarantee liabilities will be quite apart from the £500,000 for assistance to primary production that is mentioned in a subsequent clause. If a very large sum of money is to be guaranteed, Parliament should ensure that the risk of loss shall be reduced to a minimum. I think that a guarantee to the extent of 80 per cent, of the market value of the produce, as determined by the -Minister, is rather high. Dried fruits are injured by mildew and weevil, and deteriorate from, other causes, and, of course, dairy produce is perishable. In addition, there is always a chance of the produce being sold on a falling market. If advances are made up to SO per cent, of the anticipated market value, the margin of safety will be insufficient. But sub-clause 5 rnakes the guarantee practically valueless. It enables the Treasurer to revoke the guarantee if, in his opinion, any of the conditions have not been observed. If a banking company made an advance to a board with or without knowledge of the conditions attaching to the Government guarantee, and the guarantee were withdrawn, ‘ the bank would have to bear all the liability. No bank would attach any value to a guarantee that might be suddenly withdrawn If the intention is that the Commonwealth’s liability under the guarantee shall continue up to the date of revocation, it is not clearly stated in subclause 5.
.- I understand that in ordinary commercial practice the average advance made by a bank as a fair business risk with respect to goods such as agricultural produce amounts to from 60 to 70 per cent. I presume that the banks have decided on that margin as the result of experience, and they regard it as safe. The object of the bill, of course, is to give greater facilities than the banks would be willing to provide, implying that the Government is prepared to take a greater risk than a bank would. Ministers naturally say that they do not anticipate any loss, but with a margin of only 20 per cent., as against a margin of from 40 to 50 per cent., the risk must be very much greater than in ordinary commercial and banking practice. The probability is that there will be a loss, and it seems to me that, speaking in the mildest possible way. this measure verges on insecurity.
.- I move-
That the words “ a banking corporation,’subclause 1, be left out, with a view to the insertion in lieu thereof of the following words : - “ the Commonwealth Bank or any other prescribed bank “.
If that alteration is made, the language of the clause will conform with that employed in the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill and the Dried Fruits Export Control Bill.
.: - Let me remind the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) that for two years the amount advanced by the Government in connexion with the wheat pool was 3s. a- bushel, with an additional Sd. for handling charges. At that time wheat was selling at about 4s. 2d. and 4s. 3d. .a bushel, and during the many years over which the life of the pool extended, the Government was never called upon to make up one penny of loss, although the ‘ amount advanced represented from 85 to 87 per cent, of the price obtained. Of course, it is admitted that in the present case there will be some risk, but the Government considers that in the interests of the export trade that risk should be faced.
– The bill does not compel the Government to advance as much as SO per cent.
– No; that is the amount which must not be exceeded. Ordinarily the advance would not reach more than 50 or 60 per cent.
– If there were no possibility of risk, there would be no need for this legislation.
– Exactly. In reply to the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), I point out that the Commonwealth Government this year notified its readiness to guarantee a wheat pool on the condition that the various state pools should not compete with one another in the markets of the world, thereby reducing the price ultimately received by the producers. This Government suggested that there should be a common chartering and selling agency, and that an arrangement should be made whereby, in the period of three years, the pool would place itself in such a position as to be entirely independent of government control. That suggestion originally came from the wheat-growers themselves, because they recognized the very great risks they ran under the present system. They do not know until the wheat is being harvested what arrangements are to be made for the disposal of their crop. The reason why the Commonwealth Government’s proposal has not been proceeded with is that complete uniformity cannot be secured among the representatives of the various states. They agreed to one selling and chartering agency, and this Government said it would use its best efforts to see that the State Governments obtained the necessary money to carry out the scheme. The Premiers of the various wheat-growing states will admit that they have found the utmost readiness on the part of the Commonwealth Government to go into the matter of assisting their finance to secure the benefits of a pool for this year. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) suggested that subclause 5 was practically worthless, but I point out that there is no suggestion that the guarantee could be withdrawn from a banking corporation or bank once it had been given by the Government. The guarantee, of course, must remain on advances made before notice of cancellation was given. If the industry that is being helped breaks the conditions laid down by the Commonwealth Government and agreed to by the controlling body of the industry, the Government under this sub-clause may be relieved of all liability under the guarantee.
– If the word “ thereafter “ were added to the subclause I think the object would be met.
– The draftsman informed me that the sub-clause as it stands conveys the intention of the Government, but I shall discuss the matter again with him. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) expressed a fear that the clause would prevent the business being handled by the Commonwealth Bank, but the Government has no intention to take the business from that bank.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) that his amendment to make the language of sub-clause 1 conform with that in previous bills of a similar nature should be accepted. Subclause 3 states that the market value of any produce shall be determined by “ the Minister.” I presume that the Minister for Trade and Customs is referred to.
– Probably it means that Minister, but I remind the honorable member that an assistant Minister has been attending to this particular matter.
– The word “Minister” means the Minister for Trade and Customs, or some one acting on his behalf.
.- The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) said that 80 per cent. was too high a percentage to be safely guaranteed by the Commonwealth. To my knowledge, butter exporters have no difficulty in obtaining advances of 90 per cent. or more of the accepted value of butter that they are shipping. So far as dairy produce is concerned, it would not appear that 80 per cent. is an excessive advance.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause consequentially amended.
– Will it meet the views of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. DuncanHughes) if the words, “ from the date of such non-observance,” are inserted after the word “ shall “ in sub-clause 5 ?
– I suggest that the word “ notification “ should be used instead of “non-observance”. Who will break the conditions ?
– But it may be the exporter.
– Does the honorable member for Boothby desire that the Treasurer should be relieved of liability from the date of the notice, or from the time when the guarantee was given?
– I pointed out that no bank would accept these conditions if the guarantee was liable to be withdrawn at any moment, and if the withdrawal dated back to the inception of the guarantee. The amendment suggested by the Prime Minister would meet the case, but I suggest that the words be added at the end of the sub-clause.
– I agree with the honorable member that the clause could be construed . as meaning that the Commonwealth would be free from liability as from the date when the guarantee was given. The Parliamentary Draftsman has suggested that at the end of the subclause the words “not incurred before the date of such non-observance” should be added.
– That makes the non-observance, and not the notice,the determining factor.
– The reason for the honorable member’s objection to the clause is clear. I. accept his view that the Government should be relieved only of those obligations that were not incurred prior to the breach. If honorable members will pass the clause, I agree to have it recommitted to enable the honorable member, after he has consulted the Parliamentary Draftsman, to move an amendment.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 5 - (1.) The Minister may, upon the receipt of a report and recommendation from any body of persons constituted to advise the Minister upon matters relating to trade and commerce, grant assistance in relation to the export and marketing of primary produce. (4.) The total expenditure under this section shall not exceed Five hundred thousand pounds.
.- I should like the Prime Minister to make clear what classes of produce can be dealt with under this clause. I understand that the sum of £500,000 has been placed on the Estimates for assistance to primary producers, and that the bill providesthe machinery for using that money. The broom millet industry is in a lamentable condition. There are 400,000 tons of surplus crop in Victoria, for which the price obtainable will not cover the cost of production. I believe, also, that there is a large amount of broom millet in New South Wales. Will the Prime Minister consider a request to apply the provisions of this clause to that industry?
– The assistance provided for in this clause can be given for the marketing and export of any primary produce. There is no restriction on the form the assistance may take, except that it must be granted on the recommendation of the Board of Trade.
.- The request made by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) shows the danger of this clause. I shall vote against it, because it will create a big business department, and will give to the Minister–
Membersof the Opposition. - Hear, hear !
– Members of the Opposition no doubt say “ Hear, hear !” because the bill represents to them the application of socialism. It is giving the Minister tremendous power, and authority to spend up to £500,000 without reference to Parliament to assist in the marketing of produce. In my opinion, this is a most extraordinary departure from the settled policy of the country.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Perth that such wide powers should not be given to any Minister or government, but I disagree with his unqualified statement that it is socialism. It may be a poor brand of socialism. If I am to have socialism, I want a good brand, and a good brand would set out the conditions under which the people’s money would be spent. This proposal is subject to no conditions. I do not want to deny the Government any opportunity from now until the next session of Parliament begins to render assistance in the marketing of our products, but I suggest that the amount it should have available for such a purpose should be limited. Under this clause, the Minister may, if he so desires, give away £500,000 ; lend it or guarantee it.
– There is no power to guarantee under this clause.
– The clause contains the words “ grant assistance.” That may mean make an advance, make a present, or give a guarantee. Any guarantees that are given should be limited by definite conditions.
– Will not the Minister be held responsible for the expenditure of this money?’
– Yes, but Parliament will be responsible also. “ Grant assistance “ may mean guaranteeing a bank, and a bank may be guaranteed to the extent of millions of pounds.
– The clause provides for the expenditure of a sum not exceeding £500,000 for the purpose of assisting in the export and marketing of our primary produce; according to the intention of the Government as announced in the budget speech. The amount is to be provided from last year’s surplus. If the money could only be expended after specific acts of Parliament had been passed it would mean that Parliament would need to sit throughout the year to be in a position to render assistance in cases which might arise suddenly through unforeseen circumstances. I suggest to honorable members that the Government is not being given unlimited power to spend this money, for no expenditure can be made until a report and recommendation have been received from the Board of Trade. All such reports and recommendations are required to be presented to Parliament quarterly when it is in session, and when it is not in session’ within a limited period after it reassembles. The expenditure of this money will be controlled by similar conditions to those which govern the expenditure of money from the Treasurer’s Advance. Proper accounts of all expenditure will have to be submitted to Parliament. The total expenditure which the Government can incur under the clause is definitely limited.
– But the Government may use £500,000 to guarantee £750,000.
– Are there not two distinct propasals in this bill ?
– That is so. One part of it deals with granting assistance, and the other with providing guarantees.
– But does not granting assistance include providing guarantees?
– That is doubtful, but the position is safeguarded, for it has been held that the Executive Council has no power to guarantee. It is necessary to have a direct appropriation for the purpose of making a guarantee. The Government is prepared to accept any amendment to the clause which will remove all doubt that the liability that may be incurred under it shall not exceed £500,000. The power to grant assistance and the power to provide guarantees must not be confused. This clause gives power to grant assistance. The preceding clause provides for giving guarantees for advances not exceeding 80 per cent of the market value of the produce exported. Such guarantees can onlybe given where the exportations are controlled by. a board. The Government does not ask nor desire power to make guarantees running into millions of pounds without the consent of Parliament. Proposals to make guarantees involving large sums of money should be submitted to Parliament for determination. I consider that the clause definitely limits to £500,000 the amount available to the Government for granting assistance in the export and marketing of our produce.
.- I have listened with great interest to this debate, and, although I have tried to bring an average intelligence to bear upon the matters under discussion. I have not. any clear idea of what the intentions of the Government really are. I have been consoled somewhat, however, by the discovery that the Government itself does not know its intentions. The bill is a fine example of whata party, drunk with its success in getting at the public funds, may be led to attempt. Hitherto it has come to Parliament unblushingly and asked for the use of public moneys for special well-defined purposes. The Government has obtained precisely -what it wanted for the beef barons, the wheatgrowers, and the farmers. It has obtained public funds not in the name of socialism, as the honorable member for Perth would have us believe, but in a different name altogether, that of Government interference with production. This, honorable members opposite would say, is a well thought-out patriotic scheme of this patriotic Government to support our primary industries. What is being done is being done, not in the name of socialism, but on broad national grounds. Drunk with its success in the past, the party opposite has introduced this bill to obtain another large junk of public funds to assist in a general way primary production and industry. Clause 3 reads -
The Minister may, by notice in the Gazette, declare that the produce, -specified in the notice, the export and marketing of which is controlled ‘by a board, is produce- to which this act applies. …
The Minister may declare by definition any kind of produce to be covered by this clause. Under clause 4 we find that the Treasurer may give a guarantee up to 80 per cent, of the value of the produce exported. Then we come to clause 5, which in its vague And indefinite form surpasses anything for generalization that I have ever heard of in this chamber, it reads -
The Minister may upon ‘the receipt of a re- port and recommendation from any body of persons constituted to advise the Minister upon matters relating to trade and commerce grant assistance in relation to the export and marketing of primary produce.
I believe that the Prime Minister, in his second-reading speech, stated that it was intended that the body referred to in the clause was the Board of Trade, and that for some technical reason that board could not be named in an act of Parliament. I do not know why. The fact remains that the Minister may, upon receipt, of a report from this entirely undefined body, constituted we know not why, nor’ with what authority or personnel, make an advance in relation to the export of marketing and primary production. This is a distinc’t advance upon the other raids that have been made upon the public Treasury by the Government under cover of such measures as this. This advance may be made by the Minister upon the following conditions: -
A return showing the reports and recommendations made, and the assistance granted under this section shall be laid before each House of the Parliament on the 31 st day of March, the 30th day of June, the’ 30th day of September, and the 31st day of December, in each year.
If either House of the Parliament be not sitting on each or any of the dates mentioned in the last preceding sub-section, the return shall be laid before the House within fourteen days of its next sitting.
The total expenditure under this section shall not exceed £500,000.
If the total expenditure* under this clause is limited to £500,000, I ask the Prime Minister what is meant by the following clause, which provides for the establishment of a primary production trust account, which is to be a trust account within the meaning of section 62a of the Audit Act 1901-20. Clause 1 reads -
There is hereby appropriated for the purposes of this act out of Consolidated Revenue Fund the sum of £500,0.00, and such further sums as are necessary from time to time for the purposes of this act.
If under clause 5 the Government is limited to an advance of £500,000 to assist in primary production, what is the reason for the appropriation under clause 7 of a sum of £500,000, and such further sums as are necessary from time to time for the purposes of this act? “ The purposes of this act “ clearly are to guarantee advances up to 80 per cent, on primary produce for export overseas. What is our liability under the guarantee? There is clearly no limit to the appropriation under clause 7, and no limit to the amount of the guarantee under clause 5. I should like the Prime Minister to state where the limitation of the Commonwealth’s liability really rests. Of course, there is no limit to the liability. The Government is indulging in an orgy of expenditure. When the people realize what is taking place, and what has taken place during the last month or two, respecting the advance of public funds to boost up certain industries, they will exclaim, “How long, oh Lord, how long,” and wonder why they have so long borne these conditions without serious criticism,- and protest. The Government is adopting a policy of socialism, and to that extent we welcome it; but it is a half-baked and ill-considered kind of socialism. Why not come down with a general scheme for the nationalization of production and means of distribution and exchange, and adopt a policy to which the Labour party can give its whole- hearted support? Is it not a scandal that the Government should continue to hold office at such a price as this - a Government which came into office to oppose this class of legislation, to maintain a firm hold of the public purse, to return to constitutional government, and to set its face against governmental interference with private enterprise ? Surely it is time that this scandal was exposed, and understood by the public mind. Where are our constitutional defenders in the press of this country? A little while ago we saw recorded burning indignation on the part of the press because the present Premier of the Victorian Labour Government proposed to reduce railway freights, and to assist in the marketing of primary produce. The press indignantly protested against this incursion into socialism by the Victorian Labour Government. But that Government does not know its business in comparison with this Government. It has not started along the road of success traversed by the Country party and their friends the Nationalists. I do not blame honorable members on this side who represent primary producers for being committed to a general policy of expansion of production, but it is about time, in the interests of the Commonwealth, that there should be some protest from those who represent purely taxpaying constituencies, like my own. I want to know what benefits my constituents will reap from the guarantee under this bill. Very little, I should suppose. If the Government will propose some guarantee to serve the consumers of Batman, I shall see what I can do to. support it.
– The honorable member has not used that argument in relation to the assistance of secondary producers.
– I have used it in connexion with all measures to assist production. On every measure introduced I have sought to expose the policy of the Government. The Prime Minister has made a laboured attempt to explain something which he does not understand. Usually he is lucid, but to-day he is ambiguous, because he realizes that this measure gives a blank cheque. Other advances have been wrung from the people for particular commodities, but this measure is the grand finale, and provides the means of obtaining one or two millions of pounds. There is no limit to the guarantee and to the advances from the trust fund.
– The Government has no power to guarantee beyond the amount that it can expend. There is no power under clause 5 to guarantee a sum beyond £500,000. While that guarantee remains, other moneys cannot be expended. I have taken steps to ascertain that £500,000 is the actual limitation placed upon the Government with respect to guarantees.
Mr.SCULLIN (Yarra).- [3.59].- I am not satisfied with the explanation of the Prime Minister. I claim that the term “ grant assistance “ is wide, and can be interpreted to mean guarantees.
– The amount that the Government can guarantee will be limited by the expenditure.
– I do. not think so. I maintain that expenditure means money expended either in loans or gifts, but it will not include a guarantee. The word “ assistance “ would include a guarantee. The meaning is very clear. Under subclause 1 of clause 5 there is no limit to the guarantee.
– The Labour party is fighting for guarantees in the Victorian Parliament, and is resisting them here.
– In the Victorian legislature the guarantees are to be. governed by an act of Parliament, and will be surrounded by well-defined conditions. If the Commonwealth Government will propose well-defined conditions I shall support it, but I shall not give to any government a blank cheque, and the Labour Government in Victoria does not ask for one. I move -
That after the word “ expenditure “ in subclause 4, the following words be inserted : - “and liability incurred”.
– The words are quite unnecessary. A guarantee is a contingent promise to expend, and it is covered by the wording of the clause.
-That is a matter of opinion; I say it is clearly not covered, but if it is covered, what harm can be clone by the inclusion’ of the words suggested ?
– I shall agree to their inclusion, although I do not think they will make the slightest difference to the clause.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 - (1.) There is hereby appropriated, for the purposes of this Act, out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, the sum of Five hundred thousand pounds and such further sums as are necessary, from time to time, for the purposes of this Act. (2.)The sums appropriated by this section shall be paid to the Trust Account.
– Will the Prime Minister explain the meaning of this clause?
– Under clause 5 expenditure is strictly limited to the £500,000 which was set aside in the budget for the assistance of primary production. But by clause 4 power is given to the Commonwealth to guarantee advances up to 80 per cent, of the market value of produce controlled by a board. Only two boards have been created, and they will deal with dried fruits and butter. If the dried fruits board had control of £1,000,000 worth of dried fruits for export, and it obtained from a bank, an advance up to the full amount that the Government is empowered by this bill to guarantee, namely, £800,000, unless further sums were appropriated, the Government would not be able to give that guarantee, although one would hope that there would be no actual expenditure by the Commonwealth in respect of the guarantee, or, at any rate, that it would not exceed £500,000. That is why further sums may have to be appropriated from time to time, but they will be limited to guarantees given in respect of products controlled by boards created by other acts. of Parliament. There is a definition of the word “ board,” and only two boards have been created, namely, those that will deal with dried fruits and dairy produce.
Mr.Scullin. - I understand that clause 7 gives power to appropriate the £500,000 referred to in clause 5, and that any further sums appropriated will be conditioned by other acts of Parliament.
– That is so.
– What provision is made for the payment of interest on money advanced under this bill?
– If a bank advances money to a board the Commonwealth, although guaranteeing the advance, will not have any liability in respect of interest. The Commonwealth will merely guarantee repayment of the principal.
– Suppose that a big loss is incurred and the Government is called upon to accept liability under the guarantee ?
– In that instance the Commonwealth would be liable for both capital and interest. That is one of the risks which we must accept, but as a precaution against such loss the guarantee is limited to advances up to 80 per cent, of the market value of the produce to be exported. In regard to the utilization of the £500,000, the charging of interest will depend upon the purposes to which the money is applied. Obviously, if any portion of it were used to subsidize shipping freights, no interest could be charged.
Notwithstanding my keen interest in the producers of dried fruits, I cannot vote for the clause in its present form. The provision for the appropriation of “ such further sums as are necessary from time to time for the purposes of this act “ is much too ‘ wide, and I shall be surprised if the committee agrees to give to the Government a blank cheque. The Prime Minister has said that money can be paid only in respectof produce the marketing of which is controlled by boards, but paragraph c of clause8 allows of the payment of ‘’ the amount necessary to meet the cost of any assistance granted by the Minister under section 5 of this act”. That seems to contradict the limitation of £500,000. I, therefore, move-
That after the word “act” in sub-clause 1 the following words be added : - “provided that the total of such sums shall not exceed £2,000,000.”
The Prime Minister estimated that £200.000 would be required for the first advance to the producers of dried fruits. The Victorian Rivers and Water Supply Commission has estimated that the sweat box return to growers will be a little more than £28 per ton. The Prime Minister stated that the quantity that will be available for export will be 32,000 tons, and I calculate that 80 per cent, of the returnfrom that fruit will be approximately £616,000 which, with the £200,000 for the first advance, will make a total of £816,000 for the dried fruit industry. The representatives of the dairying industry have said that they do not expectto require any financial assistance; therefore, my proposed limitation of £2,000,000 wall allow ample funds for the marketing of dried fruits, and at the same time will absolve members of the Labour party of any charge of having given the Government a blank cheque.
– The only real risk that the Government will incur will be in respect of the amount of £500,000. The Government is in a position to render assistance to that amount in any way it considers right, subject to a report and recommendation by the Board of Trade, but in regard to the further sums mentioned in this clause the honorable member need have no apprehension, because Parliament knows to what it is committed. There must be a board of control appointed under an act, and in industries in which such boards operate, Parliament has undertaken to assist the producers to get for the purposes of ordered marketing greater advances than are obtainable by an ordinary banking arrangement. ‘ No moneys can be appropriated and used for this purpose beyond those that are necessary to enable advances to. be made as contemplated by Parliament in other acts.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Bruce) agreedto
That, after clause 8, the following new clause be inserted: - “ 9. The Governor-General may make regulations, not inconsistent with this act. prescribing all matters which by this act ave required or permitted to be prescribed, or which arc necessary or convenient to be prescribed, for carrying out or giving effect to this act.”
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Bill recommitted for the reconsideration of clauses 2 and 4.
In Committee : (Recommittal).
Clause 2 -
In this act, unless the contrary intention appears - “’ Board “ means an association of persons which the Minister declares, by notice in the Gazette, to be a board controlling the export and marketing of any Australian produce to which this act applies;
Amendment (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to-
That the words “the Minister declares, by notice in the Gazette; to be a board controlling the export and marketing of Australian pro duce to which this act applies “ be left out with a view to insert in Heu thereof the fol- lowing words : - “ under: any other, act is vested with power to control the export and marketing of any Australian produce “.
Clause 4 - (5.) Where a guarantee is subject to conditions and it appears to the Treasurer that any cif those conditions have not been observed, he may revoke the guarantee, and, upon notice in writing of the revocation of the guarantee being given to the banking corporation to which the guarantee was given, the Treasurer and the Commonwealth shall be relieved of all liability under the guarantee.
Amendment (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to-
That, at the end of sub-clause o, the following words be Added: - “not incurred before the date of the notice ‘’.
Bill reported with further amendments; reports adopted.
Bill read’ a third time.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
– I move -
That a tax, at the rate declared in this resolution, be ‘imposed on every person who, being a lessee, receives, in the ‘ financial year commencing on the first day of July,One thousand nine hundred and twenty-three, or in any subsequent financial year, any payment for, upon or in consideration of, the assignment or transfer of a lease to any other person after deducting therefrom -
That the rate of the tax shall be ascertained as follows: -
That the law for the time being in force relating to the assessment and collection of income tax shall apply to the assessment and collection of the tax imposed by this resolution. 4. (1) That clauses one, two, and three of this resolution shall not apply to the proceeds of the assignment or transfer of -
Provided that this clause shall not apply to any payment received prior to the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-one which has not, under any law of the Commonwealth relating to the imposition, assessment or collection of income tax, been included in the assessment, for the purposes of income tax, of the income of the person who received the payment.
That this resolution shall not apply to the payment made for, upon or in consideration of the assignment or transfer of a lease in respect of which any person has, before the thirtieth day of June, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-four -
I point out that certain amendments have been made in the motion previously adopted, and they clarify the position. The first occurs in paragraph 2. It previously appeared as if the tax were to be levied on the whole of the sum for which leases were sold, but this amendment makes it clear that the tax applies only to the profit that has been made.
– In paragraph 1, subparagraph a, the whole of the power is left to the Commissioner with respect to the tangible assets. Would it not be fair to provide some right of appeal?
– I shall deal with that point later. . The second amendment occurs in paragraph 4, and provides that “prospector” includes a person who, though not personally performing the work of prospecting, has a liability under a contract or arrangement to contribute to the cost of prospecting, and who is entitled to the whole or a part of any profits resulting from the sale of a “lease of a mining property discovered during that prospecting. The next amendment is. found in paragraph 6, and it limits the application of the clause to assessments made in the lost three years. The proposal set out in the motion deals Avith three principles. The first question raised is whether or not there should be a tax on the profit realized on the sale of * lease, where the sale is not made in the course of the business of buying and selling property. Paragraphs 2 to 5 of the motion set out the methods to be followed in levying taxation on leases, and the remaining paragraphs deal with the question whether the tax should be collected for past years. I suggest to the committee that the motion should be considered in those three divisions. I ask the committee to consider, first, whether there should be a tax at all; if so, in what way it should be levied; and, finally, whether the assessments for past years should be validated and the tax collected. As to the first point, the question arises whether the profit on the sale of a lease is profit on the realization of capital, or represents commuted rent. The argument has been advanced that no tax has been levied on profit made casually on the sale of freeholds, and, therefore, no tax should be imposed on the sale of leases; but there is a wide dif ference between the two classes of sales, as the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter) has pointed out. It ia true that leasehold and freehold tenure relate to capital assets, but the values of those assets rest on entirely different bases. In the case of a freehold its value is usually steadily increasing with the expansion of settlement in the country, but a leasehold estate gradually diminishes in value until, at the termination of the period of the lease, there is no value left. All the value of a freehold property is always realizable, irrespective of the time it has been held, and usually an unearned increment is secured by the owner when he sells”. The value of a leasehold estate cannot exceed the capital value of the difference between the economic rent at the relevant date of valuation and the rent reserved in the lease agreement. If the lessee is at all times paying the full economic rent for a property, it has no profitable sale price, because he would not be able to sell it for more than the capitalized value of the rent. This shows that any profit realized by the sale of the lease is really the capitalized difference between the true economic rent and the rent reserved by the lease. It is agreed by all parties that the rent received by a person is a proper subject for income tax. There cannot, therefore, be any reasonable ground for objecting to the present proposal to impose a special tax on what is really rent in another form. It should also be borne in mind that under the Income Tax Assessment Act a sinking fund deduction is allowed to the purchaser of a lease equivalent to the amount required to amortize the price he paid for the lease during the unexpired period of it. The purchaser, therefore, not only does not pay a tax on the annual sinking fund mentioned, but he secures a reduction in the rate of tax levied on the remainder of his income. If the purchaser were deprived of this deduction, there would be no justification for taxing the vendor on the profit on the sale. The tax was proposed in the first instance only because the purchaser was allowed to deduct the sinking fund required to amortize the purchase price. For these reasons the Government thinks that there should be a tax on the profit made by the sale of the transfer of a lease. The profit so made is practically the pre-paid rent for the unexpired term of the lease. Annual rent paid on business premises is in ordinary circumstances allowed as a deduction to the person who’pays it,- but in the hands of the person who receives it, it is subject to income taxation.
.- Subparagraph ii of paragraph a, clause 2,. seems to be somewhat unjust. It is about as clear as mud to me, if it does not mean that a man who is taxed on one-third of the amount of profit will have to pay the rate applicable to the whole amount.
– The whole amount will be divided by the number of unexpired years that the lease has to run, and the amount so ascertained will determine the rate of tax.
– Then I cannot read. It appears to me that the paragraph seeks to apply to a part of the profit the rate applicable to the whole. Where there are time-payments, the tax will be assessed as if the whole amount was paid in one year, i hope the Treasurer will accept an amendment to meet that objection. I disagree with the Treasurer’s contention that, because a freehold pays land tax, it is entitled to be exempted from income tax, while a leasehold, because it does not pay land tax, is in a different category. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), when we were discussing the same question the other day, referred to the amortizing of the lease. The amortizing that takes place each year allows a deduction to be made from the income of the property of the amount of the cost of the lease for that year. If the cost of the lease for ten years was £1,000, £100 a year would be deductible from the lessee’s income. After five years £500 would be deducted, and that might be the point at which the man would decide to sell His lease. No amortizing has been done for the five years that the lease has still to run, but that is the part of it that is sold. The Treasurer says that in selling the remaining five years of the lease, the lessee sells the. value of it, and he asked the committee to assume that the lease had not increased in value. No man buys a thing in the expectation that.it will not increase in value. He hopes, when he buys a lease, that the application of his energy and wisdom to it will increase its value as an asset. A man may take a pastoral lease on which there are only”” kangaroos and dingoes. It is not at that stage revenue-producing, and it cannot be sold. It belongs to the Crown, and is leased for perhaps 5s. per annum for 1,000 acres. The man who leases it has to have a considerable amount of capital. He has to construct windmills and dams, erect fences and a homestead, and buy sheep. Thus he turns something that was not a revenue producer into a revenue producer. He may have failing health after five years, and some one may want to buy the lease because i t is revenue-producing. The Treasurer will allow the lessee to deduct only the windmills and the sheep, &c. , but everything else made out of the transfer will be taxed. But the man has sold his revenue-producing machine, just as he would have done had it been a freehold, the value of which he had enhanced by working upon it. I fail to see that there is any difference in this regard between a freehold and a leasehold. We have 700,000,000 acres of land still- unalienated in Australia, and we want people to settle on it, to make dams and erect mills, and to place sheep upon it. The proposal before the committee is not calculated to induce people to do that. If a leasehold property is developed and made revenue-producing, the Government has a chance of collecting taxation on the lessee’s income. I beseech the Government not to tax profits on the transfer of leases, particularly Crown leases. If that is done, the proposal will be in the right direction.
– The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) has read a wrong meaning into the word “ whole.” He has come to the conclusion that the motion means that, even if the payments for a transferred lease are spread over a number of years, the man who transfers it will be charged at the rate of tax applicable to the whole amount. I assume that the explanation of the phrase “ if the whole of that amount were income “ is to be found in the previous paragraph of the clause. Assuming that an individual sells for £1,000 a lease which still has five years to run, and receives the money in two equal instalments, and that he has an income from other sources of £1,000 a year, I take it that under the provisions of clause 2 of the motion the £1,000 which he received from the transfer of the lease would be divided by five, and that the’ resulting £200 would be added to his ordinary income of £1,000. He would then be required to pay leasehold tax at the rate applicable to £1,200 income tax, and he would pay this on the £500 instalment of the transfer price.
– He would he charged ou the £500 at the rate applicable to £1,200.
– Seeing that clause 1 of the motion provides that the tax which it is sought to impose shall commence on the 1st July, . 1923, it will be retrospective. The retrospective effect of the motion will be more acute under clauses 6, 7, and S. I am opposed to the retrospective principle altogether, and I intend to test the feeling of the committee on the matter now. I move -
That in clause 1. the words “ in the financial year commencing on the first day of July, One thousand nine hundred and twenty-three, or in any subsequent financial year “ be left ont.
I stated my views on retrospective taxation in the speech that I delivered on the second reading of the bill, which waa withdrawn, dealing with this matter, and I do not propose to repeat them now. The Dalrymple case was decided in May or June of this year. It is obvious, therefore, that if this proposed, tax is to operate from the 1st July of last year, all moneys received in consideration of the assignment or transfer of leases between the 1st July, 1923, and the date on which judgment in the Dalrymple case was delivered will be taxable. I do not consider that that is equitable. In reply to my previous speech on retrospective taxation the Treasurer said that if my views were given effect the officers of the Taxation Department would be obliged to examine 4,000,000 taxation returns in order to ascertain which taxpayers were entitled to a refund of money paid in taxation in respect to lease transactions. I am sure that no honorable member desires to give the officers of the department unnecessary work, but I do not imagine that it would be necessary to go through those 4,000,000 forms.
– It would be necessary, for the reason that there is no other way of discovering who paid taxation in respect to the assignment or transfer of leases.
– If the committee decides against making this taxation retrospective, the course to be adopted could - and probably would - be for refunds of taxation already paid to be made only when definite claims are made, and the Commissioner is satisfied that the claimants are entitled to a refund. Should the committee decide in favour of my amendment I shall move to amend later retrospective clauses, and to prescribe the date from which the act shall operate.
– The effect of the honorable member’s amendment will be not only to remove the retrospective provision from the clause, but to prevent the imposition of the taxation at all. He must realize that income taxation assessments can only be made in respect of incomes already earned. It is not possible to assess incomes before they have been earned. I suggest that the honorable member make his fight on the retrospective provisions ofthis motion when clauses 6, 7, and 8 are under consideration.
– I do not see that my amendment will have the effect that the Treasurer suggests. The amendment that I have moved attacks not the principle of the tax, but the date from which the tax is to be imposed, which is the 1st July, 1923. I shall be prepared to withdraw the amendment, and allow the matter to be decided on clause 6 relating to general retrospective payments, if the Treasurer will undertake that if the vote of the committee is against retrospectiveness, he will apply that decision to clause 1.
.- I am opposed to this principle of taxation, and I am not sure that every honorable member, in his inmost heart, does not support me. This is a new form of taxation, and could not be. enacted in any ordinary income tax measure, because it is based on an entirely different principle. It is a tax, not on income, but on capital, and in itsincidence and relation to Crown leases it is doubly unfair. It taxes capital instead of taxing what capital produces. The principle of taxing capital is widely advocated by the Labour party. That is quite bad enough, but for a government representing this side of the House to advocate such a principle is a. sin double-dyed. . This tax in its incidence will press most conspicuously on farmers and producers. It will affect not only the man on the- land, but the man who has, under the most trying conditions and with the greatest grit and determination, subdued the wild wastes and added a value to his land that should certainly belong to him. To treat profits on the sale of leases as income, and nob as an accretion of capital,, is wrong in principle. A Crown leasehold is in some respects to a man of limited means of more value than a freehold, because he does not require a large capital to develop it. It will be a calamity to impose this tax upon men who hold- outside pastoral leases.
– Does the honorable member believe in taxing profit on transfers of leases?
– I do not believe iu taxing a profit on the transfer of a Crown lease.
– Would the honorable member tax the profit on the transfer of any other lease?*
– Yes. I would certainly tax a man whose business it is to deal iu property.
– Take the case of hotel leases ?
– I am dealing not with hotel leases, but with Crown leases. I ask the Government to exclude Crown leases from this form of taxation, and also to abandon the retrospective provision, because it is bad in principle.
.- For the second time I am happy to associate myself with the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. DuncanHughes) in his oppositon to this clause. First of all, I should like to take the point raised by him, that his argument was applicable to the first clause of the motion. He seemed to be a little rattled by -the apparent unanimity of those who appeared to think that the clause should be agreed to.
– I said that I would withdraw the amendment if the Treasurer would make the decision on later retrospective provisions apply to the first clause.
– It appeared to be taken as accepted that this clause was not in the true sense retrospective in so far as it referred merely to income received in the financial year ending 1st July, 1923. But the Treasurer has pointed out that all income tax is retrospective, relating as it does to the income earned in the year previous to that in which the tax is collected. The honorable member for Boothby acted lightly in moving an amendment at this stage, because although it is true that we assess the income and collect the tax for the year previous, yet it is collected on the basis that the income was then lawfully liable to taxation. That is the point at which I join issue with the Government.
– We are speaking, not of collecting the tax, but of levying it.
– It is the principle of the tax that has been declared by the High Court to be vicious and wrong, and whether the tax goes back one year or one week beyond the time of that decision or not, the principle is precisely the same. The tax is retrospective and bad, and if the argument of the honorable member for Boothby is sound, it is applicable to clause 1. I am opposed to the general principle of taxing the receipts from the assignment of leaseholds. I am surprised and disappointed to find that the honorable member for Wakefield, whom I thought would be a whole-hearted supporter of mine in his objection to this principle, wavering and limiting his opposition merely to Crown leaseholds. If I were not bound by principle I should make the limitation the other way, and be favorable to a tax on. the transfer of Crown leaseholds and the large areas held by Sir Sidney Kidman and his f riends. I should be inclined to stretch the principle a little in order to levy taxation upon those gentlemen. Still this is not a matter of individuals, but of principle, and whether i.t is a transfer of a Crown lease of 20,000 acres or 100,000 acres, or the transfer of an apartment house in Fitzroy, an hotel in Footscray, or a drapery business elsewhere, the principle is the same. I am opposed to this system of taxation, on the ground that profit on the transfer of a lease is capital and not income. It does not matter how the Commissioner of Taxation may have interpreted his powers under the act, nor does it matter what exemptions may have been made in respect of payment of rents or otherwise. ‘ The question to decide is whether it is income we are taxing now, or whether the tax is something that I thought was anathema to honorable members supporting the Government - a tax upon wealth or capital. It is suggested thatthe taxation upon the profit from a transfer of leasehold is merely a tax upon capitalized rent, and as such should be taxed as income. My answer is that it is quite open to the transferor to either sublet the property for an increased rent, or transfer the whole of it for an aggregate sum. In the one instance the transaction is a sale of capital and in the other it involves an increase of income, and automatically the principles of income taxation immediatelyapply. When the transaction is a sale of capital, similar to a transfer of freehold, the seller should not be subject to income taxation. There is no taxation upon the transfer of a freehold unless a man makes an income by repeated profits on a turnover in freehold estate. That is his business, and his profits may be regarded as income and subject to taxation in the same way as is the income of a man whose business is betting on theturf . But if as is acknowledged, the transaction is an isolated transfer of freehold whereon there has been a substantial profit within a particular year, provided the transfer is not part of the seller’s business as a traffickerin the ordinary sense, no matter how great the profit he makes, it is not regarded as income, and he does not pay taxation upon it. I see no just reason, therefore, why the profits on the transfer of a leasehold should be made subject to taxation. In both instances the transaction isclearly a transfer of capital, and the consideration is not income.
– Do I understand that the honorable member is opposed to the taxation of capital.
– The taxation of a particular kind of capital should not be introduced into a bill ‘ that purports to deal with income taxation.
– This is not an income taxation bill.
-Is it not? I think it is, and I am altogether opposed to the objectionable principle of retrospection that ‘ is embodied in this legislation. The Treasurer has argued that if Parliament does not by special legislation close the door against claims by persons who have been improperly taxed, the department will be compelled to re-open about 4,000,000 assessments that have been made over a number of years. That is not an answer to the question of principle that has been raised. Inscribed in imperishable letters somewhere within this building is an old Latin maxim which applies to this case, Fiat justicia, ruat coelum - “ Let Justice be’ done though the Heavens should fall.” Therefore, I do not admit the argument of expediency as a justification for legislating retrospectively. But in practice I see no need to re-open the 4,000,000 assessments. There is no proof that any particular case stands on precisely the same footing as that of Mr. Dalrymple, and the onus rests upon any person who claims a refund from the department to substantiate his claim. If he can show that he has been unjustly taxed and that the department has taken from him something to which it was not entitled, it is bound to refund the amount with any consequential compensation in the form of interest that is rightly due. Therefore, I am not impressed by the argument of expediency. If we once admit the plea of expediency and uphold wrong practices by the strong arm of the law in such a way as to inflict obvious injustice upon certain citizens, we subscribe to a very vicious practice which a national Parliament should not for a moment countenance. Therefore, at this preliminary stage, I record my opposition to the proposal which the Treasurer has submitted.
