9th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– In order that the opinion of the Government and the Parliament may be known before the meeting of the Sixth Assembly of the League of Nations at Geneva, will the Prime Minister afford the House an opportunity for a reasonable discussion of the Protocol, and the full and able report by Australia’s two delegates to the Fifth Assembly ? If so, will the right honorable gentleman give sufficient notice of the day to be set apart for the discussion, so that honorable members may have an opportunity to prepare for it?
– I think it would be advisable to discuss the report of Australia’s delegates to the Fifth Assembly in conjunction with the agenda for the Sixth Assembly. An opportunity to do that will be afforded the House.
– In a newspaper the Treasurer is reported to have said that the Government proposes to increase the oldage pension to £1 per week at once. Will the Treasurer say whether or not that statement is correct?
– The financial policy of the Government is to be found in my budget speech, and not in a newspaper report.
– On several occasions I have asked questions concerning the eradication of the cattle tick, and the Treasurer referred to the subject in his budget speech. Has his attention been drawn to a statement by the Honorable W. F. Dunn, Minister for Agriculture, in New South Wales, and criticisms in the press of that state regarding the alleged dilatoriness of the Commonwealth Government in dealing with this problem.
– The matter has been considered by the Government, and I hope to make a full statement in regard to it on the motion for adjournment this afternoon.
– The statement has been made that the Government proposes to introduce a bill to amend the Arbitration Act. Is it a fact that various individual employers, as well as employers’ organizations, have been consulted by the Government, and invited to express their views regarding desirable amendments? If so, will the Government at least give a similar opportunity to trade unions registered under the act?
– The Government has not consulted any outside persons or organizations regarding proposed legislation, but it has received, from time to time, many representations from employers’ organizations, and also, I think, from representatives of workers, regarding desirableimprovements in the Arbitration Act. The Government welcomes such representations or suggestions from any source.
– When will the Minister for Repatriation inform the House of the decisions of the Government upon the recommendations of the War Disabilities Royal Commission?
– I tope to make a full statement later this day (vide page 1667).
– In view of the serious position created by a recent decision of the High Court in regard to the validity of certain Commonwealth laws, what action does the Government propose to take?
– A printed copy of the judgment, which was only recently made available, is being carefully examined by the law officers of the Commonwealth in order to ascertain its effect upon existing statutes.
Report on Oil Exploration - Development and Refining.
– I present the report of the Public Accounts Committee upon the Commonwealth expenditure on oil exploration, development, refining, &c., in Australia and Papua, Part I, comprising introduction, committee’s proceedings, oil exploration in Papua, and oil exploration work in Australia. Part II. is in course of preparation, and will deal with shale oil, liquid fuels, power alcohol, &c., and the operations of the Commonwealth oil refineries.
Ordered to be printed.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the Philippines Government grants a tariff preference to cattle imported from China as against cattle imported from Australia? Will the right honorable gentleman consider the advisability of communicating with the Government of the United States of America with a view to having Australian cattle placed on the same fiscal footing as cattle imported from China.
– I shall have the matter inquired into, with a view to making representations to the United States Government, if that course is considered desirable.
– I call the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration to the following cable message from London, published in the Sun Pictorial of the 19th August : -
London, Tuesday. - “ The grading and packing of Australian dried and canned fruits have considerably improved recently,” said the chairman of the Army and Navy Stores, in an interview with the Pictorial representative. “ Packers and shippers, however, must constantly make improvements to keep pace with California,” he continued. “ The Dominions’ shortest and easiest method for making inroads in the British market is to send only the highest quality goods.” “ Australian cheese,” he added, “ is of poor quality, and needs much improvement.”
During my recent visit to London, California, China, and Japan, I closely investigated this matter, and received similar advice from buyers and retailers. In view of the interest which is being taken in the Motherland in the marketing and distribution of Australian produce, will the Minister for Markets and Migration direct the attention of canners and packers to that very important statement.
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Minister for Markets and Migration.
– Will the Prime Ministersay whetherthe Government proposes to take any action in regard to a letter sent by Mr. Corrin, Mayor of Thursday Island, asking that a memorial be built on Possession Island, which was the last land at which Captain Cook touched before leaving Australian waters.
– I received the letter to which the honorable member refers, and the request is under consideration.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Government has not been in communication with the Imperial authorities on this matter, nor has any request been received from the Imperial Government for the views of the Commonwealth Government on the question.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he state under what law a person was recently declared a prohibited immigrant in Sydney, although such person was born in Sydney?
– There have been several cases during the past few months where Chinese, who claim to have been born in Australia, but who were taken to China at a very early age, have arrived at Sydney, after having admittedly been absent from Australia for periods ranging from 20 to 35 years, and have been refused permission to land on failing to pass a dictation test applied to them under the provisions of the Immigration Act. One such case came before the High Court on the 17th April, 1925, and that court decided that the real home of the Chinese woman in question was not in Australia but in China, and that she was clearly an immigrant within the meaning of the act.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– These are matters tinder the control of the Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board, to which body the honorable member’s questions have been referred.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Has he any later information than that supplied byhim, in answer to the question of the honorable member forRiverina, on 26th June, concerning the destruction of wild dogs in the Federal Territory, as serious complaints continue to be made by sheep-owners in the locality of damage done to their flocks by wild dogs bred in the Federal Territory?