– I hope that the Treasurer will accept the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. DuncanHughes). It is submitted in the proper place, for it is the first paragraph of the resolution which makes the proposed legislation retrospective. This is not an income tax assessment “bill, but a measure to impose taxation upon separate transactions in the assignment or transfer of leases. If the committee thinks it proper to impose taxation upon such transactions in the future there can be no objection to it, but the motion applies retrospectively to assignments or transfers of leases in respect of which moneywas received in the financial year commencingon the 1st
July, 1923, or any subsequent financial year. Honorable members will notice that the reference is not to assignments or transfers, but to the receipt of money, after that date. A man may have sold a lease in 1921, with an arrangement that the payment should be by instalments, spread over four years. The instalments he received in the financial year commencing on the 1st July, 1923, and in any subsequent financial year, will become taxable under this motion, although the actual transaction occurred in 1921. It is not just that the proceeds of one deal should be taxed, and the proceeds of another be immune, merely because .the one occurred before, and the other after, a certain date, and it is par.ticularly unfair to tax moneys paid under transactions which ante-dated the period covered by the motion. Why should this proposal be retrospective to the 1st July, 1923 ? Why is the Government not content to legislate for the future ? The following facts, relating to an actual transfer of which I have knowledge, indicate the inequity of this proposal. A man sold a lease at the end of June, 1924, which date was subsequent to the High Court’s judgment in the Dalrymple case. He and the purchaser therefore contracted, as they were entitled to do, upon the basis of the existing Jaw, as declared by the High Court, namely, that no taxation was payable in respect of the proceeds of the sale. That assumption naturally had an influence upon the price. Now, four months later, the Government proposes to upset that transaction, by making the receipts subject to taxation. That is quite unjust and indefensible. I realize that the success of Mr. Dalrymple in the court arose out of a mere slip in the wording of a section of the act, and, having regard to the intention of Parliament, I do not contend that there was any particular merit in his claim, or those , of other lessees similarly situated.
– I do not think that the defect in the law was a mere slip. The honorable member for Wakefield, and others, were deliberately responsible for it.
– If that is so I congratulate them upon their acumen. Even if it be assumed that there are liabilities to the department in respect of the transfer or assignment of leases, it is very difficult to fix an arbitrary date to divide those transactions which shall be taxable from those which shall be immune. Paragraph 8 provides that the resolution, and the bill which will be based upon it, shall not. apply to Mr. Dalrymple, or to any person. “ who has applied to the Commissioner of Taxation for the transmission to a court of an objection to the taxation of the value of the lease so transferred or assigned by him.” In other words, a person who has applied for the transmission of his objection will be exempt from the operation of this legislation. When one sends in a taxation return, he is not in a position to make an objection. As soon as he receives an assessment from the department he is at liberty to take objection to it, but he is unable to compel the department to deal with his objection, and until his return has been dealt with it is impossible for him to ask that the objection be transmitted as an appeal to the court. The present provision applies only to persons who have asked that their objections be transmitted. I invite the committee to consider whether other taxpayers would be in any worse position than those who have asked that. their objections be transmitted. In the first place, there are those taxpayers -who have been assessed and have lodged objections, but whose objections have not been dealt with by the department. I understand that seme of those taxpayers thought that their objections were being held over, because Dalrymple’s case was regarded as a test one. I am not able to say whether that is so ot not, but it is not unlikely. Are the people, whose claims have not been dealt with through no fault -of their own, not -to be in the same, position as those who have made objections, but whose objections have been dealt with more promptly by the department? Then, again, there is a class of men who have made returns, but have not been assessed, and, therefore;, have had no opportunity of making objections. Finally, there are those who have had transactions in the current year. I have already mentioned one case that has come within my own knowledge, in which action was taken on the understanding that the profits would not be taxed. I do not take the view that there are any particular merits in the Dalrymple objection, except from the legal stand-point, but it appears to me to be so difficult to draw a fair line between the various classes of taxpayers I have mentioned, that we should apply the general principle, which, I understand, has been, approved by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), that retrospective legislation in taxation matters is undesirable. “Where it is impossible to legislate retrospectively in such a way us would be fair, surely the general rule should be applied, and no retrospective operation should be given to the tax. The safe rule is to leave everybody to his legal remedy) whatever it may be. I suggest that the Commonwealth Parliament should stand to the law, and expect citizens to take advantage of their legal rights or give them up. The proper way is to administer it without fear or favour, leaving everybody to his legal rights. Section 37 of the act enables a taxpayer to re-open a matter within three years. I suggest that retrospective benevolence in administration is a mistake, and cannot continue, because in a few years we shall reach a position in which it will be impossible to make all decisions retrospective to the beginning of our income’ tax legislation. Similarly, I suggest that there should be no retrospective harshness or injustice in legislation. It would be better to make the new law apply to the transfers and assignments of leases after this bill has come into operation. Nobody could complain of that as a matter of principle. Then the position would be that anybody who had lodged objections under the law which applied when the transaction occurred would be able to ask that those objections be treated as appeals, and his case would be dealt with according to the law. Persons who had paid the tax within the previous three years could get their cases reopened under section 37, and other persons would be unable to get their money back, because they had paid the tax without desiring to challenge the assessmentIt is impossible to do complete justice by retrospective legislation. ‘ The dates chosen offer a poor compromise. To leave everybody to his legal rights would be fair and prudent.
– I find myself, as a layman, in agreement with one, if not both, of the legal members who have preceded me. The bill proposes to impose income tax on something which is really capital. I know of a number of cases in which leases have been purchased and businesses have been built up. After a few years these leases have been sold’ at a profit, and although income tax had been paid annually on the income earned by the lessees, the profit on the sale of the leases has also been taxed. If the retrospective clauses of the bill are put into operation, very grave injustice will be clone. I know of leases that have been sold since the 1st July, 1923, at a considerable profit. If the lessees had known that they would be subject to the payment of income tax on the profit of the sale, they would have asked for, and would have obtained, a higher price than they received. I cannot agree that the profits on the sale of a lease should be subject to income taxation. In this matter I claim to take a broader view than that of the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster), who applies his objection only to the taxation of the profits from the sale of Crown leases. If the objection is sound for one kind of lease, it is sound for all kinds. It is because I consider that the profits on the sale of leases, whether Crown leases or leases of business, premises, are not a proper subject for income taxation that I oppose the motion. I oppose, particularly, that part of it which is retrospective. The committee ought to insist upon the deletion of, at least, the retrospective clauses.
.- I hold different views from those expressed by the last three speakers. Parliament definitely decided how the burden of taxation should be distributed, and there is not the slightest doubt that it was the intention of Parliament that this tax should be collected. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr.- Latham) admitted that, but a technical defect in the act permitted the Dalrymple decision to be given. We shall not be doing our duty if we allow persons who were intended to pay to escape payment. I hold very strong views on this matter, because there is much evidence to-day of attempts to evade taxation. In so far as those attempts succeed, extra burdens’ are placed on the shoulders of others. Parliament may have been wrong in imposing this tax, and I believe it was wrong to a certain extent. A man who makes a living by buying and selling leases, whether busi- ness leases or Crown leases, should be taxed in the same way as the man who buys and sells sheep, or anything else.
– That is admitted.
– The man who takes a lease and holds it for a number of years should not be subject to taxation, for he is not making his living by buying and selling leases. Let us consider the case of a Crown lessee in the western division of New South Wales. We wish to give every encouragement possible to men to settle in that uninviting country and to bring it into production. A man maybuy an unimproved lease at a very low price. It takes courage to invest money in such a property, but by spending money on the conservation of water, the ring-barking of trees, and the erection of dog and rabbitproof fencing, a man may, after a number of years, make the lease much more valuable than the actual cost of the improvements put on the land. I have in mind a man who held a lease for twenty years, and when he sold it he had to pay a large sum of money in taxation. That was unfair to that man, and it would be equally unfair if it had been a business lease instead of a Crown lease. If a manhas a lease of an hotel, holds it for a number of years, builds up a business connexion, and after he has made it more valuable sells it, it cannot be said that he is trafficking in leases. He is entitled to all the profit he makes. I shall move an amendment to bring the Commonwealth law into line with the existing law in New South Wales and Queensland. In those states the sale of a lease that has not been held for five years is subject to taxation, but if it has been held for five years or longer, the profits on the sale are not subject to taxation.
– Does that apply to broad acres only?’
– It applies to all leases, including business leases. I shall move that the following proviso be added at the end of clause 1 : -
Provided that after the passing of this act no tax shall be payable if the vendor of such lease has held the same for a period of not less than five years prior to such sale.
I am opposed to retrospective legislation, as usually understood, but I do not regard this as retrospective legislation. Technically, it may be retrospective.
– It would be regarded as retrospective by the honorable member if he had to pay taxation for eight years past.
– I have not had the legal training of the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham), and I may be giving to words a common-sense meaning that is different from their legal meaning. If taxation was paid in good faith, and if it was the obvious intention of Parliament–
– That is where the hon- . orable member begs the question. How can he interpret the intentions of Parliament except by the language used by Parliament ?
– I am quoting the honorable member for Kooyong as an authority, and no one, after listening to his speech, can be in any doubt that, in his opinion, it was the intention of Parliament that the tax should be collected, but a technical error in the drafting of the bill enabled some genius to discover a loop-hole for escape. I do not blame any m,an for taking advantage of his legal rights. Many men paid the tax in good faith, and it is our duty, as representatives of the people of the Commonwealth, to see that as many people as possible are made to pay.
.- I am glad that early in the discussion of this motion, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. DuncanHughes) has given the committee an opportunity to decide the question whether the retrospective clauses shall remain. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) and others have pointed out that the later clauses of the motion are more retrospective than that under discussion, but. it is well to have the matter settled now.’ It is dangerous, unjust, and unfair to impose upon people a tax for years that are past. If one person, because he was able to appeal to the courts of this country, escaped taxation, every other person, whether he has paid the tax or not, should also be allowed to escape. It is with me not a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence, but of principle. My argument would be the same even if it involved refunding taxation paid under a misapprehension, although honorable members may say that there was not much misapprehension by some of the people who paid this tax. There was, however, a great deal of protest. Even if it means an expenditure of £250,000 to the Commonwealth, I submit that people who have paid taxation which they were not intended to pay should be given a refund of their payments. The adoption of a principle like this might have a serious effect on land settlement, and might result in injustice in the city as well as in the country. It is quite possible that it might lead to most unfair consequences in such cases as the sale of a city business the premises of which are held on leasehold tenure. A firm might sell its business for a certain amount on a walk-in walk-out basis, and it would be most unfair if, five years afterwards, either party concerned in the deal was obliged to pay a large amount of taxation in consideration of the transfer of the lease on which the premises were erected. Many persons who sell their leases have very good reasons for doing so. If the Government intends to tax people who engage in the business of buying and selling leaseholds, it should also tax those who buy and sell houses. Leasehold jobbers should not be taxed any more than household jobbers.
– People who make a business of buying and selling houses are taxed now.
– That is, if they can be discovered. There are so many loopholes by which they escape taxation that it is difficult to catch them. The proposal of the Government would not be quite so objectionable if people who sold their leases for legitimate reasons were to be exempt from the proposed taxation. A man who improves a leasehold should not be taxed for doing so. It is a strange thing that, generally speaking, neglected dwellinghouses and properties are assessed at less than well-kept houses and well-improved properties. If I had my way, I should put a heavy tax on careless householders and leaseholders. The neglectful, rather than the industrious, man should be taxed. It is unjust to raise a big issue like this in the dying hours of the session. We cannot tell how far-reaching will be the effects of this measure if it is agreed to. Many people may be subjected to great hardship if they have to pay taxes now which have been accumulating over a period of five or six years.
– Generally speaking, leaseholders have been paying these taxes for the last six or seven years.
– I know of one person who has paid no taxes in respect’ of his leasehold transactions, and if he is obliged to pay now on a retrospective basis it will be most unjust. If the Government intends to insist on the imposition of this taxation, it should insert the provision that liability to payment shall be governed by the length of time a person has been in possession of a property. The suggestion to that effect made so clearly by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) a few moments ago expressed exactly what was in my mind. The Government, in an endeavour to impose a legitimate tax, will inequitably place a heavy burden on many small leaseholders. I ask the Treasurer to exempt from this clause a leaseholder who has been in occupation of a property for three years or more. It is not likely that a person who speculates in property will hold a lease for that period. This legislation is inconsistent with the principle of income taxation, and I hope that the suggestion of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) will at least receive the consideration of the Treasurer. This clause should not have a retrospective effect, but, if the committee decide otherwise, then I suggest to the Treasurer that he exempt from this provision leaseholders who have been in occupancy of property for three years or over.
Mr.LAZZARINI (Werriwa) [6.20].- I find myself, for the first time since my advent to this Parliament, supporting the Government. I fail to see how any honorable member can oppose the validation of taxes collected in the past. The matter in dispute is whether a retrospective provision should apply, and, with this exception, honorable members seem willing to support the Government. If this motion is not agreed to,, the Commonwealth will have to refund to land speculators and companies taxation paid on increments derived from the most vicious system of trafficking in leases. This system is rife in our big cities. I refer principally to the operation of large breweries who own tied houses, and force the lessees, at the expiration of their leases, to pay enormous sums for extensions. I know of one case in Sydney where £20,000 was paid for an extension of the lease of an hotel. The wealthy brewery corporations throughout the Commonwealth buy up hotels by methods which in some cases are not above suspicion. The lessees are forced to agree to the terms of the breweries under threat of eviction and stoppage of. supplies. The brewers are acquiring enormous profits because of the extra protection afforded them since the war. If this motion is not agreed to, the Commonwealth Government will have to refund to land dealers and breweries taxes amounting to almost £500,000, and twothirds of the sum will be paid to those who traffic in hotel leases. This system of taxation will not affect the small leaseholders, and it is of no use for honorable members representing country constituencies to. argue to the contrary. It is the old argument ofunearned increment. If many of these properties were situated in the Sahara desert they would not be worth 2d. It is the general community and its activities that increase the value of property; and any accretion of capital brought about under these circumstances should rightly be taxed. There is no reason why taxes collected on unearned increments should be refunded simply because there is a loop-hole in the law. The honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham.) has raised many fine legal points, but he must remember that this matter should be judged, not from a legal stand-point, but from that of justice. I hope that the committee will agree to the motion, and allow the taxes already collected to remain in the Treasury.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 8 p.m.
.- I shall not delay the decision of the committee, but I must say that I cannot support the sweeping amendment of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes). It is unnecessary to labour the arguments against it. I am prepared to admit that it is anomalous, if not unjust, to tax those who sell leaseholds on the profits they make from their sale, when we do not tax profits made from the sale of freeholds. But two wrongs do not make a right, and I am going to vote with the Government on the motion before the committee. There may be proposals submitted later which I shall find myself able to support. As has. been done in other countries, we need in the Commonwealth to overhaul our methods of taxation occasionally, that its incidence may be made more equitable. There is this objection to the imposition of taxes - that they are generally passed on, and have in the end to be paid by the mass of the people; but that, I am afraid, cannot be prevented.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the motion (Mr. Duncan-Hughes’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment negatived. .
.- I move -
That the following words be added to paragraph 1 : - “ Provided that after the passing of this act no tax shall be payable if the vendor of such lease has held the same for a period of not less than five years prior to such sale.”
I went very fully into this matter when speaking earlier in the day and, therefore, I need only briefly refer to it now. I think we should not tax profits from the sale of a lease which the vendor has held for at least five years, whether it be a pastoral lease or the lease of a grocer’s shop or of an hotel. If a man takes up a lease, and improves it during the time he holds it, he should be regarded as a benefactor of the community. We should give men every ‘ encouragement to go into businesses that do not look very promising , to improve them. My amendment, if accepted, will offer an inducement to men to take up leases and improve them, and if a man holds a lease for five years before he sells it he cannot be said to be trafficking in leases. An instance occurs to my mind of a man who held a western district lease for many years. He had a big struggle, and he reared a family on it. In course of time he made good, and sold out at a failprofit. He was taxed £2,000 on his profit on the sale of his lease, although, improving it as he did, he rendered good service to this country. If men are not given special inducement to take up ‘unpromising leasing propositions they will not do so. If a man buys a lease of any sort, and after holding it for a few months or a year, sells it at a profit, I regard him as in the same position as a man who buys a few sheep or horses, and shortly afterwards makes a profit on their re-sale. I consider that the profits made in such cases should be taxed. I trust the committee will support my amendment, which, if accepted, will bring the Commonwealth law into line with existing legislation in Queensland and New South Wales.
– The Government cannot accept the amendment for the reason that it recognizes that tax should be levied on profits made from the sale and transfer of leases. The reason the tax is levied is because of the deductions of the sinking fund for the unexpired portion of the whole period of a lease. The fact that a man has held a lease for five years does not alter that in any way.
.- The amendment would- be a very good one if it applied only to original Crown leases for which nothing was paid, because in that case the provision mentioned by the Treasurer providing for deductions in income tax, and for depreciation in value of a lease, would not apply, because it would have no original value. The Treasurer is right in saying that the reason for the imposition of this taxation in the past was the fact that the deduction to which I have referred was allowed. It is quite right that the deduction should be allowed, because this particular asset is a form of capital, and its value depre ciates every year until at the end of the period of the lease the whole value is worked out. For that reason there should be an annual deduction allowed. * It will be admitted that that is a fair deduction to make, but it is a corollary that the person who receives that amount should be taxed. If the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) would make his amendment applicable only to leases for which nothing is paid, I feel sure he would receive a good measure of support, and possibly in that case the Treasurer would be willing to accept his amendment.
.- I ‘ support the amendment. In connexion with a pastoral lease it is nonsense to talk of a sinking fund or gradual relief as the period of the lease expires. Is not the purpose of giving long leases in the outback country to give security of tenure to the man who will create at enormous expense a national asset? Everything humanly possible should be done in the interests of the nation to encourage such leaseholders. People cannot be induced to go into that country if they are not given long leases.
– Why did the Government introduce the Northern Territory Lands Ordinance?
– To continue and extend the long leases. I thank the honorable member for that helpful interjection. At one time in South Australia, after many years of settlement, the whole of the back country was deserted and reverted to the Crown, and it was only when the State Government’ offered further encouragement to the lessees by lending them £3,000,000 for the erection of vermin-proof fencing and the eradication of wild dogs, that they were induced to resume their holdings. After the state has offered all possible inducements in order to get the country occupied, I cannot understand the Commonwealth Government proposing this discouraging and repressive taxation. The values of the leases are created ‘by the energies of men and women who have spent- years far away from the centres of civilization, in conditions of hardship. God knows they deserve the fruits of their courage and enterprise. If honorable members realized the true position in regard to these leases this proposal would not be tolerated for a moment. The State Governments, which have spent so much to induce settlement outback, never dream of imposing land taxation on the leases. This legislation will rankle in the breasts of the leaseholders, and I cannot understand its introduction by a Government that is supposed to be concerned with the interests of the primary producers.
.- I cannot accept the suggestion made by the honorable member for Maranoa. If effect were given to it, a man who had secured at a low price a lease which had been surrendered into the hands of the mortgagee would . not get the benefit of the proposed relief. I regret that the Treasurer will not accept what I consider to be a reasonable amendment. The argument he advanced against it should not weigh with honorable members. The fact that the term of a lease is expiring naturally lessens its value, unless special circumstances ‘arise to give it a mewvalue. Theoretically and generally in practice a. twenty-years’ lease has depreciated in value 15 per cent, after the expiry of five years. I hope honorable members will support the amendment.
.- I support the amendment because it will mean the taxation of those who are trafficking in leaseholds, and give immunity to those who are endeavouring to develop the back country.
.- The amendment would create complications and confusion.
– It is simplicity itself.
– It is not. This tax was imposed in the first place because the leaseholders themselves declared that the price paid for leasehold interests was revenue expenditure and not capital expenditure, and they, therefore, claimed and obtained rebates from the Taxation Department. I think their contention was wrong, but they havehad that relief for eight years. Now the honorable member for Macquarie desires that they shall escape taxation in respect of the proceeds of assignment or transfers. A man pays £10,000 for the transfer of the unexpired portion of a lease, and represents to the department that as the lease has only ten years to run he should be allowed a deduction of £1,000 per annum from his income. The department con cedes that, and now some honorable members desire to give immunity from taxation in respect of the profit on a transfer or assignment. In other words, the leaseholder is seeking to get exemption both ways. I should prefer that the taxation of these transactions should be abandoned, rather than that the amendment should be carried.
– The second clause of the resolution prescribes the methods by which the tax shall be levied, and honorable members will see that an attempt is being made to make the impost more equitable than in the ‘ past. Hitherto, the tax has been levied in the one year on the full amount of the profit, and thus a very heavy drain has been made upon the taxpayer. For instance, if the profit on the sale of a lease had. been £10,000, and the seller had an ordinary income of £2,000, he would be taxed at the rate of £12,000 for the year in which the transaction occurred. The lease may have had twenty years to run. This clause provides that the seller shall be taxed in respect of that transaction at the rate of £500- per annum, plus his ordinary income, and that arrangement will substantially reduce the toll taken of him. When not lessthan one-third of the payment is received immediately, the whole amount will be divided by the number of years of the unexpired portion of the lease, and the result will be added to the man’s ordinary income. When less than one-third of the consideration is received in one year, the taxable income will be ascertained by adding the amount of the instalments to the other income.
.- An injustice will be done by paragraphb. Suppose that the profit on a lease which has ten years to run is £5,000. If payment is received in three instalments of £1,666 each, under paragraph a the seller will be taxed each year in respect of that transaction upon an income of £500, but if there are four payments of £1,250 each, the tax for each year will be assessed on an income of £l,250. That is obviously unfair. I, therefore, move -
Thatin paragraph a, sub-paragraph i the words “ Where not less than one-third of the payment for, upon or in consideration of, the assignment or transfer of the lease is received in any financial year” be omitted.
.- The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter) has pointed out that on the same sum of money differing taxation will be imposed, according to. whether or not more than one-third of the consideration for the assignment or transfer was received in any one year. If a lease that had ten years to run was sold at a profit of £9,000, and the money was to be paid in three annual instalments of £3,000, each amount would be assessed at the rate for £900, which would be onetenth of the full amount of profit. Now take the case in which a man sold at the same profit and received the payment in four instalments of £2,250 each. He would pay considerably more tax than the former, being charged at the rate for £2,250. The honorable member’s proposal would bring about a fair system of taxation.
– I accept the amendment, because the rate of tax would be determined by dividing the whole amount by the number of years.
– Why not treat the instalments exactly as you would the rebates?
– If we did that, members of the legal profession would go to the High Court and say that the department had imposed income tax under » taxation measure dealing with % different matter, and would be able to defeat the purpose of the measure.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Hunter) agreed to -
That sub-paragraph b be omitted.
.- It is held by some eminent legal authorities that, if clause 6 is accepted, it will have the effect of making the whole of the money received for a lease taxable. For instance, if a lease is purchased for £10,000 and sold for £11,000, the whole of the £11,000 will be subject to the tax.
– This clause has been altered to meet that position.
– I am glad to know that.
.- This is a retrospective clause, and its effect is that alongside our Income Tax Assessment Act we are to have an entirely different taxation measure - the Lessee Tax Act. Under the Income Tax Assess ment Act, which contains provisions for the taxation of profits made on the sale of leases, these profits will be taxed until the repeal of the lessee tax provisions of the IncomeTax Assessment Act. Here we are introducing another tax, and making it retrospective for the same period. The Dalrymple decision did not settle the whole question of liability under this measure, because the word “ tangible “ was inserted before the word “ asset,” and no decision has been given as to whether a lease is a tangible asset. It is very probable that a lease is not a tangible asset, and, therefore, taxation could be claimed under the Income Tax Assessment Act.
– The clause has been drawn with the express purpose of doing exactly what the honorable member desires, but I shall look into the matter and make sure that it carries out the intention of the Government.
– I move -
That sub-paragraphb, clause 8, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words: - “has recorded a protest in writing against the principle of the assessment thereafter declared to be invalid by the High Court.”
– How many persons will the amendment affect?
– I cannot say; but the exemption provided under paragraph a affects thirteen persons. These people have obtained permission to go to the High Court. I know of several, and there are many more who desired to resist this legislation, and have had their protests before the Commissioner for twelve months or longer. These lessees have as much right to exemption as those who have appealed to the court. Until the Commissioner of Taxation gives a decision they cannot, as the law stands to-day, go to the High Court.
– I shall accept the amendment if the honorable member will agree to it being submitted in the following form: -
That the words “ applied to” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ lodged with “ ; and that the words “ for the . transmission to a court of “ be left out.
– I agree to that.
Amendment amended accordingly, and agreed to.
Motion further amended verbally.
.- I wish to move an addition to clause 8 to meet the case of those who acted upon the Dalrymple decision after it was given, and sold leases on the assumption that the decision of the court was the law of the land. Those who acted on the Dalrymple decision before the law was altered ought not to be interferred with. They are in a different position from those who, before the decision was given, and while the matter was uncertain, made assignments of leases. I move -
That the following new paragraph be’ added : - “ (9) This act shall not apply to any payment made for upon or in consideration of the assignment or transfer of a lease when the assignment or transfer was made between the delivery of the decision of the High Court in the case of Dalrymple v. the Commissioner of Taxation and the date of this act coming into operation.”
– I regret that the Government is unable to accept the amendment. I remind honorable members of what actually took place. The Dalrymple judgment was delivered in June, and in July a statement was issued to the effect that legislation would be introduced to make the. law operate as most people thought it did operate. I delivered my budget speech on the 31st July, and said that validating legislation would be passed.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and ‘Mr. Bruce do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and passed through all its stages without amendment or debate.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate, with a message intimating that the Senate insisted on its amendment No. 6, which was not agreed to by the House of Representatives and disagreed to the amendment made by the House of Representatives in clause 8.
Message received from the Senate, intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the House of Representatives.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 3rd October (vide page 5125), on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill is highly technical, and I am sure it has given the actuaries great delight. The layman, however, finds great difficulty in understanding it. One cannot ‘dogmatize on a measure of this description. The provision of superannuation has been much appreciated by the Public Service. The total number of contributors to the fund is 28,633. The following figures for the period ended the 30th June are interesting: - Amount contributed, £74,943; number of annuitants, 245; total amount paid out, £45,349 ; total amount subscribed by the Government, £42,239. I regret that the Treasurer does not propose to make provision for certain officers to contribute for additional units to which their rate of salary entitles them. Three months were allowed by the principal act for officers to elect the number of units they would subscribe for. The schemewas new to them, and they did not quite know what to do, and whilst they were hesitating they lost their opportunity to make an election. The Treasurer, in his second-reading speech, used this sentence in respect to them -
There are some members of the Service who wilfully omitted to make an election, and for them no provision is made. .
I trust that he will agree to make some provision so that these officers may rectify their omission. The more officers we can encourage to subscribe to the fund the better it will be. It is quite natural that officers who were not receiving a large salary should hesitate to subscribe any more than they could help to a new scheme like this, but they have now had an opportunity to realize how beneficial it is, and would welcome an opportunity to contribute for all the benefits that it makes possible. Some information supplied to me by a Service organization put the position of these officers as follows : -
The proposed amendment to section 13 only gives officers who have failed to make an election the option of taking up to four units as at thirty years.
We desire that it should provide that any officer who has elected to take less than four units should be again given the opportunity to elect, if be so desires, to take up to four units. There are many officers who elected to take less than four units, for the reason that the retiring age for a full pension was 60 years. Section 85 of the Public “Service Act provides that - (1) Every officer ‘having attained the age of 60 years shall be entitled to retire from the Commonwealth Public Service if he desires so to do; but any such officer may (unless retired as hereinafter provided) continue in the Service until he attains the age of 65 ‘years ; (2) if any officer continues in the Service after he has attained the ago of 60 years he may at any time before he attains the age of 65 years be retired from the Service by the Board.
Owing to the fact that” the tenure of office after attaining the age of 60 years is not secured by the provisions of Section 85 of the Public Service Act, many officers were not prepared to take the risk of contributing for four units when the retiring age under the Superannuation Act was 65 years, for the reason that an officer compulsorily retired at 00 years -would only receive the actuarial equivalent of the pension contributed for.
I welcome the provision that is made for lighthouse -keepers to subscribe to the fund, and feel sure that every honorable member will gladly do all he can to afford lighthouse-keepers, and officers of a similar class, who render splendid service to the country and to our navigators, every possible benefit. These men are practically prisoners, for they live in their lightbouses with the member’s of their families, and see very little of the outside world. I a.m glad, too, that provision is being made to liberalize the conditions respecting invalidity. I understand that an amendment is to be made to the bill as submitted to us, to provide that officers may retire at 60, with a larger pension than is now possible, by making extra contributions. It may suit some officers to contribute additional amounts to entitle them to the bigger pension at 60, so that they may retire then rather than continue the ordinary payments and remain in the Service until they are 65. On the other hand, some other officers may prefer to remain in the Service as long as. 1 hey can. Certain anomalies are brought under the notice, of honorable members from time to time. An officer at the Jervis Bay College, whose services may be dispensed with on three months’ notice, is eligible to subscribe to the fund ; whereas other officers, who have at least a three years’ engagement, are not eligible. One would have thought that if an officer whose services are liable to be dispensed with on three months’ notice could subscribe, officers who- have a three years’ membership could also do so. I do not know what power the Treasurer has over the Superannuation Board, but I should like him to do what he can to remedy a grievance which some annuitants have. The persons I have in mind, who are entitled to payments of £1 or £2’ per week in certain cases, have found that, instead of receiving the full, amount due to them fortnightly, a few pence less is paid to them. For instance, an officer who is entitled to £2 per fortnight receives only £1 19s. lOd. We know of Gregorian calendars and Julian calendars, but the Superannuation Board has adopted one which is peculiarly its own. According to it, annuitants lose their payments for one day in normal years, and two days in leap years. I suggest that steps be taken to pay them the full pension on an ordinary basis. A number of amendments have just been circulated which seem to me to be very important, although I have only been able to glance at them hurriedly. It is unfortunate that a. technical bill like this must be under consideration in the closing hours of the session. I suppose that at midnight we shall be wrestling in committee with highly technical clauses. However, we must be thankful for small mercies. Many of the proposed amendments to the principal act will be much appreciated by the officers of the Service, but doubtless next session we shall have another amending measure before us on account of having to rush this bill through so quickly. I again commend to the Treasurer my suggestion that he should give to officers who are not subscribing for the full number of units to which they are entitled an opportunity to do so. If he cannot see his way clear to make provision for it in this measure, I trust that he will give us an assurance that a bill will be introduced next session to provide for it. I understand that the individual contributions to the superannuation scheme in New South Wales are less than those to the Commonwealth scheme. Notwithstanding that, the. Common wealth scheme is doing remarkably well.’ I support the bill ou the second reading, and I trust that in committee it will be amended so as to further liberalize the provisions of the Public Service Superannuation Act.
, - Soon after the passing of the Superannuation Act of 1922 it was recognized that it contained many anomalies and a few injustices. The Government has since promised that an amending bill would be brought down to rectify those errors, and I trust that the measure before the House will be beneficial in this direction. It will be remembered by honorable members that the original’ act made provision for all military officers, with the exception of quartermasters, warrant officers, noncommissioned officers, and privates, thereby inflicting a hardship upon a deserving section, of the Public Service. The Attorney-General (Sir Littleton Groom), who at that time was in charge of the bill, said that he would make every effort to remedy the position, but up to the present he has not done so. I have with me a letter referring to a very ‘clear anomaly, which I am glad to notice will be rectified by the bill. It is from the widow of a man who had 39 years’ service in the Marine and Lighthouse Department. This lady was ineligible for a pension under the act because her husband had not been ten years in the Commonwealth Service. He was denied the rightto subscribe either to the superannuation scheme of Queensland, from which state he was transferred, or to the’ Commonwealth scheme, and, therefore, his widow was debarred from a pension under both schemes. Another anomaly exists under the act in relation to military members of the age of 65 years. No provision is made to give a military employee, who is a contributor under the act, the right to elect to remain under his present conditions. The amending bill does not meet the difficulty, and I do noi know whether the amendments that have been circulated provide for such An officer whose retiring age is 65 is forced to cease contributing under the old scheme, and to come under the new scheme with its higher contributions for pensions at 60 instead of 65, and thus he has to pay before 60 years what otherwise would be spread over a period of five years longer. An officer aged 59, whose age for retirement is 65, would be asked to make payment at the annual rate of, approximately, £1,850 in fortnightly instalments. Very few men, and, indeed, no officers of the Service, are able to meet such a demand. I hope the Treasurer will be able to inform me that the amendments he has introduced will remove that injustice. There is also an injustice under the second proviso of section 12 of the act. . A public servant whose retiring age is 65 may elect, if he so desires, to retire at 60, and be ‘ permitted to contribute in a lump sum the actuarial equivalent of what his contributions would have been between the age of 60 and 65, an equal amount being contributed by the Government. There is a further anomaly in the bill. One provision proposes to disentitle from receiving any pension whatever persons to whom compensation has been paid under the Defence Retirement Act 1922. This provision is no doubt intended to prevent the application to those persons of the retrospective class giving four units of pension, without contribution, to those who retired since December, 1920. However, I think the bill goes further than is intended, and prevents those Duntroon graduates who were compensated and later brought back into the forces, from participating in the scheme at all. I believe that the Treasurer intends to remedy that anomaly. The members of the late Parliament will remember that in 1922, when the bill was in committee, clause 30 was discussed at great length. I refer honorable members to Hansard, volume ci, second session of the eighth Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition fought with great pertinacity for the reduction of the period before which a pension could be granted, from ten years to five years, and after a long debate the period was reduced to seven years. It was clear that it could not affect the actuarial basis, because the Attorney-General graciously gave away threetenths of the period suggested without in any way affecting the contributions to be made. The logical outcome is that the remaining seven-tenths should now be given away.
– It is to be given away.
– This seems to be a very simple procedure. I must congratulate the Treasurer upon introducing the bill to amend the Superannuation Act, and I hope it will fulfil the wish, not only of the Treasurer, but of every honorable member, that an estimable body of government officials shall receive the benefits of the act which was passed with the object of assisting those who retire after long and honorable serviee, and also those who through physical or mental incapacity are compelled to retire before reaching the age limit.
.- On behalf of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews), who has been summoned to another state on urgent public business, I wish to bring before the House the case of certain Commonwealth employees who have been unjustly treated. Certain members of the Victorian Marine Board were transferred to the Commonwealth Service just prior to the Superannuation Act being proclaimed, and they, therefore, came under its provisions. Before that transfer took place it had been decided that the whole of the Victorian Marine Board staff should ultimately be transferred to the Commonwealth. The other members were transferred nine months later, and were unjustly deprived of the advantages enjoyed by their former colleagues. Those who were first transferred are subscribing to the superannuation scheme, £10 18s.10d. per annum for four units, but those who were later transferred are subscribing £51 2s. 8d. for the same number of units. That cannot be regarded as fair and equitable, and I ask the Treasurer to rectify this anomaly in the amending bill. It has been suggested that this injustice might be remedied by back-dating the appointment of those men who were later transferred; but I leave it to the Treasurer to suggest some way out of the difficulty. He will remember that I asked, by interjection, whether these men would be covered by the bill, and he distinctly answered in the affirmative.
– Not these men.
– I was then referring to them. The Prime Minister last evening was under a misapprehension concerning a certain amendment to the Public Service Bill. He believed, in error, that the amendment covered a certain matter which had been referred to him. I hope the Treasurer will see that the men to whom I have referred may be given the same benefits as have been given to their colleagues who were transferred to the Commonwealth Service at an earlier date than they were.
– I realize that the Treasurer has given sympathetic consideration to a number of suggested amendments in the bill. A matter was brought under my notice only this afternoon, and I regret’ to have to bring it under the attention of the Treasurer at such short notice. It affects officers who havealready reached the age of 60 years. It is pointed out that a contributor of the age of 59 years when he attains the age of 60 years, is relieved of the necessity to make any more contributions, and is entitled to receive the full pension when he retires at any time. A contributor whose age is now 60 years must contribute until he is 65 years of age before he can receive a full pension. Should he retire before he is 65 years, his pension would be only the actuarial equivalent of a full pension. Thus a contributor who is now 60 years of age, if he retires, would have to make a lump sum payment of £36 ls. in order to receive a pension of £68 7s. 8d. If no lump sum payment be made, the pension would be only £26 2s. A contributor aged 63 years would have to pay a lump sum of £17 18s., to secure a pension of £86 19s. If he paid no lump sum the pension would be £48 18s. per annum. These would be the results in such cases, although both contributors may have contributed for a pension of £104 per annum. These facts disclose a position which seems to me to require rectification. They indicate the penalization of men who are at present 60 years of age, as compared with those who have not yet reached that age. It has. been suggested that to overcome the difficulty the following addendum should be made to clause 7 of the bill -
Notwithstanding anything contained in any section of the principal act, a contributor who is 60 years of age, or more than 60 years of age, before the passing of this act, may, within six months after the commencement of this section, elect to increase all previous contributions he has made to the fund, to such rates specified in the third or fourth schedule to this act as are applicable : For four units at the rates prescribed for the age of 30, and in respect of other units, shall be at the rate in those schedules which is appropriate to his age at the date he elects under this section.
Any contributor who makes an election in accordance with this section, shall be entitled upon retirement, at any time, to receive full pension, according to the number of units for which he has contributed.
Provided that after the contributor has increased his previous contributions in the manner as specified in this section, he shall not be required to make any more contributions.
That is the method suggested to overcome the difficulty under which these particular officers labour. I have had a conversation with a permanent head of a department on the matter, and I think he had a consultation also with one of the Treasury officials. Unfortunately, the Treasury officials- do not take a favorable view of the method suggested for overcoming the difficulty. They claim that it would lead to a number of complications, would create an indefinite position, and involve an addition to the annual expenditure of something over £70,000. They may not have had sufficient time to thoroughly consider the proposal, and for the present I leave it with the Treasurer and ask him in the limited time still at his disposal, to give the matter consideration and see whether the suggestion made can be accepted. If the suggestion is not acceptable in the form in which I have submitted it, the honorable gentleman may himself be able to submit an amendment which will meet the difficulty.
.- Honorable members are at a very great disadvantage in discussing this bill, because under Standing Order 171 it is not competent for them to move any amendment upon it. The standing order provides that -
No amendment for the imposition or increase of a tax rate or charge shall be proposed by any non-official member in any committee on any bill.
The Treasurer has submitted a number of amendments because, I presume, he comes within the category of official members. Other members have responsibilities to their electors and to public service associations outside who make suggestions for the amendment of the measure. We have only just received a long list of amendments which the Treasurer proposes to move, and have not had time to go through them carefully or to ascertain whether they conflict with amendments we have in mind ourselves. I presume that our only opportunity to move amendments was when the main resolution was before the House some days ago.* At that stage we knew nothing of the provisions of the bill, and could not indicate what amendments of it we considered necessary. A similar difficulty crops up in connexion with other matters. When, for instance, a Minister laid on the table the report of Yarwood and Company on the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, no motion that it be printed was moved, and, consequently, honorable members were given no opportunity of discussing that report, as many of them desired to do. These difficulties due to the Standing Orders should be considered and remedied by the Standing Orders Committee. Seeing that the Treasurer intends to move certain amendments on the bill, I hope he will take notice of amendments suggested in the course of the debate. This bill is of very great importance to the Commonwealth Public Service. I intend to support it. I hope to be able to suggest certain amendments which the Treasurer may agree to incorporate in it. I quite realize that a superannuation scheme must be actuarially sound, and the Superannuation Board must see that it does not make an exorbitant drain upon the people. Consequently, any amendments suggested should be reasonable. The superannuation scheme established under the principal act of 1922 was based upon the report of actuarial experts of whom Mr. Wickens, the Commonwealth Statistician, was one. I am glad to notice that the bill now before us rightly brings within the scope of the superannuation scheme warrant and noncommissioned officers and men of the Military Forces, and officers who were excluded from the benefits of the principal act.
– I think the provision should be extended to include members of Parliament.
– It should include not only members of Parliament, but the whole of the workers of the Commonwealth. I hope that the time will come when we shall have a national scheme of insurance the benefits of which will be enjoyed by every worker in Australia, whether in the Government service or not.
– This bill does not apply to the Naval Forces.