– No additional information has been received from the Federal Capital Commission concerning the destruction of wild dogs in the Federal Capital Territory; but the Commission has been asked for further advice in regard to the matter, which will be communicated to the honorable member as soon as it is available.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether, in the event ofthe old-age pension being increased from 17s. 6d. to £1 per week, he will at the same time proportionately increase the amount paid to old-age pensioners who are inmates of charitable institutions?
– The whole question of removing anomalies is under consideration.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are: -
– Yesterday, I was asked by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) -
As soon as the question appeared on the notice-paper, I telegraphed to the Chairman of Directors of the Commonwealth Bank, asking that information be furnished. As a consequence, I received the following reply from Mr. Love, secretary to the Board of Directors: -
Replying to your telegram of to-day, under section 15a of the Commonwealth Bank Act, members of the Board are prohibited from disclosing the business of the bank or its customers. Mr. Garvan informs us he is furnishing you with a statement. For your information, advances were made by all banks to enable subscriptions to be made to early war loans at one-half of 1 per cent. less than the rate the loan was floated at. For instance, all banks were advancing to the general public at 4 per cent. to enable subscriptions to be made to the 4½ per cent. loan, and these overdrafts were arranged for eighteen months, or, in special cases, longer. The general overdraft rate for the Commonwealth Bank was never more than6 per cent. during the period of the Mutual Life and Citizens’ subscriptions to the loans.
Subsequently, I received the following telegram from Mr. John J. Garvan, who is Chairman of Directors of the Commonwealth Bant, and managing director of the Mutual Life and Citizens’ Assurance Company Limited: -
Referring to your telegram to the Bank on the subject of Coleman’s question, as managing director of the Mutual Life and Citizens, I desire to make the following statement : - In 1915, nine years prior to my becoming a Director of the Bank, the Mutual Life and Citizens made an arrangement with the Commonwealth Bank to overdraw its account to enable it to subscribe to war loans. This arrangement was common to all banks, and all loan subscribers, except that in the case of the Mutual Life and Citizens the amount subscribed has been £12,000,000 sterling, and that it has involved the appropriation of all the company’s accumulations for a period of nearly ten years, during which the company was perforce compelled to abstain from carrying on its ordinary business of leading money. When I joined the board last year, the overdraft was £350,000. This amount has since been paid off, and the Bank is indebted to the company in the sum of £50,000. On the 1 1th inst., the Bank was informed that no further accommodation would be required, and that the account would be closed.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure contains definitions of the terms of our preference, and asks Parliament to prescribe for preferential tariff purposes the conditions of manufacture which will constitute goods the produce or manufacture of a country. Section 8 of the Customs Tariff Act reads -
The rates of duty set out in the schedule in the column headed “British preferential tariff “ shall applyto goods the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom, subject to the condition that the goods havebeen shipped in the United Kingdom to Australia, and have not been transhipped, or, if transhipped, then only if it is proved to the satisfaction of the Collector that the intended destination of the goods, when originally shipped from the United Kingdom, was Australia.
It will be observed that the main condition of this section, which governs the concessions given to the United Kingdom in our tariff, is that the goods must be the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom. A similar provision has been included in our tariff legislation since 1907,when British preference was first instituted. As the term “goods the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom “ is capable of different interpretations, it is necessary to have a specific definition in order that the mercantile community may understand exactly the conditions of preference. At the inception of the policy of preference this definition was made by a decision of the Minister of the day, who ruled that goods containing 25 per cent. of labour and materials of United Kingdom origin were entitled to preference. These conditions were embodied in later administrations. Honorable members may ask why this bill is being introduced. I remind them that in the earlier stages of this policy the concession was comparatively small, but Parliament, being sympathetic with British trade, increased the preference in later tariffs. The tariff of 1921 gave more substantial advantages to goods from the Motherland. To-day, this preference to British goods represents about £8,000,000 a year. In 1907, when the preference was small, the proportion of British labour and material in goods did not matter so much; but to-day the concession, as I have shown, represents a substantial advantage. It is common knowledge that in recent years the British manufacturing industry has been faced with the keenest opposition from continental countries, with the result that there is a steady increase in the importation of foreign manufactures into the United Kingdom. Honorable members will recollect that there has been a considerable amount of dissatisfaction in recent years at the increasing continental incidence of British preference terms. Nodoubt, they will also recall my statement in the House last September, that the Government had decided to make some re-arangement in the terms of British preference. This bill is the outcome. Its purpose is to give power to lay down the conditions of preference. When the (preference was small, and when the conditions in England were not as they are to-day, the legality of ministerial interpretation was not questioned, but now that the conditionsare more stringent, some doubt as cast upon the legal position. This objection actually affects everything that has been done since 1907. It concerns the 25 per cent. justas muchas it affects the 7.5 percent. policy.
– Then this bill is a validating measure.
– Its purpose is to validate the action of the Government, and to give power to prescribe the conditions that shallbelaid down for the importation of goods under tine terms of preference .
– It will cover the act of every Government since 1907.
– Ithank the right honorable the Prime Ministerfor the interjection. The bill will practically validate allthat has been done under the preferential tariff since 1907. The Crown law authorities are in some doubt. It is believed that, if Parliament is not consulted, and if this validating measure is not passed, the matter will be one for the High Court to decide.It is, Ithink, a matter for Parliament.
– And it is about time that Parliament was consulted.
– I agree with the honorable member. It is time that the matter was brought up. There is no need For moto dwell on the necessity for a definition. The Government submits a well-considered definition of the terms of British preference - terms that are heartily acclaimed by all good British manufacturers, and will not hurt them in any way if they desire to be bona fide. An almost ludicrous state of affairs has arisen. Textile goods manufactured entirely on the Continent of Europe have been sent to England, and there dyed, measured, and wrapped, and have ‘then come to this country under the terms of British preference. Machines in parts have been made on the Continent, and assembled and packed in England, and have come here under the terms of British preference. I am sorry to say thatthere is in England a type of AngloContinental manufacturer, and he should be prevented from doing this sort of thing. The irontrade imports into Great Britain from the Continent have increased recently to an enormous extent.
– No wonder there is unemployment in Great Britain.
– I agree with the honorable member. Importations of billets, sheet-iron, bars, and bars in sections have increased, since 1922, from 316,000 tons to 1,337,000 tons in 1924. This is not a question affecting party policy. But forthe action taken by the Government on the 1st April last, I am quite sure that a considerable quantity of that tonnage would have come to Australia as camouflaged British goods. One or two other illustrations of the incidence of British preference may be interesting to the House. French hair brushes were slightly finished in Great Britain, and when they were packed in British cases came into Australia as British goods. Babies’ feeding bottles, if they were fitted in Great Britain with rubber teats and tubes, although the glass was manufactured on the Continent, were classed as of British manufacture. Cheese, or fruit jars madein Germany were sent to England, and, after a rubber fitting and clip had been added, came to Australia as British. A very high legal opinion is that any articles made in Great Britain, whatever the source of the materials, or the proportion of foreign materials, are entitled to come here under the British preferential terms. I submit that that was not what the House intended when it gave that generous measure of preference to our kinsmen in the Home Land. This is a matter for honorable members to decide on the facts at their disposal, and their knowledge of what has taken place. This short bill will not injure true British trade. We recognize that Great Britain is a manufacturing country and an importer of raw materials, and we give the full preferential terms to British goods made from raw materials imported from any part of the world, so long as all possible processes of manufacture are performed in Great Britain. If the British manufacturers will not, or do not fulfil these conditions, they must be subjected to another clause, wherein we say that 75 per cent. of the labour and material must be British if the goods are to come in under the preferential conditions.
– Does that mean 100 per cent. if they can, and 75 per cent. if they cannot?
– It means 100 per cent. if they can, and 75 per cent. of labour and materials if they will not and do not.
– That does not seem to be very clear.
– In connexion with the importation into Great Britain of raw materials, such as wool, cotton, and rubber, so long as the whole of the manfacturing processes are carried out in Great Britain, no percentage applies, but if the manufacturers will not carry out the whole of the manufacturing processes commercially practicable in Britain, then the condition requiring 75 per cent. of material and labour shall apply. There is also a provision in the regulations that partial manufacture in Australia shall be regarded as British manufacture. If, for instance, we export wooltops to Great Britain, and they are there made into cloth, the Australian labour in the article is regarded as British labour. That provision, I hope, will do a little to promote industry in Australia. There is a further provision by which we do not disturb the old conditions of the 25 per cent, preference so long as they do not interfere with Australian industry. Power is also given to the Minister to vary the regulations to help either British or Australian industries.For instance, the British motor car industry is, by virtue of our not making motor chassis in Australia, under the 25 per cent. provisions, but an application has been made by the motor car manufacturers of Great Britain to put them under the 75 per cent. provisions. I believe the House will give any Minister power to do that in the interests of British trade. I confidently submit this bill, which is long overdue, to the House. I am not prepared to say that all our regulations under the British preferential tariff have been ultra vires since 1907, but the Crown Law authorities say that there is some doubt about the matter. The Government is therefore submitting the bill to remove that doubt.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Pratten) read a first time.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Pratten) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is purely a formal bill. It was introduced last session; and has been on the business-paper once or twice since the year 1918. Section 40 of the Distillation Act 1901 states-
No entry authorizing the removal of spirits shall be passed in respect of spirits of a lower strength than 25 per centum underproof, nor in respect of a smaller quantity than 10 gallons.
Section 76 (1) which states - “ No person shall sell spirits of a less strength than 25 degrees under proof “ , was repealed by an amendment of the act in 1918, and section 40 should have been amended at the same time to conform with the action which Parliament then took. The object of the Distillation Act as originally enacted was to fix a standard of strength for the consumer. At that time, some of the states had no legislation whatever on this matter. Now all the states have legislation affecting the percentage of spirits . for public consumption, and the standard of strength fixed is, in some cases, lower than that fixed in the original Commonwealth Act. . It is common knowledge that the states control their own pure food legislation, under which the standard of spirits for consumption is fixed. It is obvious that the Commonwealth Government irrespective of any act that it may pass, cannot interfere with that legislation.
– Are not the states uniform in their practice?
– Will the Minister inform the House what is the difference in the standard of the various states?
– In New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania, brandy and whisky is fixed at 25 per cent. under proof, and in South Australia 35 per cent. under proof. In New South Wales, Victoria. Queensland, South Australia, and Tasmania, rum and gin are fixed at 35 per cent. under proof, and in Western Australia rum is fixed at 25 per cent. underproof, and gin 35 per cent. under proof. That portion of section 40 to be deleted from the Distillation Act is not being operated by the Customs.
– Will the bill affect the uniformity of legislation?
– No. The amendment is purely consequential on the alteration of the Distillation Act in 1918, and the administration of the Customs regulations has, for some years past, anticipated the action of Parliament to delete portion of section 40. In other words, Parliament rescinded the section providing that spirits of a strength less than 25 per cent. under proof were not to be sold, but did not rescind the section providing that such spirits were not to be removed. I assure honorable members that the bill is necessary if our legislation is to conform with usual practice.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment.