– That is so; they are provided for in another way. I am very glad that the Government has seen fit to amend section 4 of the principal act by clause 4 of this bill. It deals with a matter on which I had occasion to interview the Treasurer when he was in Rockhampton with the then Minister for Trade and Customs. I had the pleasure of taking to him two people who were outside the scope of the superannuation scheme because the word “ service “ in section 4 of the act is interpreted to mean “ service under or employment by the Commonwealth “ and under section 35 reference is made to -
An employee who -
has been in the Service for at least ten years, who may get certain benefits. That qualification cut out a number of men engaged in the lighthouse service of Australia. Up to 1915 these men were employed by the State Governments. They were then taken over by the Commonwealth. Because at the date of the passing of the principal act they had not been ten years in the Commonwealth Service they and their dependants were denied the benefits of the superannuation scheme. The Treasurer will probably remember the case I brought before him of Mr. G. A. Stevens, of Rockhampton, who joined the State Marine Department at the pilot station, Keppel Bay, in February, 1901. He served continuously in different lighthouses until his retirement in 1922, seven years after the taking over of the lighthouses by the Commonwealth. Although he had given 21 years’ service in the state and the Commonwealth, under the interpretation of “ service “ in the act he was denied the benefits of superannuation. Fortunately clause 4 of this bill will meet his case. Another case was that of Mr. G. W. Gray, whose widow I introduced to the Treasurer. He was in the lighthouse service for 38 years and seven, months, and was for a long time superintendent at Dent Island. He died in 1922, and his widow could not get any benefits under the superannuation scheme. I submitted these cases to the Treasurer, and also the case of a postal assistant who was taken over from the state service and had state rights. He died in 1922, and his widow was entitled to a small pension under a state act, and was consequently under section 51 of the principal act prevented from seeking any benefits from the Commonwealth superannuation scheme. I understand that under clause 11 of the bill that widow will be able to receive a pension for herself and her children. This is a good provision. One of the amendments I shall move if I have the opportunity is to delete from clause 7, after the word “ contributor,” the words “ who is less than 60 years of age, and “. The proposed new section 16a would then read -
A contributor to whom Part IVa. of this act does not apply may, within six months after the commencement of this section, and an employee who becomes a contributor after the commencement of this section may, within six months from the date of the commencement of his employment, elect to contribute at such rates specified in the third or fourth schedule to this act as are applicable.
I also desire to insert the following proviso after proposed new sub-section 2: -
Provided that an employee who has attained the age of 60 years before the date of commencement of this section shall contribute, in respect of other units, at the rate prescribed for the age of 60.
– It is very unusual to give notice in the House in detail of amendments to be moved in committee.
– I am afraid that I may be prevented by the Standing Orders from moving in committee any amendment which would increase the appropriation.
– Any proposal which has that effect will be ruled out of order apart from the Standing Orders, because parliamentary practice in that regard is invariable.
– Perhaps I may be allowed at this stage to indicate amendments which I consider desirable. The object of those amendments I have outlined is to place an employee between the ages of 60 and 65 years on as favorable a footing as an officer who is not quite 60. Under the principal act an employee who retires before reaching the age of 65 years will obtain only the actuarial equivalent of his pension, provided that he retires after reaching 60 years of age. The actuarial equivalent will be- a very meagre sum for the great majority of employees, and a big lump sum will have to be paid to secure even that. This bill provides for the full payment of a pension to an officer who makes a higher contribution in order that he may retire at 60. Thus a great discrimination is made between officers of the ages of 59 and 61 respectively.
– The act gives the greatest consideration to officers who are over 60 years of age.
– The officers who are 59, and desire to retire at 60, will be required, to make no further payments towards their pensions, but the man who is 61 is required to continue his contributions until he is 65. Probably many employees will die before they attain that age. Whilst some men are young at 70, others are old at 60 years.
– The more benefits we give the higher must be the rate of contribution.
– I .do not think the amendment I am suggesting would involve an increase in the rate of contribution, and the Treasurer pointed out in his second -reading speech that certain concessions he is proposing will not do so. The object of my proposal is to treat all men between the ages of 60 and 65 as they would be treated if they had not reached 60 years. If the amendment were incorporated in the bill, such employees, upon payment of a higher rate, would be able to retire on the full pension instead of on the smaller actuarial equivalent, as at present. I believe that the cost to the Government would be actually less in respect of men retiring between 60 and 65 than in respect of those retiring at 60, whilst the Superannuation Board would be protected by the payment of the higher rates. Under this bill a contributor aged 59 years, when he attains the age of 60 years, will be relieved of the obligation to make further contributions, and will be entitled to receive a full pension when he retires at any time; whilst a contributor who is now 60 years of age will have to contribute until he is 65 years before he can enjoy a full pension. Should he retire before 65 years, his pension will be merely the actuarial equivalent of a full pension. Thus a contributor who is 60 years of age now, if he retired,, would have to make a lump sum payment of £36 ls. in order to receive a pension of £68 7s. 8d. If no such payment were made the pension would be only £26 2s. A contributor aged 63 years would have to make a lump sum payment of £17 18s. in order to- get a pension of £86 19s. If no lump sum payment were made, the pension would be £44 18s. per annumYet both those officers will have contributed for a full pension of £104 per annum at 65 years. Honorable members will- admit that those contributors who are now between the ages of 60 and 65 yeas* will be at a great disadvantage. The 192S act was made retrospective to December, 1920, and contributions from persons under 65 years of age started from the 5 th January, 1923. Those officers, however, who were over 65 years of age at that date received a pension of four units without making any contribution; and as the retiring age for all new contributors is to be 60 instead of 65, I urge upon the Treasurer the advisability of placing all contributors between 60 and 65 cm the same footing as those employees who were over 65 when the principal act commenced. That would mean that those who are over 60 now would receive a full pension without making a further contribution, in the same way as a man who is only 59 years of age will be entitled to a full pension twelve months hence without being required to continue payments after 60. There would be no loss to the Government, because the majority of the men who are now between 60 and 65 years of age will not live much longer, probably ten years at the most. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) will probably propose an amendment of section 34 of the principal act by inserting a new clause after clause 9, to delete the word “ female “ and substitute the word “his “ for the word “ her “ whenever occurring. The object of that amendment is to place a single male contributor or a contributor without dependants under the act, e.g., a widower with children over sixteen, on the same footing as a female contributor in regard to the refund of contributions. That would be fair and reasonable. It would mean no extra cost to the Government, and the increased cost to the Superannuation Board would not be high enough to affect the rate of contributions. Of course, the Superannuation Board would object on the ground that the contributions by females are on a different basis from those by males. But if the Treasurer will obtain an actuarial estimate, he will find that the increased cost in which the board would be involved would be negligible. The contributions refunded would then, in the event of the death of the contributor, be paid to any person nominated by him. Another amendment I desire to see made is the insertion of a new clause after clause 10, to read -
Section 50 of the principal act is amended by the deletion of the words “ not less than two-thirds of” and the insertion of the words “ equal to “ in lieu thereof.
Section 50, sub-section 2, would then read -
If suitable employment is offered to him equal to his salary at the time of his retirement, or to such salary as is agreed upon between him and the Public Service Commissioner, the Board may cancel the pension, and thereupon it shall cease to be payable.
Any officer originally retired on the ground of invalidity should not be asked to take up duties again at a reduction on his’ former salary. The amendment I am suggesting would still allow himto work on reduced pay if he so desired, but it would ako allow him to accept a pension if the Public Service Board could not find a position for him equal to that which he formerly occupied. Clause 6 of the bill amends section 13 of the principal act. The Treasurer said that where an employee could satisfy the board that his failure to make the election was due to circumstances not within his own control, he would be permitted to contribute to the fund, but who, I ask, is to determine whether the circumstances were not within his own control ?
– A number of employees did not receive notice at all.
– Why should any discrimination be made? We should take a reasonable view of the matter, and allow every public servant who now desires to contribute to the fund to receive the benefits of the scheme. It would lead to a better understanding and to contentment in the Service.
.- I have already submitted to the Treasurer the request of a number of officers, who have come into the scheme under section 53 of the act, to be allowed to take, additional units for the benefit of their wives should they become widows. I desire to know if the Treasurer has been able to make provision for that under the bill.
.- When the Superannuation Act waa passed it was stated that nobody who soiled his hands in the service pf the Government could participate in the benefits of the measure. But a number of men employed at Cockatoo and Garden Islands as foremen, clerks of works and mechanics, in the Public Works Department, should be granted an opportunity to contribute to the fund. Most of them were transferred from the state Service to the service of the Commonwealth, and have 30 years’ service, and it is not their fault if in some cases their appointments ‘ were not gazetted. Up to the present time my efforts to have them included in the scheme have not been successful,’ but I now ask the Treasurer if any provision has been made for them. The honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse) has on previous occasions referred to the claims of warrant officers. Why cannot these men be recognized as public servants ? One reason advanced was that they had to re-enlist every three years.
– I have a clause to propose relating to the employees of the Commonwealth Shipping Board.
– I have been informed bhat, owing to the Cockatoo Island Dockyard having been placed under the control of a board, the employees cease to be entitled to the privileges granted to public servants.
– I should like an assurance regarding the position of members of the Naval Auxiliary Forces. It has been decided to bring the whole of the Naval Forces under a system of deferred pay. The scheme provides that deferred pay as now granted to sea-going officers and men is to be continued and extended to officers and men of the Auxiliary Forces. Provision is made under clause 5 for the exclusion of all members of the Naval Forces from the benefits of this bill, and members of those forces who are contributors will be refunded the contributions they have already made. Will the Treasurer assure me that full repayment of the contributions will be made to those members of theNaval Auxiliary Forces who were under the Superannuation Act, and will now come under the deferred pay scheme in a manner similar to that provided under section 40, paragraph 1, of the principal act? That section provides that where a contributor resigns, or is dismissed or discharged from the Service, there shall be paid to him the amount of the actual contributions paid by him under the act, irrespective of the cause of resignation, dismissal, or discharge. I should like, also, to receive from the Minister for Defence an assurance that all members of the Naval Auxiliary Forces due to come under the deferred pay scheme shall, in the event of death, invaliding, or retirement, receive an amount of deferred pay not less than one year’s salary, inclusive of deferred pay.
– That is the intention.
– I am glad to know that. Can the Minister assure me that the rates of deferred pay to be prescribed for the Naval Auxiliary Services will be the same, rank for rank and rating for rating, as those in force for the remainder of the Permanent Naval Forces ?
– They will be similar, but they will not be the same, because the ages for retirement ave different.
.- I realize that this is a bill that can be more appropriately dealt with in committee than on the second, reading, but I wish to place on record my recognition of the futility of indicating amendments at this stage of the session,’ when the House is jaded by long sittings, and in consequence more- or less uninterested. The Treasurer has tabled the bill in the dying hours of the session, and has not given honorable members a fair opportunity to examine its provisions. It is a highly technical bill, the actuarial basis of which warrants the most careful study. It is time this Parliament adopted the system of the British House of Commons of appointing committees to consider measures of this character. There ought to be a Standing Select Committee to consider the effect of this complicated amending bill, the expense involved to the taxpayer, and the merits of the proposals of the Service organizations. I, therefore, approach the subject with some trepidation. I recognize that the Government has done something to remove anomalies that have weighed heavily upon widows and some of the contributors. I have no desire to discuss that aspect of the matter at length, but I protest against the way in which the Treasurer has delayed the bill. I do not know whether that delay has been unavoidable, accidental, or deliberate. I have repeatedly asked when the bill would be presented, but I have received no. other response than that it would be presented “ in due course.” In view of all the circumstances, I shall deliver the remainder of my speech in the form of questions. Why is there a differential age for military officers ? Why are lieut.generals to be retired at 65, major-generals at 62, and majors, captains, and lieutenants at 55? Do those figures indicate the relative periods of capacity of officers of the different ranks? It seems peculiar that a lieut.-general can be efficient up to 65 years of age, while a major, captain, or lieutenant, who is subordinate inrank, is incapable of continuing his duties after 55 yearsof age.
– If a man has not risen to a higher rank than captain at 55 years of age, he ought to go out.
– That may be so, but there is another way to look at the matter. It is strange that a man can be a lieutenant-general. at 65, but cannot carry out the duties of a major or captain after he has passed the age of 55. Why cannot the Government recognize temporary service as part of the continuous service defined in clause 4? Why not extend the right of re-election to all members of the Service, on the lines already explained and amplified by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) and others? Why not make the retiring age for all members of the Service CO years? Why have two schedules, one for officers retiring at 65 years of age, and one for others retiring at 60 years of age? The Treasurer expressed doubt in his second-reading speech whether members of the Service as a whole would accept the increased contributions provided for in the bill to enable them to retire at 60 years of age. Judging by the views expressed by the Public Service organizations, I am inclined to think that they would accept the increased contributions. The fixing of the retiring age at 65 years has been largely responsible for the failure of a considerable section of the Service to elect to take an increased number of units. That failure suggests that the Service was dissatisfied with the old provision, and supports my suggestion that there should be one schedule, and a uniform maximum retiring age of 60 years. The Service organizations have asked me to get. an explanation of a matter connected with section 38 of the principal act. The Treasurer, in his second-reading speech, explained that the provision in the bill would apply to about 40 widows and 11 children, and was limited to the widows of employees who died during the two years’ period commencing on the 31st December, 1920. That period ended on the 31st December, 1922, but contributions to the fund did npt commence until the 5th January, 1923. I presume that the provision will apply to employees who died on or before the 5th January, 1923. I suggest to the Treasurer that special consideration should be given to officers over the age of 60 years who have been retired. Many of them have long records of faithful and efficient service, and even if it is not possible to give them the full pension, could he not provide a special fund to make up the full pension rates for them? The number of these persons will rapidly diminish, and they will entirely disappear in the course of a few years. Men who have had from 30 to 40 years’ service are entitled to treatment equal to that given to the younger men, who will ultimately reap the full benefit of the act. . When the bill is in committee I shall move an amendment to prevent the discrimination that is now made in regard to women who die in the Service. They have the right to will their superannuation contributions to any beneficiary nominated by them. I submit, on behalf of the Service organizations, that the word “ female “ should be left out, so that the concession shall apply equally to unmarried men and widowers. I regard all those persons as having equal claims. It will save a lot of discussion if the Treasurer, at the conclusion of this debate, will reply to the questions I have asked, and explain the amendments proposed.
– I desire at the outset to congratulate the Treasurer on introducing a bill that has many excellent features. I am glad that one of its principal objects is to provide pensions for members of the military and air forces. The feature that appeals to me very much is the provision made for the widows and children of those officers who died before they had time to elect to come into the scheme. Will this provision be retrospective to the time when the principal act was proclaimed?
– It will be.
– Will the persons benefiting receive the money in a lump sum ?
– That will remove a great deal of discontent. The benefits will go to the widows and children of old officers in the Service, who must have been in the Service for at least ten years to be eligible to elect to come into the scheme. It is a just clause, whatever actuarial adjustments will be necessary to give effect to it, and will receive the approbation, not only of honorable members on both sides of the House, but of all members of the Public Service. Am I correct in assuming that the Public Service Board can retire a man at 60 years of age without intimating why he is retired ? If the man was contributing for four units of pension, which is equivalent to £2 a week at the age of 65, he would go out at 60 years on a pension of £30 per annum, and would have to pay a lump sum of £35 in order to receive a pension of £70 a year. I submit that if the Public Service Board retires a man at 60 it should give reasons for so doing. The man concerned should have the right to go before a government medical officer, and if a certificate is given that he is not physically or mentally able to do the work required of him, he should be granted a pension for the full amount for which he is subscribing. I regret that the blot on the original act is not being erased by this amending bill. It is most unfair thatno provision is made for the dependants of deceased single men or deceased widowers to benefit by their contributions. It is well known that many single men have widowed mothers dependent upon them. Not infrequently the men are single because they have to keep their mothers. It is a monstrous anomaly that on their death their dependants obtain no benefits from their contributions. Provision should be made for their contributions to be repaid to whomever they may have nominated. It has been said that to make such a provision would involve increasing the contributions of all. subscribers. There would be no general objection to that, although it appears that the board has informed the Government otherwise. Common justice demands that the dependants of this class of subscribers should obtain some benefit from the payments of their bread-winners, and I do not think that any fair-minded person would object to an increase in contributions to enable this provision to be made. It is extraordinary that although these dependants are not given any benefit in the case of the death of an unmarried male subscriber, a single man dismissed from the Service, or even jailed, has returned to him the full amount of his contributions. If this Government does not take steps to rectify the position I can assure it that the Labour government, which will be in power in 1 926, will do so. The Treasurer - must recognize the injustice of the present scheme in this respect, I am confident that it is a mistaken belief that serious objection would be made to an all-round increase of a few pence per week in contributions in order to deal justly by unmarried or widowed contributors with dependants. I trust that early next year the National Insurance Royal Commission will be able to submit to the Government a scheme which will improve the lot of all workers throughout the Commonwealth.
.- I received a telegram this evening from the secretary of a Service organization which has a large membership. It reads as follows : -
Am advised Superannuation Amending Bill provides pensions mature at sixty only; those persons under sixty would like to see an amendment making provision . to enable full pension to be paid earlier than sixty-five for those under or over sixty at commencement principal act should they desire to retire at any time after reaching sixty.
I shall hand the telegram to the Treasurer, to enable him to look into the matter.
.- It appears to me that the provisions made in proposed new sub-secfion 60 of section 13 for non-commissioned officers who are retired on the ground of incapacity of a lesser degree than 50 per cent, is inadequate.
– The honorable member for Calare has brought that matter under my notice, and I propose to move an amendment to meet the objection.
– I am glad of that, for if the provision were left as it is injustice’ would be done to these officers.
– If I deal briefly with a few matters now we shall save time in committee. The delay in the introduction of this measure has been unavoidable on account of the tremendous number of actuarial investigations that had to be made. The work was being done, by particular individuals, and could not be transferred to other officers. The full effects of some of the amendments that honorable members have suggested cannot possibly be appreciated without the making of careful actuarial calculations. It would be most unwise, for instance, to agree, without such a calculation, to alter the basis on which single male contributors subscribe. It is quite possible that the adoption of the proposal would be most detrimental to the fund unless a general increase in contributions had been made to meet the expense of doing so.
– If an officer is dismissed for misconduct or jailed for some crime he is entitled to a refund of his contributions to the scheme, but if an officer dies his contributions remain in the fund.
– The Commonwealth system of superannuation is practically a family benefit scheme, and for that reason there is a distinction between the benefits contributed to by male and female employees. If an alteration were made on the lines suggested,’ the inevitable result would be that when the scheme became self-supporting, the contributions would be higher, and the opportunity for providing a comfortable pension for officers in their declining years would be considerably curtailed.
– And yet the contribution is higher than that in New South Wales.
– Every one desires the superannuation scheme to be permanent. Several state superannuation schemes became insolvent. In New South Wales there was once a deduction from salaries of 4 per cent, as a contribution to a superannuation fund. I remember that in the nineties the scheme suddenly became insolvent, and the officers were offered various inducements to withdraw from it. If we overburden the Commonwealth scheme unnecessarily there will ultimately be many more anomalies than there are at present. Under the Commonwealth combined scheme the amount of pension to be paid in 20 years’ time will be £500,000, and that expenditure will be a substantial drag on the Treasurer of the day. That sum is based on the present number of contributors. The suggestion to refund contributions to representatives of male contributors who die in the Service has already received consideration, but the difficulty in the Way of granting the request is that it will involve an increase in the rates of contribution, and many members of the Public Service consider that the existing rates are sufficiently high. The scheme provides the following benefits for male contributors, and it is for these that they contribute : -
In regard to the benefits to female employees, they contribute for three distinct benefits, namely, (a) and (b), and a death benefit in the form of a refund of contributions, which really is in substitution for (c) and (d). It cannot be conceded that the single male contributors are being dealt with unfairly or unjustly. It is admitted, of course, that there are exceptional cases, but the difficulty is, in a general scheme such as superannuation, to meet the requirements of the exceptional cases. It is quite certain that the married employees would object to any increase in their contributions to enable the dependants of single employees to receive the benefit of a refund of contributions. Moreover, many of the single men will marry in the course of time, and will increase the number of objectors. The scheme is a family benefit scheme, and the employee is, during the period of his contributions, covered to the extent of a full pension for himself should he retire on the ground of infirmity. Under all the circumstances, it is not deemed advisable to adopt the suggested amendment, and I ask honorable members not to press it in committee.
– Is the idea to force single men into marriage?
– It would be a very good thing for them if they were married. The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) mentioned the case of public servants who had been transferred from the Victorian Marine Department, and stated that these men should be placed on the same basis as officers who have been transferred previously. If this scheme is to be ultimately self-supporting, a line of demarcation must be drawn, and the proper line is the date of the proclamation of the original act. Only last week the Commonwealth Government arranged to take over the Statistical Department of Tasmania. Other departments may have to be taken over as the duplication of departments is abolished. I am greatly indebted to the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse) for his assistance. Ever since his association with the Defence Department he has tried to bring about a satisfactory scheme, and he was largely responsible for many of the provisions in the act, and also for many of the amendments proposed in the bill. In consultation with the chairman of the Superannuation Board, the honorable member for Calare has enabled me to bring down certain amendments which I think will remove most of the outstanding anomalies. I am grateful to the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) for having brought before me the unsatisfactory position of the men at Cockatoo Island Dockyard, and an amendment is proposed to meet that difficulty.
– Has the Treasurer considered the suggestion I made to back-date the transfer of men taken over from the Victorian Marine Department?
– I dealt with that matter, and pointed out that it would involve the back-dating of other appointments. The Statistical Department of Tasmania is being taken over by the Commonwealth, and the officers transferred will not be placed on the basis of four units at the age of 30 that is allowed to officers who were in the Service at the time of the proclamation of the act.
– Is it proposed to include in the superannuation scheme men working on the Commonwealth railways, outside of the salaried staff?
– Permanent employees throughout Australia will be able to contribute to the scheme.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Interpretation).
.- I am very disappointed with the attitude adopted by the Treasurer respecting the position of the men who were transferred from the Victorian Marine Department to the Commonwealth Service. These men were transferred subsequent to the date of the proclamation of the Superannuation Act, but prior to that date it was known that they were to be taken over. It is grossly unfair that they should be deprived of advantages accruing to men from the same Service who were transferred previous to the proclamation. Had they remained in the State Service they would have enjoyed great benefits under the proposed Victorian superannuation scheme .
– These men have come in on a perfectly equitable basis. Officers who were previously in the Service received very generous treatment.
– The Government is not entitled to discriminate between certain officers. The Public Service should be administered with equity and justice. If one section receives specially generous treatment it will cause a great deal of dissatisfaction in the Service. There is a difference of £40 between the annual contributions of these men, and the Government should do the fair thing and back-date their appointments. I have endeavoured to put the case clearly to the Government, and have shown it a way out of the difficulty, but Ministers apparently are not prepared to do justice to these men.
– Is the honorable member going to move an amendment ?
– I would do so if that were possible, but I am prevented by the Standing Orders from submitting any amendment. I recognize that a line must be drawn somewhere in the application of an act of this kind, but Ministers know that the men to whom I have referred are to be transferred to the Commonwealth
Service^ and they should be given the benefits of the superannuation scheme which are given to other men whose services are on absolutely the same terms. J trust that I shall be given some assurance that justice will be done to these men before this bill is disposed of, or that another bill will be brought down, if not this session, early in next session, to meet their difficulty.
– I point out to the honorable member that the first consideration in connexion with the superannuation scheme is its actuarial stability. If we are to continually add to the number of persons who are given the right to take advantage of the rate of contribution foi the age of 30 years, it is not possible for the scheme to remain actuarially sound. Special consideration was given in the case of officers who at the commencement of the act had already been in the Commonwealth Service for some time. It is because the first consideration is the stability of the fund that the honorable member’s suggestion cannot be accepted.
– I understand that sub-section 5 of section 13 is the section relied upon for the distinction between officers to which exception is taken by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin). It provides that -
An employee who at the commencement of this act is not less than 30 years of age shall make certain contributions. It is necessary, then, to see what is meant by an employee. According to the act, an employee is a person employed in a permanent capacity by the Commonwealth.
– A person so employed at the commencement of the act.
– It is true that the scheme is based upon actuarial calculations, but we should try to put all employees of the Commonwealth on an equal footing.
– That is done in the case of every one in the Service.
– There are men who are really in the Service, but not technically in it, and they should have’ been provided for. Many of these men have been doing Commonwealth work for years.
– They were not. doing Commonwealth work until they came into the Commonwealth Service, and that was after the act was proclaimed..
– Some of thep were doing Commonwealth work before the act was proclaimed. The men in the lighthouse service were doing Commonwealth work.
– They are brought into the scheme under clause 4 of the bill.
– I presume that they are covered by paragraph 6 of sub-clause 1 of clause 4, which reads -
Where an employee is transferred from the service of a state or territory to the service of the Commonwealth, such permanent service of the employee under the state or territory as is continuous with his service under the Commonwealth.
I understand that that will qualify the definition of an employee.
– Yes, and will apply also for the benefit of his widow.
– I should like now to know what is the exact meaning of “ transferred “ under the bill. Some of the officers of the Navigation Department were transferred to the Commonwealth Service at the time of federation.’ Others were transferred subsequent to federation, and were compelled to resign from the state Service in which they were employed before taking up their duties under the Commonwealth. In spite of that, their state and Commonwealth service was continuous.
– That is the point. There must be no break between the two services.
– Will the Treasurer give me his assurance that if a man finished up his service with a state on Saturday night, and began with the Commonwealth on the following Monday, his service will be regarded as continuous ?
– That is so. There would in such a case be no break in the service. If a man were out of a state Service for three months before he joined the Commonwealth Service, there would be a definite break in his service.
– I am to understand that the fact that an officer transferred from a state Service was called upon to resign from the state Service will make no difference so long as his state and Commonwealth service are practically continuous ?
– It will make no dif- ference.
– Temporary employees who have been some time in the Service, but are over the age of 30 years when they are made permanent, cannot take advantage of the provision under which permanent employees who were over 30 years of age at the commencement of the act were allowed . to contribute as at the age of 30 years. That is a very great hardship in many cases. If a man 35 years of age, who was temporarily employed, has lately been made permanent, I understand that he is not able to take advantage of that provision.
– It is to be regretted that that is so. The scheme is based upon actuarial calculations, but it is a pity that the actuarial calculations were not based upon provisions which would have done justice to these cases. If they had been foreseen, great hardship to employees who had for some time been temporarily employed would have been prevented. On their being made permanent it is of no advantage to them to contribute to the scheme. It would cost them so much to pay for two units, which would entitle them to a pension of £1 per week, that they would be better off if they relied on the old-age pension.
.- I should like to know whether I am finally to understand that Ministers are not prepared to do justice to the men to whom I have referred, and extend to them the same terms as are extended to their colleagues in employment, although they have been employed in the same department for the same length of time, and are carrying out similar duties. These men should be treated on a basis of equity.
– They are treated on a basis of equity.
– That is not so, and there could be no stronger condemnation of Ministers than to say that they are not prepared to amend the legislation under which injustice is done to the officersI have referred to. I shall not prolong the debate. I have endeavoured to do all 1 can to secure justice for these men.I have suggested a means to meet their case, and the Treasurer must recognize that the distinction drawn between them and their colleagues is undesirable.
– There must be a line drawn somewhere.
– There is no reason why the line should be drawn’ between two . employees who are really on the same footing.
– I ask the honorable member whether he wishes the superannuation scheme to be stable or not. Does he desire that there should be a continual stream of new employees to whom concessions would be extended ? That would jeopardize the stability of the scheme.
– It is evident that I have not been able to make myself clear to the Treasurer. I desire that those who it was known at the date of the proclamation of the act were to be transferred to the Commonwealth, but who, to meet the convenience of the Commonwealth, were retained in the State Service, shall be given the same terms as other men in the same department.
– There are others of whom the same thing might be said.
– The number of similar cases cannot be very great.
– No one can tell how far the proposal will go.
– If the Treasurer were desirous of meeting the situation he would not find much difficulty in doing so. If the Government is not prepared to do the right thing by these men I must leave the matter until a more reasonable set of Ministers is in charge of affairs. It is not justice, that certain persons should be given special consideration as compared with others occupying similar positions.
– The honorable member desires to break down the whole scheme for the sake of a few special men.
– If the Treasurer declines to recognize the justice of my argument it will be useless for me to pursue the matter further.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 5 -
After section four of the principal act the following section is inserted : - “ 4a. Upon the commencement of this section no person who is a member of the Naval Forces of the Commonwealth shall be entitled to contribute for or receive pension under this act :
Provided that this section shall not affect any pension granted prior to the commencement of this section.”.
– Will a full repayment be made of the contributions by those members of the Naval Auxiliary Forces who were previously under the Superannuation Act, but will in future come under the deferred pay scheme?
– Contributors who were members of the Naval Auxiliary
Forces will ‘ be granted a refund of their contributions in respect of superannuation, as in the case of officers who resigned under section 40 (1) of the principal act.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 (Election to contribute for units of. pension),
– I placed before the Treasurer, some time ago, the circumstances of some employees who had not elected to take the four unite within the specified time, and who have not since been allowed to do so. The case of one such employee was brought before the Prime Minister, who replied that the officer had been advised that he would have to make his election before the 5th April, 1923, but had failed to do so, and had therefore forfeited his opportunity. I see no objection to allowing those who, inadvertently, or through inadequate acquaintance with the provisions of the act, missed their opportunity to elect for four units to do so now. I ask the Treasurer to. give me this assurance, and I shall not pf ess the matter by moving an amendment.
– If any employee submits a statement that he acted in ignorance in electing to take two units when he would . have preferred to take four, and would like to make his election now, he will be allowed to do so.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 -
After section sixteen .of the principal act the following section is inserted : - “ 16a. - (1.) A contributor who is less than sixty years of age, and to whom Part IVa. of this act does not apply, may, within six months after the commencement of this section, and an employee who becomes a contributor after the commencement of this section may within six months from the date of the commencement of his employment, elect to contribute at such rates specified in the Third or Fourth Schedule to this act as are applicable. “ (2.) Where an employee, who is a contributor at the date of the commencement of this section, elects to contribute at rates specified < in the Third or Fourth Schedule to this act, the rates at which he shall contribute shall, where he has previously . elected under subsection (5.) of section thirteen of this act to contribute for units at the rate prescribed for the age of thirty, be, in respect of those units, the rate prescribed in the Third or Fourth Schedule for the age of thirty, and, in respect of other units, shall be at the rate in those Schedules which is appropriate to his age at the date he elects under this section.
.- I move -
That in line 1 of proposed sub-section (1) the words “ who is less than sixty years of age and “ be left out, and that after proposed new sub-section (2) the following proviso be inserted -
Provided that an employee who had attained the age of sixty years before the date of commencement of this section shall contribute’ in respect of other units, at the rate prescribed for the age of sixty.
I explained on the second reading that the object of the amendment is to place an employee who is between 60 and 65 years of age on the same footing as an officer who is not quite 60. Under the principal act, an employee who retires between the ages of 60 and 65 years will obtain the actuarial equivalent of a full pension, but that actuarial equivalent will mean a very meagre sum for the majority of the employees, and a big lump sum will have to be paid to secure even that. The amendment aims at treating all men between the ages of 60 and 65 as if they had not attained the age of 60, so that upon payment of the higher rate they will be entitled to retire upon a full pension, and not the actuarial equivalent as at present. I believe that the cost to the Government would be less in the case of men retiring between 60 and 65 years than in the case of those retiring at 60, and the Superannuation Board would be protected from loss by the payment of the higher rates. I hope that the Treasurer will accept that amendment, for which the Public Service Associations have asked.
– The proposal contained in the clause is much more generous than the existing provision. It is an application of the defence superannuation scheme to the Public Service as a whole, so that, whereas previously the employees could only contribute to a scheme based on a maximum retiring age of 65 years, they will in future have the alternative of electing to contribute for a pension on retirement at 60 years. Despite this improvement, Public Service associations have asked that consideration be given to the possibility of reducing the maximum age from 65 to 60 years. That proposal is resisted by many men in the Service, who say that their present contributions are sufficiently heavy. Other proposals have been submitted on behalf of the employees by the honorable member for
Capricornia (Mr. Forde), and the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson). The adoption of the amendment proposed by the former honorable member would mean a great addition to the contributions necessary in order to enable all officers to retire at the age of 60. It is estimated that there are in the Service about 500 employees between the ages of 60 and 65 years. Assuming that they are contributing on an average for five units, or £130 per annum - a low average considering that it includes a large proportion of the officers who are contributing heavily to the superannuation fund - the annual amount of pension which the Government would be called upon to pay if the officers were now all retired, would be £72,500. Whether the employees retire or remain in the Service until they attain the age of 65, it would still be necessary for the Government to recoup the superannuation fund to the extent of about £7,500 annually, to cover the contributions which would have ceased. Again, if officers now 60 years of age and over were exempted from the payment of further contributions, those officers who are under 60 years of age, and do not come under the new scheme, would, when they attained the age of 60 years, claim to be also allowed to cease contributing. That would upset the whole of the scheme, and be unfair to- those who elected to contribute at higher rates for the purpose of securing a full pension at 60. Under the circumstances I cannot accept the amendment.
.- There seems to be a big disparity between the position of members of the Service who are just under the age of 60 years and those who have just attained that age. A contributor who is now 59 years of age will, when he attains the age of 60 years, be entitled to receive a full pension, but a contributor who is now 60 will have to contribute until he reaches the age of 65 years, or else he will have to pay a large lump sum in order to obtain a full pension.
– That anomaly cannot be avoided.
– It seems to me that there should be some graduation of the payments to overcome it.
– As the amendment of the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) would increase the amount of the appropriation it cannot be accepted.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 8 to 12 agreed to.
After Part IV. of the Principal Act the following Part and sections are inserted: -
Part IVa.- Military and Air Forces. Division I. - General. “60c. - (1.) Upon the commencement of this Part, an employee or air officer shall not he required or permitted to contribute for units of pension under this Act, except in pursuance of the provisions of this Part, nor shall pension under this Act be payable to or in respect of any such employee or air officer except in pursuance of those provisions. “60k. Pension shall not be payable under this Part to, or in respect of, any person to whom compensation upon retirement or discharge is paid under the Defence Retirement Act 1922. “60o. Where an air officer or employee is retired upon the ground of invalidity or physical or mental incapacity to perform his duties and the invalidity or incapacity is, in the opinion of the Board, of an extent which constitutes a less degree than fifty per centum of total incapacity in relation to civil employment, the employee shall, notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, not be entitled to pension under this Act, but shall be entitled to receive a refund of his contributions and such payment (if any) in the nature of deferred pay as is due to him under any other Act or under regulations under an Act.
Amendment (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That the words “ employee or,” section 60c, be left out.
Consequential amendments agreed to. Amendments (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That after section 60c, sub-section 2, the following new sub-sections be inserted: - “ (3.) An employee who is, prior to the commencement of this Part, a contributor under this Act, shall not be required or permitted to contribute for units of pension under this Part, nor shall pension be payable under this Part to or in respect of that employee unless, within three months after the commencement of this Part, he elects to contribute under this Part. “ (4.) An employee, who is not, prior to the commencement of this Part, a contributor under this Act, shall not be required or permitted to contribute for units Of pension under this Act, except in pursuance of the provisions of this Part, nor shall pension under this
Act be payable to or in respect of that employee, except in pursuance of those provisions. “ (5.) Where an employee, to whom subsection (3.) of this section applies, makes an election in pursuance of that sub-section, the Board may, upon the commencement of his contributions under this Part, make such adjustments in relation to his contributions as the Board determines.”
That the words “ is paid under the Defence Retirement Act ‘1922,” sub-section 60 (ft), be left out, and that the following words be inserted in lieu thereof: - “has been paid under the Defence Retirement Act 1922.
Provided that this section shall not apply to any person who, having received such compensation upon retirement or discharge, is reappointed to the service and becomes a contributor.”
That the words “ employee shall, notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, not be entitled to pension under this Act, but shall be entitled to receive a refund of his contributions and such payment (if any) in the nature of deferred pay as is due to him under any. other Act or under regulations under an Act,” sub-section 60 (o), be left out, and that the following words be inserted in lieu thereof: - “ air officer or employee shall not be entitled to pension except in accordance with this section. “(2. ) An air officer or employee to whom this section applies may upon retirement -
receive such amount of pension as is proportionate to the degree of his incapacity in relation to civil employment; or
if, within two months of his retirement, he so elects - receive payment in the form of a lump sum of such amount as is the actuarial equivalent of his contributions and of the share of pension payable , by the Commonwealth and accruing ti , him under this Act. “ (3.) Where an air officer or employee, who is in receipt of a pension under paragraph (a) of the last preceding sub-section, dies from any disease which, in the opinion of the Board, was the cause of his retirement, pension shall be payable to his widow at therate of one-half of the pension for which the air officer or employee was contributing at the time of his retirement.”
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 14 and 15 agreed to.
– I move -
That, after clause 4, the following new clause be inserted: - “4a. Section twelve of the Principal Act is amended by omitting the second proviso to sub-section (2.) thereof aud inserting in its stead the following proviso: -
Provided further that a contributor -
who elects, or is called upon, to retire on or after attaining the age of sixty years and prior to attaining the age of sixty-five years; or
whose maximum age for retirement is fixed at an earlier age than sixty-five years but not less than sixty years, and who retires on attaining the. age so fixed, may contribute, in a lump sum or in such smaller sums, and at such periods as the Board approves, the actuarial equivalent of the amount necessary to complete his payment to the fund up to a later age (not exceeding the age of sixty-five years ) . ‘ “.
This clause is necessary to remedy the injustices which officers would suffer if retired between the ages of 60 and 65 years. It is considered that these officers should be able to obtain a pension which is at least the actuarial equivalent of the pensions for which they had been contributing. The amendment is reasonable, and will place them on an equality with the rest of the Service.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to -
That after clause 7, the following new clause bo inserted: - 7a. Section twenty-four of the Principal Act is amended by omitting therefrom the words ‘ who has been in the service for not less than seven years and ‘ “.
.- I move -
That, after clause 9, the following new clause be inserted: - “ 9a. Section thirty-four of the Principal Act is amended by the deletion of the word female,’ and the substitution of the word his ‘ for the word ‘ her ‘ wherever occurring.”
The object of my proposal is to place a single male contributor or a widower contributor with children on the same footing as regards a refund of contributions as females. This would mean no extra cost to the Government, and the cost to the board would not be sufficient to affect the rate of contribution from officers.
– The amendment would considerably increase the appropriation. I dealt with this matter in my second - reading speech, and pointed out the difference between the benefits received by female and male contributors. I am ad vised by the actuaries that the effect of such aprovision would be to substantially increase the rate of contribution throughout the Service.
.- I hope that the word “female” will be deleted. It seems anomalous that if any man is dismissed from the Service through retrenchment, misconduct, or any civil crime, he is entitled to a refund of his contributions, but if he gives long and honorable service to the Crown, and happens to be unmarried, or a widower at the time of death, his dependants receive nothing, while his children, if over the tender age of sixteen years, receive no benefit whatever. A female employee can will her superannuation contributions to any one.
– She does not receive the same benefits as a male employee.
– That is mere sophistry, although it may be arguing on actuarial lines. The assumption is that the fund is a family benefit fund. It is assumed that the employees for whom it provides will ultimately marry, but there may be many reasons why a man cannot marry. Those facts should have been considered when the basis of the fund was being established. This is a genuine claim by the public servants, and it is the one thing they insist upon in the bill. If the Treasurer will not accept it now, I hope that at least he will give serious consideration to it, will call for a report by the Superannuation Board, and will introduce an amending bill early next session to remove this anomalous discrimination.
– As the amendment will increase the amount of the appropriation, it is not in order.