Bill, by leave, read a third time.
Debate resumed from 13th August (vide page 1421), on motion by Mr. Mann -
That this bill be referred to a Select Committee.
That such Committee consist of Mr. Malcolm Cameron, Mr. Coleman, Mr. Forde, Mr. Albert Green, Mr. Gregory, Mr. Seabrook and the mover, five to form a quorum; with power to send for persons and papers and records; to adjourn from place to place; and have leave to report from time to time its proceedings and the evidence taken; and that such Committee do report this day six weeks.
– I listened with interest to the debate upon the bill. I think that every honorable member of the House, irrespective of the qualifications of this measure, agrees on the broad principle that it is highly desirable to encourage the production of power alcohol in Australia so that we may be more nearly self-supporting in regard to that very necessarycommodity liquid fuel. The scheme proposed by the Government has been criticized from several aspects. It has been suggested that the benefit of the bounty upon power alcohol should be extended to the sugar and other industries.
– I wish to inform the Minister that, strictly speaking, the only matter for discussion is whether the bill should go to a committee of the whole House, or to a select committee. The bill has passed the second-reading stage, and its merits, per se, are not now open to discussion.
– I propose to connect my remarks by stating why the Government cannot accept the motion moved by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) that the bill should be referred to a select committee. I doubt whether any bill that has been placed before this House has had a more thorough examination and more care exercised upon it than this one. It has already been mentioned in the debate that Mr. Theodore, when in London, was much taken with the proposal. The Board of Trade has given considerable attention to it, and the Tariff Board has thoroughly investigated the scheme. The Queensland Government is so taken with the scheme that I believe it has now an officer in Java or Malaya selecting cassava plants for that state. It proposes to lend £25,000 to the Plane Greek Sugar Refinery.
– The Queensland Government is guaranteeing the loan.
– I accept the honorable member’s correction. The Queensland Government is guaranteeing a loan of £25,000 for the erection of buildings under this scheme. The Distillers Company, in Britain, is a very big concern, which I believe quite recently raised its capital from £6,000,000 to £15,000,000. It employs scores of uptodate chemists for distillation of all sorts.
– Is it the same company that makes whisky?
– Yes. It is the Dis tillers Company of Great Britain. Its representative has been in close consultation with the Queensland and Federal Governments. If the bill were referred to a select committee the inquiry would be like the play of “ Hamlet “ without the Prince of Denmark, because the representative of the Distillers Company, I understand, is in England, obtaining machinery for the scheme.
– Is the report of the Tariff Board on this subject available?
– Yes. The Tariff Board must, by law, report. I have discussed the bill with Mr. de Bavay, whose authority on power alcohol and its technical and chemical processes cannot be refuted, and his only objection to the scheme is that it cannot be carried out for the money.
– He contends that the bounty should be extended to power alcohol manufactured from molasses.
– I am giving the reasons why the Government cannot accept the motion moved by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann).
– Has the representative of the Distillers Company been authorized by the Queensland Government to obtain machinery in anticipation of the consent of this Parliament to the bill?
– No. The representative has been informed by the Government that it will introduce the bill to the House, and that the scheme has been agreed to by the various authorities that I have previously mentioned, including the Institute of Science and Industry, which authority was used by the honorable member for Perth to buttress his speech. The Government cannot accept the motion, and I hope that the House will support the Bill, in view of the importance of the liquid fuel problem, and the benefit that the country will derive from a scheme under which we do not pay anything until alcohol is produced.
.- I wish to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), because a fuller investigation should have been made by the Government on the whole question of the manufacture of power alcohol. This project is deserving of more generous treatment than the Government proposes to give to it. The Minister pointed out that Australia imports 81,000,000 gallons of petrol each year. He admitted also that the proposed bounty of 4d. a gallon on power alcohol manufactured in Australia would only cover the production of 300,000 gallons a year
– Including that manufactured from the molasses available in the Mackay district.
– It does not include fuel from molasses at all.
– The molasses will be converted into power alcohol without expense to the country.
– Yes; but that will not help the sugar-growers. The Minister may say that Mr. Board will be able to get molasses for the manufacture of power alcohol. Mr. Board will get the molasses for a nominal payment, but he will use cassava crops principally if the farmers will grow them. He sets out to make, if possible,great profits for his company from the sugar industry, but not to help that industry. The sugar-growersof Queensland are desirous of having this matter considered thoroughly by a committee with a view to widening the scope of the bill.
– Are not the molasses now going to waste?
– Yes ; but the 125,000 tons of molasses which may be converted into power alcohol should be treated by the growers in their co-operative mills.
– Why do they not make a proposition?
– They have done so.
– Not to the Government.
– I am surprised that Mr. Seymour Howe, the manager of the Mulgrave mill, and Mr. de Bavay were not invited to give evidence before the Tariff Board on this important question. The Minister has admitted that Mr. de Bavay’s ability as a chemist is unquestioned.I think he is the only man in Australia who has successfully manufactured power alcohol. During the war period he established the federal acetate of lime works at Brisbane, which now produce 10,000 gallons of power alcohol per annum. His son is now managing that business. I want it clearly understood that I am not opposed to the small experiments that will be made at the Plane Creek mill. My objection to this measure is that it does not go far enough, and is merely tinkering with a big national question. In view of the big federal surplus announced by the Treasurer, this bill treats in a niggardly way a question of such national importance as the provision of power alcohol for Australia. Instead of granting £5,000 per annum for five years,the Government would be justified in spending £300,000 in an endeavour to establish the power alcohol industry. That amount would be well spent if it relieved Australia of the necessity of obtaining her supplies of liquid fuel from other countries.
– The Government does not profess that this bill finally disposes of the question of the supply of power alcohol, but it is the only practical proposition in connexion with the development of this industry that has passed the test.
– Mr. Board, representing a wealthy company to which the Minister has referred, came to Australia and interviewed the members of the Cabinet, who fell in with his scheme without a full investigation. The Government decided to introduce a bill providing for a paltry bounty of £5,000 per annum. On the eve of an election, an effort is being made to hoodwink the people of Australia by causing them to believe that something will be done by the Government to have power alcohol manufactured in Australia. Why does the Government not deal with this big question in a proper way?
– Would the honorable member throw out the bill because it does not go as far as he desires?
– I am not endeavouring to throw it out; I want the bounty extended to alcohol manufactured from molasses, inferior sugar, syrups, and sugar-cane, and thus give the sugargrowers an opportunity of manufacturing power alcohol at their co-operative mills. I do not want Mr. Board, of the International Sugar and Alcohol Company of Great Britain, to get control of the whole of the molasses of Queensland for his proprietary company. Instead, I desire that the sugargrowers of Queensland be assisted to manufacture power alcohol by cooperative means. The actual producers of the raw material should obtain the benefit of its conversion into liquid fuel. I shall quote the opinion of those engaged in the sugar industry in Queensland.
– I ask the honorable member not to deal with the merits of the bill. All that is before the House is a question of procedure.
– The power-alcohol industry, if properly handled at this stage, will mean £10,000,000 to Australia within the next five or six years, and will solve the difficulty of the over-production of sugar in Queensland. For that reason I desire that a full inquiry should be made. This matter was first brought forward in Queensland in 1915, when Mr. G. P. Barber, M.L.A., who representsBundaberg in the Queensland Parliament, waited on Mr. Theodore, the then Treasurer of Queensland, and urged that an inquiry should be made into the possibility of manufacturing power alcohol in that state. Had the war not intervened, the Queensland Government would have taken this matter up. I do not propose to go into the details of his scheme, but Mr. Barber was one of those who initiated the movement in Queensland. The bounty proposed under this bill is not to be paid until the 1st of January, 1926. Clause 4 reads-
Bounty under this act shall be payable in respect of power alcohol manufactured in Australia and delivered from the control of the Customs during the period commencingon the 1st day of January, 1926, and ending on the 31st day of December, 1931.
Four months have still to elapse before the bill, if passed, will become operative, and I submit that in that period the whole matter could be thoroughly investigated by the select committee; it should not take more than five or six weeks. The experts in Queensland could be brought to Melbourne, or the committee could visit North Queensland. These men have studied the question for years, more particularly since there has been an over-production of sugar in Queensland. They believe that the production of power alcohol from molasses would solve the problem of the over-production of sugar. Mr. Seymour Howe, Mr. de Bavay, and others estimate that the price of 42s. 7d. per ton could be paid for the 40 per cent. surplus production of cane for the manufacture of power alcohol, as against6s. 2d. per ton for cane for the manufacture of surplus sugar for export at proclamation price of £9 10s. per ton.
– I shall hear no further argument except on the question whether the bill shall be referred to a select committee.
– I was endeavouring to confine my remarks to that question. I shall place before the House the views of those engaged in the sugar industry in Queensland to show that they feel strongly that the bill should be referred to a committee of inquiry. Mr. E. Hunter, of Innisfail, Queensland, who was the originator of the power-alcohol scheme in Queensland, and who has written a great deal on the matter, on the 15th of July, 1925, wrote-
It is not in the interests of the sugar-grower to have a bountypaid-
– That is not relevant to the question before the House.
– I shall deal with that part of his communication which refers to the necessity for a further inquiry -
In my humble opinion, the bill should be withdrawn, and a thorough investigation made into the whole subject. These English companies, with millions of capital, are not coming here to help our farmers. It is the thin edge of the wedge; they want a monopoly of our molasses; and to give them a bounty on it would be fatal.
-We are not proposing that.
– They are to get the molasses-
– That is not relevant to the motion.
– I was answering the Minister’s interjection.
– That was disorderly, as was also the interjection.
– In that case, I shall not attempt further to reply to it. I have here a letter from Mr. W. J. McClinnon, of Sarina, in the vicinity of the Plane Creek mill, dealing with the need for a full inquiry -
I would like to draw your attention to the fact that thePlane Creek Company wish to hand over to the proposed Plane Creek Power Alcohol Company Limited-
– That is not relevant to the motion before the Chair. If the honorable member attempts to proceed on those lines, I shall not hear him further.
– I have no desire to transgress your ruling, Mr. Speaker.
– I advise the honorable member not to do so further.
– I have here a great deal of evidence that the sugar-growers of Queensland desire a fuller inquiry into this matter. Shall I be in order in submitting the views of thosewho desire an inquiry?
– The only question before the House is that the bill be referred to a select committee. The merits of the bill are not before us, and the discussion of them is not in order.