– I move -
That after clause 10 the following new clause be inserted : - “ 10a. Section forty-seven of the principal act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead : -
– (1.) Pensions shall be paid in fortnightly instalments. (2.) In order to ascertain the amount of an instalment of a pension covering a period of a fortnight, the annual pension shall be divided by twenty-six.’ “
The object of this amendment is to make the fortnightly contributions come to an even amount, instead of including odd twopences and fourpences.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I have been somewhat unfortunate with my amendments up to the present time. I now move -
That after clause 10 the following new clause be inserted : - “ 10b. Section 50 of the principal act is amended by the deletion of the words ‘ not less than two-thirds of, and the insertion of the words ‘ equal to.’ “
The section will then read -
If suitable employment is offered to him, at a salary equal to his salary at the time of his retirement, or at such salary as is agreed upon between him and the Public Service Commissioner, the board may cancel the pension and thereupon it shall cease to be payable.
That would safeguard the contributor. An officer retired on the ground of invalidity should not be asked to perform duties for less remuneration than his former salary. My amendment proposes that the salary shall be equal to that paid at the time of retirement, instead of being only twothirds of it. The contributor would still be allowed to work at a reduced rate of pay if he agreed to do so.
– I hope that the honorable member will not press his amendment, because the section as it stands is fair and reasonable. If a man was provided with employment at not less than two-thirds of his salary, he would receive more than the equivalent of ‘his pension. That is an eminently fair provision. Members of the Service desire the superannuation scheme to work efficiently, and that end will be promoted by providing that publicservants shall not be placed on pension unnecessarily.
.- The effect of the amendment will be that a. man’s pension cannot be taken away from him if he is retired through ill health unless he can return to his previous position. He must be offered his previous position if he is fit to fill it, or, if he is not fit for that, his pension must not be reduced. To a man who is judged to be not restored to health, the Government now says, “ We cancel your pension and compel you to do other work at two-thirds of your former salary.” That provision is not quite so fair as it appears to be. If the amendment is carried the Government will be involved in very little increased expenditure, because the majority of men- would prefer to return to work at a reduced salary, if they felt able to do so, rather than continue on a pension. If the Public Service Board will not offer him the amount of his former wages, a man still has the option of agreeing to accept a smaller amount.
.- I contend that my amendment is reasonable. If suitable employment is offered to a man at a salary equal to that which he received at the time of his retirement, or at such salary as is agreed upon between him and the Public Service Board, he can still be employed. The Government would not lose much by accepting the amendment, because there would probably be very few cases in which a retired officer would recover his former vitality, and if such an officer was not able to do as much work as formerly, there would be nothing to prevent him from coming to an arrangement with the Public Service Board to accept a reduced salary. In some cases there might actually be a reduction of the expenditure involved, for the Government might be saved the cost of employing a man at increased wages to do the work of . the retired officers who could be reemployed at a salary equal to that . which he was receiving at retirement.
– As the amendment will increase the amount of the appropriation, it is out of order.
– I move -
That after clause 13 the following new clause be inserted : - “ 13a. - (1.) Section seventy-six of the principal act is amended by inserting at the end thereof the following sub-section : -
This act shall apply to any officer of the Australian Commonwealth Line of steamers -
The object of that amendment is to- provide for the application of the act to certain employees at Cockatoo Island Dockyard who were contributors to . the fund when the dockyard was taken over by the Shipping Board. The Shipping Act. under which the board took control of the establishment makes no provision for the preservation of the rights of those employees, who were previously permanent employees of the Commonwealth. On their transfer, they lost their status and the right to contribute to the fund. It is not just that they should suffer by reason of their transfer.
Amendment agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
Sitting suspended from 12.8 to 12.45 a.m.
Friday, 10 October 1924.
– I suggest for the consideration of the Treasurer that the motion for the adoption of the report be temporarily withdrawn, by leave, so that consideration may be given to a message from the Governor-General.
– I ask leave to withdraw the motion.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Message recommending further appropriation for the purpose of amendments to be moved by the Treasurer reported.
That the message be taken into consideration in committee forthwith.
In committee (Consideration of Go vernor-General’s message):
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) pro posed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purpose of amendments to be movedby the Treasurer in a bill for an act to amend the Superannuation Act 1922.
– I endeavoured in committee to move three amendments to the bill, but was ruled out of order, by the Temporary Chairman on the statement of the Treasurer that the amendments proposed would increase the appropriation. I contended that they would not increase the appropriation, but the Treasurer’s word prevailed. He, however, moved certain amendments that were accepted, although they increased the appropriation. A message has since been received from the
Governor-General recommending appropriation to cover the Treasurer’s amendments. The. very fact that the Treasurer has now moved for an appropriation to be made for the purpose of his amendments is sufficient to show that they will increase the appropriation. I protest against the discrimination between those amendments and the amendments that I attempted to move. If I were out of order, so was he.
– Does the honorable member attach any blame to the Temporary Chairman of Committees?
– No, because he acted upon the statement of the Treasurer that such amendments purported to increase the appropriation, and should, therefore, not be allowed. I was asked by the Public Service Association to move amendments in their interests, but unfortunately for the public servants of the Commonwealth they were ruled out of order, and I had no opportunity of having them tested.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Coleman) agreed to-
That the bill be recommitted for the reconsideration of clause 14.
In committee (recommittal) :
Clause 14 -
Section seventy-seven of the principal act is amended by adding at the end thereof the following proviso: - “ Provided that, where the contributor is one to whom Part IVa of this act applies, the board may determine the question upon a joint-report from the medical officer appointed for the purposes of this act and a medical officer attached to the branch of the Commonwealth Service in which the contributor is employed.”
– I move -
That after the words “Provided that” the following words be inserted “upon receipt of an adverse report by the Board, and before a determination is arrived at, the contributor shall have the right to a second medical report from a doctor mutually agreed upon by the contributor and the Board.
Provided further that “.
-The amendment moved by the honorable member will not increase the appropriation, and the Government therefore accepts it.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with a further amendment.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
In committee (Consideration resumed from 6th October, vide page 5176) :
Clause 2 (Applying dictation test).
– I hope provision will be made by the Government to prevent the admission of unwelcome and undesirable immigrants to this country until such time as people of our own kith and kin are profitably employed on the land and in other vocations. The number of unemployed is steadily increasing, and Australian workmen are being placed at a serious disadvantage because of the influx of immigrants from the southern parts of Europe. The conditions of life to which these people have been accustomed are not in keeping with the standard we enjoy and desire to maintain in Australia. I should welcome an amendment of the immigration law which would restrict the number permitted to secure entrance into the Commonwealth. It may be expected that the restrictions placed upon the admission of southern Europeans to America will direct their attention to Australia. If they could be usefully employed on their arrival, there would not be so much reason to complain of their admission, but in view of the fact that people of our own kith and kin are unable to obtain employment in Australia, and that there isan army of unemployed of our own race in Britain, our immigration law should give preference tothe admission of people accustomed to something like our standard of living, whose presence would be acceptable to Australia. If the Government will submit legislation which will limit the immigration of people from the southern parts of Europe, it will find ready acceptance at the hands of many members of this House. We should give first consideration to the immigration of people from the United Kingdom.
– I go further than the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) in my condemnation of the administration of the immigration laws of the Commonwealth. I have drawn the attention of the Government to the fact that immigrants from the continent of Europe enjoy great advantages as compared to immigrants from Great Britain, and that Czecho-Slovakians have been admitted to this country who cannot speak a word of English. No provision was made for receiving them, and they are living on the charity of our citizens. It is said that they were introduced to be farm hands, but the Trades Hall authorities have had to take them in hand, and in Newcastle they had to go to the mayor of the city to obtain assistance for them. The tightening up of administration as well as of legislation is essential in this connexion. We have enough unemployed here now without introducing immigrants who cannot speak our language to compete with Australians for any work that is going. The admission of these people under the circumstances in which they are coming here is a crime against the immigrants themselves.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 -
Section 8a of tbe principal act is amended -
by omitting from sub-section (4.) the words “and he shall be deported accordingly”; and
by omitting sub-section (5.) and inserting in its stead the following sub-section : - “ (5.) Any person for whose deportation the Minister has made an order in pursuance of this section shall be deported accordingly, and pending deportation shall be kept in such custody as the Ministerdirects.’”.
Section proposed to be amended -
(a) If the person fails within the prescribedtime to show cause why he should not be deported, or
The Board recommends that he be deported from the Commonwealth,
The Minister may make an order for his deportation, and he shall be deported accordingly.
Pending deportation the person may be kept in such custody as the Minis ter directs.
– I move -
That paragraphs (c) and (d) be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following paragraph - “ and (c) by omitting sub-section (5).”
– What is the Minister’s explanation of the amendment?
– The object of the amendment is to consolidate in one section of the act provisions already made partly in the act and partly in regulations under the act for the safe custody, pending deportation, of prohibited immigrants whose deportation from the Commonwealth has been ordered by the Minister in pursuance of the act. Some Chinese stowaways have on occasion arrived in Australian ports. Persistent efforts are apparently still being made to introduce Asiatics in this illicit way. There are organizations at work in Australia, as well as overseas, to accomplish this end. It has been found that the penalty, ranging up to £100, is not a sufficient deterrent to these people, and it is proposed to increase the monetary penalty to £200 upon any one convicted of bringing a prohibited immigrant secretly to the Commonwealth. This will be provided for by new clauses which it is intended to propose.
.After the honorable gentleman’s explanation I do not think there can be any objection taken to the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.
– I move-
That the following new clause be inserted - 5a. After section eight b of the prin cipal act the following section is inserted: - “Sc. Where, under this act, any person is required to be deported from the Commonwealth,’ or the Minister has made an order for his deportation, the person may -
until he is placed on board a vessel for deportation from Australia;
at any port in Australia at which the vessel calls after he has been placed on board; and
on board the vessel until her de parture from her last port of call in Australia, be kept in such custody as the Minister or an officer directs.”
It is intended to propose the insertion of another new clause under which the penalty for being concerned in bringing immigrants secretly to the Commonwealth will be increased from £100 to £200. The proposed new clause 5a will give the Minister discretion in dealing with a person about to be deported. “Under the existing law such a person, on finding two sureties of £50 each, may be released until deportation. It is intended that that should, in future, be at the discretion of the Minister.
– We cannot agree to this proposed new clause. We were told that this bill is necessary to tighten up the law in order to prevent the immigration of Asiatics, through the interchange of naturalization papers, and by methods of secret organization, and also the immigration of people from southern European countries upon passports that are not vised by the British representatives. To those provisions I have no objection; and I agreed to allow the bill to pass without opposition, but the new clause now before the committee has nothing to do with either European or Asiatic immigration.
– The only purpose of the proposed new clause is to give the Minister discretion in dealing with a prohibited immigrant between the date of the order of deportation and the sailing of the ship.
– Will this apply to Chinamen only ?
– To any person who is ordered to be deported.
– This clause does not relate to the deportation of any persons who are disqualified by section 8a of the act. It is meant to give the Minister power to deport any political refugee. The immigrant may have obtained a passport which has been vised by the British representatives in his country ; there may be nothing against his character, he may not be objectionable in any respect, and yet, because of some treaty with the country from which he arrived, the Minister may order his deportation. We have always resisted that phase of the immigration law, and this amendment can be carried only by gagging honorable members on this side of the chamber.
– The power to which the honorable member is referring is already the law.
– We were opposed to its becoming law, but as it is the law, the Government already has sufficient power, and I suggest to the Prime Minister that it is not worth while to persist with this amendment.
– I assured the Acting Leader of the Opposition that this was merely a machinery measure to tighten up the law in order to meet certain circumstances that have arisen in connexion with European and Asiatic immigration, and upon that assurance he has assisted the Government in advancing the bill to the committee stage. Immediate requirements in regard to such immigration are reasonably well met by the clauses already agreed to, and although the Honorary Minister has explained that the proposed new clause now before the committee is innocuous, the Acting Leader of the Opposition considers that it goes beyond the machinery provisions of which I spoke when he agreed to facilitate the passage of the bill. I do not wish to appear to be breaking faith with the honorable gentleman, and having regard to the fact that this bill was introduced for a specific purpose, and not to amend generally the immigration law, the Government will not press the proposed new clause.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment by Mr. Atkinson agreed to-
That the following new clause be inserted : - 5a. Section 12a of the principal act is amended by omitting the words “ Penalty : One hundred pounds or six months’ imprisonment or both,” and inserting in their stead the words “ , and be liable on summary conviction to a penalty of Two hundred pounds or six months’ imprisonment or both.”
Title and preamble, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Report, by leave, adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill read a second time, and passed through . its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Message transmitting Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure and Supplementary Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings’, &c, for the financial years ended 30th June, 1922, 1923, and 1924, and recommending appropriation accordingly, reported.
In committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
– I move -
That the following further sums be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1021-22 for the several services hereunder specified : - The Parliament, £5,708; the Prime Minister’s Department, £146,504; the Department of the Treasury, £184,366; the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, £7,985; the Home aud Territories Department. £109,116; the Department of Defence- Military, £16,070; the Department of the Navy, £2,3.10; the Department of Navy and Defence - Air Services, £52,056; the Department of Trade and Customs, £43,030; the Department of Works and Railways, £11,066; the Postmaster-General’s Department, £331,798; the Department of Health, £43,701; War Services, £74,207. Total, £1,027,817.
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1921-22, for the purposes ‘ of additions, new works, buildings, &c, a further sum not exceeding £384,155.
That the following further sums be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1922-23 for the several services hereunder specified, viz. : - The Parliament, £1,528; the Prime Minister’s Department, £35,667; the Department of the Treasury, £439,567 ; the Attorney-General’s Department, £8,133; the Home and Territories Department; £21,880; the Department of Defence, £6,446; the Department of Trade and Customs, £622,708; the Department oF Works and Railways, £33,630; the Postmaster-General’s Department, £23,311; the Department of Health, £7,039; War Services. £7.709. Refunds of revenue, £141,990 Totai, £1,349,608.
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1922-23, for the purposes of additions, new works, buildings, &c, a further sum not exceeding £28,128.
That the following further sums be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1.923-24, for the several services hereunder specified, viz. : - The Parliament, £1,399; the Prime Minister’s Department, £299,027; the Department of the Treasury, £453,675; the Attorney-General’s Department, £13,364; the Home and Territories Department, £41,419; the Department of Defence, £88,351; the Department of Trade and Customs, £76,365; the Department of Works and Railways, £34,423; the Postmaster-General’s Department, £266.399; the Department of Health, £24,584. War Services, £15,821. Total, £1,314,827.
On the 4th July, 1922, the 5th July, 1923, and the 4th July, 1924, the Treasurers of the day submitted statements of the receipts and expenditure for the respective financial years just closed. Subsequently, when other statements were presented, the items now included in Supplementary Estimates were again set out as part of the expenditure of the preceding year, so that they have already been the subject of discussion on two previous occasions. It is customary to provide a vote on the Estimates to enable the Treasurer to make advances to Commonwealth officers and to meetexpenditure which will afterwards be included in a parliamentary appropriation. With regard to the apparent delay in submitting the Supplementary Estimates for 1921-22, I may mention that it has always been customary for the Auditor-General’s report, together with the Treasurer’s financial statement of accounts for the year, to be submitted to Parliament before they are presented. The statement of accounts for the year 1921-22 and the Auditor-General’s report on them, were presented late in October, 1922, and, as honorable members immediately went to an election, no opportunity occurred to ask Parliament to deal with those Supplementary Estimates. then. After the election there was a very short session, lasting only about a fortnight, and as the session held last year was. very hurried,, only matters of urgency could be dealt with, and no opportunity was afforded of dealing with the Supplementary Estimates. The amount of the vote for the Treasurer’s Advance for 1921-22 was £1,500,000, and the expenditure was £1,412,072, made up as follows: - Ordinary departmental expenditure and war services, £1,027,917; additions, new works and buildings, £384,155. The Auditor-General’s report for the year 1922-23 was not available until the 10th December, 1923. Parliament rose during . the latter part of August, and it was not possible then to bring down the Supplementary Estimates. This year the advance to the Treasurer was £1,500,000, and the expenditure made from this vote was £1,377,736, made up as follows : -
The accounts for the year 1923-4 have now been audited by the Auditor-General, and his report in connexion therewith was presented to Parliament on Friday last. Included in the accounts and statements submitted to the AuditorGeneral is a statement of amounts to be included in the Supplementary Estimates, and in his report he states that a supplementary appropriation is necessary to cover this expenditure. I am therefore now in a position to bring down the Supplementary Estimates for 1923-4. The amount voted for “Advance to the Treasurer” for 1923-4 was again £1,500,000. Out of this vote the expenditure was as follows.’: -
Parliament has already been fully informed in regard to the expenditure now submitted for covering appropriation. The expenditure was furnished in the fullest detail with the Estimates and budget papers of the several years. In addition, the Treasurer’s finance statement for each year, accompanied by the Auditor-General’s report on the accounts, was laid on the table of the House, and thus made available to members among the parliamentary papers. So far. as the accounts for 1923-4 are concerned, I presented an approximate statement to the House at the earliest possible moment after the close of the financial year, and, at the same time, I gave full explanations of the principal increases in the actual expenditure over the estimate. That was done on the 4th July last. Similar action was taken on the 5th July, 1922, in regard to the accounts for 1921-2, by the right honorable the Prime Minister, who was then Treasurer, and again by me on the 4th July, 1923, in respect of the accounts for 1922-3. It will thus be seen that many opportunities have been afforded to honorable members to make themselves familiar with the expenditure which is now submitted for their approval in the Supplementary Estimates.
. - This is the last opportunity we shall have to direct the Government’s attention to matters of importance. I wish,’ first, to direct the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) to the fact that a few weeks ago I asked a series of questions about the timber industry. The reply I received was, “ The information is being obtained.” I can readily understand that it had probably been impossible to obtain the information in the meantime. I asked whether it was a fact that timber production in the Commonwealth of Australia had decreased in the period from 1921 to- 1924 by 13,000,000 superficial feet; and that during the same period the exportation of Australian timber had decreased by 23,000,000 superficial feet, and the importation of foreign timber had increased by 123,000,000 superficial feet. It is a very sorry commentary, on the protectionist policy of Australia that this industry, which has given remunerative employment to so many people, is being wiped out of existence by the increased volume of importations. I do not know how that can be remedied except by further tariff protection. It is too late to expect any measure of tariff relief for this or any. other industry during this session of Parliament. I bring the figures again under the notice of the Minister in the hope of impressing upon him the necessity for making the fullest possible inquiries immediately as to the condition of the industry, with a view to ascertaining whether anything can be done between now and the next session of Parliament to give relief. During the next session of Parliament it will be possible to increase the tariff protection. A number of mills are being closed down, and the workers in them are being thrown out of employment. It is very serious for those portions of Australia that rely very largely upon the timber trade for their prosperity. That great industry is suffering because our policy of protection does not sufficiently protect.
Another industry that is suffering probably to a greater extent is the textile industry. My reason for bringing that before the committee at this hour of the sitting is, perhaps, a selfish one. I have received, during the last few days, from the director of a woollen mills at Hobart, telegrams that disclose the serious position existing there. The first telegram reads -
Saturday’s Hobart press states members propose adjourn this week and anticipate long holiday. To-day’s press gives warning that large number Australia’s woollen mills will be closed unless tariff relief is given. If Parliament thus callously throws hundreds out of employment, with consequent destruction to this fine industry, it will be a standing blot on the sincerity of Parliament. Suggest you move adjournment of House to-day and make final appeal.
It is signed “John Nettlefold, director, Aiken’s “Woollen Mills.” ‘ I telegraphed immediately asking how many employees there were in the textile industry in Hobart. His reply was -
We have 93 employees, and assume that the other mill has about the same.
That is a small number actually, but when considered in relation to the size of the city, it is large. Proportionate numbers are suffering similarly in the other capital cities. That telegram proceeded -
Australian law justly protects them (the employees) by compelling us to pay double the English wages, but if Parliament fails to also protect the employer against these low wages, I am firmly convinced that all ours, and the hundreds of others, will be thrown out of employment, because I believe it is physically impossible for the mills to pay.
The last telegram received by me was as follows : -
If Kersall and Kemp’s interview appearing in to-day’s Mercury also appears in Melbourne press, I would explain they are also very large importers from their English factory.
Mr. Nettlefold then goes on to state that he is very pleased that the Minister for Trade and Customs will visit Hobart in a month’s time, but he expresses the fear that it will then be too late, as the damage will have been done: That telegram’ is rather significant, for it explains that someone connected with a woollen mill, or a mill connected with the textile industry in Australia, has been writing to the newspapers opposing increases in the tariff. Some Australian woollen mills have been making reasonable profits for some time past, but others have not been doing so. The Minister for Trade and Customs recognizes that, great as the difficulties may be in giving relief, and impossible as it may be to give immediate relief, the onus is upon him to look into the matter and ascertain as soon as possible what can and ought to be done. I feel justified in placing on record a few figures published by the Melbourne Age on Wednesday morning. That newspaper is not a supporter of the party to which I belong, but I admit that ithas always been a stalwart protectionist. However much I may differ from it on its general policy, I admit that it has always advocated Australian industries for Australian consumers. It stated yesterday -
According to official calculations Great Britain exports to Australia over 97 per cent, of the requirements of this country in woollen and worsted tissues.
– That is a misprint.
– I realized that the figure 97 per cent, was a misprint. The article proceeded -
The competition has been stimulated by the compulsion placed on British manufacturers, ‘ confronted with a flood of cheap French woollen goods, to realize on surplus stocks as rapidly as possible. How the export of woollen and worsted tissue from the United Kingdom to Australia have been maintained, are shown in the following figures : -
The Australian production of woollen and worsted tissues, on the other hand, was as follows : -
Whether the alteration of the British preference percentage will prove adequate in itself to defeat unfair and detrimental overseas competition tending to impede the growth of the Australian manufacturing industry remains yet to be seen. There is evidence of over-importing in recent years, and that, notwithstanding the huge consumption, the imports of woollen and worsted tissues have been greater than the increased local production rendered necessary - possibly in excess of the country’s ability to absorb.” Naturally this would react on the local woollen manufacturing industry. It would appear, further, from the statements of some companies, that overseas competition in itself has not been the sole cause of the depression. Other factors, including under-capitalization, shortage of efficient labour, and possibly in isolated instances a lack of efficient management, are said also to enter into the calculation.
Point is given by the present condition of the Australian manufacturing industry to the recommendation of Professor Barker, one of the world’s authorities on textiles, that a textile school should be established in Australia. His report on the subject was presented several months ago, and some authorities consider that the establishment of a well-equipped textile school, under adequate protection, would rapidly give the Australian industry a commanding position in the local market. The demand for more adequate duties than those provided at present has evoked the approval and support of a number of members of the House of Representatives.
It appears from that statement that there is a big likelihood of many of our woollen mills closing down. If that should occur incalculable harm will be done to the industry in Australia. It is regrettable that although this Parliament has been in session since last March, nothing has been done by way of tariff revision to remedy this state of affairs. I know that the Minister for Trade and Customs is a good protectionist, and is anxious to do everything that he can to conserve the interests of Australian industries, and I trust he will take all possible steps to gather information on the situation so that assistance may be given to the industry as soon as possible.
The only other matter that I wish to refer to is the treatment which ex-officers of the Federal Taxation Department have received at the hands of the Classification Board in Hobart. To-day I received the following letter from the secretary of the ex-Federal Officers Association, in Hobart: - 6th October, 1924.
Ex-Federal Taxation Officers - Losses in Salary.
I regret having to approach you on this matter in such an urgent manner as is now the case, but the actual results of the State Classification Board have only just become known.
Upon reading the attached statement, I think you will agree that the ex-Federal officers have been very badly treated, and I am instructed by my committee to ask you if it is possible at this late stage for you to move the adjournment of the House in order to have the matter ventilated. If this is not possible or advisable, we would be grateful if you could take any other action which might bring about a more equitable result.
From information received here, the officers in other states are also discontented, though to what extent they are worse off we are unable to say.
It is considered that the Commonwealth Government should make up to the officers concerned the actual loss sustained.
The statement that was attached to the letter gave details of the way in which federal officers had been treated by the State Classification Board in comparison with state officers who were doing the same class of work. The following figures give the respective salaries of the exfederal officers and state officers who do similar work :-i£436, £480; £400, £480; £395, £350 - an explanation is given of why the figure is in favour of the exfederal .officer in that case- £380, £400; £372, £436 ; £372, £480 ; £332, £436 ; £307, £350; £308, £350; £286, £312. A number of other comparisons are given, but they are of the same nature. The actual amount lost per annum by these ex-federal officers, as a result of their having been transferred to the State Service, ranges from £59 downwards. In many cases the difference is £27 per annum, which is a considerable amount to an officer who is receiving only £307 per annum. I trust that the Treasurer will take whatever steps he can to see that ex-officers of the Federal Service are more fairly treated. Ex-officers of the Federal Service should at least receive the same pay as state officers who do similar work.
.-No doubt honorable members noticed a paragraph which appeared in the Melbourne Age’s, day or two ago, to the effect that some hundreds of employees engaged in the textile industry at Geelong, the Bradford of Australia, were likely to be dismissed. I could hardly understand the statement when I read it, so I visited Geelong yesterday to ascertain the position. I went to four woollen mills, and got first-hand information. I discovered that 300 employees at one mill are to be dismissed to-morrow, and that there is a likelihood of employees in other mills also being dismissed. It is true that some mills are busy, but others are in a very serious position. At one mill, which is engaged almost exclusively in the manufacture of blankets and flannels, I was taken into a storeroom and shown a pile of 15,000 rolls of flannel; the value of which was roughly £90,000, which there was very little hope of selling for a considerable time. I was .also shown certain price-lists from a firm in England by the name of Becker, which I believe has some connexion with a firm in Germany. According to those price-lists that firm was prepared to supply the Australian trade with yarn spun from shredded cloth, which is really old clothes torn up, carbonized aud re-dyed, at a price as low as 9fd. a lb. A great deal of that class of stuff, which is very shoddy, is to-day being manufactured in Great Britain from yarn spun in Germany, and is sent here to compete with the Australian product made exclusively from Australian wool. It is remarkable that it is impossible to buy even the cheapest wool suitable for the manufacture of clothing at under 17d. or 18d. a lb. Honorable members will see at once how impossible it is for the Australian manufacturer to compete successfully with the overseas manufacturer. The position is very serious to the people engaged in the textile in dustry. The Minister for Trade and Customs has promised to give this matter his close attention. It has been stated that the industry will receive protection against dumping some time after April next. That is practically six months ahead, and if dumping still takes place there is ng possibility of many of the mills continuing operations. Probably every member of this House has on the public platform of this country emphasized the necessity for the establishment of more mills in Australia to manufacture our own raw material, but if the mills already established cannot be kept going because of unfair competition, it is improbable that the number of mills will be increased. Some persons say that there are other causes for the present depressed position. They believe that our workmen are not so efficient as those engaged in the textile industry in other countries. I differfrom that view. The men and women engaged in our textile industry are equal, in skill and ability to those in any other part of the world. In fact, many of our skilled workmen have been brought from the mills of Britain to help to establish the industry here, and to instruct Australians in the manufacture of the textiles. Every one knows that the Australian workman is intelligent and capable, aud soon becomes proficient in any class of trade. I sincerely trust that the Minister will immediately investigate this matter, and take steps to prevent the closing of textile mills that have in the past rendered excellent service to Australia.
– All honorable members will recognize the importance of the cattle industry to
Australia and the necessity of improving our herds. The reason that the Argentine has been able to compete more than successfully with Australia in the home market is that that country has gone to considerable expense to improve its herds, to breed early-maturing beasts, and in other ways to improve the type of meat placed on the English market. Enterprising men in Australia have made special efforts to build up our cattle herds, and they have received specious promises of assistance from political parties on the eve of elections. One definite promise was made at Maryborough on the 9th November, 1922, by the then Leader of the Nationalist party, Mr. W. M. Hughes, when he was appealing to the electors of Australia with an eye on the votes of the cattle breeders. He said -
There is only one way of definitely improving our herds - by breeding from high-priced animals. The initial outlay is the cost of transportation and quarantine. The Nationalist ‘Government will introduce legislation designed to assist producers by defraying the cost of transportation and quarantine of stud stock.
I know that the Solicitor-General has been asked to interpret certain promises made by Mr. Hughes when he was Prime Minister, but it does not need the assistance of a lawyer to interpret his promise to the Queensland cattle-breeders. A great many persons interested in the cattle industry expected that promise to be honoured by the Nationalist party. In any case, it should have been honoured by Mr. Hughes’s successor in office, who was then a member of the Nationalist Government. When Mr. Hughes made that definite promise the Brisbane Courier reprinted his speech under black headlines as follow: - Improvement of stock; Assisting primary producers, Nationalist Government’s offer; Will pay transport and quarantine costs. The Brisbane Courier has a circulation greater than that of any other newspaper in Queensland. It was political dishonesty and treachery of the worst kind to try to fool the people on the eve of an election by saying that if the Nationalist party were returned the Government would . pay the cost of transportation and quarantine charges on stud stock, stock that cannot be produced in Australia. Many organizations of cattle-owners wrote to Mr, Hughes asking if they had correctly interpreted his promise. The following letter, dated the 13th November, 1922, was sent by Mr. A. D. Broad, private secretary to Mr. Hughes, to Mr. T. O’Brien, of the Primary Producers’ Co-operative Agency Limited, Brisbane: -
I am directed by the Prime Minister to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 10th inst. respecting the cost of transportation of imported stud stock. I am to inform you that your assumption that the Government will bear the cost of this transportation in approved cases is correct, and if you will get into touch with the Customs Department, who have control of this matter, you will, no doubt, receive a.11 the information you desire. The Prime Minister is grateful for your appreciation of the action of the Government in their desire to improve the quality of- the beef and dairy cattle of Australia.
In spite of the assurance contained in that letter, the Nationalist party, which with the assistance of the Country party, has formed the Composite Government has taken no action. Mr. Hughes or his successor should have honoured that election pledge. A political leader who makes a definite promise of that description and does not honour it should not be allowed to occupy a position in the legislative halls of this country.
– Does the honorable member contend that the ex-Prime Minister laid down the whole of the policy of the present Government ?
-When Mr. Hughes made the promise to which I refer, the present Prime Minister was Treasurer in his Cabinet. When the leader of a great party, on the eve of an election, promises that, if his party is returned to power, he will do certain things, the ©lectors have a right to expect .that such a promise will be kept by those who are of that party, and are the more important branch of the present Composite Government. If the leader of the party to which I belong makes a definite statement, every man in the party will be found standing behind him.
– Would the honorable member stand behind a statement before or after he knew of it ?
– I have sufficient confidence in my leader to say that I would stand behind any statement he makes. Mr. Theodore, the Labour Premier of Queensland, wrote to the present Prime Minister as follows : -
As a result of Mr. Hughes’s statement at Maryborough, Mr. O’Brien advises that his client, who - had intended to purchase some polled Hereford cattle in America, was induced to purchase a better class of cattle than he originally intended, and these are now on their way to Australia.
I trust that, in view of the foregoing, you will be so good as to reconsider the matter, and, if possible, honour Mr. Hughes’s promise for at least twelve months.
The Primary Producers’ Co-operative Agency in Brisbane took up this matter with the Attorney-General (Sir Littleton Groom), and received from him the reply that favorable consideration could not be given to their request. Mr. Percy Dean, on the 9th July, wrote to me as follows in connexion with the matter: -
In reply to your letter of the 2nd July relative to representations marie to you by Mr. William Beak, honorary secretary of the Australian Polled Hereford Association, in connexion with the question of the Commonwealth Government defraying the freight and quarantine charges on stud stock imported to Australia, I am directed to inform you that the Government has fully considered this matter and regrets that it is unable to see its way to take any action in the direction desired.
The Primary Producers’ Co-operative Agency received the following letter, dated 30th September last, from the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten): -
With reference to your letter of 17th November, 1922, addressed to the Hon. A. S. Rodgers, M.P., then Minister for Trade and Customs, relative to the question of the Commonwealth Government defraying the transport and quarantine charges on imported stud stock, I desire to inform you that this matter has received further consideration.
Following upon representations made to me, the Prime Minister of New Zealand and South Africa were requested to advise whether any arrangements existed for the free transportation of imported live stud stock, and the following replies were received’: -
From the Prime Minister of New Zealand - “ Statement without foundation, “ but some time ago shipping companies trading to New Zealand decided to carry stud sheep and cattle Great Britain to New Zealand freight free, owners being required to provide fittings, fodder, and attendance. No importation being made present time on account of foot and mouth disease in Great Britain.”
From, the Prime Minister of South Africa - “ Union Castle Company under the existing contract undertake to carry free of freight stock intended for breeding purposes. Such stock must appear in books of recognized association. No concessions in regard to other classes of stock. Full particulars posted.”
It is suggested that your agency approach the various overseas shipping companies with a view to obtaining from them the same concessional transportation of stud stock as is granted to breeders in South Africa and New Zealand.
– When the honorable member found that there was a new Minister for Trade and Customs he brought this matter up again.
– If I cannot obtain what I desire from one Minister, and a new Minister takes his place, I go to him. I had reason to expect that the present Minister for Trade and Customs would prove to be a reasonable man, and I hope he will yet reconsider his decision in this matter. This is the letter which Mr. O’Brien wrote in reply to that which I have just quoted from the Minister -
I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 30th ultimo addressed to the secretary of my company, and must take exception to the inference in your reply that I base my claim on behalf of Mr. Stirrat on what other countries are doingin the direction of helping the cattle man.
The matter was taken up on behalf of Mr. Stirrat because of a speech made by the then Prime Minister, the Hon. W. M. Hughes, at Maryborough (Q.) during the last Federal election campaign, on 9th November, 1922, wherein he was reported to have stated that thi National Government was prepared to assist in improving the quality of stock for the beef and dairying industries, and also sheep, by defraying the cost of transport and quarantine of any stock brought into Australia with this end in view. In reply to my letter to Mr. Hughes inquiring if he was correctly reported, he confirmed the press report, and advised me to get into touch with the Customs Department to give effect to his promise, which I did; but we regret to say, as you ore, of course, aware, that your department repudiated Mr. Hughes’ promise.
If you refer to the correspondence you will note no reference to any claim based on what other countries are doing in the direction indicated, but as you have re-opened the matter it occurs to rae that your Government is prepared to reconsider its decision, and there is no doubt that under the circumstances the assistance sought for should have been forthcoming. In consequence of the written assurance of the Prime Minister, Mr. Stirrat determined to give Australia the benefit of the Government’s concession by purchasing higher-priced cattle - the National portion of the present Government went to the country under the leadership of Mr. Hughes, whose written promise induced Mr. Stirrat to spend money he had no intention of doing under other circumstances, and I certainly fail to appreciate that the Government is not morally bound to honour the promise of their leader when it was made by him as an inducement to those interested in stock to return the National party to power.
I feel quite certain Mr. Stirrat would not appreciate your suggestion that he approach private shipping companies who have no cognizance of his existence, apart from the absence of any obligation on their part, or reason why he should do so, to approach them for assistance - why should these companies be expected to do what your Government, although under a moral obligation to do so, refused to do?
I feel sure that if this matter was further considered, that Mr. Stirrat would have the support of Mr. Hughes; in his last letter, to me, dated 25th May, 1923, Mr. Hughes stated he was very disappointed with your decision, and if the opportunity offered he would assist in the direction indicated.
The request in this matter has been made in respect of cattle that are not produced in Australia. Mr. Beak, the secretary of the Australian Polled Hereford Association, has had great success in exhibiting his stock at the Rockhampton and Brisbane shows. The Rockhampton Evening Ne ws of 11th August mentions the success of Mr. Beak, at the Brisbane show.- I quote the following statement : -
Brisbane, lilli August, 1924. - The judging of the cattle section in connexion with the Brisbane Exhibition commenced this morning, when Heary, Beak and Sons gained several successes in the polled Hereford section.
Mr. Beak, writing to me in connexion with the matter, says: -
I think the fact of showing so successfully against the cream of our State should help you in persuading the Federal Government to assist us by paying the transit expenses on imported polled Herefords. I am getting an enlarged photo of our polled Hereford beef that won first prize at the Rockhampton Show, to send as a gift to the Federal Parliament, lt will be sent to you, and I would like you to present it to the House on arrival.
I thought I could not do better than place the photograph on the table of the House, as I have done, whilst this matter is under discussion. ‘ If Ministers will look at it it may induce them to reconsider their decision to repudiate the promise of the leader of their party. Mr. Beak writing to me in regard to that class of cattle, said -
I had a letter recently from Mr. Cramsie, chairman of the Australian Meat Council, in which he says that the beef we exhibited at Brisbane Show was excellent, and for export he had never seen better. It was taken from a polled Hereford, 3 years old, grass fed only. I am sending Mr. Cramsie a photograph like the one that is going to you. It is the meat that was successful at Rockhampton, and what makes it of more value’ to me is the fact that Lakes Creek was placed second.
That letter should be sufficient to induce the Government to reconsider this matter. In regard to Mr. Beak’s representations, the fact must be borne in mind that he is, in his own words - acting solely for the Australian polled Hereford Breeders Association, and we only desire the concession to apply to approved polled Hereford stud cattle, and our chief reason for asking for this concession is because we cannot get fresh blood in Australia, and fresh blood is vital to the development of this fine breed of early maturing cattle. My association will guarantee that all polled Herefords purchased in America are for members of the association only, and will not be sold for at least two years, or, if you desire.it, that they will not be sold at all, and are only purchased for breeding purposes.
That association is not confined to Queensland. Its members are scattered throughout Australia. The annual meeting of the association was held in Rockhampton on 25th June last, when there were present : Mr. G. H. Home, of Rockfield (president^ ; Frederick Dearden, Tenterfield, New South Wales; A. H. Stirrat, Euroa; James Perry, Nebo; M. Beak, junior. Willangi; J. W. McKenzie, Perrl Creek; W. II. Edwards, CollosseumA. Walls, Rockhampton; and W. Beak, secretary. The president of the association at the present time is Mr. Frederick Dearden, of Tenterfield. They have a right to expect that this Government should honour a moral, obligation. At Maryborough, on 9th November, 1922, Mr.’ Hughes made a definite promise that if the Nationalists were returned to power the Government would pay the transport and quarantine charges on stud stock. Because of that promise many breeders who are endeavouring to improve their herds voted for the Nationalist party. Some of them wrote to Mr. Hughes to ask if they interpreted his promise correctly, and he replied that they did, and congratulated them upon their appreciation of it. 1 appeal to the Prime Minister, even at this late hour, to carry out that definite pledge given by his predecessor.
– The honorable member’s time has expired
.- I am regretfully obliged to take this opportunity to lay before the committee some facts in regard to the proposal to alter the basis of tariff preference to British goods. The Government has announced its intention to change the percentage of value to be added by British labour before goods can have the benefit of the preferential duty from 25 per cent, to 50 per cent., and even 75 per cent. When that statement was made to the House I protested against the subject being introduced in that way, because no opportunity was given to the House to express an opinion upon it. The Minister merely announced that the change would be made by departmental regulations, and the House was practically told that it had no say in the matter. I asked the Prime Minister if he would afford honorable members an opportunity to discuss the proposal. No real opportunity has been given because, although we may deal with it in Committee of Supply, it is hardly possible to get an expression of the composite opinion of the committee. I am, therefore, forced to take this opportunity of disclosing the facts relating to British preference. I have elicited those facts only by a series of questions, and considerable trouble, but. I acknowledge the courtesy of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) in making available to me certain documents, and allowing me to see some departmental reports to which I shall refer later. I have not been able to peruse all the papers connected with this matter; so, although there ‘ may be on the files information which may contradict or modify some of the statements -I shall make, those statements will be, so far as my knowledge goes, absolutely correct. British preference was first introduced by the Tariff Act of 1907, and the section which imposed it reads -
The rates of duty set out in Schedule A in the column headed “ Tariff on Goods the Produce or Manufacture of the United Kingdom “ shall apply only to goods the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom, which are shipped lin the United Kingdom to Australia, and not transhipped, or if transhipped, then only if it is proved to the satisfaction of the collector that the goods have not, since they were shipped in the United Kingdom, been subjected to any process of manufacture.