– Mr. Seymour Howe, who is a qualified chemist, and has a considerable knowledge of the sugar industry, desires that the bill be referred to a select committee. On the 27th July, he wired -
Bill should be postponed pending further valuable information, otherwise grave injustice sugar industry. Certainly alcohol from any vegetable source, such as sugar-cane, containing molasses should be entitled bonus assist to permanently establish such an important key industry. Consider no concession or monopoly should be granted exclusively any person or corporation.
I have also a telegram from Mr. Forgan Smith, the Minister of Agriculture in Queensland -
Referring Power Alcohol Bill, I am of opinion that the bounty on power alcohol should be paid-
– Order !
– I thought that that telegram referred to the appointment of a committee of inquiry, or I should not have attempted to read it. However, a telegram from Mr. W. C. Griffen, the president of the Northern United Canegrowers Association, says -
Cairns Cane-growers’ Association urges upon Government to postpone further reading of Power Alcohol Bill until copy “of bill has been received and considered toy those interested in the North.
At a large and representative meeting, held at Innisfail, at North Queensland, and reported in the Cairns Post, the following resolutions were passed: -
I mention that to show that the sugar interests of Queensland are not satisfied with the bill, and desire a further inquiry with a view to liberalizing the bill. For that reason, it should be referred to a select committee. On the 8th inst., I received a telegram from Mr. Seymour Howe stating- that he had sent a wire to the Minister for Trade and Customs asking that proceedings on the bill be delayed until consideration could- be given to a letter, enclosing an interesting report, which he was forwarding to the Minister. I have further correspondence on the subject before me, but it is difficult at a glance to select from it the references to an inquiry into this matter by a select committee. I shall have an opportunity of speaking later on the subject, when I shall put this evidence on record. As I am not permitted to discuss the merits or demerits of the bill on the question now before the House, all I can do is to urge upon the Minister the vital importance of the matter to Australia, and particularly to Queensland.
– So Mr. Theodore thinks.
– Yes, Mr. Theodore recognizes its importance. Although the Queensland Government came forward with a guarantee of a loan of £25,000 in connexion with this proposition, I am satisfied that it would welcome a further inquiry into the matter. I. am not opposed to the bill, but desire that its scope should be extended, and that a big national question should be dealt with much more generously’. I hope the Minister will see the wisdom of having the matter more fully investigated. I asked the honorable gentleman some questions on this subject yesterday, and in his reply he admitted that the inquiries which have been made were made in Sydney, and that those who investigated the matter did not visit Queensland in connexion with their inquiry. The Minister further said that no member of the Tariff
Board is a chemist, but one of them was a director of munitions during the war. When I asked whether Mr. Seymour Howe, manager of the Mulgrave Sugar Mill, or Mr. de Bavay. was asked to give any evidence to the Tariff Board, the reply I received was that these gentlemen had not offered to give evidence. I assume that if the committee suggested by the honorable member for Perth were taking evidence on this subject it would take steps to get it from those who are in a position to give valuable information, and would, if necessary, visit North Queensland to secure firsthand information about it. An inquiry by a committee would probably result’ in the people of Australia getting cheaper sugar, because it would be found that the surplus production of sugar could be used in the manufacture of power alcohol. ‘ I submit to the Minister that, on his own admission, a fuller inquiry should be made into this question.
– When did I make such an admission?
– The honorable gentleman admitted in his replies to my questions that the Tariff Board took evidence only in Sydney, and did not take evidence from Mr. de Bavay, who is recognized as our best expert on this question. He is a consulting chemist in Melbourne, is connected with the Amalgamated Zinc Company, and the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australia, is consulting chemist to several large industrial concerns in this country, and is the originator of the acetate of lime factory in Brisbane, which is, at the present time, manufacturing power alcohol for the Federal Government. When I shall be in order in discussing the’ merits of the bill I shall refer to the decisions arrived at by Mr. de Bavay in co-operation with. Mr. Seymour Howe, of the Mulgrave mill. I want to malco it quite plain that I am not opposed to the experiment proposed to be carried out at the Plane Creek mill. I believe that the Queensland Government is right in proposing to assist that . experiment.
– That is not relevant to the question before the House.
– I want to say that I am not opposed to the bill, but I think it should be referred to a committee to obtain additional information.
– The honorable member has said that four times already.
– I believe, with my distinguished Deputy Leader, that a good thing is worth saying over and -over again.
– It is against the rules of Parliament to say anything over and over again.
– I hope the Minister will allow the bill to go to a select committee for further inquiry in order that this big question may he dealt with in a national way.
– I listened with a great deal of interest to the ‘debate on this bill, and to the remarks of - the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) in supporting his motion that it be referred to a select committee for inquiry. When the measure first came under my notice Z thought it was one which honorable members would be prepared to pass without delay. It seemed to me quite a harmless measure, because under it the Government does not propose to pay any bounty until the article is produced. Those who take any interest in the matter must be aware that the question is one which should be dealt with at once, and should not be indefinitely postponed. Honorable members should ask themselves what position we are likely to be in when we get a report from the proposed committee, if it is appointed. If they will examine the constitution of the committee proposed,’ they will see that such a committee would probably present majority and minority reports, because there could be no agreement between its members. Some of the members selected by the honorable member for Perth for appointment to the committee desire that it should be appointed in order that they may have an opportunity of bringing in a report turning down the bill, whilst the honorable member who has just resumed his seat desires that a report may be submitted advising that it should not be turned down, but that its provisions should be considerably extended.
– That is so. That is what I want.
– With all respect to the honorable members whose names have been selected for the proposed committee, I say that honorable members, generally, are just as competent to judge of the merits of the bill, and I have had sufficient evidence in the debate on the second ‘ reading of the measure to induce me to give my vote in favour of it. The reference of a bill to a committee is only one way of postponing its consideration indefinitely. It is true that the honorable member for Perth has suggested a limited period of six weeks within which the proposed committee should report to the House, but I think it is very likely that the House would be appealed to by the committee 1 i extend the time for the presentation of its report, and I fear that if the matter is not dealt with now, it will not be dealt with in this Parliament. ‘ I think we should go right on with the consideration of the bill. If it is found necessary, amendments may be moved in committee to extend its scope, and I have myself given notice of an. amendment which has been circulated. We have already sufficient evidence on the matter before us to enable honorable members to arrive at a decision either to support or oppose tho bill. I say we should go on with its consideration, amend it if necessary in committee, but have the matter finalized.
– I certainly do not agree with the proposal to refer the bill to a select committee. I think that the proposed committee would not be in a position to obtain additional information which would be of very much value to ug. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) has proposed the -appointment of a select committee, the members of which, with the exception of himself, possess no technical knowledge of the subject. Such a committee is not likely to obtain information of more value than that which has already been obtained by the Government from persons qualified to express a technical and reliable opinion . The bill has been before the Institute of Science and Industry, and the Tariff Board.
– Where is the recommendation of the Institute of Science and Industry ?
– We have the recommendation from the Minister and the Government on the information submitted to them. The information which we should be likely to obtain from the proposed committee would not, in my opinion, approach in value the information which is at present before us.
– The committee could obtain evidence from Mr. de Bavay and Mr. Howe.
– The honorable member has had his say, and he might hold his tongue sometimes. This question is of very great importance to Queensland’ An important firm has offered to establish this industry, and we should not turn such an offer down. This firm would be given no monopoly under the bill. The bill merely gives it the right to carry on the industry and prove its .success. If this firm cannot make a success of the industry, others can try to do -so ; as there is nothing to prevent other persons taking up the industry. The reference of the bill to a select committee might result in delaying the establishment of the industry. It nas been stated by the honorable member for Perth that the measure may lead to the taking up of a great deal of land for the growth of crops suitable for the production of power alcohol which may be required for the production of food for starving people in other countries of the world. But there are 100,000,000 acres of land in Queensland at present unoccupied, and there is a great deal of land there suitable for the production of cassava. It has been grown in that state successfully, but it was of no use to proceed with its cultivation while there was no market for it. The International. Sugar Alcohol Company has sent out to Australia its most expert man, and it is prepared to spend £50,000 of its own money to establish these works. Why then, should we check it? This is a young country, and we ought to encourage everything that will make for progress and development. As the representative of a sugar-producing and agricultural district in Queensland, I. strongly oppose the motion.
.- Every honorable member is desirous to assist in establishing new industries in this country. We aTe all particularly anxious to encourage the production of power alcohol, but surely we are entitled to some information? Up to date, none has been given to us. I was impressed by the Minister’s statement that the proposal in the bill has been investigated and recommended by the Tariff Board. In reply to my request, he handed me a copy of the report. I was amazed, on reading it, to find that evidence was taken from only two witnesses; one was Mr. Board, the representative of the International Sugar Alcohol Company Limited, of London, the company which will receive the bounty, and the other was Mr. Herbert Powell, a director of Power Alcohol, Sydney. Even if we do not agree to the appointment of the committee proposed by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), we should, at least, have before us the evidence that has been taken by the Public Accounts Committee on the subject.
– The chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (Mr. Bayley) congratulated the Government on having introduced the bill.
– That is probably because of the information he has on the subject. The report of the committee might convince all honorable members that the bill should be passed. I have a high regard for the gentlemen who constitute the Tariff Board. They have done excellent work, and are earnestly striving to do what they believe to be in the best interests of our industries, but at the same time one cannot be expected to accept their recommendations unless sufficient evidence is produced to justify them. The amount of bounty to be paid under this bill will be comparatively small, but it will grow. I am not at all enamoured of the proposal to appoint a select committee, but I feel strongly that the evidence taken by the Public Accounts Committee should be available to us before we are asked to vote on the bill. We should do our work for the community as responsible men. A few weeks’ delay in a matter of this kind is neither here nor there. Many much more important matters have been delayed for years. Possibly the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee (Mr. Bayley) can tell us when we may expect the report to be made available.
– Very shortly, but it will not affect this bill.
– It would enlighten honorable members.
– That is so, but it could not affect the scope of the bill.
– Anything that will enlighten us on this subject should be available to us. I object to being asked to vote for proposals on which I have not been given adequate information. It is not a fair thing to ask us to accept the proposals in the bill on the evidence of two men. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has asked that representatives of the co-operative societies concerned, and one of the greatest experts in Australia on this matter, Mr. de Bavay should be consulted. That is reasonable. The sugargrowers, the potato-growers, and every one else interested should also be heard. I am surprised that the Tariff Board had nothing to say on the suggestion of Mr. Powell that a bounty should be paid on power alcohol produced from the prickly pear. If one of our worst pests can be made to produce power alcohol, it should be done; and we should encourage any one who will undertake the work.
– The honorable member is now discussing the merits of the bill ; that he is not entitled to do.
– I submit, sir, that an investigation should be made into the possibility of producing power alcohol from the prickly pear.
– I have already informed honorable members that no practical proposal has yet come from those who are engaged in these experiments.