Then the rates of preferential duties are set out. That is the only description in the act of the basis upon which the preference was to be granted. There is no mention of a qualification, or of a regulation or by-law to be made under that section, as there is in other sections of the act. Merely upon the bald terms of that section, preference was to be granted to British goods. I admit that the description is very vague, and that some clearer definition was desirable, but such a direction could come only from Parliament. In 1907, the standard adopted was that there should be 25 per cent, of value added by British labour in order to qualify goods for the preferential rate. That basis was laid down, not by any re ference to Parliament or any regulation made under statute, but by an order of the Minister for Trade and Customs, for which there was no real authority. The same basis was used for fourteen years. In 1922, a form of legality, but a very unsatisfactory one, was adopted. A regulation was passed prescribing the form of declaration which should accompany the goods. No regulation was made to provide definitely what the proportion of value to be added by British labour should be, and no such regulation exists to-day; but a regulation was made providing that the goods should be accompanied by a certain form of declaration, including a statement that at least 25 per cent, of value had been added by British labour. I have had a great deal to do with the framing of regulations under statute, and ensuring that departmental action was- legally correct; but I have never heard of an important direction, such as that controlling Australia’s trade with the United Kingdom, being introduced in this indirect and devious manner by means of a declaration in a form attached to a regulation. Although the Minister may have had power to make regulations as to forms, he had no statutory power to stipulate what proportion of value should be added by British labour, and so far as I can see there is no statutory power to make any such regulation now. To some extent that statement is based upon the authority of the Minister himself. I recently asked him -
In what form was this agreement legally embodied in Commonwealth law? If by regulation, under what statutory authority was it made, and when was such regulation issued?
The Minister’s answer was -
There is no agreement. The conditions were adopted in 1907 by the then Minister for Customs as an interpretation of the Customs Tariff 190S (operative from 8th August, 1907) as to what was necessary to qualify goods imported into Australia for admission under the British Preferential Tariff. In February, 1922, the conditions were incorporated in a form of declaration appended to regulations made by the Governor-General in Council under the Customs Act 1901-1920.
The Minister made no reply to my question regarding the statutory authority and the form in which it was incorporated in Commonwealth law. If his statement is correct, what statutory authority has he now to issue another regulation? I submit that the basis of preference can be altered only by this Parliament, and that is the reason why I protested against the change being made simply by ministerial decree.
– The honorable member quoted a portion of the Customs Act in regard to British preferential trade. If that section means anything it means that no variation at all can be made in regard to the basis of preference.
– I agree that the definition of “goods” in the act is decidedly vague; it simply refers to goods, the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom. Apparently it means any goods manufactured in Great Britain.
– And no goods not manufactured in Great Britain were to get the benefit of the preference.
– Quite so; .1 do not quarrel with that interpretation. If it was found that there were not sufficient instructions in the act for the guidance of the Minister, the proper course was to bring before Parliament some definite proposal so that it could be discussed. Even now the change cannot be made without Parliament being asked to subscribe to it. I have asked that the whole matter be deferred until next session, when an opportunity will be afforded to properly consider the proposal. If the regulation came into force on the 1st April next this House would be precluded from taking any action in regard to it. Having dealt with the legal position I now wish to discuss the actual merits of the proposal. Some of the documents which led up to the introduction of the 75 per cent, basis are significant. I have not seen the complete file, but with the courtesy of the Minister I have seen a report by the Comptroller-General of Customs (“Major Oakley), recommending “the adoption of the 75 per cent, standard, and a letter drafted by the Customs Department, and sent by the Prime Minister to the Prime Minister of New Zealand. This letter appears to have been written in reply to a letter from the Prime Minister of New Zealand, following upon previous proposals of this nature, in which evidently the Prime Minister of New Zealand raised objections to the imposition of’ the 75 per cent, standard. The document sent to New Zealand contains a series of arguments as to why that standard should be adopted, and eventually, apparently, it led to the Prime Minister of New Zealand agreeing to it. But these documents are remarkable. The report of Major Oakley, dated 14th June, 1924, contains this passage -
It was left (by the 1908 act) to departmental interpretation to determine the extent to which such goods must be British manufacture.
I maintain that there is no reference in the act to such a power being left to the department. The report also stated -
This 25 per cent, has greatly prejudiced manufacture and production in the United Kingdom.
He went on to say that he had discussed the matter in England “ with a director of a large British firm,” and we subsequently find that he consulted with the Australian Association of British Manufacturers. The report continues -
Secondly, it is detrimental to us because we cannot compete with Great Britain. It was never contemplated (when the 25 per cent, standard was adopted) that circumstances might arise which would cause this provision to result in the reduction of labour and production in the United Kingdom.
On the one hand Major Oakley said that the provision should be altered because it harmed the manufacturers of Great Britain; and, on the other hand, he said that it was harmful to Australia, because we could not compete with British manufacturers. It is the most illogical argument that I have heard for a long time. He further said -
There can be no question that the raising of the proportion of British labour would mean additional work in Great Britain.
Yet he said that we should improve our basis of competition with Great Britain. Apparently the Prime Minister of New Zealand raised a very important point. It has been alleged in this country that the proportion of British manufacture should be raised, because it would exclude goods that are largely foreign, and that are made up in England and exported to Australia. I submit that it would have just the reverse effect. If we cut off the 25 per cent, of British labour, we shall divert the whole of the trade into foreign channels. The Prime Minister of New Zealand apparently raised the same point. This is the answer of Major Oakley -
In most of the dominions, especially in Australia, the local manufacturers are adequately protected by tariff and anti-dumping duties against foreign goods, and such are not feared in competition so much as British goods under the present condition of preference. Hie chief point that concerns the dominions is the fact that their own industries are being faced with unfair competition . . . from Great Britain
The Prime Minister of New Zealand had evidently raised the subject, for the report goes on to say -
The proposal to alter the basis . . . was very favorably received by many representative manufacturers with whom I spoke in Great Britain.
Why did Major Oakley say that we feared the British manufacturers’ competition more than that of foreign manufacturers? The whole argument is a bundle of contradictions and absurdities. I asked in one of my questions in the House what reports or representations had been received from any association of British manufacturers in favour of or in opposition to the proposed change. lull copies of certain representations were laid on the table, and as they have already been published in full in the press. I do not propose to read them again, but the effect of the reports of the Australian Association of British Manufacturers was to protest against the 75 per cent, standard being imposed, because, iu its opinion, most of the manufacturers favoured 50 per cent, as a maximum. Further, when forwarding the replies to a questionnaire amongst British manufacturers, the secretary of the association went on to say -
The matter when under .consideration by a London committee of this association on the occasion of your recent visit to Great Britain was referred to a member of our London advisory committee, who was unable to attend the meeting of this special committee. This member (I have not permission to mention his name) has dealt exhaustively with the subject, and in communicating his regret at being unable to be present, stated: - “Replying to your letter of the 16th January, I went very deeply into the question of the extension of the percentage of United Kingdom labour and material necessary to qualify goods for British preference at the Board of Trade, and I have also examined it in relation to particular trades, and I am satisfied that an alteration of the percentage would raise very considerable difficulties. I cannot conceive that those who have ‘replied to your questionnaire, and asked for 50 per cent., have done so after close examination of the facts.”
When this change was first mooted, it was stated in the press that other dominions were equally interested with us, and that before the Government proceeded to make any alterations they would communicate with the other dominions. I asked the Minister how the other dominions were associated with us, and he said that no agreement had been entered into. I do not wish to imply that the Minister deliberately misled me, but there must have been some sort of understanding, for the report of the Tariff Board on this matter states—
The raising of the proportion from 25 to 75 per cent, would benefit British industries as well as those of Australia, and, if followed by all of the dominions who subscribed to the present conditions, it would enable Great Britain to come into her own…..
That suggested that the other dominions had subscribed to it. The Minister said in reply -
In view of the fact that all the dominions have been acting hitherto on a uniform basis in this matter negotiations were initiated, as a beginning, with New Zealand, for the purpose of making a general alteration.
The communications began and ended with New Zealand. We have not troubled to find out what effect the regulation would have on our relations with the other dominions or the Imperial Government. The Tariff Board’s report, which should be a most carefully prepared document, is very disappointing in its nature and scope. One would have thought that the first thing to be done in inquiring into the effect of a regulation ‘ of this kind would be to get statistics of the trade affected. I inquired of the Minister whether any particulars were available as to ti e amount of goods imported into this country in respect of which 25 per cent., 50 per cent., or 70 per cent, of value had been added, and the reply was that the information was not available. Considering that these goods are imported with a declaration of their origin, it would surely be an easy matter to gather statistics over a period of a few months, so as to get an idea of the effect of the proposed change. The Tariff Board is supposed to make inquiries, and report. There is no account in its report of an inquiry. It does not mention any facts upon which its opinion is based. It merely expresses its opinion upon Major Oakley’s memorandum. That is not the way a Tariff Board should work. If it is an investigating board it should gather definite facts upon which a reliable opinion could be based. I protest against the way in which the business has been done. I protest against the proposal to alter the basis of trade, because of the effect that I believe it will have.
– Does the honorable member think that the effect will be favorable to Australia?
– I certainly do not think so. We have been listening during this debate to a series of complaints of the effect of high protection upon Australian industries.
– There are 2,000,000 people unemployed in Great Britain.
– And proportionately as many here. The honorable member need only read the report of Mr. Wignall on that subject. As a matter of fact, there are nothing like 2,000,000 persons unemployed in Great Britain. The regulation will increase the amount of protection, the disastrous results of which are coming home to us every day, and have been the driving force behind the legislation passed by this House to over come, by government assistance, the difficulties and hardships placed upon the primary producers by the undue fostering of secondary industries. Whether it is right or wrong to increase the amount of protection on certain classes of goods may be a matter of opinion, but there should be no difference of opinion among honorable members as to how additional protection should be imposed. It should be imposed by the Parliament, and by the Parliament only, in a proper and legal way. It should not be done, as it were, by a side wind. It is notorious that certain industries have been pressing the Minister for additional tariff’ duties. The Minister well knew that it would be very difficult and unpopular for him to introduce a definite proposal to the Parliament for a higher tariff, but by altering this regulation the same effect will be obtained. When the fathers and mothers who have to buy their children’s clothing learn that the effect of this regulation will be either to raise the price of cloth or to prevent any reduction in the price of it below the high levels of war time, they will begin to object to the regulation being enforced merely by a scratch of the Minister’s pen.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.At the outset of my remarks it may be as well for me to indicate that I intend to move the following amendment: -
That the total £1,027,917, be reduced by
The- amount of £6,500, by which I propose to reduce the total of £1,027,917, represents the total salaries of the- mem-, bers of the board. I move this amendment as a protest against the inexcusable delay of the Government in presenting the Public Service Board’s report to Parliament after the Public Service Bill had been disposed of; and also to express disapproval of the attacks on the Public Service Arbitrator and the officers of the Public Service generally. In reply to a question by me to-day, the report of the Public Service Board was tabled. Before to-day I had made inquiries of the board, and of the Prime Minister’s Department, and could get no information regarding it, but, on referring to the report as tabled, I find that it is dated the 22nd September, 1924, when it was addressed to the right honorable the Prime Minister. I am advised that the report was handed to representatives of the press over a week ago, but whether by the Prime Minister’s Department or the Public Service Board I have been unable to ascertain. The press was instructed not to publish it until it was released, and the result was that it was published in the Melbourne newspapers last evening and this morning before honorable members had had an opportunity to peruse it. It may be contended that the usual practice has been followed, but most honorable members will agree with me that the practice is wrong. Every member of this Parliament should have an opportunity to consider papers of such paramount importance before the press has access to them, particularly if important matters of policy and legislation to which they relate are being discussed. I therefore charge the Government with having deliberately delayed the submission of the report to Parliament. If the Government has not delayed it, the Public Service Board must have done so, and for that the Government must accept responsibility. It is peculiar that the report should reach honorable members the day following the long debate on the Public Service Bill, and late enough to prevent effective criticism of it. I have hastily looked through it since the tabled copy was handed to me earlier to-day, and I find many objectionable features in it. I resent the delay in tabling it, particularly because it contains a very long report upon the recent reclassification. Honorable members asked for information and reasons for the drastic departures made by the board from established principles in regard to the classification of the Public Service. While the Public Service Bill was being discussed, the report would have been useful to honorable members, although the tabling of it might, even at that stage, have had unpleasant results for the members of the board. It is one of the most extraordinary official documents I have ever perused. It is the first report of the new board created by the Government. It is remarkable for its amazing language, for its exaggeration, bias, and bathos. That is a fair description of certain sections of it. A Public Service Board with a quasi judicial status should have hesitated to indulge in the savage criticism of the Service employees contained in the report. It is charged with maintaining efficiency and contentment in the Service, and yet by its report it deliberately antagonizes members of that Service. I submit that the terms in which ft is couched are calculated to raise intense indignation, and the attacks which it makes upon the Public. Service Arbitrator, who has a judicial status, are contrary to the established practice of all British communities. Attacks upon the Arbitrator are not in the public interest. The Government should most certainly tell the board to exercise a little more tact and discretion in phrasing its reports, and to keep within the limits of decent criticism of a concomitant authority such as* the Public Service Arbitrator. The report emphasizes the fact that the criticism of the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) and other honorable members on this side is quite justified, and that the charges that have been made against the board of lacking experience and of being militarized in its constitution are more than justified. Unfair criticism of those who comprise the Public Service should not be tolerated. I, therefore, ask honorable members to treat the matter with the seriousness that it deserves. I propose to quote from the report of the board to show that its criticism is unfair. I shall not deal with the various matters in their order of importance, but in the order in which they ap pear in the report. On page 20 the following tactless criticism is made of officers who had’ the temerity to claim their rights : - ‘
The position in many departments of the Service borders on the ludicrous as regards the avidity with which officers seize every opportunity of claiming the payment of higher duties allowance.
I submit that such language is quite uncalled for where established rights are concerned. Further on, the board attacks the claim made by Service members to payment for travelling time - a principle that has been established for years. On page 22 of its report the board says -
The difficulty is that the payment for travelling time has become a vested interest under arbitration awards, and the Public Service is particularly tenacious of vested interests. Much of the present expenditure on travelling time is unwarranted, and involves a free gift to the officers concerned.
If any of the expense is unnecessary, it is the duty of the board to limit it. If it does not do so, it is failing in its duty. The statement that the Service is tenacious of its vested interests is ridiculous, and is a misuse of the English language. On page 23 we have an attack upon the very necessary desire of members of Parliament for information respecting various matters affecting the Service. In explaining the reason for the overtime worked, the board says -
Parliamentary returns are responsible for much overtime worked in Commonwealth departments, and it is questionable whether in many cases these returns, compiled at the cost of considerable labour and continuous night work, are really of very much value. It is probably not realized how much work is necessitated in the preparation of these returns.
I claim that, that statement is impudent in the extreme. It is not for the board to determine whether the requests of members of Parliament for information are necessary or unnecessary. Such matters are outside the province of their report, and of fair criticism. A more serious matter is the attack on the principle of a living wage. On page 35 we find -
It appears somewhat anomalous that a living wage, as thus defined, should be payable to employees upon reaching manhood’s estate, although only a mere fraction of them marry at such an early age.
I submit that in connexion with that matter, the Arbitrator is charged with the responsibility of determining these things upon the established principles laid down by the Federal Arbitration Court. Further on, the criticism becomes - to put it mildly - exaggerated. On page 38 it is stated that the recent classifications -were received with enthusiasm by the younger men in several mail branches. That is a misstatement ‘ of the position, as honorable members know, not only from communications they have received personally, but from the evidence of discontent which has appeared in the press reports of various Service employees’ meetings. The board claims that the discontent that exists has been deliberately manufactured. It charges various Service unions with unfairly attacking the board, and on page 39 passes the following criticism : -
It is somewhat surprising to have to record that these charges were followed up by statements made in all seriousness in Parliament that the Board had committed a serious breach of an arbitration award in reducing salaries, which, being arbitration salaries, were sacrosanct, and should not have been varied by any process of classification.
I submit -that it is by no means surprising that members of Parliament have protested against the board’s deliberate departure from the arbitration awards. Tha language used is untimely and injudicious. In reviewing the attacks made by the unions upon the classifications, the board alludes to their action in the following terms: -
The executive of the onion circularized its members throughout the Commonwealth, and prepared statements of grievances for the signature of those members, who in turn bombarded members of Parliament with these effusions.
The report goes on to say -
The employees had nothing to lose and everything to gain, while the parliamentary representatives were subjected to a flow of manufactured protests from men who had benefited so materially by the classification, but who, if the opinions of their leaders were to be accepted, were quite oblivious of any benefits.
That statement is a deliberate exaggeration. No one can rightly say that it is based on truth. Further on in the report it is suggested that the Service organizations used moral suasion to compel their members to join in protest. That is ridiculous. An attack is made upon the Clerical Association in the following language: -
Not content with circularizing members of Parliament, the Clerical Association adopted an attitude which was certainly not dignified, and bordering closely on the hysterical, in issuing instructions to officers of departments to dispatch telegrams to the members of both Houses.
I remind honorable members that these quotations are from the report of the Public Service Board, as by reason of the undignified, hyperbolical, and hysterical language, they perhaps might not think so. These statements emanate from a body of three alleged responsible men, occupying what are to be virtually judicial positions. Statements of that nature are not calculated to make the relations of the board with the Service harmonious, as was the intention of Parliament. The board was not established .to create discontent, but to administer the Service along lines conducive to contentment and efficiency. A little further on the board says: -
Acting upon these instructions, officers of all departments commenced a telegraphic barrage which developed into an intensive bombardment. “Utterly regardless of the strain placed, upon their fellow-unionists, the telegraphists, these messages of remonstrance and complaint passed through the Melbourne telegraph office in hundreds and thousands.
What a ridiculous exaggeration ! Another sentence in the report reads: - “ Every public servant was free to protest and used the telegraph at his own expense.” What an unnecessary and childish criticism to place in a report ! Lower down, the board suggests that the association committed a breach of regulation 36- a matter which has already been before honorable members. That regulation deals with political influence. I suggest, in passing, that if breaches of the regulations were committed, the board has been lacking in its duty in not taking action with respect to them. But it well knows that officers, in protesting against injustice, committed no breach of the regulations. I am assured that the Clerical Association acted only after receiving legal advice. The board should not make statements that are not based upon truth, moderation and common sense. The board speaks of the dignity of the Public Service, but its own report is not dignified. It is condemned by its own report. The most serious portion of the report is that which deals with the basic wage, fixed by the Arbitrator. On page 49 we read, in paragraph 2: -
The Board, through its representative, placed its views fully before the Public Service Arbitrator, who, however, after consideration of the evidence and arguments, increased the basic wage to £204 in respect of adult male officers.
The board then proceeds to attack the determination of the Arbitrator. That is a very unsatisfactory state of affairs. Parliament established these two authorities to. work in harmony, and not to criticize each other in this manner. In another part of the report the board reviews the decisions of the Arbitrator, and virtually states that they were not based upon proper principles. The concluding section of this part of the report is couched in the following language: -
Before concluding its remarks on this subject, the Board desires to emphasize its view that although during 1023-4 the Service has benefited by increased remuneration under arbitration “determinations to the extent of £255,000 per annum, the recent -basic wage judgment will commit the country to a still further increased expenditure of over £200,006 per annum on salaries of public servants already well remunerated.
It is not for the board to attack a principle of which this Parliament has approved. In yet another place we” find these words : -
The decision of the Arbitrator is founded on a slavish adherence to Statistician’s figures which were temporary and fortuitous in their incidence, and afforded no reasonable justification for interference with the basic wage adopted for purposes of classification. The Board regards with the utmost concern the unnecessary increase in the cost of the Public Service.
A board that can make such a report is out of sympathy with the expressed view of this Parliament. The report goes on lo traverse the Arbitration Public Service Act, on page 84, ‘and on page 86 it attacks the Public Service Arbitrator by inference. It attacks the powers this Parliament conferred upon that officer. It admits, however, that he appears to have accepted the fact that Parliament has not demurred, as evidence of the correctness of his determinations. In contradistinction to this it says that the wisdom of his awards has frequently been open to serious doubt, and has been challenged by the Public Service Commissioner. “Where is the necessity and authority for indirect criticism of this judicial officer of the Crown ? The board has the power to appeal against his awards, or to ask for a variation of them. It has had every opportunity to state its case before the Arbitrator, and there is, therefore, no necessity for it to indulge in criticism which has not been invited by Parliament, and does not come within the scope of its duties. Its business is to administer the Service, with due regard to efficiency, and to co-ordinate the work of the Service. Those duties have been neglected, to enable the board to present a report of this character. The section of the report dealing with the arbitrator ends up with this suggestion -
An amendment of the Arbitration (Public Service) Act has become necessary, to reduce to a reasonable and practical measure the application of the principles of arbitration to the Public Service.
Who has asked for this opinion ? I have done the best I could in explaining the character of the report of the Public Service Board. I have had but a very short time to- analyse it in difficult circumstances during the present sitting. I shall insist on pressing my amendment to a vote, because I think that Parliament should express its opinion upon such injudicious and intemperate language as is contained in this report. I have raised three issues. I suggest that in future these reports should be tabled and distributed to honorable members before they are made available to the press. Parliament should have a full- opportunity of considering them, and, if necessary, of rejecting them. Other official papers ane presented here, and motions are made that they be printed. If honorable members consider a document impudent or unjustified they should have an opportunity to reject it. They should have the opportunity to reject the report of the Public Service Board, or refer it back to the board. The report should have been before us when the Public Service Bill was under consideration. When the Public Service Arbitrator delivers an award, the award and the judgment are tabled simultaneously in this House, and we have the right to disallow an award. I cannot attribute the withholding; of the report of the’ Public Service Board, whilst the Public Service Bill was under consideration, to> any other motive than fear on the part of the board of criticism of its intemperate statements. It is not in the public interest that a body of this kind should have the power to issue a report of this character without Parliament having an opportunity to review it. I think I have satisfied the committee that the language of the report is intemperate and injudicious. Even the Prime Minister must agree that it is undesirable that the
Public Service Arbitrator or any other judicial officer of the Crown should be attacked in this manner. We are not permitted in this Parliament to attack such officers. To do so would be to violate the conventions which govern all the Parliaments of the Empire. I do not see why a board appointed to administer the Public Service should be allowed to do so, and, in view of the hour and the circumstances, I leave the matter at that.
– I did not intend to speak until I heard the honorable member for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) ask some questions concerning timber. Many timber mills in Tasmania are closing down, and the honorable member wants to know why. As many of the mills are in my electorate I may claim to know a little about the timber business. The honorable member for Denison has said that there has been a great decrease in shipments of timber from Tasmania and a great increase in the. imports of Oregon. Those statements are correct. I gather that the honorable member desires that a higher duty should be imposed on imported timber. Those interested in the timber mills are trying to secure an additional duty of 50s. per 3,000 super, feet on Oregon. If we put an additional duty of 50s. per 1,000 super, feet on Oregon local mills will raise the price of their timber to the same extent and the only effect will be to increase the cost of building material. The crux of the difficulty is the cost of labour. Any man who has a knowledge of the timber business will know that if a builder has the choice of using hardwood or Oregon pine, and there is only a difference of 3s. or 4s. per 100 feet in their cost, he will use Oregon all the time, simply because of the saving in labour. I know what has closed down the timber mills, and I propose to enlighten the honorable member for Denison on the point. They have been closed down because of the high cost of producing timber. About seven years ago Mr. Justice Higgins, in the Arbitration Court, made an award of £6 per week per man for the whole of Australia. That might be a fair thing in Queensland, Western Australia, or in New South Wales, where the rainfall is tropical and occurs only at certain seasons. But in Southern Tas mania it rains for 180 days out of the’ 365. No industry could be carried on in such circumstances on the condition that the men employed in it must be paid £5 per week whether they work or not. All the men have to say in the morning is, “It is too wet; we shall not go out today,” and they can come up on the Friday night and draw their cheques for £6 each. It is not too wet for some of them to go out fishing, and they have to be paid for fishing. The timber millshave had to close down for- no other ‘reason than the high cost of the production of timber as a result of the award to which I have referred.
– How long ago was the award made?
– Seven years ago.
– It is only lately that a number of the mills have been closed down.
– Seventy-two of the biggest mills in Tasmania were closed down because of that award, and as a result 2,000 men were thrown out of work. It took three years to have the award altered; when the mills started again. Under what conditions did they have to start? The Arbitration Court says that the men must be paid from the time they leave their homes until they get to their work. They must be paid for 58 hours a week, and they work f or only 40 hours. The consequence is that timber costs 16s., 18s., and 20s. per 100 feet, and in spite of these prices the biggest mill in Southern Tasmania lost £34,000 on one year’s operations. That mill has shut down, and thrown 160 men out of work because it could not produce timber at the price. I. repeat that if an additional duty of 50s. per 1,000 super, feet is imposed on. Oregon the mills will make use of that to increase the price of their timber to cover the wages they have to pay under the award, and the only result will be to penalize people in every part of Australia, because rents must go up if houses cost more to build. The young people in” this locality, in common with others of their own age, attend the weekly dances, and on one occasion a young lady lost her way in endeavouring to return home through the scrub. . Her father, who was an employee of one of the mills, _ spent the next day in searching for her, but, notwithstanding his ; absence from duty, he demanded, and was paid, for the time he was away. The awards of the Arbitration Court are largely responsible for the closing down of the timber mills, and the price at which the product has to be sold. Statistics show that Tasmanian hardwood is produced at the rate of 150 super, feet per man per day, whilst in America the production of pine, which is, of course, easier wood to handle, averages 830 feet per day. The Huon Timber Company, which owns the biggest mills in Tasmania, could not keep itS mills going while the award was in operation, because the men could not be kept working under cover in wet weather, but later, when on piece-work, the men worked in all weather, and the production of logs was so great ‘that in less -than a fortnight the mill was over-supplied. It is quite impossible for these mills to continue in operation whilst wages have to be paid in accordance with Arbitration Court awards. Such courts are the curse of Australia, and are largely instrumental in destroying industry. The Navigation Act is also responsible for driving shipping away from the Tasmanian coast. Tasmania conducted a lucrative timber trade with New Zealand before it was in operation. Having placed these facts before the committee, I am sure that the honorable member .for Denison (Mr. O’Keefe) and other honorable members will know why the mills .have ceased to operate.
.- I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) a matter which has a direct bearing upon the sugar agreement. For the information of the Minister, I quote the following letter from Charlick Brothers, Adelaide, which is a reputable business firm. It reads: -
I have had considerable negotiations and correspondence with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company with regard, to raw sugar, and I am quite satisfied that they are deliberately blocking us in the matter of supplies. In the first place, they refused to quote us for raw sugar, and they personally explained to me that they could not sell raw, as it deprived them of the profit in refining. I passed this on to the Minister for Customs, and he replied that there waa. nothing to prevent them selling raw sugar, and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company then quoted us raw at £30 lis. 4d., plus a guarantee of £2 per ton to have it sent back to Sydney if it was not up to sample which they had supplied us; but to pick out any of their stock at Glanville they wanted £3 per ton extra. This, of course, we could not agree to, except in a couple of tons to keep us going while our shipment was coming. I pointed out to them that to charge us this price when it only cost them £27 per ton f.o.b. Cairns was too high. As it now stands, we have bought 20 tons from them on sample, which they won’t guarantee, at £30 Ils. 4d., bags Sd. each, and interim supplies at £33 lis. 4d.
I personally saw an even regular sample being turned out at the South Johnstone mill, and they are at the present time turning out over 1,000 tons per week, all of which is being shipped to the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and it should be a perfectly simple matter to quote us 20 tons f.o.b. Cairns or Mourilyan Harbour. We cannot give them an extra price for same taken out of their Glanville store, as it necessitates sending a man to the works to sample same.
The sugar position in South Australia is very unsatisfactory from, a purchaser’s standpoint like ourselves. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company are the only suppliers, and they have an aggressive stand-and-deliver attitude, which is very irritating. I have been dealing with them for very many years, and I am quite satisfied that if these people had competition, they would have to -adopt other methods or go out of business; and it is this fact that creates a bad feeling in the minds of traders and consumers towards the sugar industry, as applied to Queensland as an industry.
Now, in regard to the surplus sugar that is -being exported, the Minister for Customs declines to state at what price this was sold. I have heard £19 and £17 f.o.b. as being the price. This, of course, shows a loss to the board in the cost; but, whatever the price is, there should be no secret about it, for tho people who have to pay for the industry should be fully acquainted with all the particulars, and my contention with regard to the raw sugar is that a considerable demand can be worked up with householders for it in certain directions, and better that this should be, rather than to export it at a much lower price to outsiders.
The foregoing is a clear statement of facts, and is true, notwithstanding any statement to the contrary by the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and if you have any question as to its accuracy, I can supply you with proof.
I am obliged to you for your interest in the matter, and shall be glad if you can still further interest yourself having these particulars in front of you.
I do not intend to discuss the sugar agreement, but the letter which I have quoted is from a firm which for many years has been conducting an extensive grocery business. It discloses the fact that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is taking advantage of its position, and is unduly penalizing business men in the matter of sugar supplies. I trust the Minister, who has already been appealed to, and who has sent a communication to this firm, will, in view of this further information, take some action. It is unreasonable that the company should penalize, purchasers, or suggest the manner in which sugar shall be distributed and paid for. The Government should be able to check the rapacity of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
I wish now to refer to the position in which some incapacitated soldiers are placed. I am. aware that an investigation is being made concerning the basis on which incapacitated soldiers are dealt with, but I do not know whether those conducting the inquiry have authority to make recommendations which will meet the case of a man I have in mind- A gentleman who is hopping about Adelaide on two sticks, and who interviewed me on Sunday night, informed me that, although he is in receipt of an invalid pension, he is not receiving a war pension. He could not receive an invalid pension unless he were an invalid, and as he was once in receipt of a war pension there is no doubt that his incapacity is due to war service. Another man, who is receiving a war pension and an invalid pension, also visited me the same evening. This man was passed for active service when the medical test was much more severe than it was later, when men were accepted without any questions being asked concerning their age. This man returned with a curvature of the spine. From a perusal of his papers, I learned that he was in some of the big marches across the Egyptian desert; but to-day he is a cripple.
– This is not one of the so-called camouflaged young men. He does not look over age now.
– Did he get curvature of the spine when away?
– No; but he suffers from curvature of the spine now, and is obliged to walk with a stick. He had resided in the Commonwealth for only two years prior to enlisting, and is not eligible for an invalid pension ; but the department has recognized an obligation to him, and given him a pension. I have quoted only two cases that came to my mind, but there are many others although their number is inconsiderable in comparison with the total number of men who went overseas. The Commonwealth should give special consideration to trie men suffering from tubercular disease. I have in my possession now a letter that I do not care to deliver. It relates to a returned soldier who had not tubercular trouble when he came back from the war, but a man who had not the constitution of a horse must pay now, or in years to come, for months on poor rations, sleeping in dug-outs, and wearing wet clothes that were permitted to dr,y upon his . body. The time that has elapsed since men underwent those hardships is comparatively short, and the nation has not yet realized its full responsibility to them. The courage and achievements of . those men, who were hailed at the time as heroes, need no praise from me, but the Commonwealth will not be acting fairly towards them until it acknowledges its responsibility to all the unfortunates who are falling by the way-side as the result of war-time injuries and privations. The system of assessing the extent to which incapacitation is due to war service is too severe. The Commonwealth should meet all obligations in regard to men who, since their return to Australia, have developed illness that may have been the result of war-time experiences. The effects of hardships will manifest themselves more slowly on some constitutions than on others, but there are many cases that should be reviewed by the medical officers of the department.
– Adelaide had the misfortune to have as a deputy commissioner a man who was totally unfitted for the job.
– I do not say that, although I admit that the honorable member’s experience justifies him in thinking so. However, one man should not be allowed to dictate the policy of the Commonwealth Government towards the returned soldiers. For the men who are fit and well I ask nothing. They gave their services voluntarily, and the contract between them and the country ‘ is completed. I ask for them nothing but appreciation of their courage and patriotism ; but for those men who throughout the remainder of their lives will be penalized by ill health due to war service, the Commonwealth cannot do too much to ensure that at least they shall never want.
– I support the amendment. The extracts read by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) from the report of the Public Service Board included some very extravagant and intemperate language. It is not right that a responsible body should make such serious reflections on the Public Service, and suggest that there are incompetency and unworthy practices. If the members of the board have to resort to such statements in order to justify themselves, this Parliament must make them recognize that it demands from them logical conclusions expressed in temperate language that is in keeping with the dignity and responsibility of their positions. Yesterday, the Prime Minister and I had a difference of opinion in regard to the effects of the reclassification of the Service. I contended that even after transfer or promotion some public servants would probably suffer a reduction of the salaries that they were enjoying under the award of the Arbitrator. The Prime Minister said that it was ridiculous to suppose that the board would promote officers and compel them to accept lower salaries. I am able to quote now the names of some employees who have had that experience. Four sorters in the Postmaster-General’s Department - Miss D. Warrington, who has had twelve years’ service; Miss E. Hawser, who has had eleven years’ service; Miss E. McAlister, who has had seven years’ service; and Miss 0. Jenkins, who has had nine years’ service - were receiving a salary of £169 per annum, which on promotion was reduced to £159. Miss G. Fidoe, telephonist, who has had seven years’ service, was receiving £183 per annum, and upon her promotion her salary was reduced to £159. I deplore the injustices that have been done to the Commonwealth Service, and I am disappointed that the honorable member for Boothby - in whose electorate are many officers of the Commonwealth - did not say a word yesterday in support of their claims. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), and the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr), who I understand have been advising the Government in regard to the Public Service Bill, acquiesced in the serious invasion of the rights of the Service. At one time - before he entered this Parliament - the honorable member for Perth led a strike of the Western Australian civil servants; but his attitude upon the Public Service Bill was incomprehensible to me. I cannot understand how the honorable member could subordinate to party loyalty the interests of a great Service that probably was largely responsible for his election to this House. The honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) had not the courage to vote in one division, because he recognized that the attitude of the Government was opposed to the interests of the Public Service, and did not meet with the approval of the people. Every amendment that I submitted yesterday was desired by the Public Service, but not one of them was accepted by the Government or supported by those honorable members opposite who in the past have claimed to be the champions of the Service.
– Why should special consideration be given to the public servants ?’
– They are entitled to ask this Parliament for justice; but honorable members on the ministerial side have deprived them of their dues under the awards of the arbitrator. They have worked hard through their association to improve their pay and status in the Service, but by a miscarriage of justice and a repudiation of the Government’s obligations, they have been robbed of their rights, and although many Commonwealth employees reside in the electorate of the honorable member for Boothby, he did not make any protest in their behalf. I make the same criticism of the honorable members for Perth. Parkes and Lang, who have professed great interest in the welfare of the Service. Not even in the hour of crisis, when the employees of the Commonwealth were trying to uphold the standard secured through the services of the Public Service Arbitrator, could they obtain the assistance of those who ought to have recognized their duty to persons for whom they had expressed so much concern in the past.
– It is very regrettable’ that honorable members have not had the report of the Public Service Board in their hands until quite recently. If we had had the report when the Public Service Bill was under consideration, a great deal more light could have been thrown on matters dealt with in the bill. I understand that the report has been available for some time, and, although other people have had it, honorable members have not seen it until to-day. I endorse what has been said by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) The board has been in existence for some time, and has carried out part of the ; work allotted to it. Honorable members on this side have stated that the reclassification of the Service has not given satisfaction to members of the Service, but the report suggests that it has given great satisfaction to certain sections of the Service. All honorable members will agree with me that it is very important that the Public Service should be justly treated, and that the board appointed to control it should have wide powers. The restrictions imposed upon members of the Service should be just, and their monetary reward should be adequate. I have had only about ten minutes in which to look at the report, but even in scanning it during that time I have discovered certain paragraphs that should be brought under the notice of the committee. It says that officers of the mail branch of the Postal Department are enthusiastic about the protection that the new system of classification offers to them in the future. The report does not say whether it means the near future or the distant future. This is the firsttime honorable -members have heard of any satisfaction in the Service with the reclassification.In another part of the report the board complains most bitterly about the action of certain organizations, and in particular those organizations that, in the words of the report, have “inundated” members of Parliament with telegrams and other messages expressing the greatest possible dissatisfaction with the reclassification. Personally, I have received no telegrams. This is what the report says -
Not content with circularizing membersof Parliament, the Clerical Association adopted an attitude which w,as certainlynot dignified,’ and bordering closely on the hysterical, in issuing instructions to officers of departments to dispatch telegrams to the members of both Houses.
Acting upon these instructions, officers of all departments commenced a telegraphic barrage which (developed into an intensive bombardment. Utterly regardless of the strain placed upon their fellow-unionists, the telegraphists, these messages of remonstrance and complaint passed through the Melbourne telegraph office in hundreds and thousands. Every public servant was free to protest by telegraph - at his own expense.
The board looks upon it as a great calamity that every member of the Service is free to protest to a member of Parliament by means of a telegram. It is a public “ calamity “ that the freedom of which we boast should be extended to the Public Service ! It may be a calamity in the minds of members of the board, but to other people it is not. The majority of the people of Australia have decided that the freedom enjoyed by them shall be enjoyed also by members of the Public Service. There was a time when it was not so. I was once a member of the Public Service, and in those days if two or three public servants met together to discuss something relating to their material welfare in the Service, or to the work they were doing, means were employed to discover their identity, and they were placed on a “black list.” Those days have changed for the good, not only of the officers, but also of the Service. Let me read a little more , of the report -
The association had issued its ultimatum, andthemembers must obey. The form of telegram as dictated by the association was followed in most cases, but officers stationed throughoutthe Commonwealth varied the formality as theyconsidered fit.
– Does the board object to amember of the association telegraphing to a memberof Parliament ?
Mr.F. McDONALD.- The board evidently does object to that. It has been placed in the position of a Caesar towards the Public Service, and has exercised its authority -with greater tyranny than ever any Caesar displayed. I am indeed pleased to know that the Government has not allowed it to exercise its authority to the full, but has come to the rescue of the public servants bynot allowing any interference with the Public Service Arbitrator.. The Government ought to go further, , and say that a board of Caesars set up over the Commonwealth Public Service, perhaps by mistake, whichobjects to members of the association exercising theirrights, is not fit to occupy that position in a free country. Let me continue the quotation -
Thegeneralpurport of these messages was as follows : - “ Whole PublicService strongly opposes board’s reclassification.” “ Public Service requests fair deal lower grades reclassification.” “ Public servants discontented proposed reclassification. All ask fair deal.” “‘Members. Public Service strongly resent injustice Board’s action reducing salaries consequent upon reclassification.” “Board lowering standard of wages. Whole Commonwealth Service protests. Ask you oppose.”
That gives a very different impression from the statement about the intense satisfaction and wonderful enthusiasm shown by the postal sorters. I notice that exception was taken by members, of the board to the tone of the telegrams sent to honorable members, indicating the disinclination of members of the Service to accept anything, less than the Arbitrator’s awards. It is presumption, of course, in the eyes of the board, that telegrams should be sent to members of Parliament asking for protection, but to whom else can the public servants appeal, when the board evidently will not give them a fair deal ?’ I read somewhere in the board’s report that members of the Service had become. “ hysterical “ towards the classification, and “indignant” over it”. We are all human, and I wonder what the attitude of the members of the board would be if they were placed in the same position1 as some of the women whose salaries have been reduced from £200 to £166 a year after giving the best years of their life to the service of their country. Would not the members of this sympathetic, board be hysterical if they were asked to live on £150 a year? Would they be so dignified then as they now profess to be ? The language used’ in the report is what one would expect from a fifth-form school boy, who was trying to employ the biggest words he could find in the dictionary. What a shame that members of the Service should receive travelling’ expenses !
– Members of the board are paid travelling allowances.
– I understand that they each draw £2 5s. a day, but because members, of the Service have the temerity to ask for the allowances prescribed for them the board attributes the practice to avidity on their part.
– A “ brass hat “ board .
– It is a military board, and it has. the impertinence to attack the employees’ organizations. Its report shows that it attacks the awards made- by the Arbitrator,, and questions the index figures used by him in arriving at his determinations. When a young man in the Service wrote’ to the honorable member for- Wentworth (Mr. Marks) asking for the interpretation of a. certain legal document, and when the board was asked to supply the information., it replied that the officer had committed a breach of the regulation which provided that no member of the Service should use influence to obtain promotion,, transfer, or undue advantage. The board brought the matter under the notice of the head of the department, with the result that this humble officer was branded as: having contravened an important regulation. The board displayed its ignorancein being unable to interpret its own. regulation. It also complained that the organizations of the employees had contravened that regulation. But that is a misstatement. I challenge any Minister to say that the officer in any way contravened it. It may seem a small matter because it affects only a humble servant, but it is more necessary to protect the humble than the highly-placed officer, because when attacked in this way there is no- authority other than Parliament to which the assailed can appeal. This arrogant board even challenges the parliamentary practice under which, every honorable member is entitled to ask questions which lead to information being supplied showing- . how the country is being governed. The board remarks in its report that parliamentary returns are responsible for much overtime being worked in Commonwealth departments, and it was questionable whether in many cases the returns, compiled- at the cost of considerable labour and nightwork, were really of very much value. I venture to suggest that it is questionable whether the practice of placing the Public Service under the control of an ignorant and incompetent boards is of much value. In another . part of its report the- board1 utters a dirge- about the- increasing cost of the Service. The board, deplores the increasing cost of the Public Service. Evidently it objects to the public servants receiving the wages fixed by the Arbitrator. The Arbitrator basest his awards on the cost of living in Australia. Yet the board protests against the increasing cost of the Service. It is not improbable that the increased cost is largely due to the poor management of the board, which has not adopted proper business methods and has failed to establish co-ordination between the departments. The board evidently looks forward to the day when it will have sovereign rights over the Public Service. In placing the Public Service Board in control of the Public Service, and giving it such power, a great mistake was made if that board is to be allowed to attack the principle of arbitration, as it has been attacked in this report. I feel sure that the Government is not in agreement with the action of the board in connexion with its classification, and I hope that it will express its dissatisfaction with the board’s attack on the principles adopted by the Arbitrator in his award, and also with the treatment meted out to the public servant to whom I have referred. The board’s report contains the following paragraph : -
Before concluding - its remarks on this subject, the board desires to emphasize its view that although during 1923-4 the Service has benefited by increased remuneration under arbitration determinations, to the extent of £255,000 per annum, the recent basic wage judgment will commit the country to a still further increased expenditure of over £200,000 per annum on salaries of public servants already well remunerated.
The cost of living has increased since the Arbitrator’s awards were made, yet the board speaks of the public servants as being “ already well remunerated.” If the cost of living has increased, the salaries of public servants should have increased also. The members of the Service ask for no more than that. Another statement in the board’s report reads - “ The decision of the Arbitrator is founded on a slavish adherence to the Statistician’s figures, which were temporary.” What are the qualifications of the members of the board that they should ignore the Statistician’s figures? Where have they gained their experience and their wisdom ? Of course, the figures were temporary. The index number has gone up, and, naturally, the public servants expected that their salaries would show a corresponding increase. The board states: -
The Statistician’s figures were temporary and fortuitous in their incidence, and afforded no reasonable justification for interference with the basic wage adopted for purposes of classification. The board regards with the utmost concern the unnecessary increase in the cost of the Public Service.
There is much in this report which does not coincide with that spirit of justice which should be present in the relations of the board with the members of the Public Service. It would appear that the board desires to get back to the conditions which existed when men were ruled with the iron rod of the despot. I hope that the Government will intimate to the members of the Public Service that it does not agree with the opinions of the board as expressed in this report.Unless that is done, the discontent which at present permeates the whole Service will grow, with the result that therewill be a lessening of efficiency.
Mr.FENTON (Maribyrnong) [5.13 a.m.]. - In a report from a body such as the Public Service Board we look for something different from that which is contained in the. report before us. The language of the board is more suggestive of the junkers of Germany than of men who have been appointed to administer the Public Service of this country. I anticipate that there will be a vigorous and unanimous reply by the members of the Public Service to the strictures of the board. The board has seen fit to attack the Public Service Arbitrator, who was appointed under an act of this Parliament. As a man of some spirit, I do not think that gentleman will remain quiet under the lash of this trio of despots. I do not expect that the public servants generally will take the criticism of the board lying down. The board was appointed to throw oil on the troubled waters of the Service, and smooth out its differences. It was to reclassify it, and start it on a fresh career of usefulness to Australia. Instead of doing that, it has in its report thrown down a challenge to the public servants. I am expecting that in every capital city meetings will be called, at which public servants will give their reply to the board. The members of the board are paid high salaries. The chairman receives £2,500 a year, and each of the other members £2,000 a year. The most comfortable conditions are assured to them when travelling, and they are, in fact, the curled darlings of the Service. Their report is evidence of the mistake the Government made in appointing them, and particularly in appointing the chairman. I know of nothing more calculated to arouse a spirit of insubordination in the Public Service than the criticism passed upon it by the board.
To refer to another matter, it would be interesting to know what the Government proposes to do in view of an event which transpired within the last hour or two. An important bill has been rejected in another place, and it might be as well to refer to what the constitution provides las the mea!ns to overcome such a difficulty. Section 57 reads -
If the House of Representatives passes any proposed law, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, and if after an interval of three months the House of Representatives, in the same or the next session, again passes the .proposed law with or without any amendments which have been made, suggested, or agreed to by the Senate, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, the Governor-General may dissolve the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously. But such dissolution shall not take place within six months before the date of the expiry of the House of Representatives by effluxion of time.
I am one of those who have subscribed to the plank in the platform of the party on this side proposing the abolition of another place. It is a useless excrescence on the Constitution. It will be interesting to watch whether the Government will meekly submit to the action of that chamber, which should be very careful about the way in which it handles financial measures. I take it that the Prime Minister will make some announcement on this subject. If the Government has any backbone at all, it will not hesitate, as soon as the period of three months is about to expire, to call Parliament together, and submit the measure again to another place, and see whether it will again unceremoniously reject legislation intended to secure the collection of taxation from a number of very wealthy people in the Commonwealth. There are two other matters to which I would refer at some length if Ministers concerned in them were present. I cannot blame them for not being present in this chamber at 5 o’clock in the morning. I hope the Treasurer will convey to the PostmasterGeneral my earnest plea on behalf of men who have been thrown out of employment because of the very limited demand for insulators by his department. I trust also that the Minister for Trade and Customs will listen to the pleading of members on this side that he should do something to improve the present position of the textile industry in the Commonwealth.
– I so seldom agree with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton), that when I do agree with him, I should not like the opportunity to pass without recording the fact. In common with the honorable member, I enter my emphatic protest against the action taken in another place, which will have the effect of enabling certain persons to escape taxation which they ought to pay. I trust the Prime Minister will take the earliest opportunity of bringing the measure forward again, and seeing that the persons who should pay this taxation are compelled to do so. I. cannot understand why members of a certain party in another “lace did not follow the example set by members of the same carty in thischamber who supported the efforts of the Government in this matter.
(Sir Neville Howse) .-Order ! The honorable member is not in order in discussing the action of another place.
– I wish now to refer to the exchange difficulty with which we are confronted. It is essential that nothing should interfere with the marketing of our wool and wheat. In a bill recently passed by this Chamber provision was made for the constitution of a Board with extensive powers to ‘control the Commonwealth Bank, which powers if fully exercised will to a great extent remedy many of the difficulties under which we are labouring. T was sorry to hear the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) state that arrangements had been made which precluded for the present the borrowing of further money in Australia. Our present position would be materially improved if we were to float a loan in Australia and arrange with the financial institutions to exchange the proceeds for money which they hold in England. We can only reach the stage of producing everything we require, and have an exportable surplus by using all the funds which we have abroad to liquidate our external indebtedness. Although it is essential to restrict borrowing for works in Australia, the possibility of floating a local loan to assist the financial institutions should be considered. A little while ago the Government raised a loan in London for redemption purposes, and if the financial institutions had been approached arrangements could have been made for floating a local loan and using the accumulated credit to wipe out our indebtedness abroad. There is every likelihood that in the course of a few months additional wealth to the extent of £100,000,000 will be created, and if we cannot overcome the exchange difficulty we shall be robbed of a great deal of the money to which we are entitled. The reports received from the different states disclose that the quality and quantity of the wool clip is exceptional. The wheat har vest prospects are also very attractive. At present, exchange amounts to about 2d. per bushel, which, added to the price of bags, means curtailing the profits and withholding from circulation money which should be available for productive works.
I am sorry to learn that such a small quantity of wire netting has been made available in New South Wales. In theBathurst district not one of the many applications forwarded has been completed. I received a letter a few days ago from the father of two returned soldiers, who have crops and who are qualified to receive wire netting, stating that although these men lodged their applications as soon as the netting was available and have since followed them up most persistently, they have not yet received supplies. I trust the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) during his visit to Sydney will interview the Minister for Lands in that State. That gentleman informed me that so far as he knew all the applications had been sent forward.
Question- That the total £1,027,917 be reduced by £6,500 (Mr. Coleman’s amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 14
Question so resolved in the negative.
– The hour is opportune for making a few remarks about a remarkable document that came before Parliament yesterday, and the conduct of the Government in suppressing it until this late hour of the session. The report has been tabled now only because it could not be withheld any longer. One thing that Parliament has a right to expect from any board it creates is respect. As public men, members of Parliament have often to undertake duties that are not pleasant, and the purpose of which is not always fully understood by others. The annual report of the Public Service Board is an insult to Parliament, and any member who is content to remain silent after reading some of the statements it contains has about as much backbone as a jellyfish. The report is a challenge by the board to honorable members and the parliamentary system generally, and the Government that allows those gentlemen to remain in their positions a day longer than is necessary is recreant to its trust as the controller of the parliamentary machinery. I endorse the statements of the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) and the honorable member for Barton (Mr.. F. McDonald). The Public Service is to be congratulated upon, having, in those, honorable members-, such champions in this chamber.. Having assisted to control one of the largest unions in Australia, I have had considerable experience in the industrial world, and I resent the slurs . cast by the board upon an association of employees of the Commonwealth. Those gentlemen are not very particular as to- the charges they lay against officers and members of -an association formed to protect governmentworkers from “brass hats” of the type of Major-General Sir James Brudenell White and his two colleagues on the board. Nobody knows better than I do how union officers have had to’ struggle to make their organizations so strong that the men who speak for. them shall not be blacklisted and victimized. I have been through the mill, and know what it means to members of the Service, who have others dependent upon them for the means of existence,, to be blacklisted by conservative gentlemen who have crawled and “ scabbed “ all their lives, have never had to fight for anybody but themselves, are without principle, and have been pitchforked into high positions by social influence and patronage. The members of the board speak of the good relations that they intend to establish between the public servants and the Government. They say “ The board has at heart the welfare of the Service and every individual.” The following paragraph from their report illustrates one of the ways in which they show their sympathy: -
A case occurred in the Defence Department in which official information was divulged by an officer to the. Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association. The matter was taken np with the department by the acting commissioner and subsequently by the board. The permanent head reported that in reference to the matter disclosed, the officers who handled the relative file were - members of- the Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association, that the disclosure of information could not be traced to any individual, and that as several of the officers had since retired from the Service, it was not felt that any good purpose would be served by pursuing the matter further. With this view the board was in accord.
In the dirty, rotten, conservative minds of the members of the board, a suspicion was formed’ regarding officers of the association who had retired from the Ser vice. The statement I have read’ is one of the most scandalous that has ever come to my knowledge. Because certain officers were members of the association the board jumped to the conclusion that they must have been responsible for the divulging of official information. That statement is opposed to all principles- of justice. For years we have been fighting to establish the right of an employee to be a member of an association in order to protect his rights as a worker, without being penalized or prejudiced in his employment as this board is endeavouring to da to public servants. The chairman of the board, Sir Brudenell White, waa not an applicant for that position but those who answered the advertisement calling for applications, were ignored, and he was pitchforked into the job.
– Had he any experience to: fit him- for that job t
– Only military experience, which is the least likely to fit a man to control a body of civilians.
– His record is not too good.
– That statement is absolutely unjust.
– At least it is more just than is the board’s reference to the officers of the association.
– Somebody must have divulged the information.
– Why should an insinuation be made against officers and members of the association ? Was it necessary to embody such a statement in the annual’ report, when nobody was charged with the offence ? The purpose of this publication is to discredit those members of the association who are still within the Public Service. No fair-minded man would issue a report of that character, in which no man is charged, but a dirty insinuation is made against men whose boots Sir Brudenell White is not fit to blacken.
– The honorable member is talking rot.
– My’ experience has taught me that responsible union officials are straightforward and honest, and will not divulge confidential information received in the course of official duties.
– Insinuations come from more than one quarter.
– I thank the honorable member for reminding me of the Prime Minister’s insinuation about persons iu this House who levy political blackmail upon the Government.
– He did not speak of persons in this House.
– Surely the Government is not amenable to outside influences ! Surely, if blackmail is levied anywhere it is in this House. Some of the statements in this report suggest that the members of this board have just crawled out of Tutankhamen’s tomb. In regard to knowledge of modern industrial conditions, they are mere trogloditeswhose proper place is the museum. They say the Public Service associations must not approach members of Parliament. Does not the Leader of the Country party tell the farmers that unless they organize, and are able to bring combined pressure to bear upon the Parliament, they will get nothing? I tell my constituents to form themselves into, organizations, so that they may speak with one voice. Yet the antediluvian members of the Public Service Board, whose principal characteristics are ignorance, arrogance, aud egotism, say that it is not right that representatives of the Public Service should approach Parliament. These gentlemen constitute themselves the censors of Parliament. Whatever faults may be found with members of this House, ‘ we have at least stood the test of public criticism, and have been elected by the votes of the people. Parliament is coming to a pretty pass if we are to be told by’ troglodites of the type of White, Skewes and McGlinn - that the questions we ask, in order to elicit information, are valueless. This is one paragraph in the board’s report -
Parliamentary returns are responsible for much of the overtime worked in Commonwealth departments, and it is questionable whether, in many cases, these returns, compiled at the cost of considerable labour and continuous night work, are really of very much value. It is probably not realized how much work is necessitated in the preparation of these returns.
That statement comes from a general whose principle in war is, “ Achieve your objective, no matter what the cost.” These men presume to dictate what questions we shall ask in Parliament. They have not the faintest knowledge of what parliamentary government and parliamentary responsibility represent. The members of a progress association in my electorate, or of any other public body, have a right to ask me to ascertain, say, the salaries of the members of the Public Service Board. That would be a proper question for wideawake taxpayers to ask. Yet these gentlemen would say that, on the score of cost, the .information should not be supplied. I happen to know the salaries paid to those gentlemen. We protested against the amounts to be paid when the members of the board were appointed. For the salaries we pay we are getting a very poor return if this report is a. specimen of their work. It would not be well for me to tell my electors that I could not get the information they desire, because the Public Service Board said it was doubtful, on the score of cost, whether it was necessary to supply it. This report is one of the most scandalous and ridiculous documents, I have seen for many years. Were I the Prime Minister of this country these men would be out of their jobs to-morrow morning, and I have no doubt whatever, that the people of Australia would endorse my action. If one of the members of the board was to contest an election against the least experienced member of this Parliament, I guarantee that he would lose his deposit if this report was shown to the electors. It may be necessary for officers to do night work to prepare information for Parliament, because strangers cannot be called in to do such work. That, however, can be easily - overcome by paying the men for the work they do. The members of the board do not like members of Parliament to ask questions, for they ara afraid that we may learn too much. We may find out, .for instance, that £3,000,000 of taxation is owing, and that certain people have not furnished taxation returns for several years. Another part of the report states -
The difficulty is that the ‘payment for travelling time has become a vested interest under arbitration awards, and the Public Service is particularly tenacious of vested interests. Much of the present expenditure on travelling time is unwarranted, and involves a free gift to the officers concerned.
I guarantee that Sir Brudenell White is allowed expenses when he travels in the service of this country. A question ca that subject might well be placed on the notice-paper for the information of honorable members. I predict that if his travelling expenses were threatened he would dig in his toes to the greatest possible extent and protect his “ vested interests.” It should be remembered that he is not paid from week to week, but receives £2,500 a year.
– Does he earn it?
– In my opinion he does not. It is ridiculous to allow these men, after presenting such a report, to remain in their positions.
– Does the honorable member think that the Public Service Arbitrator would give Sir Brudenell White £2,500 a year ?
– I am quite certain that he would not, and that if the positions of members of the board were classified, they would receive the basic wage, if. they were not discharged. If the Government has any sense of responsibility they will not be allowed to continue in their positions. If reports of this character continue to be presented there will cease to be any applicants for positions in the Public Service. The Commonwealth Public Service is the lowest paid public service in Australia, and when parents put their children in it they “often do not understand what they are doing. A child with any intelligence and ambition is not employed to the best advantage in the Public Service.
– All Public Services fail to attract first class men, but get only average men.
– If the members of the board had their way, not only would there be no further applicants for the Service, but those who are already in the Service would leave it. I protest against the report, against the way it i3 compiled, and against the impertinence of the members of the board in dictating to members of Parliament what their duty is to their constituents. The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) has, in this Parliament, and upon the hustings, given expression to the slogan, “ The restoration of responsible government.” One of the great safeguards of the interests of the people of Australia is that reasonable information asked for by honorable members must be supplied to them. An honorable member is not entitled to information about the private affairs of taxpayers the publication of which may injure their business. But the public has a right to know the details of the working of departments. The disclosure of such information is a protection for the people against an official bureaucracy or autocracy carrying on in dark places. Any day, and at any time, an honorable member may call for information and it must be supplied. To that practice we can attribute the purity of the Public Service and of the public life of Australia. It is an awful thing to think that in this century men should even entertain, let alone print, such views as are contained in this report to present to members of Parliament. I would rather a man walked up to me in the street and slapped my face.
– If -the honorable member is not careful General White will court-martial him.
– I have no doubt that on the field o’f battle General White would court-martial me, and I should be shot as soon as the sun rose. He has been so long in that atmosphere that he cannot adapt himself to the civil atmosphere. He wants to apply the ‘ brass hat “ methods to the Public Service and to members of Parliament. The members of this Parliament would not be worth their salt if they sat down under this insult.
– I object to the manner of the presentation of this report. It has been suppressed by this Government. Ministers have had it in their possession for nearly a fortnight, and no honorable member has been allowed to see it, although for about a week it has been in the hands of every newspaper in Australia. Yesterday a copy of it was laid on the table by the Prime Minister, and that is the only copy to which honorable members have had access. I have had no opportunity of seeing it, although” one or two honorable members on this side have been able to peruse it. When the board was asked last Monday for copies its representative replied that the report was in the hands of the Prime Minister. This morning every newspaper in the capital cities of this country has given publicity to th<» report, and yet members of this Parliament cannot obtain access to it. When reports are tabled in Parliament spare copies should be available for honorable members. On the 7th December, 1921, I raised a discussion in this chamber upon what I regarded as the inconsistent attitude of the Public Service Arbitrator. I drew attention to the fact that he would give satisfaction to the Service if headopted some proper guiding principle for his decisions. I think that the Arbitrator took note of that comment, for his- decisions have been more consistent since that time than they were previously. My remarks on that occasion were curtailed by Mr. Speaker, who said, that the Arbitrator was in a judicial position. Mr. Speaker said that I was going too far, and he did not permit me to continue. Are members of the Public Service Board to enjoy a privilege which cannot be exercised by a member of this House 1 Are they to be. permitted to say what I cannot say’ in this chamber? It is preposterous to suggest it, and yet these men arrogate that right to themselves. Their report, according to to-day’s press, states that since 1913 the pay of the Commonwealth employees has increased by 69 per cent., while the cost of living has only increased by 50 per cent. This means that since 1913 the average increase in the wages of public servants, apart from the increase granted in consequence of the higher cost of living, has been 7s. 3d. a week, and this the board attributes to the dreadful system of arbitration. If the cost of the Service has .increased considerably in the last four years it is nob the members of the Service, or the organizations of the employees, who are responsible for that; the blame rests entirely with th© Government. Nobody could read the report without realizing that the members of the board are obsessed by their feeling about arbitration. They are more bitter and vindictive about it than are private employers1 - the great majority of whom accept the system, and much’ prefer it to strikes. The board ignores the fact tha’t the large increase in the cost of the Service has arisen from the increase in the number of employees. The report states that the expenditure on overtime and other extraneous payments during 1922-23 amounted to £136,000. I point out that, spread over 25,000 men, that amount works out at about 2s. a week for each employee. There is a paragraph in the Sun this morning about the amount drawn by th© different classes of employees. It tells us what ‘the telephonists get in overtime and what the postal sorters receive. If the board had been anxious to give a fair deal- to all it would have pointed out what was paid for over- time in each division. The impression that the board evidently desires to convey is that the overtime pay is ‘drawn b) those in the- lower paid sections of the Service, and- they obscure the fact that, although the higher class officers are relatively few in number, the amount they draw in overtime and travelling expenses is enormously higher than that obtained in the lower divisions. Objection is taken to travelling allowances; but I wish it to be remembered that some of the higher officers are careful to see that they do a lot of travelling, in order to augment their incomes. Therefore they often travel from state to state without any good reason. The purpose of the board i9 evidently to cloak the amount absorbed in travelling allowances by the men in the higher divisions-. The board virtually tells us that the taxpayer is being defrauded because an officer on a salary of £350 a year receives £1 17s. by way of recompense for the hardships involved in travelling from Melbourne to Sydney, and returning in his private time. There was a time - before federation was established - when officers in Sydney attended to the work to be done there, and when duties to be done in Melbourne were not carried out by men from Sydney. This is entirely a matter of administration; but under the present Government travelling expenses are unnecessarily piled up through officers travelling between the various capitals, crossing one another’s tracks, in order to look at one another’s work. Parliament votes the members of the board from £2,000 to £2,500 a year each, and they increase their remuneration as much as possible by making special trips between the capitals so that they may draw extra travelling expenses - not at the rate of 12s. a day, but at £2 2s. a day. On the subject of the basic wage the board says that a serious difference had arisen between it and the Arbitrator, and that the board fixed the minimum wage. What right had the board to fix a minimum wage? It is in the position of an employer on behalf of the nation.. Its business is to employ labour, and to: see that it is utilized to the best advantage, to act justly, and protect the national interests. It has no rights beyond those of the ordinary employer of labour. The- merchant, the pastoralist, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, or any individual employer, or body of employers, does not claim the right to fix wages. What would be the use of the Arbitration Court if each employer had the right to decide the wages of hi3 employees ‘( The Board fixed the minimum wage at £190 per annum, but it was increased by the Arbitrator to £204 per annum. Even that amount was below the Arbitration Court’s decision. Although Judge Powers fixed the basic wage, men in the Government employ have never received it. They have always been £6 a year below the rate outside. The board’s report contains the following:
Before concluding its remarks on this subject, the board desires to emphasize its view -that, although during 1923-4 the Service has benefited by. increased remuneration under -arbitration determinations to the extent of £255,000 per annum, the recent basic wage judgment will commit the country to a still further increased expenditure of over £200,000 per annum on salaries of public servants already well remunerated. There is no mention of the amount received by the highly -paid officers. If we turn up the Estimates, we shall see that many men in the higher grades have received increases of £500 per annum. Some have received as much as £1,000 above their salaries two or three years ago. When the board talks of an increase of £300,000 or £400,000 in the cost of the Public Service, it ignores the fact that a relatively small number of officers receive the greater proportion of that amount. The board says, “ The decision of the Arbitrator is founded on a slavish adherence to the Statistician’s figures.” If he is not to be guided by the Statistician’s figures, what is to be his guide? Those figures are supposed to be correct. They are the basis on which judgments and decisions are made. . No other ground can be taken if decisions are to be consistent from year to year. What right have these men, who are really employers, to present a report of that nature? It is not the function of the board to make awards. That is the function of arbitrators and judges. Let us, for a moment, put to one side judges and unions, and see what is in the papers this morning. Here is an example. It is headed, “ New York Job.” The paragraph continues -
Applications, closing 16th October, are invited, in the Commonwealth Gazette to-day, for the position of clerk to the official secretary at the Commonwealth’s New York office.
I should like to know who is the official secretary, and who will occupy the position of clerk. The paragraph states, further, that the officer selected will receive an allowance to bring his remuneration up to £650 a year as from the date of his taking up duty in New York. If he is married, he will get an additional £100, as well as £50 for each child under sixteen years of age. The very thing of which it complains when applied to the public servants, the board has applied in a more extensive form in this case. In the Age appears the f 0110Wing paragraph : -
The Board states that the official secretary to the High. Commissioner’s office, after reviewing the evidence submitted by officers, had- concluded that married officers with children on a salary of £500 plus bonus were unable to live on their income, and have had to borrow money or draw on their private resources.
In London an officer with £500 a year, plus bonus, is .unable to live on his income, but apparently a salary of £250 for a workman in Australia who has a wife and family is outrageous and preposterous - a public robbery. Yet the members of the board are supposed to hold the respect of honorable members iu this Parliament and members of the Public Service of the country. They have been appointed, not because of their knowledge of their duties, but in order to constitute a superior class, which will be recognized by its snobbery and class distinction. The men under them are a class inferior, and should be dealt with as such ! It is stated that these men in London have had to borrow money, or draw on their private resources. Our dear friend, Mr. Casey, may be placed in that same unfortunate position. The same sad fate may befall him. The dear one who has gone to America may also be similarly situated. Years ago thousands of women in this city worked in milliners’ shops and other establishments in competition with the daughters of well-to-do men, who were anxious that they should learn some occupation. The result was that those workingclass women, who could not borrow and who had no private resources to draw upon, were forced to accept 2s. 6d. a week, and augment their incomes from other sources, which need not be mentioned. Every industry and occupation should carry with it a remuneration sufficient for men and women to live decently. As these men cannot live on £500 a year, plus bonuses, the commissioners will improve their conditions. Married men are to receive a further £156 per annum, with £26 for each child ; while unmarried men will receive an additional £78 per annum. “Why is this distinction .made between married and unmarried men? Evidently those who fixed the terms do not understand Australian conditions. A man’s remuneration should not be determined by his social position, but by the value of the position he occupies and the service he renders to his country. This report will do more to condemn these gentlemen and -injure the Government than anything I could say at this moment. The report shows bias, and is based upon class hatred and a callous misunderstanding of the position. The men who have prepared it have no knowledge of the industrial conditions, the outlook, or the social aspirations of the masses of Australia. They look upon these matters with old-world eyes and old-world prejudices. In this report I can see the influence of Mr. Skewes. It must be remembered that Mr. Skewes went to the court to defend the Public Service Board and its reclassification. I venture to say that every time he appeared in the court to argue the case on behalf of the commissioners against proper remuneration for others, he drew fees from the public Treasury, and that wherever he travelled he did for himself that which he condemns in others.
– He received £2 5s. a clay, while the clerk who assisted him received 12s. a day.
- Mr. Skewes presented his side of the case to the judge. The men did the same. They spoke through the secretaries of their organizations. They were, so to speak, the defendants in the case. In every case where the judge has given a decision he has, because of the preliminary criticism, followed the practice of the court in setting out in every case the reasons on which he founded his judgment. Is it not reasonable to believe that he gave his verdict for or against the men, or for or against the Public Service Board on the evidence brought before him ? If he gave a decision against Mr. Skewes and the board, were they not in honour bound to accept that decision, just as the members of the
Public Service organizations were bound to accept decisions given against them ? What would be said of the men if, the judge having given his decision, they personally assailed the judgment or the judge in their journals, or through the agency of members of this chamber? They would very properly be the subjects of denunciation. But Mr. Skewes has been defeated in the court, and under cover of this report he has made an attack upon the judge. He has used the report as an instrument with which to satisfy his vendetta against the judge and to relieve his disappointment because he has not been successful. That is what underlies this report, and the whole thing from beginning to end is odious and discreditable. The members of the board complain of the overtime and travelling expenses for which the Public Service is responsible. I venture to say that these gentlemen are themselves’ claiming large amounts for overtime and heavy travelling expenses. I have said enough to show that no man can peruse the report without admitting that it is a biased report. It will do the Government no good in the country, and on that score honorable members on this side need not complain of it. The Government did nob see fit to present the report until it was too late to properly analyze and discuss it. I remind members of the Government that when the wheel of fortune turns, and they occupy the position which honorable members on this side occupy today, they cannot complain if we, where they are now, pursue the same odious and unjustifiable practice of holding back reports which should be immediately presented.
– I hope we shall not follow so bad an example.
– I am, of course, very pleased to have behind me a body of supporters who are more scrupulous than I am myself. However, this kind of thing will do the Government no good, nor will it do the Public Service Board any good. The board’s prestige has been destroyed, but not by attacks made upon it by any member of the party on this side. The assaults of one man or of a dozen ‘ men upon the character of an individual will not extinguish him if he is a man of honour and truth. He may, like the sun, disappear temporarily, but will rise again.
But the members of the Public Service Board can never rise again in the esteem of this Parliament, the general public, or the Public Service of this country. That being so, they are of no further value to the country. There is not another body of men placed in so awkward a position. It is an unfortunate position for them to be placed in, and it is unfortunate that the Public Service of the country should be under the guidance of such a body.
– I wish to correct a misapprehension under which the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey) is apparently labouring. He suggested that should the wheel of fortune turn and his party come to sit upon the ministerial benches it will pursue the odious and improper practice which he appears to think the Government has been pursuing. He has said that the Government has delayed the presentation of the Public Service Board’s report, and has suppressed it. He has said further that it has had it in its hands for the last fortnight. I can assure the honorable gentleman that the Government has not suppressed the report, and has not had it in its hands for the last fortnight. I have here the official document which was presented to me. It is addressed to the Prime Minister, and signed by the three Public Service Commissioners, and is dated 7th October, which was Tuesday last. The Government received this report last Tuesday. The practice adopted with regard to any report or official paper of importance which should be circulated throughout the Commonwealth, such, for instance, as the Treasurer’s budget statement, was followed .in this instance. Copies of such documents are dispatched to all the states, and given to the press, with instructions that they must not be published until they have been laid on the table of this House, or, in the case of the budget statement, after the Treasurer has actually made it. In this case, that course was pursued, and copies of the report were dispatched to the different states.
– There should .be copies provided for members of Parliament.
– I do not know why sufficient copies were not provided for members of Parliament.
– There was not one provided.
–I regret that. I agree that when a document of interest to honorable members is placed on the table, copies should be made available to them at the earliest moment. I had no knowledge of the fact that copies of this report were not available to honorable members.
– Will the right honorable gentleman accept my statement that on Monday the office of the Public Service Board was rung up from this House - I can supply the Prime Minister with the names of individuals, if necessary - and it was then stated that the report was in his hands?
– I shall be obliged if the honorable gentleman will give me the facts. I shall certainly have them investigated. Honorable members opposite have approached the consideration of the report from a wrong angle. It is a great pity that they have taken up the attitude which they have adopted. There appears to be a certain misapprehension as to the functions of the Public Service Board. Th© board was appointed under an act of this Parliament, and if honorable members will look closely into the act, they will find that it is the function of the board to act as auditors pf the efficiency of the Public Service. The board was appointed to act, to a great extent, as the representative of the taxpayers, and the guardian of the taxpayers’ money. It is the business of the board to ensure that the Public . Service shall be conducted with the utmost efficiency, and that there shall not exist any system which would lead to waste, and would consequently place on the taxpayers a burden of expenditure that is not warranted. I ask honorable members opposite to put themselves in the position of the members of the Public Service Board, who have to prepare a report to submit to Parliament, the members of which are the representatives of the people of Australia, whose interests the board was appointed to safeguard. In compiling its report it must be the task of the board to bring to the notice of honorable members of this House all the facts within its knowledge with regard to the present position of the Public Service, and all facts which, may be necessary to enable the representatives of the people in this Parliament to view the Public Service as the board sees it. Like the Acting Leader of the Opposition I have not had an Opportunity to read the report, and it has not yet been considered by the Government. I put it to the committee that it is very unfortunate that honorable members’ opposite should, during the last few days, have been fighting a battle on behalf of the public servants of the country. They have put the situation entirely from the point of view of the public servant. In not one speech made on the Public Service Bill was there any reference to the interests of the taxpayers of the country, with the exception of one particular class. It is a great pity that this Parliament should approach, iu such a way, questions of so much importance to the whole of the people. There are no honorable members of this Parliament who do not recognize the service which the public servants- are rendering to the Commonwealth. No honorable members who come in contact with individual members of the Public Service will have failed to appreciate the fact that, in the Public Service of Australia, we have men of infinite capacity and amazing loyalty. I say, with the greatest pleasure, that since I have Deen a member of the Government I have had an opportunity of associating with members of the Public Service. Prior to my becoming a member I had opportunities of “being associated .with men holding positions in outside organizations and in great public companies. These men in the ordinary conversation of the day are referred to as “ business men.” They are always held up to us as the embodiment of “wisdom, and “we are invited to believe that if Parliament and the Public Service were composed of such men there would be no problems left to be solved in this country. I have seen both classes working, and il bear my testimony unhesitatingly that the responsible civil servant in this country is a man of infinitely greater capacity than men holding positions outside in the business world, and the problems the Public Service have to face and work out are incomparably more difficult than those which have to be faced outside. The officers with whom I have been as sociated are men of capacity and ability, and do their work with greater efficiency than many men in private business. But, although we appreciate the loyal service rendered by our public servants, a question such as this should not be considered from only one viewpoint. Some honorable members have approached perilously near such a consideration of it during the last few days. The report, which shows the manner in which the board is carrying out its work, will have to be studied by every honorable member.
– Is not the right honorable gentleman expected to protect members of this Parliament from the insults of the board ?
– The members of this Parliament- are quite capable of protecting themselves from the insults of any one. This is the first occasion on which the board has had an opportunity to express its views and to give the country an indication of -the work it is carrying out. Premature discussion’, such as we have had today, is not likely to be of advantage to public servants, or to result in efficient control of a great organization, carrying on an important work in the interests of the Commonwealth.
– I am somewhat astonished at the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), that what he terms “premature discussion “ is not likely to be of advantage to the public servants. If the report of the board cannot be discussed at this juncture, when Parliament is about to close its doors for four or five months, when can it be discussed? It is our duty, as representatives of .the people, to make our position clear and to let the public servants know that we strongly resent the insults hurled at them by the board. The right honorable gentleman states that the ability of many public servants is superior to that of many men in private employment. It is rather an astounding statement when we recall what has occurred in connexion with the appointment of a clerk for the London office of the Department of External Affairs. Two days ago the Prime Minister said that he did not know why the advertisement in the Commonwealth Gazette, soliciting applications for a position in that office, had been altered. While . the matter- was under discussion in this chamber, he received a note from one of his officers informing him that a misunderstanding had arisen in consequence of a clerical error. The file, however, discloses that the advertisement had been altered at the instigation of the Prime Minister. It is most unfortunate if we cannot accept statements from the leader of the Government concerning transactions associated with the administration of his own department. We have been informed that a gentleman who submitted an application had to undergo a close cross-examination, and that he had to give the chairman of the board information concerning his father, state which college, if any, he had attended, and also give some details in relation to his social position. Does the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), who it is said came into this Parliament to clean up scandals, but who has sacrificed and smashed his own party to join the Ministry, think it right that a man should be appointed to a position whose application was filled in without his knowledge by another person, and who did not know that he was an applicant until after the applications had been closed. Notwithstanding the valuable service Commonwealth officers render, when positions such as that . in the foreign office are available an outsider is selected. It is the duty of every honorable member to resent the slurs, insults, and insinuations levelled at our public servants.
– The Public Service of the Commonwealth is inefficient. I say that deliberately.
– That is the opinion of the honorable member, and its value “can be judged by the source from which it emanates. We, on this side,- do not say that a man should be treated like a black snake because he enters the Public Service. The Honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), who has made such a scathing utterance concerning the public servants, should have been present when the Prime Minister was dilating upon their great capabilities. Officers in the Commonwealth Service are doing very efficient work.
– Some are.
– When we consider the large number of employees in the
Service, as compared with that in any one private concern, the standard of honesty, integrity, and efficiency is very high.
– Many are suffering from swollen heads.
– But not from excessive salaries. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Marr), who represents a large number of public servants, has been most assiduous in ventilating their grievances in this House. If the honorable member ignores the legitimate claims of these men he is not likely to be returned to this Parliament.
– Members opposite have been pandering to the public servants.
– The honorable member for Richmond has not many public servants, in his electorate, or he too would pander to them.
– Probably I represent as few public servants as does any other honorable member in the chamber. But I am always prepared to fight for the interests of the Service generally. I resent the remark that honorable members on this side have, during this debate, spoken only for the public servants, and have not considered the taxpayer. A bill was brought forward ostensibly to redress the grievances of the Public Service, and will the honorable member for Richmond say that his leader, when he introduced that measure,, was pandering to the Service? Actually, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer are responsible for the discussion, and it is unworthv of the honorable member for Richmond to impute unworthy motives to those honorable members on this side who have asserted the claims of the employees of the Commonwealth. We do not take a stand in support of the public servant ‘ against the taxpayer, or vice versa. But the board has adopted an attitude of active hostility to the Service. Thatis wrong, and is what we complain of. We desire to establish harmonious relations between the Service and the rest of ‘ the community. Let me deal with -the statement of the honorable member for Richmond. In what way could we have defended the interests of the taxpayers in regard to the Public Service? Torrents of words in Parliament would not have altered the salaries and general conditions of employment, because the Arbitrator fixes the rates of pay, and the regulations are suggested by the board, and approved by the Government. As to the statements of the board regarding breaches of the regulations, no- member of the Service who was not paralysed could help breaking them, so numerous are they ; and of course there are, in some of the head positions, vindictive crawlers, with little brains and no experience in the management of men, but a lot of arrogance. They carry on a system of espionage in the Service. The report of the board contains one of the vilest insinuations I have ever read, and it is directed against officers and members of the Public Service Association. I was, for many years, an officer of the Australian Workers. Union, in an honorary capacity, but not even the representatives of the Pastoralists Association, which was the principal opponent of the union, would have cast the dirty slur upon unionists that the bounders on the board have endeavoured to fasten upon members of the Public Service Association. Their report betrays an undercurrent of hatred of unionism, and it seeks to convey the impression that any man who is a member of the Public Service Clerical Association is not to be trusted. That is the way in which th« board tries to establish “harmonious relations with the Service “ .! The Prime Minister admitted that he has not read the report, and that he does not know what it contains; yet it “will appear to-day in the daily newspapers throughout the Commonwealth, and may lead to disorganization of the Public “Service. The board is endeavouring to revive the old blacklisting methods, by which any man who in his union or association took up the cudgels on behalf of his fellows was penalized. In the old days, on a station, if a. member of a union fell foul of a “ boss,” the latter immediately communicated with the proprietor or manager of the neighbouring station, and said, “ A damned agitator is leaving here this afternoon; if he calls at your station do not give him a job.” The board would like to adopt the same method of penalizing members of the Public Service Association.
– The board has practically said that the Service is filled with wasters.
– That is the way in which it is bringing about “ harmony.” I hope I have made my position clear, and I can speak for every member of the Labour party when I say that we deeply resent the insult levelled at the Public Service. Government supporters have been content to remain silent in regard to the insinuations made by the board.
– I have not had a chance to see the report.
– Even Government supporters have not seen the report, and, therefore, are not in a position to discuss it. That fact is further evidence of the lack of restoration of “ parliamentary control,” which was one of the aims of the composite Government ! No doubt, as ‘an old public servant, the honorable member for Robertson, .who has just interjected, resents the aspersions cast upon those who were his colleagues, and whom he knows to be honest, decent men and women; but, though a Government supporter, he has not seen the report, and is asked to blindly follow the Ministry. Still, we on this side of the chamber do not constitute ourselves apologists for the bounders who have issued this report. On the contrary, we resent their attempt to blacklist those employees who are exercising their right to join an association and to go before the Arbitrator, or approach members of Parliament as a body, for redress of their grievances. I hope that when the Prime Minister has read through the report he will mark his resentment of it in no uncertain manner, and exercise his right as head of the Government to ensure that the members of the board shall not be allowed to continue their present policy of sowing dissension in .the Service, which may bring about grave dislocation of the administration. We owe a debt of gratitude to the public servants who carry on the functions of government throughout the Commonwealth. These men and women cannot publicly defend themselves. We can well imagine what would- happen to any member of the Public Service who, after reading the report, ventured to criticize the board. He might not be dismissed, but he would certainly never get promotion. Therefore, it is our duty to speak for those who are not able to speak for themselves. Members of the Labour party will always be found championing the rights of the Public Service against onslaught by old conservative, dust-laden, brainless idiots, who, unfortunately, have been placed in positions of authority by an incompetent Government. As a past union official, I personally resent the dirty insinuations that these men have endeavoured to cast upon my colleagues in the trade-union world.
– The honorable member ought to be ashamed to say that.
– What has the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) ever done in the trade-union world? I guarantee that he has never held a union ticket.
– That is correct.
– Members of the Public Service are at the mercy of those who are in authority over them. Although their superior officers’ cannot dismiss them, they can prevent their promotion. Any public servant who ventured to discuss this report at a public meeting would be reprimanded and told that he was breaking some such rule as sub-section b, sectiona, of regulation 2554. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. F. McDonald) has cited a case in which a man got into trouble for asking his member for an interpretation of a legal document. The ideas of the Public Service Board might have been tolerated in the tenth century, but they are out of date to-day especially in Australia. I cannot allow any one to act as the member3 of the Public Service Board have acted Avithout speaking as if I was a member of the association upou which aspersions have been cast.
.- I wish very briefly to traverse what the Prime Minister has said in reply to the arguments from this side. He has admitted that the delay in presenting the report is inexcusable.
– He said that there had been no delay.
– He did not admit that there had been delay in the Prime Minister’s Department, but he admitted that the delay by the board in submitting the report to Parliament was inexcusable.
The report is dated the 22nd September, but it was notpresented to Parliament until the 9th October.
– I agree with the honorable gentleman that the printed date on the front of the report is the 22nd September, but at the end of the report, where the signatures are attached, the report is dated the 7th October. The covering letter bore the same date.
– It may reasonably be assumed that the report was prepared on the 22nd September, and that there was delay in signing it. I hope the Government will take steps to ensure that in future honorable members get such reports before the press receives them. Every honorable member should support that request in regard not only to this, but also all other reports. As a rule, the first information that honorable members get of important reports is when they are “foreshadowed” in the press several days before they arepresented to Parliament. The Prime Minister very carefully evaded the criticism levelled at his Government, and he misrepresented what most honorable members on this side had said. We have not defended the Public Service contrary to the interests of this country. We have defended, primarily, the principle of equity; the principle that there should be no discrimination between public servants in their relation to the system of arbitration and to the ‘economic rules underlying arbitration. We have attacked the report because it attempts to discriminate. I am not ashamed to say that, on those lines, we have defended the Service, but I am not prepared to accept the Prime Minister’s statement that we have taken up the cudgels on behalf of the Service without regard to the principles of equity and good conscience. The Prime Minister shelters behind the fact that he has not read the report. The newspapers admit the fact that the report was an attack on the Arbitrator, and the Prime Minister has not even replied to that. It is his duty, as the head of the Government, to say whether the board is justified in attacking the Arbitrator, whose judicial status is equal to that of a district court judge. Such an official should be protected from the unbridled criticism contained in this foolish report.
– The Prime Minister -was expected to protect members of Parliament and of the Public Service against the insults levelled at them. I call to mind what would have been the attitude, in similar circumstances, of the men who, in the earlier days, held the same political views as the right honorable gentleman. What would the late Sir Edmund Barton and the late Mr. Alfred Deakin have done if they had been called upon to deal with this report ? I have no doubt that the members of the Public Service Board would have been requested to explain themselves. Why should they be allowed to insult this Parliament and the members of it ? Their action calls for the strongest condemnation; and they should be standing at the bar of the House to defend themselves against the condemnation of honorable members. I say emphatically that the Prime Minister has miserably failed in his duty in not endeavouring to preserve the rights and maintain the prestige of this Parliament against the attacks of its subordinates. If he does not realize his duty he should be told what it is, and if he will not protect honorable members from insults, they must take action themselves. These men would not remain in their positions for 24 hours if I had an opportunity to express in an effective manner my condemnation andindignation against them. I make no secret of my attitude. I wish it to be clearly understood that my defence of the rights of public servants does not affect my election prospects. My majority is such that even if all the public servants in the State of South Australia voted against me they could not alter the decision of the electors. The fact is that most of the public servants in South Australia reside in the district represented by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes), who has never raised his voice in this House on behalf of their interests. I have every confidence in the Service, and I regret that they have not received the recognition they deserve. It is well for honorable members to know the source of the bias shown in the board’s report. Mr-. Commissioner Skewes has always had a strong antipathy against the Service. When he made a reflection on the Public Service Arbitrator, why did not the Prime Minister take an opportunity in the House to protect that officer against the unwarranted criticism levelled against him ? If the Prime Minister is not prepared to defend the Arbitrator he should take steps to dismiss him from bis office, because Mr. Atlee Hunt is unable to defend himself against such an attack. I protest strongly against the insults that have been flung at the Public Service. Members of the board should realize how great is the responsibility that has been entrusted to them, and Parliamentdemands that their conduct shall be such as to promote confidence and goodwill throughout the Service. At. least we should have fair play from that tribunal. What is there to justify the board in grossly libelling the Service in the eyes of the people? A more loyal body is not to be found in the Commonwealth, but I realize that when the present Ministry has been swept from its position, and a Government of another political colour has been returned to power, as it assuredly will be in the near future, an opportunity will be afforded to remedy -the injustices under which the Service has been labouring.
– Mr. Chairman-
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member cannot speak again on the motion before the committee, since he has already occupied the period allowed him under the Standing Orders.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended ; resolutions ad opted .
Motions (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That, towards making good the further Supply granted to His Majesty for the services of the year 1921-22,. there be granted out of the ConsolidatedRevenue Fund a sum not exceeding £1,027,917.
That, towards making good the further Supply granted to His Majesty for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the year 1921-22, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £384,155.
That, towards . making good the further Supply granted to His Majesty for the services of the year 1922-23, there be granted out of th’e Consolidated. Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £1,349,608.
That, towards making good the further Supply granted to His Majesty for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c., for the year 1922-23, there be granted out of the ‘Consolidated Revenue a sum not exceeding £28,128.
That, towards making, good the further Supply granted to His Majesty for the services of the year 1923-24, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum hot exceeding £1,314,827.
That, towards making good the further Supply granted to His Majesty for Additions, NewWorks, Buildings, &c, for the year 1923-24, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue a sum not exceeding £64,526.
.I desire to refer to the payment of £5,000 to a number of men in Sydney. In this connexion I shall read a letter which I have received-
From the year 1917 the Shipping Labour Bureau, Young-street, Sydney (which is comprised of fourteen (14) shipping firms and one stevedoring firm), have been employing permanent men at a weekly rate. At the time that they were thrown out of work on the waterfront they were receiving the weekly wage of £411s., although the Federal award rate was 2s.10d. per hour, or £6 4s. 8d. per week, and this bureau employed on an average of 300 permanent hands a week, so you see that whilst these shipping companies were running this bureau and employing these men, they were not only beating the Federal Arbitration Court award: they were also beating the Waterside Workers Federation and unionism.- They were reaping tor themselves about £30,000 a year. 1 am just pointing out to you this - why should the ratepayers compensate these men through a Nationalist Government whilst the shipping combine, through the Shipping Labour Bureau, have in the past been receiving this amount yearly from these men, who have been willing enough to give the bosses £1 13s. 8d. a week out of their wages, and men are still doing this through this bureau at the present time.
The history of this case is well known. In 1917 the railway men in New South Wales went on strike. A number of men in the Waterside Workers Federation decided that they would not carry coal for the railways while the trouble was on. The railway men went back to work, and the waterside workers were left. As a result, they were placed outside the award of the Arbitration Court and robbed of their preferences. I know the name that was given to the men who came forward to relieve the situationAt that time there was a strong feeling because of the war sentiment which existed. One class was described as patriots, and the other as enemies of the country. The men of the Waterside Workers Federation paid the penalty for their support of the railway men and the cause that they believed to be right. They were deprived of their benefits by the court, and others were taken on in their place. For seven years the employing class in Kew South Wales, and practically throughout Australia, has derived thousands of pounds of benefit from their misfortune. Although the men who took their places were said to have come to the assistance of the ship-owners and the country, advantage was taken of the fact that they were not within the scope of the arbitration laws, and were not protected by any union. Consequently, their wages were cut down to the extent of £1 13s. 8d. a week. By that means the ship-owners have been saved thousands of pounds which otherwise they would have paid out inwages. Now a judge of the court has stated that the men have been penalized sufficiently, and he has restored to them the preferences they previously enjoyed. If any one is entitled to reward the men who took their places, the employers who gained the advantage should do it. From approximately 300 men they have taken £1 13s. 8d. a week. That means about £450 a week, approximately £25,000 a year for seven years, or a total of nearly £200,000, that they have gained. The country is now called upon to compensate the men who replaced the waterside workers. Their reward from the Federal Government is to be £5,000, and, in addition, £7,000 from the Government of New South Wales. I am not saying that the men were “ loyalists “ or “ scabs,” nor am I raising the question whether they should be paid, but I protest against the payment being made by this Government. No question of patriotism, loyalty, “ scabs,” or a living wage, is in my mind. I merely contend that whoever had the advantage of their- relatively cheap labour should pay any compensation which they may receive. It is unjust that the employers should be able to shift their responsibility upon any government, whether state or federal. These men have no moral claim on any government.
Question - That the motions be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority … … 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motions agreed to.
Resolutions reported and adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Bruce do prepare and bring in bills to give effect to the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Dr. Earle Page) read a first and second time.
– I take advantage of this opportunity to discuss the procedure followed in connexion with the appointment of yet another board. The Government has already been described as ‘ ‘ the Wooden Government “ because it has appointed so many boards. The Public Service Board, which has been under criticism for the greater part of the morning, has outHeroded Herod in the manner in which it has insulted this Parliament and the Public Service, and the members of that board will yet have reason to regret the impudent and arrogant manner in which they have presented their recent report. But there are so many other boards whose actions call for criticism that all criticism should not be confined to one. Yesterday I asked the Treasurer whether applications were called for the positions of directors of the Commonwealth Bank; if so, how many applications were received, and what method was adopted in selecting the members of the directorate. Those were perfectly fair questions but the Treasurer in the coolest possible manner - so accustomed has he become since the formation of the Composite Government to doing things in a slipshod way - said, “ We did not call for applications at all.” It is an outrageous thing that men should be appointed to control the Commonwealth Bank without applications having been called for from persons willing to accept the positions. The Treasurer and those who support him said prior to the last election that it was time that responsible government was restored in this country, but they have done more than previous Ministers to violate the principles of responsible government. What are the qualifications of the men who have been appointed directors of the Commonwealth Bank?
– Is the honorable member a judge of the qualifications of men for such positions?
– It would not be right to ask me or any other member of this chamber to be the sole judge of the qualifications of the men appointed. But the Government apparently did not go into any details as to whether the persons appointed had any banking experience or knowledge.
– The honorable member admits that he knows nothing about the matter and why should he talk about it.
– I remind the honorable member that when the Commonwealth Bank Bill was under discussion honorable members on this side submitted an amendment providing that the board to control the Commonwealth Bank should be constituted of financial experts. There are gentlemen who have been appointed to the board only because of their wealth. Wealth was the test, and the only test, applied to them. I say that deliberately.
– The statement is quite unwarranted.
– There is only one man on the board who has had any banking experience in this country. What banking experience has Sir Samuel Hordern had? He has been running a business which be inherited from some one else. I have not one word to say against him personally. He may be, and I understand he is, personally a very fine man.
– Is lie going to put his money into the Commonwealth Bank?
– I should like to know how many shares he holds in private banks. We shall know that later. Only persons with practical financial or banking experience should have been appointed to the directorate of the bank.
– Three members of the board co-operating with the national bank have controlled 80 per cent of the insurance savings of the people of Australia.
– The interjection of the Minister in no way answers my contention. Honorable members opposite must .accept their share of the responsibility for the appointment to the directorate of the Commonwealth Bank of men who have had no banking experience. The honorable member for Richmond must answer for that to his consituents at the next election when a member of another place will be after his political scalp. Positions which the Government have to offer should not be allotted to any particular set of individuals, particularly when the persons appointed are in many cases quite incapable of performing the duties they have to undertake. Why were not applications called so that men with banking experience would have an opportunity to submit their qualifications ?
– Did the Government cai1 for applications when Sir Denison Miller was selected as Governor of the Commonwealth Bank ?
– In that instance only one man was required. As a matter of fact over a hundred were interviewed, and the qualifications of those likely to be the most suitable were carefully scrutinized before a decision was made.
– But applications were not called for.
– - Practically every man in Australia who had had extensive banking experience, and was capable of controlling such an important institution, was interviewed. Two bank managers in the electorate which I then represented, and which is now represented by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook), were interviewed. After the fullest possible investigation had been made concerning the capabilities of a number of men Sir Denison Miller was appointed, and I am sure every honorable member will admit that a gentleman of consider able banking experience, and one most eminently fitted for the position, was selected. The Government at that time did not select a man conducting a drapery business. The then Labour Government appointed a man with extensive banking experience, and he made a great success of the bank. Only one member of the board which has just been appointed has had banking experience. When the Commonwealth Bank Bill was “gagged” through this chamber by the Prime Minister, we were informed that it was a measure of great, urgency as it was essential that the board should be appointed at the earliest possible date. Notwithstanding this two of the six members selected were abroad when they were appointed, and they have not yet returned to Australia. One member is a fine type of pastoralist, but I am sure he does not claim to know anything concerning the method in which an important financial institution should be controlled.
– Can the honorable member name any bank board composed of men with banking experience ?
– Does not the Prime Minister think that this bank could be more efficiently controlled if the members of the board possessed banking experience ?
– Parliament decided the manner in which the board was to be constituted.
– That is what I. am condemning. The measure was passed in a form which was unacceptable to honorable members on this side. We were in favour of a small board consisting of financial experts.
– In a helpful spirit, may I ask the honorable member if he knows that it is provided that no director of the Bank of England shall be a banker?
– Why should we slavishly follow the practice adopted in other countries? The Prime Minister has overlooked the fact that the provision of which he speaks in regard to the Bank of England has been made to prevent those associated with other banks from acting on the board. The present Treasurer was once an advocate of the restoration of parliamentary government.
– We are now carry ing out the principles which I stood for.
– No. The administrative work which the Government should be performing is being undertaken by boards which are not responsible to Parliament. That policy can only have the effect of bringing discredit on the Government which is responsible for it. When future appointments are to be made to the Commonwealth Bank Board, or to any other public body or office, applications should be invited and all eligible men afforded -the opportunity to apply for the positions. Before a junior can be appointed to the Public Service he must prove, his qualifications at a public examination, but in connexion with big appointments the Government does not follow that procedure; it appoints its pals from the wealthy section of the community. The only test for preferment under this. Government is wealth; that is the principal qualification of four of the six non-official members of the Commonwealth Bank Board. These appointments will stand to the discredit of’ the Government.
– The charges made by the honorable member are utterly baseless. The appointments to the Commonwealth Bank Board have been in accordance with the decision of Parliament that the board should consist of the Governor of the Bank, the Secretary to the Treasury, and six other men representing finance, agriculture, commerce, and industry. The last-named six have been appointed, and the general feeling throughout Australia, as indicated in the press, is universal approval of the. appointments, because it is recognized that the men selected have exceptional qualifications of experience and ability. They are performing a great public service in undertaking the duties associated with a directorship of the Bank. They have accepted the positions, not for personal gain, but from a sense of public duty. The course followed by the Government, was the only one possible, and was similar to the procedure adopted by a Labour Government when appointing the first governor of the Commonwealth Bank. The present: Government placed itself in communication with the men most eligible to sib on the board, and, except for’ party purposes, nobody will condemn the appointments that have been made.
– I endorse the remarks of the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker
Moloney) in condemnation of the appointments to the Commonwealth Bank Board. I view with great alarm the fact that a bank instituted by a Labour Government to be a people’s bank, and which our opponents heartily condemned, should now be handed over to the control of men who at no time in its history have shown any sympathy with it. On the contrary, their attitude towards it has been continually hostile. The purpose of the Commonwealth Bank is to help the people of Australia, the primary producers and manufacturers. Yet one of the directors is one of the biggest importers in Australia - :a rag. merchant, a glorified shopwalker; I refer to Sir Samuel Hordern. That gentleman is said to contribute largely to the funds of the National party. This Government professed to have come into power to discontinue political patronage,, but the positions on the board of the bank were not thrown open for applications from the public. Instead, representatives of the Government went about whispering to its friends, “We have jobs to give away; will you accept a cushy one ? “ The Prime Minister asked the honorable member for Hume to name any bank directorate that is composed of bankers.. The directorates of private banks may not be composed of bankers, but nearly all those institutions, except such as were bolstered up by the Government, have at some time or other in their history gone bung. The great bank smash in 1893’ was due to the overlending of the banks, but this Government apparently desires that the Commonwealth Bank shall adopt the old policy of boom, borrow, and burst, and has put certain men who have no sympathy with the bank in a position to ruin the institution. It is. idle for honorable members opposite to compare the appointment of Sir Denison Miller with”!that of the present board. He was a. banker, and had all the experience and qualifications that were required. Nobody was able to condemn his appointment, but we do condemn the appointments made by this Government, because of the selected men’s utter lack, of bank ing experience, and their association with business interests which are entirely opposed to the interests of the people. A big importer cannot serve two masters, the manufacturer abroad and the manufacturer in Australia. It is to be re- gretted that, in this Parliament, the selfstyled representative of the primary producers is allied with the gigantic importers of Flinders-lane. If a more unholy combination is possible it is the placing of a big importer like Sir Samuel Hordern, whose business consists in the importation of millions of pounds worth of goods from foreign countries, in control of a bank whose main object should be, if not the financing of Australian manufacturers, at any rate the helping of primary producers.
– Sir Samuel is a primary producer.
– Only as a side line. He does not get up in the morning to milk the cows, but milks the farmers that milk the cows. The foundations of his fortune were laid by his father and grandfather. That has happened to many men. If we all started off again from scratch it might happen that men who are now poor in the community would be wealthy, and that those who are now wealthy would be poor. The possession of wealth is no indication of brains; it may merely indicate absence of human sympathy. The greatest and most powerful being who ever strode this earth had not where to lay His head. He had no palaces, emporiums, gigantic stations, or big rag shops, but his name will endure when the wealthy men are either forgotten or remembered only for their persecution of their fellow men. If honorable members accept the accumulation of wealth as their standard of greatness, their standard is quite wrong. The people of Australia are likely to be disappointed in the work of their bank. It will not, under its present management, do what the Labour Government intended that it should do, for it will be used to prop up the great private banks, in which men like Sir Samuel Hordern, and others who are associated with him on the board are interested. They have been placed on the board so that they can utilize their position to bolster up, with the cash and credit of the people of Australia, the private banks in which their money is invested. If that system is allowed to continue it will not be long before we are threatened with a financial crisis. I have no faith in the ability of the private banks to prevent a financial crisis. They have shown in all countries an inevitable tendency to extend their credit, to grant huge advances to favoured and pampered friends, to inflate the value of land, and to advance on securities more than they are worth, until the bubble bursts and a reaction sets in. The great business of Anthony Hordern and Sons, in which Sir Samuel Hordern is one of the largest shareholders, is virtually a banking institution with world-wide ramifications. No man can serve two masters. Sir Samuel Hordern’s interests and the interests of the people of the Commonwealth as exemplified are not identical. Honorable members on this side would not cavil at the choice of representatives on the board if . they were chosen from among the business men of the community, the primary producers, and the Labour organizations. Is there any logical reason why the Labour organizations should not have a representative on the board? Their representation is required if only to combat the objection of the banks to assisting working men to build homes. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) took some of the members of the board to task and said that they had displayed “ the activity of petrified elephants.” Had it not been for the Commonwealth Bank there would have been a financial crisis in Australia when the war broke out. Should a financial crisis again occur the “ big bugs “ and “ boodleiers “ of the community will use the Commonwealth Bank to prop up their own banks. We view that possibility with alarm. I was both surprised and alarmed when I read the names of those who had been appointed to the board of the Bank. I should like to know how they were approached. Did they seek the positions, or did the Government run after them ?
– Does the honorable member know anything against any of them ?
– The greatest thing against them is that they have had no banking experience. The Government has a duty to the people of this country, and it should have given at least reasonable representation to the workers. Frequently a man becomes either wealthy or bankrupt as a result of a speculation in which he risks everything. The man with a small salary has to do more real banking than the man. who can lose £1,000 without missing it. Often a father takes 40 or 50 years to acquire wealth that his children spend in as many months. The man who shows the most evidence of brains is he who battles his way to success from the bottom rung of the ladder. He may not acquire much wealth, and I am glad to say that the majority of the people of Australia do not make that their ambition. The amount of money that they give out of their scanty earnings for charitable purposes is something of which to be proud. I doubt whether the workers of any other country can show as good a record. I strongly protest against the “ hole-and-corner “ way in which the members of the board were appointed. Although the Treasurer suggested on one occasion that young blood was required in the management of the Commonwealth Bank, a number of old men have been appointed to the board.
.It has been remarked that the Government has appointed its friends to the Commonwealth Bank Board. Whom else could these Ministers be expected to appoint? They would be poor Nationalists if they could not find in their own party men well qualified to occupy these positions. When the Labour party established the bank it placed a banker in charge of it, and, in order that there should be no undue influence at work, it gave the governor absolute control. One of the most emphatic announcements of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) before he took office was that he was opposed to the creation of boards; but this Government has appointed more boards than any other. He told us, in one of his speeches, that the ramifications of the bank should be extended to enable credit to be provided for the primary producers, but no provision has been made for a system of rural credits. Producers must go to private banks and mortgage their property to them, and credit can be obtained only through the private institutions taking the securities to the Commonwealth Bank. I have noticed a statement in the press that the Notes Board has increased the note issue to the extent of £8,000,000. The Treasurer declared, on another occasion, that the note issue should not be increased, because there was already an inflation of credit. He warned us that inflation resulted in an increase in prices, and that that operated in a vicious circle. Yet to-day the Treasurer has approved of the increase of the note issue to the extent of £8,000,000. But the press has informed the public that the banks are not drawing a single additional note from the Commonwealth Bank. They are, therefore, saving the interest that they would have had to pay if they had taken those notes. The criticism of the newspapers of the personnel of the board gives little hope of any marked benefit from its appointment. It will cause additional expense to the taxpayers. The Government has handed the bank over to a body of private “ money-bags,” but the Government will finance the institution and be responsible for its liabilities. If there is a change of Government in the near future, the Labour party will look for men in sympathy with the ideals that led to the establishment of theinstitution. This party hopes to see the bank’s ramifications extended from one end of Australia, to the other, so that i! may eventually become the sole instrument of credit throughout the land.
I desire to make a brief reference to the administration of the Navigation Department in Hobart. It will be remembered that a seaman fell down the hold of a vessel there, became unconscious, and died in hospital. The ship-owners were prepared to defray his funeral expenses, but the officers of the Navigation Department instructed them that they were not to pay the money. The man was buried by the Seamen’s Union, and his name was unknown until his mother wrote from the Old Country asking the union if it could supply her with any information concerning her son. Mr. Raeburn, the secretary to the union, wrote back informing her of the death of her son, and stating that while the ship-owners had recognized their obligations, the Navigation Department at Fremantle had prevented them from doing what they desired. That meant that money which the mother would have obtained was lost to her. The action of those responsible for. withholding this man’s money was a despicable and discreditable act.
– What was the date of the man’s death ?
– He died in 1922, but two years elapsed before the mother was informed of what had happened. Her son was in the habit of sending her money, but on his death those payments ceased. After some time she made inquiries, with the result that I have mentioned. The withholding of the money was due to the action of an officer of the Navigation Department.
Sitting suspended from 9. S3 to 10.80 a.m. (Friday).
– Here is the letter of the secretary of the union to the Director of Navigation -
I refer to your memorandum No. 24/4355 of 1st August last, for which I thank you, but I do not agree with your interpretations of those sections of the Navigation Act relating to injury, illness, and death of seamen while in the service of the ship for the reasons that I will mention hereafter; nor do I agree with, but emphatically disapprobate, on behalf of my numerous members, the uncalled-for interference of your departmental officials relating to claims and disputes inter parties, which in no way affects the administration of the Act in the protection of the rights of the public, and I desire to place on record the error of judgment committed by Captain Hood in advising the owners of the Kekerangu- who were willing to - not to defray the cost of this man’s burial, whereby his widowed and impoverished aged mother was deprived of the small amount of earnings which had accrued to him at the time of his death.
I am, by this mail, making claim on the said owners for payment under section 127 of the said Act of the burial expenses, and if the same are not paid forthwith proceedings will be taken against them for the recovery thereof. I inform you of this fact so that, after reading my following reasons, you may be induced to withdraw your previous advice regarding your interpretation of the said section and/ or your officer’s gratuitous interference whereby payment of the burial costs by the employers was withheld.
He gives his reasons, but it is unnecessary to repeat them.
– What is the date of that letter?
– It is dated the 22nd September, 1924. The event happened in 1922, and two years later the mother made inquiries as to the whereabouts of her son and discovered what had happened. She was deprived of money to which she was entitled, because advice given by the navigation department’s officer prevented the ship-owners from giving what, but for that advice, they were prepared to give without pressure. I understand that the Director of Navigation does not uphold, the action of Captain Hood in giving gratuitous advice to the ship-owners to withhold the money when they were willing to pay it.
– The case mentioned by the Acting Leader of the Opposition came under my notice in quite a casual way a few weeks ago. I have not seen any of the papers in connexion with the matter. The fatal accident having occurred two years ago, I was not aware that the case was still unsettled. I was glad to hear the honorable gentleman say that the Director of Navigation is not blameable in any way for what has occurred. Apparently, there has been some fussiness between one of the officers of the Navigation Department in Tasmania and the shipping company that has been mentioned. I shall look into the matter next week, and shall communicate with the honorable gentleman. I am hopeful of being able to do what is the fair and humanitarian thing in dealing with a case arising out of a fatal accident.
– I wish to refer to the appointment of the board of directors of the Commonwealth Bank. The Treasurer said that the men who have been appointed possess the qualifications set out in the act, but he did not mention the qualifications of any of the members of the board. In my view, most of them are quite unfitted to be directors of a national institution of this kind, because throughout their lives they have been connected with businesses the principle of whose management is diametrically opposed to the proper conduct of a national bank. These men have lived constantly in association with men whose sole object has been to squeeze the highest possible profit out of the concerns they controlled. The proper function of the Commonwealth Bank is to render service to the nation, and profitmaking should not be its first consideration. The board of directors will manage the bank, not with the idea of using the credit of the nation for the development of the country by placing it at the disposal of the primary industries, but to get as much profit as possible out of those industries as the associated banks have done. This will retard rather than promote the development of the bank and of the country. The directors will manage the Commonwealth Bank as an adjunct of the associated banks. It cannot be expected that they will act against the interests of the associated banks, with which many of them are connected. The Treasurer says that these gentlemen are business men of ability. What evidence has Sir Samuel Hordern given of ability to run a financial institution ? It is common report in New South Wales that he has been a constant subscriber to the Nationalist funds, and upon one occasion subscribed as much as £20,000. He is in no way responsible for the success of the firm of Anthony Hordern and Sons, and, even if he were, that would not be a qualification for the directorate of the Commonwealth Bank. His forebears “established the firm, and he has simply inherited the business. It is men who have graduated from the ranks of workers who are to-day running Anthony Hordern’s and other big businesses of the kind, and such men as Sir Samuel Hordern merely sit back and take the profits. Mr. Drummond is supposed to represent squatting interests, and he is a big squatter. Mr. Garvin was closely connected with the Notes Issue Board, and made such a mess of it that the control of the note issue had to be altered. He is the currency expert. Mr. Mackenzie Lees is connected with the associated banks, but when the bank of which he was manager amalgamated with another the amalgamators could not find a job for him.
– A position was offered him, and he would -not accept it.
– Did he know, when the position was .offered him, that the job he now has was waiting for him ?
– No, it was long before the last ‘Commonwealth Bank Bill was passed.
– He may have been offered a minor position. It could not have been a good position or he would never have refused it. We are accused of attacking the honour of these men, but their honour- and personal character is not in question. We know that, by their profiteering, every one of the associated banks exploited the nation in its hour of peril. Manufacturers, importers, and retail firms exploited the people, and took extra profits from widows and orphans during the war. Men who. have been associated with such institutions should not be entrusted with the management of a national bank. They measure the prosperity of the nation by the extent to which its development increases their own profits. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) uttered a gibe at the workers. He asked, “ What do the workers know about banks?” I want to tell him that the workers in different countries of the world have a record in banking. I can refer honorable members to the industrial banks of America established, without any capital, by the workers. They have been developed on honest business lines, and without juggling with the currency of the nation, or robbing primary producers by exacting high interest on their overdrafts. By co-operation and conservative business management, starting from nothing, the workers have established these institutions, which have never failed, and will not fail.
– Could the honorable member name one or two of them, and the capital they command ?
– I have not such records with me, but the Minister cannot dispute the existence of these industrial banks in America, or the success they have attained. There is not an associated bank in any country in the world that has nob a record of failure and incompetence, which has led to distress and misery to millions of people.
– Has the honorable member the presumption to say that?
– It is not presumption. If the honorable member who interjects knows anything of the history of banking in this country, he must know that what I say is true. He should know how the banks manipulated the land boom and then closed down on the persons to whom advances were made, and secured half the land’s and property of the people. The industrial banks of America have proved a success, and the industrial organizations of this country should .have been represented on the directorate of the Commonwealth Bank. .Any one who dares ‘ to suggest that the industrial banks of the United States of America have not been a huge success is unacquainted with the economic history of that great country. It will be to the everlasting discredit of this Government that it has appointed men of the type selected to control the Commonwealth Bank, which should be conducted in the interests of the nation. Men of ability could be found in the ranks of the workers to control such institutions. Men of the capacity 1 have indicated would be actuated by a desire to render a national service instead of being . imbued with the idea of amassing huge profits in their own interest at the expense of the peoplewhom it is their duty to serve.
, - A. most casual perusal of the report of the Public Service Board shows that its members are quite incompetent to undertake the responsible duties which, the Government has asked them to perform. These men have assumed the right to criticize the representatives of the people, and have made a frontal attack, upon out parliamentary institution. If the two members of the Board who hold the rank of. general displayed as much capacity in. the field of battle as they have in controlling the- Public Service, we need not be surprised that the great war was unduly prolonged. Taxpayers have a right to submit grievances to their representatives in this Parliament. Every citizen is entitled to approach this Parliament by petition, and to interview its members when desired. Notwithstanding this, the Public Service- Board has the impertinence to lecture members of Parliament, whose duty it is to vote the salaries they receive. They are the servants of. the people, and should- not. have the audacity- to say that public servants should’ not interview members of this Parliament.
– The unions which the honorable member supports dictate to every one.
– And the honorable member for Franklin has to obey the dictates of Sir Henry Jones. The board has not only attacked our parliamentary institution, but has the effrontery to say that members- of the. organization must not dispatch circulars or telegrams to honorable members. The members of this Parliament receive communications and circulars from the Licensed Victuallers Association, the Wool-growers Association, Shipping organizations, the Taxpayers Association, “the Fruit-growers Association, and the National Women’s Association. If these and other similar bodies are allowed to approach members of this Parliament, public servants who are also taxpayers _ should not. be denied the same right! If the. board wishes a contented Service it must refrain from attacking industrial organizations and’ the principle of. arbitration. Arbitration is the safety valve of discontent, and where employees and employers are workingunder that system harmony prevails.
– If I had my way all arbitration courts would be dispensed with.
– I quite believe thatSome years ago, when New .South Wales was in a state of industrial turmoil, a system of arbitration was introduced which resulted in the industries in that state being placed on a satisfactory basis for quite a number of years:. An industrial court, consisting of a judge, a representative of the. unions, and a representative of the employers, was established which investigated disputes and conducted inquiries into the profits being made by the; employers. 1 was a member of the court for a few years, and I recall an occasion when the father of Sir Samuel Hordern said that his firm could not afford to pay its employees additional wages. Similar statements were made by the representatives of Mark Poy and , David Jones Limited, and when the case closed his Honour said that, in view of the sworn evidence adduced by the representatives of the employers; it was evident that they were not in the position to pay higher- wages. I insisted upon the books of these firms being examined in order to ascertain the profits being made; and after an investigation which lasted three weeks it was ascertained that these men, who had- deliberately sworn that they could not afford, to pay higher wages: were making substantial profits. As the result of the inquiry the employees in the drapery trade in Sydney received, in the aggregate, an additional £70,000 a year. Notwithstanding the statements concerning inability to pay higher wages the businesses prospered, and larger; premises were constructed.
– Anthony Hordern’s’ pay good wages..
– Yes ; double what they paid a few years ago. Women workers were once receiving only 12s. a week. The members of the Public Service Board, who have recommended an allround reduction in the wages of persons who are already underpaid, are receiving a substantial remuneration. The contents of the report submitted by the board are of such a character that it is the duty of every honorable member to give it the greatest publicity to enable the public servants of the Commonwealth to receive that treatment to which they are entitled.
I should like to know if it is not possible for the Government to continue the work of ship construction at Cockatoo Island, particularly as 600 or 700 men have recently been thrown out of work. Hundreds of skilled engineers and mechanics, whose services have been dispensed with, will be scattered all over the Commonwealth, and it will be most difficult to bring them together again should their services be required. Even if it is not the intention of the Government to construct at least one cruiser in the Commonwealth it should continue building vessels of the type of the Ferndale and Fordsdale. Mr. Larkin reports that the vessels of the Commonwealth Line are now paying, and if two additional steamers were constructed the Government would be relieved of the necessity of paying the Orient Steamship Company a subsidy of, approximately, £250,000 a year to carry mails’. This amount would be sufficient to pay interest on the capital involved in the construction of two new ships. Mails would also be carried more expeditiously, as the vessels of the Orient Company have for many years been running at a speed much below that of the “ Bay “ steamers. Even some of the mail boats on the coast do not maintain the speed of- the Fordsdale and Ferndale. This matter demands the immediate and earnest consideration of the Government.
I have nothing whatever to say concerning the personal qualities of the members of the Commonwealth Bank Board, but such a body should consist of bankers. Mr. ‘ Scott, the manager of the Melbourne branch of the Commonwealth Bank, is a very able man, and, he and the manager of the Sydney branch should be on the board of directors, so that they could give to it the benefit of their knowledge and experience. If the bank is to develop as it should, the directors must be men who give their who1* time to banking business. Those who have been appointed by the Government to the board will meet not more than once a fortnight, and for that each of them will draw £600 per annum in fees. That payment is not big enough to attract men with the necessary qualifications and experience. I hope that after ohe next general election the Labour party will have an opportunity of rectifying the mistake that this Government has made. The bank is not increasing its branches or trying to compete with the associated banks in ordinary banking business, but is concentrating its attention on the big business of financing the wheat harvest and wool clip. Therefore, it is not discharging all the functions for which it was created. Reverting to the report of the Public Service Board, some of it3 paragraphs contain the greatest insults ever offered to the people’s representatives in this Parliament. The board is attempting to deny to a big body of public servants the right to look to Parliament for protection. If the members of the board think that they will be allowed to dictate to Parliament they are making a mistake. Their report proves them incompetent, and I look forward to the time when we shall have an opportunity to put them in their places.
Bill agreed to ; reported without amendment; and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or further debate.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
The following bills were presented by Dr. Earle Page, and passed through all stages without amendment or debate: -
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill” 1921-22.
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1922-23.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1922-23.
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1923-24.
Bill presented by Dr. Earle Page, and read a first and second time.
In committee: The bill.
– This is an opportune time to address some remarks to the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson), who” has returned from a trip abroad and, I hope, with an increased knowledge of up-to-date postal methods. I am sorry that he did not make to Parliament a report of his trip, for that would have indicated whether his visit has produced anything of importance and benefit to the community. T represent a large country constituency that is, on the whole, sparsely populated. The outstanding complaint of those who live in the outback districts is that they are required, in addition to paying the ordinary taxation of the Commonwealth, to subsidize mail services, which are even then in many cases inadequate. I had hoped that with the accession of the Leader cif the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) to the office of Treasurer, and with another Country party member as PostmasterGeneral, the policy in regard to these mail services would be altered. The Treasurer should have used some of his accumulated surplus to provide mail services for the pioneers in the back country instead of for the remission of taxation to benefit the wealthy section of the community. A few days ago I saw a letter in which the department notified the residents of a district that if they desired an extension of the mail service from two days to three days a week, they would have to pay a subsidy of £15. In order to keep in touch with the outside world, the people in the back country need improved mail services. I do not blame the responsible officers of the Postal Department. A policy is laid down for them, and they must follow it, and if they have not the money, the Government is to blame. In many cases it is impossible to induce the Department to extend the mail service for 2 miles to serve an isolated settler’s home. Country mailmen make a business of delivering mails, and they do it at surprisingly low rates. It often happens that a mail will run along a route, will call at some of the settlers’ homes, but will not go 1£ miles off the road to call at other homesteads. A settler, when he wants his mail, has to collect it from the place where the mailman deposits it. If he is expecting an important letter, he has to leave his work, saddle a horse, and ride perhaps 2 miles there and back to ascertain whether it has arrived. If it has not arrived his journey has been fruitless, and his time wasted. I suggest that the mailmen should deliver letters at the settlers’ homes. I would even go so far, in order to institute this reform, as to say that it is not necessary that they should collect letters, except when they have others to deliver. The present arrangements entail on the settlers travelling that amounts in some cases to hundreds of miles a year. I claim that our back-country mail services are ridiculously cheap, and instance the mail service between Yetman and Bonshaw, a distance of 64 miles, which entails the opening and closing of 56 gates and costs £220.
– Surely the honorable member does not suggest that the mailman should open still more gates to deliver his mails at the settlers’ homes ?
– The gates cross the reads because no fence flanks the roads. The cost of the mail is about £5 a week, and the mailman has to travel a distance of 128 ‘miles twice a week. No one can complain that that charge is excessive. I suggest that the Treasurer and the Postmaster-General, as the selfappointed guardians of the interests of the men in the country, should, instead of remitting taxation to wealthy people, give more efficient mail services to the people in the country. When the general Estimates were being considered, the PostmasterGeneral was not present, and honorable members had no opportunity of placing these matters before him. When a homestead is near the end of a mail route, the interval between the times when the mailman calls on the outward and return journeys is very short, and in order to reply at once to an urgent letter the settler must, when he goes to meet the mail, take with him pen, ink, paper, and, if it is wet, a tent fly, so that he may write the reply for the mailman to collect on the return journey. All these difficulties could be overcome by arrangement with the mailmen and paying them reasonably for the services we desire them to render. I hope that the Minister will look into my proposal during the recess, and introduce improvements before Parliament reassembles next year?
– A report of the proceedings at the Stockholm Postal Conference will be presented as soon as Mr. Kay returns from Europe. As honorable members are aware, the conference was not concluded until three weeks after my departure for Australia. The honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) will admit that a fair share of the money available for postal services has been spent in his electorate. In fact, there has been a very even distribution of the expenditure throughout Australia. The Government expended over £4,000,000 on these services last year, and a similar sum is provided for the current year. It is impossible to have a mail service to every home in the country. The people of the Commonwealth are better ‘ catered for in the matter of telephones and mails than those of any other country I have visited in my travels. Our telephone system is the cheapest in the world. No fewer than 50,000 telephones a month are being installed, and in order to cope with the increasing demand for them it may be necessary to continue the expenditure at the present rate. We may certainly look for a, decided improvement in both telephonic and postal services throughout the Commonwealth.
– I direct the attention of the Government, and particularly that of the Prime Minister, to the position of Mr. Mark Young, who until recently was chief inspector of the Commonwealth Bank. I do not avail myself of this opportunity for the purpose of entering into a general discussion of the management of the bank. That matter has been well debated, and we on this side of the chamber do not pretend that we are satisfied either with the bank or with its present management. That is hot now the issue here, but we think that it will be a very live issue elsewhere. The matter on which I have to speak has a personal element in it, but it is, nevertheless, of considerable importance. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) yesterday asked the Prime Minister the following questions, on notice: -
The Prime Minister replied in the following terms : -
I accept the principle generally that there should be no political interference with the management of the bank, subject, of course, to certain reservations ; but, without infringing on that general principle, I think that we should be doing our duty to ourselves and to the country if we had a clear understanding of the circumstances under which this country and the bank are losing the services of a very valuable officer. Until recently, Mr. Young was chief inspector of the bank, and prior to that he was manager of the Melbourne branch. I do not think it is too much to say that there was a general expectation and strong hope on the part of a large number of the customers of the bank throughout Australia - for Mr. Young has an Australian reputation as a banker - that he would be given a very responsible position in connexion with the administration of the reconstituted bank. I did not consider it right to refer to this matter while the delicate subject of the appointment of the board was under consideration, but now the board has been appointed, and we are able to discuss it. That the opportunity has not arisen until the last day of the session is very unfortunate. Mr. Young asked for an inquiry, and also for the favour of an interview, with the Prime Minister in the presence of the present Acting Governor of the bank. The unpleasant feature of the case is - and there is something sinister in the fact - that a difference arose between the present Acting Governor and the late chief inspector, and Mr. Young has been jostled out of his position during the transition stage between the death of Sir Denison Miller and the appointment of a new governor. The fact that Mr. Young was a trusted and honoured servant of the bans: for a number of years,, in association with the- late Governor, and that closely following on the death of Sir Denison Miller he was deprived of his position justifies an inquiry. Mr. Young was appointed to represent the bank at the Honolulu conference of bankers, and on his return he received the glowing eulogium of the late Governor of the bank, who, generally speaking, enjoyed the confidence of all political parties. This is much more than a personal matter; it gravely affects the public confidence in the bank itself. Although I have accepted the principle of non-interference in the management of the bank, I do not say that this Parliament has no right to inquire into the circumstances under which a valued officer was unexpectedly, and I think unjustly, retired. I am precluded from going into the history of the case in detail, and, therefore, 1 ask for an inquiry. This would not necessarily touch the prerogative of the present management of the bank, but it would relate to the rights of the late officer,- Mr. Young, with a sense of that responsibility which attaches to his late position, and his very high reputation as a banker, indorsed as it is by almost every branch o£ the bank in the Commonwealth, makes very serious charges in regard to the administration of the bank. I hope that because the bank is managed by a directorate, this House will not be told that an inquiry cannot be granted. ‘ That we are entitled to the fullest information there is not the slightest doubt. The Prime Minister does not do himself justice when he attempts to evade the question by saying that nothing has occurred to justify any want of confidence in the management of the bank, and that it is considered that in all matters of internal administration, and in the ‘ investigation of any charges,, the board should be free to take such action as it deems fit, without political interference. The board, of which the Governor is a member, is net a fit body to make this inquiry. The charge made by the late chief inspector, whose record does not contain the slightest blemish, is a matter for investigation and consideration by members, nf this Parliament. We should know the facts:, in justice to ourselves and the officer most concerned.
– The matter to which the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) has referred is one with which it is extremely difficult to deal in this committee without prejudicing the position of the gentleman whose case has been placed before us. As stated by the honorable gentleman, I was asked a ques’tion yesterday by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), and gave the reply that has- been quoted. Mr. Young’s services were dispensed with after Mr. Kell became the acting governor of the bank. Subsequently Mr. Young addressed a communication to me, in which he set out certain facts. That communication was considered by me, but I was. faced with the position that neither I nor the Treasurer, nor, indeed, the Government, had any control over the internal administration of the bank’s affairs, and that the only justification for interference by the Government- would be that there was, prima facie, a state of affairs requiring investigation. The Commonwealth Bank has been placed by Parliament beyond the control of the Government. An investigation of the management of the bank would be justified if the circumstances showed that the Governor had acted in an improper way, but in regard to a question of internal administration, where there were no facts to indicate that the Governor had behaved in an .improper way, it would certainly be a very serious step for the Government to institute an inquiry. When the facts in this case came under my notice, I made certain inquiries respecting Mr. Young, and obtained certain information. I do not desire to discuss that information now, because it would not be fair, and might prejudice- subsequent action. Indeed, I feel a considerable measure of embarrassment in dealing with this matter at sill; but as the honorable member for Batman has indicated that Mr. Young was held in the highest esteem, and was a distinguished member of the banking community, I am very reluctantly compelled to say that the inquiries which I made indicated that there were circumstances which, possibly, justified the action taken by the Governor. I certainly did not feel that the Government was entitled to take such an extreme action as to demand an inquiry into the internal administration of the bank.
– The Minister relied on ex parte statements.
– I admit that to some extent I have had to accept ex parte statements on both sides, but I have confirmed the statements with regard to Mr. Young from outside sources, and by obtaining the general opinion of bankers and persons connected with banking. The honorable member for Batman referred to the suggestion that there should be a conference between Mr. Young, the Governor of the Bank, and myself. That suggestion arose, I believe, from the fact that I had declined to see Mr. Young. I received his representations, but I said that I could not, in any circumstances, see him to listen to his case, as that would be to receive an ex parte statement in regard to the administration of the bank. I said that the only possible circumstances in which I could see Mr. Young would be in the presence of the Governor of the Bank, who would be able to put his side of the case also. I was perfectly willing to do that, a fact which some honorable gentlemen in this chamber know.
– I understood that.
– I did not see Mr. Young in the presence of the Governor of the Bank for the reason that the legal opinion was obtained that I had no authority in the matter, and no right to demand that a conference should be held.
– Is the bank above Parliament ?
– I am not Parliament. A conference -might have been held, but, in fact, the head of the Government had no power to require a conference. I do not know whether the honorable member for Batman has considered this point, but it appeared to me, after reading the legal opinion, that I actually had no right to summon a conference of the parties.
– Hear, hear !
– At whose request was that opinion obtained ?
– I do not think that question should be asked. The opinion was obtained, and if the honorable gentleman insists on knowing, I shall tell him at whose request, but 1 do not think that the question is relevant to the matter, and it certainly would be unwise to ask it. On reflection, I thought that there was a good deal to be said for the view that I neither had, nor should have, power to bring about a conference. It would be difficult to dissociate the idea of political influence from the action of the head of the Government in requiring the Governor of the bank, in whose hands Parliament has placed the internal administration of the institution, to attend a conference. Such action might suggest that political pressure was being brought to bear upon the Governor of the Bank. Therefore, I did not, as I indicated in the answer to the question of the honorable member for Fawkner, consider that the Government should institute an inquiry of the character that has been suggested. On the evidence which I have received from both sides, it did not appear to me that there was a prima facie case to cause want of confidence in the administration of the Bank, and to warrant interference with it. Consequently, the Government is not prepared to appoint any tribunal to consider this case. It appears to me that a solution of the difficulty is now possible without any such action being taken. To-day, the Commonwealth Bank Act has been proclaimed, and the affairs of the bank are now under the control of the board which was recently appointed. If Mr. Young desires to have his case reviewed, he should place it before the controlling authorities of the bank. It is open to him to appeal to the board to consider the circumstances in which he was dismissed.
– He has no hope in life.
– That is the position as the Government sees it. I do not desire to enter into a detailed discussion of the merits of the case. The honorable member for Batman refrained from doing so to any extent. I have tried to put the position to the committee without stating the whole of the facts which were before me when I considered the request that Mr. Young sent to the Government. .
.- I wish to say a few words on this question, and in the spirit which has characterized the speech of the honorable member for Batman and the reply of the Prime Minister. This is not a matter which should give rise to bitter controversy, but justice demands something more than has been done. The impression which the statement of the Prime Minister left at the outset was that Mr. Young had been dismissed from the bank. As a matter of fact, he retired voluntarily because, according to his statement, his position, after the death of the late Governor of the institution, was made intolerable.
– I agree with the honorable member that Mr. Young voluntarily retired from the bank.
– I am glad to have that admission from the right honorable gentleman. The Prime Minister has said that the Government has no control over the internal affairs of the bank. I agree with that statement. He says further that it should not inquire into internal matters, but this is more than an internal matter of the bank. If the Prime Minister had been aware of the facts which Mr. Young could have placed in his possession he would know that Mr. Young is prepared to make serious and specific charges against the administration of the bank, and that it was the fact that he drew attention to defects of administration that caused his position to be made intolerable to him. That is not my statement. It is Mr. Young who says that, and he is prepared to submit the facts at any inquiry. The Prime Minister has said that the facts do not justify an inquiry, but I submit that the man who has the facts has never been asked to produce them. He was not even granted an interview by the Prime Minister, to whom he was prepared to give the facts. I do not propose to mention any of the facts, although I could mention some. I shall not discuss the merits of the question, as I consider that this is not the place in which to do so. I say that if there is truth in the statement which Mr. Young makes, there is justification for inquiry. I have been impressed by his statement, for the reason that I have known Mr. Mark Young for over twenty years. I have known him personally, and as the manager of a bank with which I did business for something like ten years. If, among many men I know, I were seeking men of honour and integrity, I should select Mark Young as one of them. If my impression of him is proved to be wrong, I have been greatly deceived in him. In banking circles, I have heard him spoken of in the highest terms, and, in my experience of him, I have found him upright and honorable. I have been impressed by the serious statement he has made, as affecting not his own position. but the administration of the bank and matters which, in his view, affect the finances of the country and the prosperity of the institution. These are matters which Mr. Young desires should be investigated, and the only opportunity offered him is that he should go back to Mr. Kell, the man with whom he has had a difference. This is not a personal matter or an internal matter. It is not a party matter, and I hope it never will be made one. It goes down to the foundations of the success of the bank. I appreciate the position of the Prime Minister, and have no desire to make it more delicate o difficult, but I suggest, in the words of the honorable member for Batman, that the right honorable gentleman has hardly done himself justice by dismissing the matter in the way he has done. He said that he made inquiries and found out certain things. He did not mention those things and probably was right in not mentioning them, but he left an impression that there was something wrong in Mr. Young’s career. I am speaking as one who has known Mr. Young for twenty years, and I say that that statement demands investigation. I have the authority of Mr. Young for saying that he asks for the most open investigation into everything the Prime Minister has discovered or can discover concerning him. The Prime Minister made some inquiry, but surely the man from whom he might have looked for information was the man most interested. He refused to see M’r. Young, but did he refuse to see Mr. Kell?
– No, I saw Mr. Kell.
– I want Mr. Young to get a fair deal, and I do not desire that there .should be any party complexion put upon this matter.
– That may have to come later.
– I do not think that should be said now. I think that if an appeal to the sense of fairness of honorable members on” either side is made on an issue like this a just decision may be looked for. If Mr. Young is in this matter proved to be wrong I shall be very sorry, but I shall know that justice has been done. I demand, in the name of justice, that Mr. Young shall be given a chance to prove the statements he is prepared to make. There was a suggestion that Mr. Young, Mr. Kell, and the Prime Minister, should meet in conference. Mr.
Young desired that conference. I believe it was Mr. Young’s. suggestion, but. I am open to correction on. the point. The Prime Minister was prepared to- grant that conference. He asked Mr. Kell to meet Mr. Young at a private informal conference with himself. The holding of the conference would not in any way have involved the legal position, but what happened? Mr. Kell refused’ to meet Mr. Young in the presence of the Prime Minister. There was a legal opinion from Mr. Kell’s solicitor to the effect that because the bank was not under political control there could not be an informal private conference between the ActingGovernor of the bank and the ex-Chief Inspector of the institution, a man who had done service in every state of the Commonwealth. To-day there is left an aspersion on the character of a man who is spoken of in banking circles in the highest possible terms. Although I appreciate the reluctance of the Prime Minister to say anything at this stage, I believe it would be more fair to Mr. Youngthat he should say what he has to say than to leave the matter as it stands. If an inquiry were proceeding, it would not be proper to say anything on the subject. In fairness to this man an inquiry must now be given. He is prepared to produce evidence of serious matters affecting the conduct and control of the- Commonwealth Bank. There are two things he wants investigating, one affecting the management of the bank, and the other affecting his own position. There never was a more reasonable claim put before Parliament.
– I gather, from what the honorable memb.er for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has said, that, in trying to avoid anything which might prejudice the issue, I left quite a wrong impression, which I desire to correct at the earliest possible moment. The reason I have felt considerable embarrassment in connexion with this case is that I believe there will be a further investigation of it, and I do not wish to interfere with the course of that investigation. The result of inquiries I made left in my mind the belief that there was nob a case to warrant interference with the internal administration of the bank. I desire to make it very clear to honorable members that the inquiries I made did not disclose anything which reflected upon Mr. Young’s character and integrity. They disclosed only information which, gave me. the impression that it was extremely- probable that Mr. Young was not. the man to hold the position in the bank which he considered he should hold, and that the Acting Governor was probably right in . the view he took that it would not tend to the best conduct of the affairs of the bank if Mr. Young were continued in that position. It seemed to be suggested that he is a difficult man, that he could not work with those around him, and that he inevitably caused friction, among the people with whom he was working.
– The right honorable gentleman will pardon me for saying that Mr. Young asked that he should be given the name of one man in the bank with whom he could not work and he has never been given a name.
– I have again risen to speak because I thought from the remarks of the honorable member for Yarra that in endeavouring not to prejudice Mr. Young’s case by saying too much, by saying too. little I have probably done the very thing I was desirousof avoiding;. I therefore wish to make it clear that I have received no information which in any way reflects on Mr. Young’s integrity and character. The information that I did receive merely suggested to my mind that he is not a person whose continuance in- the position he held would tend to promote the efficient and good working of the bank.
.- I find it somewhat difficult, for several reasons,’ to discuss the matter now before the Chair. One is that Mr. Young, whose case is under discussion, is a personal friend of mine, and a man for whom I have, and always have had, the profoundest respect and admiration. As the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has said, he is held in the highest esteem in banking . circles as a most efficient officer. The Prime Minister, when speaking, seemed to convey the impression that Mr. Young had been dismissed. That, evidently, was not intended by the right honorable gentleman.
– Mr. Young voluntarily resigned, and his resignation waa brought a’bout .by the fact that his position was made intolerable to him. He was practically compelled to send in his resignation on that account. We cannot now enter into a discussion of the facts in the case, but it is perfectly plain that Mr. Young rendered long and efficient service to the Commonwealth Bank under the late governor of the bank, and there was not a suggestion of friction, or that he could not get on with his brother officers during Sir Denison Miller’s regime. But he was forced, by the treatment he received f from the successor of the late Sir Denison Miller, to make most definite and specific charges against the management of the bank as to partiality and inefficiency. Facts, which raise a probable presumption of the truth of the charges which Mr. Young has made, have been brought under my notice. Mr. Young has absolute and implicit faith in the merits of his case. As has already been mentioned, he has asked the Prime Minister to meet him in the presence of the man of whose’ behaviour towards him he has complained. The Prime Minister courteously consented to such a meeting, and notified the Acting Governor of the bank of his decision, but the Acting Governor, having obtained legal opinion, stood on his strict legal rights, and refused to meet his accuser. It waa practicable for him, seeing that it. was not an official inquiry; - it was a request by the Prime Minister - to meet Mr. Young. It was not as if a subordinate officer had made a complaint concerning the actions of an officer occupying a high position in the bank. I think the Prime Minister, with the greatest possible propriety, could invite Mr. Kell to meet Mr. Young, and discuss this matter quietly and privately. One would have thought that Mr. Kell would be pleased to attend, but the conclusion I have reached from his refusal is that he is aware of the case which Mr. Young has to make against him, and knows that he cannot meet it. When asked to meet Mr. Young he had to give some excuse for his action which necessitated Mr. Young’s retirement. It is well known that Mr. Young did not voluntarily retire. He had no intention of retiring, and was willing to give the remaining years of his fife to the service of the’ bank. Mr. Young is a. man of exceptional ability, as every one who knows him will admit. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has referred to the trumpery charge made against Mr. Young, .who ha3 a specific one to make against Mr. Kell concerning partiality and inefficiency in the administration of the bank. We are informed that Mr. Young was asked to submit his resignation because he did not get on with his colleagues. Mr. Young challenged Mr. Kell to name one officer who found it difficult to work with him. I am advised that to this day no- such name has been submitted. It is a matter of general knowledge that Mr. Young has the confidence of the general staff of the Commonwealth Bank. I was prevented from attending the House yesterday to hear the answers to the questions I submitted on Mr. Young’s behalf, but I am sorry to learn that the Prime Minister cannot grant an independent inquiry. Having regard to the personnel of the board of directors, and the personal relationships possibly existing between the Acting Governor and the members of the board, Mr. Young would not feel he was receiving an independent and /impartial.,, review of his case if it were submitted to~ that body. I do not know to what extent the case has been submitted to the Prime Minister, but the facts placed before- me by Mr. Young demand an inquiry in the interests, not only of Mr. Young, but of the Commonwealth Bank, the efficient management of which is vitally involved. I trust the Prime Minister will reconsider the matter, and see whether an inquiry can be conducted, without making it appear that political influence has been intro.duced. I should be the last to bring political influence to bear upon the management of this great institution. But when specific charges are made in regard to its efficient management, it is essential that independent investigation should be made, sa.y> by a commission, or some similar . independent tribunal, which should report to the Prime Minister. It would then be the duty of the right honorable gentleman to take what action he considered necessary. It might be found that it was not a matter in which he should act. On the other hand the report might be of such a character as to justify the Prime Minister in intervening. I trust that in the interests, not only of Mr. Young, but also of the bank, the Prime Minister will grant the’ inquiry.
– I am not acquainted with Mr. Young. I am, however, impelled to briefly refer to this matter by the speeches which have been made this morning. The mere fact that the Acting Governor has sheltered behind legal opinion suggests that the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) should go further. We must look to the right honorable gentleman, as the leader of the Government, to protect the interests of one of the greatest institutions in the Commonwealth. If a charge of corruption were made would not the Prime Minister be justified in intervening in the interests of the taxpayers ? The Prime Minister must not allow a legal opinion to prevent him from doing his duty. It is his duty to see that the interests of the bank are not sacrificed, and be assured that the management is conducting the business in the interests of the community. Certain charges were made against Mr.. Young, and, as a result, his position in the service was, at least, made very uncomfortable. It is an old game” for a person in charge of a large institution to dispense with the services of one who knows as muchashe does concerning its management. I suggest to the Prime Minister that in the interests of Mr. Young, and more particularly in the interests of the Commonwealth Bank, which is the property of the people, an independent inquiry be granted, and that a report bc submitted to the Prime Minister. This should be done, as the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), and the hon- orable member for Yarra, and Mr. Young, have made definite charges.
– Information has recently come into my possession, which, I think, is from a reliable source, to the effect that the late Sir Denison Miller had such a high opinion of the qualifications of Mr. Young that he sent him abroad to obtain the latest information in the business of banking. In his capacity of chief inspector of the bank he assisted in bringing it to its present high standard. If Mr. Young was entrusted with an important task, such as that I have mentioned, the late Sir Denison Miller must have had a very high opinion of his capabilities.
– This subject is one of great difficulty. As the Commonwealth Bank has been removed from governmental control, I have been reluctant to do anything that would even border upon the exercise of political influence’ in connexion with it. I believe honorable members on both sides of the chamber will sympathize with me in my present position. The ventilation of the matter here tends in some respects to make my position more difficult, in trying to avoid the exercise of political influence in regard to an institution which Parliament has placed beyond the control of the Government.
– It need not be a political inquiry.
– If the Government proceeds to institute inquiries into such cases as this, after considerable pressure has been brought to bear upon it, it will be obvious that political influence has been exercised in connexion with the management of the bank.
– Who would institute an inquiry concerning the management and control of the bank if that were deemed necessary ?
– The Government.
– We are asking for an inquiry on that basis.
– If the investigation is to be of an exhaustive character the Government is not prepared at this moment to grant it, because a board has been appointed to control the bank. If the Government finds anything which it considers of a nature to suggest that there has been lax administration in the past management of the bank it will ask for advice from the board. I wish to put the position in this way : The subject has now been ventilated. I have endeavoured to avoid exercising political influence. It is suggested that the charges which Mr. Young desires to make are of a most serious character. It is obvious therefore that the Government must give careful consideration to what has been said to-day in regard to Mr. Young, and the charges he has made. I give the Committee an assurance that the Government will immediately reconsider the matter, and, of course, for any future action or inaction after such reconsideration, the Government will be responsible to the House.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Prime Minister an award given by the Deputy President of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in regard to employees in the jam, canning, pulp, pickle, sauce, and vinegar manufacturing industry. This Parliament has given to one section of that industry assistance to the amount of £140,000, but the new Deputy President of the Court has departed from the past practice by not providing for payment for holidays or allowance for loss of time or unemployment consequent upon the conditions of the industry, and by deliberately fixing the rates for employees in country districts below those awarded in the Harvester case. That decision is unprecedented in the history of the court, and the Deputy President said that the reason for it was the condition of the industry as proved by the granting of a bounty to assist it. In the busy season between 4,000 and 5,000 people will be affected by that award,but at the present time only about 2,000 are employed. I shall hand to the Prime Minister the communication I have received, and ask him to endeavour to bring about more amicable relations between employers and employees in the industry, in order that serious troubles may not arise at a most important juncture in its history. The representatives of the union in the court are unable to understand the reason why the Deputy President made such a serious departure from the court’s past practice. I hope the Prime Minister will look into the matter sympathetically.
– I commend the Government for its action in distributing to public institutions the Captain. Cook souvenir, and thus endeavouring to cultivate a good Australian sentiment while at the same time honoring the memory of the gallant sailor who first explored the eastern coast of Australia. The suggestion has been made by Mr. Tonkin of the Provincial Press that the Government might consider the advisability of extending this policy and signalize the opening of the Federal Capital by the issue of a souvenir which, while paying some attention to Captain Cook, will deal also with the birth . of the Australian nation and the foundation and development of the Federal Capital. If possible, that publication should be made available to every family in Australia. There may be difficulties in the way of adopting the suggestion, but I ask the Prime Minister to consider it seriously.
The Prime Minister was rather unjust to honorable members on this side of the House when he said that we had addressed ourselves to the Public Service Bill only from the point of view of the employees. The interests of the taxpayers, which we are supposed to have neglected, and those of the public servants coincide to this extent that there cannot be an efficient Public Service if the members of it are very discontented. When the Public Service is contented there is a likelihood of its being efficient. If the remarks of honorable members on this side were directed mostly to the interests of the public servants, it was largely because the report of the board dealt at considerable length with the classification which is causing so much discontent. That is indicated by the heading in this morning’s Sun Pictorial, “Scathing! Hot report on the Public Service; Mr. Atlee Hunt attacked.” In justice to the public servants I should like to correct a misleading statement published in that journal. I do not know whether the extracts it purports to quote from the board’s report are verbatim ; if they are, the complaint must be against those who drafted the report, but if they are not, I hope that the Sun will correct the injustice done to the Public Service. The portion of the report to which I refer is : -
Messages of remonstrance and complaint passed through the Melbourne Telegraph Office in hundreds and thousands.
While taking full advantage of arbitration, these associations had no compunction in bringing political pressureto bear.
An unfair inference may be drawn from that paragraph, namely, that the salaries were arrived at by means of arbitration, and afterwards the public servants complained. Honorable members are aware that that was not so. The Public Service Board fixed the salaries regardless of the arbitrator’s index numbers, and the previous salaries. The inference seems unjust and even malicious, and I hope that if the extract has been taken verbatim from the board’s report, the Prime Minister will take steps to ensure that the public servants shall not be misrepresented in that way.
.- A fortnight ago I introduced to the Treasurer and the Minister in charge of Repatriation, a deputation of blind soldiers, who asked that an increased pension might be granted to enable those mento employ attendants. Is the Treasurer yet in a position to announce the Government’s decision in regard to that request?
Sr. EARLE PAGE (Cowper- Treasurer) [12.40]. - The representations of the recent deputation to Senator Crawford and myself from the Blinded Soldiers’ Association, and those of the federal executive of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia, were forwarded to the chairman of the Repatriation Commission, with a request for a report thereon. That body has reported that while Australia is the only country in the Empire which pays a special pension to blinded soldiers, attendants’ allowances are paid in addition to special pensions in certain cases of “ very severely disabled men needing attendants.” The special pension of £4 per week, in addition to amounts paid to wives and children, which Australia grants to blinded soldiers, is well in excess of amounts paid in other dominions ; but the Repatriation Commission reports that, in view of all the circumstances connected with war pensions and allowances in Australia, and the attendants’ allowances to certain very severely disabled men in other parts of the Empire, it would be reasonable to grant to actually blinded exsoldiers in Australia a similar allowance. Accordingly, the commission recommended the payment of £1 per week in each case. In addition to the fully blinded men, there are some who are granted the special blinded soldiers’ pension, because they have “ no useful sight.” These cases can be carefully considered by the Repatriation Commission in order to ascertain whether the degree of vision is so small as to justify the granting of an attendant’s allowance. The commission further reported that the allowance can be made available by regulation, so that there will be no necessity to pass an amending act. Cabinet has approved of the recommendation of the commission, and that body is now preparing the necessary regulations to enable effect to be given to it.
.- In its report, the Public Service Board assumed an authority in connexion with government departments never previously claimed by any tribunal or board. The board seems to resent the interest of members of Parliament in the public servants. I have had occasion to forward to the board communications sent to me from public servants, and I have received replies. I was opposed to the appointment of the chairman of the board, Sir Brudenell White, because he is a military officer. It is a mistake to appoint a soldier to the control of civilians, and it is never done in Great Britain. I shall continue to forward correspondence to the board regardless of the likes and dislikes of its members, and if they do anything to offend me they will discover that I am not to be rebuffed.
Some years before the war I unsuccessfully endeavoured to have Lord Howe Island connected with the mainland by wireless or some other means of quick communication. In those days wireless was still in its infancy, and it was not then possible, with the resources at the command of the Government, to establish communication with the island. When the war broke out, and the Government’s resources were required for the prosecution of that enterprise, I had to suspend my agitation. The island is about 450 miles from Sydney Heads, and is in the track of the New Zealand, American, and Pacific Island steamers. The department placed certain proposal’s before the board of control of the island, which consists of a member of the New South Wales Parliament and two civil servants The board decided that it could not meet the expense of a meteorological station. I suggest that expenditure for such a purpose should be regarded as a national obligation. There has been more than one wreck on the island, which is in close proximity to some very dangerous rocks. It is of no use having a meteorological station there if the daily weather records cannot be forwarded to the mainland. The difficulty now is the cost. I doubt whether there are 100 inhabitants on the island. During the last two years they have been very unfortunate. A French steamer from New Caledonia went to pieces on the island, and rats from it overran the island, and ate the palm seeds, which are the principal means of livelihood of the inhabitants. This island is the only place where the seeds remain fertile after they have been detached from the plant. The seed is marketed in Europe. It is fourteen years since I first tried to obtain means of communication between the island and the mainland. The war first blocked the proposal, and since then the board of control, and the rats from the wreck, have prevented anything from being done.
The Prime Minister has informed us that the proclamation relating to the personnel of the new board of control of the Commonwealth Bank has been issued. If I had my way I should place above the doors of the bank a notice that the proclamation had been issued, and should inform the public that “ On and after ‘this date the people can no longer look on this bank as their bank, for it will serve only class and sectional interests in the community.”
.. - I recognize the difficulties under which the inhabitants of Lord Howe Island live, and I assure the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) that I shall take steps to ascertain whether a regular means of communication with the mainland can be provided for them. With a listening-in wireless set they could receive news every day from Sydney, The cost of that would be very small, but I shall have to inquire how much expenditure would be involved in providing them with a transmitting set as well.
– All honorable .members appreciate the efforts that are being made by the Government to come to terms with the South Australian Government for the building of the north-south railway. As it will necessarily be some time before that railway can be constructed, even so far as Alice Springs, I urge the Minister to make sufficient funds available to provide lowlevel vehicular crossings for the streams. A few hundred pounds would meet the cost, and would materially assist in the development of the country. The crossings would be of great assistance, particularly to those engaged in mining. A mica mine there employs six men at present. In spite of the absence of crossings, they have provided a motor service. There is an acute shortage of mica, the Australian market for which could absorb the whole of the output of the mine. Twenty men could be employed there if the crossings that I suggest were available.
.- It has been brought under my notice that a considerable number of oysters, grown under black labour conditions, are being imported into Australia from the East. The state governments established a number of returned soldiers in this oc cupation, and they have had -to incur considerable expense owing to the scientific methods of culture now employed in the industry. The imported oysters are being landed at about one-fourth of -the cost of the local oysters. Seeing that oyster culture is largely a returned soldier’s occupation, the circumstances call for careful consideration by the Minister.
– I -have received a written request from the honorable member for Maribyrnong ;(Mr. Fenton) that I shall inquire into. Concerning the importation of oysters, I shall bring the statements of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten), and ask him to ascertain all the facts.
– I endorse heartily the remarks of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning), and commend his request to the consideration of the Treasurer.
.- I should like the Prime Minister to inform me of the position regarding the bounty that was proposed to be paid to the growers of doradilla grapes. I understand that the Commonwealth made a proposal that the states did npt accept. Is there still a possibility of the bounty being paid, so as to bring the price of the grapes to these growers up to £5 per ton for grapes grown on irrigated land, or £4 per ton for grapes grown on non-irrigated land.
– The facts are as stated by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb). The Commonwealth Government made a proposal to the states, under which payments were to be made to bring the receipts of the growers up to £5 a ton, the expenditure to be borne equally by the Commonwealth and the states. The states did not agree to that. This Parliament has passed legislation to provide for a bounty on sweet wines, and the position at the moment is that the proposal has expired owing to the refusal of the states to accept the terms proposed by the Commonwealth.
Bill agreed to..
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted. Bill read a third time.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
– I move -
That the committee insists on not agreeing to amendment No. 6 of the Senate, and insists on the amendment made byt he committee in clause 8 of the bill.
The committee, when the bill was last before it, reinserted a clause to the effect that all persons with taxable incomes not exceeding £900 should be allowed to deduct medical and nursing expenses. The Senate’s amendment deletes the amount of £900, and allows the deduction without restriction. The Government feels that that amendment would unduly enlarge the field of exemption and seriously interfere with the revenue derived from the tax. Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Message received from the Senate, intimating that it had agreed to the bill, with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendment) :
– I move -
That the amendment of the Senate be agreed to.
The bill gives certain powers to the Australian Meat Council, and provides that nothing in the act shall apply in a state that has not passed the necessary legislation. The purpose of the Senate’s amendment is to make it quite clear that none of the federal powers shall operate, except where the State Parliament has passed the necessary legislation.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported ; report adopted.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time. The collection of animals and zoological specimens comprised in this museum is a very fine one, and the thanks of the Parliament and the whole community are due to Dr. Colin McKenzie for his gift, which is perhaps the best the nation has’ yet received. It is intended that it shall be the nucleus of a larger collection to be housed in the future at Canberra. Until then Dr. McKenzie will be in charge of the museum, and will maintain it at his own expense, except for an allowance for upkeep.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The schedule to the bill contains an agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Tasmanian Government to amalgamate the Commonwealth and Tasmanian statistical bureaux in Tasmania. That state is very anxious for the bill to be passed at once, as it will result in an immediate saving of expenditure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 1.10 to3.40 p.m. (Friday).
Bill returned from the Senate with an amendment.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s request) :
– I move -
That the amendment be agreed to.
The Senate’s request relates to section 60q. Section 36 of the act provides pensions of four units to employees who retired after the 31st December, 1920, and before the commencement of con- tributions. The clause under considera tion precludes such employees who were contributors from receiving the benefits of the section. There are a few cases where employees have paid contributions, but as their maximum age for retirement was less than 65 years, they could only be granted a pension that was the actuarial equivalent of their contributions, which covered a period of twelvemonths. The pensions granted were exceptionally small, being only about £10 to £15 per annum. The amendment will give these contributors pensions of £104 per annum as from the commencement of the amending act. I believe that there are only about four persons concerned.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Message received from the Senate intimating that it had agreed to the first amendment made in the bill by the House of Representatives, and had disagreed to the second for the following reason: -
Because the amendment was intended to be complementary to a proposed new clause which was not inserted, and therefore the amendment is not required.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s message) :
– The Senate has disagreed to the deletion of certain words in clause 5, but as the proposed new clause to which the amendment was complementary was not inserted, the Senate re-inserted the words. I move -
That the amendment he not insisted on.
Motion agreed to.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
The following bills were returned from the Senate without amendment or request : -
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1921-22.
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1922-23.
Supplementary Appropriation Bill 1923-24.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1921-22.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1922-23.
Supplementary Appropriation (Works and Buildings) Bill 1923-24.
– (By leave.) - In amplification of the statement which I made on Wednesday last in answer to a question regarding the intentions of the Commonwealth Governmentin connexion with the commencement of the construction of a section of the north-south line to the Macdonnell Ranges, I am now in a position to inform honorable members that the Government has been in consultation with Mr. Gunn, the Premier of South Australia, during the last two days, and as a result of such consultation a basis for an agreement has been arrived at between the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia. The proposed agreement has yet to be submitted to the State Government for approval, and if agreement can be reached, the proposals will be submitted for the ratification of the Commonwealth and State Parliaments. It is obvious that at this stage of the negotiations I cannot give to the House the details of the proposed agreement. I can intimate, however, for the information of honorable members that the proposals provide for definite dates for the starting and completion of a line to the Macdonnell Ranges, subject to the South Australian Government agreeing to certain conditions which are embodied in the tentative proposals which are now under consideration.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until a date and hour to be fixed by Mr. Speaker, which time of meeting shall be notified by Mr. Speaker to each member by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to - That leave of absence be given to every member of the House ofRepresentaives from the determination of this sitting of the House to the date of its next sitting.
Bill returned from the Senate, with a , message intimating that it no longer insisted on its amendment No. 6 and agreed to the amendment made in clause8, in place thereof.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
I am sure that it is the wish of all honorable members that, in moving this motion, I should express to you, Mr. Speaker, our great appreciation of the manner in which you have presided over our deliberations.
Honorable Membebs. - Hear, hear !
– During the long period for which we have now been sitting we have been impressed by the firmness, tact, and, above all, humour ; with which you have controlled the House. On many occasions when, in the heat of debate, members possibly were inclined to depart from that decorum which it should always be our desire to maintain in this chamber, order has been preserved by the happy exercise of the gifts to which I have referred. Members have regarded you as their guide, philosopher, and friend in all matters connected with procedure, and in the difficulties with which they may have felt themselves confronted. I assure you - and I am confident that I do so with the endorsement of all present - that during your occupancy of the Chair you have gained an ever increasing measure of admiration from the House for the manner in which you have conducted itsproceedings, and I venture to say, too, that we have for you a very great degree of affection.
Honorable Membebs. - Hear, hear!
.- The unanimous cheers of honorable members endorse the remarks of the Prime Minister, but, as the Acting Leader of the Opposition, I wish to say that none have a greater appreciation of your ability than have the members who sit on the left of the Chair. We have not always agreed with your decisions, because at times they have been unpalatable to us, but we recognize that many things that are unpalatable are also good. One of the chief reasons why we appreciate your decisions is that they have never been delivered in a dictatorial manner, but have always been accompanied by explanations which have appealed to the good sense of those to whom they were addressed. I give a hearty support to the statement of the Prime Minister.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– I may be permitted to say that I deeply appreciate the generous sentiments uttered by the right honorable the Prime Minister, and the honorable the Acting Leader of the Opposition. To have won the approbation of members on both sides of the House is a gratifying and allsufficient reward for any occupant of the principal Chair. I realize as much as did any of my predecessors that such a satisfactory chorus of agreement would not have been possible without the amiable and cordial co-operation of members on both sides. This has been a long, arduous, and trying session, but as an old parliamentarian I know that throughout the best spirit of parliamentary life has prevailed. Amidst sharp political conflicts, possibly more apparent to me than to any other member of the House, there has always been on both sides, I take leave to say, a display of temperance, of give-and-take, and of good nature that augurs well for the preservation of all that is best in the public life of this country.
Honorable Membebs. - Hear, hear!
– Before the Leader of the House closes the deliberations of the day, I may be allowed to refer to theabsence of the “ Father of the House,” the Chairman of Committees (the Hon. F. W. Bamford). In his absence I say, with, I am sure, the approval of all honorable members, that we thank him for his work in the chair whilst his health permitted him to occupy it, and deeply sympathize with him because he has been laid aside during what must be regarded as the most interesting portion of the session. There will be extended to him the most cordial good wishes, and the hope for his early and complete recovery of health.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– I may also be allowed to express to the Temporary Chairmen who have presided in committee during his regretted absence our sense of gratitude and our thanks for the excellent way in which, though some of them were all untried in the work, they have conducted the important business of the committee proceedings of the House. There is, I am sure, amongst honorable members, irrespective of party, a sense of deep appreciation and thanks for their work.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
-I also feel myself under obligation to the Clerks and staff of the House. That feeling, I am sure, is shared by every honorable member.
Our clerk, Mr. Gale, met with an illness which necessitated a haliday abroad, and we hope that when he returns te has own country and the discharge of his duties, be will be restored to his pristine vigour. Our Second Clerk Assistant, Mr Hubert, is unfortunately grievously ill, but I shall take the opportunity, as soon as the House rises, to convey to him the sympathy and hope of all honorable members for his restoration.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– Mr. Hubert is a distinguished parliamentarian, and we trust that his services will not be lost to the Parliament of Australia. To the SecondClerk, Mr. Clapin, and to the Serjeant-at-Arms, Mr. McGregor, who have done the work of four men for many months of thesession I express the unanimous thanks and gratitude of honorable members.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
-The longer one remains in Parliament the more deeply he (eels indebted to the expert, vigilant, swift, and courteous men at the table. They help us through all our difficulties, whether we be Chairmen, Ministers, or members, and without them Parliament could scarcely function. Out thanks are extended to the other memhers of the staff who have earned their respective loads during the ilmoss of the confreres I have mentioned.
– I desire, Mr. Speaker, to endorse everything you have said. Our appreciation of the services of the Chairman of Committees and his deputies is very great, and on many occasions we have extended to them in the discharge of their duties our sympathy and gratitude. To the officers who have assisted us throughout this session 1 should like to render my most Bincere thanks. I do not know that any one who has not been a Minister oan fully appreciate how dependent we are upon the assistance ever courteously and willingly rendered to us by the officers sitting at the table. I should like to associate myself with your eloquent expressions of appreciation to the whole staff.
. -On behalf of the Opposition, I endorse the statements made by yourself, Mr. Speaker, and by the Prime Minister. I extend my compliments also to the Hansardstaff, and to all the officials, down to the humblest in attendance on our needs in this establishment.
House adjourned at 4.6 p.m. (Friday),
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 October 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1924/19241009_reps_9_109/>.