– Well, we have this extraordinary fact, that 50 per cent. of the witnesses who gave evidence before the Tariff Board in support of this billin other words, one of the two - stated that alcohol was being produced from the prickly pear.
– But only in small quantities by a toy plant.
– The proposal of the Government is that a bounty shall be paid on power alcohol produced from cassava.
– Why should not a similar proposal be made in respect to the prickly pear, which is rendering tens of thousands of acres of land in Australia unfit for cultivation.
– This company may take up that matter.
– But why should we limit the provisions of the bill to cassava ? A strong case has been made out for further investigation, but, at least, let us wait until the report of the Public Accounts Committee is available. We have not a scrap of evidence to justify us in proceeding immediately with the Government’s proposal.
– I oppose the amendment moved by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), and strongly favour the proposals of the bill. The investigations of a select committee would be an unnecessary duplication of the inquiry recently undertaken by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts. This whole matter was very painstakingly investigated by that committee for several months. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has stated that a select committee could submit a report in five or six weeks. If it has taken the Joint Committee of Public Accounts months to make its investigation, I fail to see how a select committee could adequately deal with it in a few weeks. The Public Accounts Committee has taken very valuable evidence on the production of power alcohol from molasses and prickly pear, and its report will be most useful to honorable members; but in view of the statement by the Minister that the passing of this bill will not prevent encouragement being given to those who are endeavouring to produce power alcohol from other sources than those stated in it, I cannot see that there is anything to be gained by delaying its passage.
.- Until the preceding two or three speakers had addressed themselves to this subject, I fully intended to support the bill, but I feel now that we should be wise to postpone further consideration of it until the Public Accounts Committee’s report is available. If that report indicates that it is possible to produce power alcohol on a commercial basis from prickly pear, molasses, and other crops, as well as cassava, we should pass a comprehensive measure to encourage activity in all those directions. In view of the remarks that have been made by honorable members during the last ten minutes, I feel strongly that the Minister would be well advised to defer consideration of the bill. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) and others who represent similar constituencies are naturally anxious that the matter should be dealt with speedily, but that is no excuse for honorable members voting for it without having full information. We may go just a little too fast in our anxiety to establish this industry. I ask the Minister to permit the matter to remain in abeyance until the Public Accounts Committee has submitted its report, notwithstanding the remark of the Chairman that it cannot interfere with the scope of the bill. I cannot imagine the report of the committee having any bearing on the scope of any bill, but I can understand the Government extending the scope of a bill in consequence of information submitted by such a committee. I have no objection to the bill, but we should have the fullest information, including that obtained by the Public Accounts Committee. After the report of that committee has been received - and I understand it will be at an early date - this measure could be passed in a short time. It would be in the interests of the Commonwealth if the prickly pear plant, which is a pest, could be used in the production of power alcohol, and thus reduce the expenditure incurred in its eradication.
– This bill does not prevent that being done.
– No; but the scope of the bill is not sufficiently wide, and further action cannot be taken for twelve months.
– Why not ?
– Honorable members will have to face the electors before it will be practicable to pass an amending measure. In view of the statements made, it would appear that this bill is being hurried through in order to suit one party.
– This is the only party which has endeavoured to do anything.
– I am not opposing the bill. I am willing to support it, but I want it to be as comprehensive as possible so that all those who can manufacture power alcohol will be able to obtain the bounty it is proposed to pay.
.- I listened with interest to the honorable member for Perth, (Mr. Mann), when speaking on the second reading of the bill, and I utterly fail to understand why he wishes a delay of five or six weeks.I understand that the proposal is to pay a bounty on the production of power alcohol. I submit that it is not the duty of this House to say whether a. company is right or wrong in investing £50,000 of its own money in the production of this spirit. Before coming to such a decision the company must have gone into the whole subject most exhaustively, and satisfied itself that there is something in it. All that is proposed under this measure is to pay a bounty on the production of the spirit. This may be an experiment on the part of the company, but the Commonwealth Acetate of Lime Factory is already producing in Queensland 53,000 gallons of power alcohol from molasses. According to the inquiries conducted by the Institute of Science and Industry, 69 gallons of power alcohol are produced from 1 ton of molasses, whereas 39 gallons are produced from 1 ton of cassava. If the company is satisfied that it can make the proposition a payable one with a bounty of 4d. a gallon on power alcohol produced from cassava, this Parliament should give it assistance. I cannot see that any usefulpurpose will be served by delaying the bill in any way. If the company is prepared to invest its money in the project, we have nothing to fear, as it is proposed to pay the bounty only on thepower alcohol actually produced.
.- I understand that the amendment before the House is one which, if carried, will involve the further consideration of this matter by a select committee. Having listened most attentively to the debate, it seems to me that there is no lack of information on the subject. Indeed, you, sir, have been under the painful necessity of preventing the operation of the philanthropic impulses of some honorable members who have desired to give the House the benefit of their extensive knowledge regarding it.
– Is that not a reflection on the Chair ?
– No. I speak in no fear at all, although with a conscious recognition of the fact that we are not nowpermitted to discuss the merits and demerits of the bill itself, but merely the proposal to submit it to a. select committee for further inquiry. If it were not for this limitation of debate, I should like to digress for a few moments to speak upon Australian industries generally, concerning which we have heard so much lately. In applauding the establishment of Australian industries, one wonders whether sufficient consideration is given to the effect upon the Australian people, or only an interested and not very large section. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), taking a narrower but equally patriotic view of the interests of those in the environs of Wide Bay, says that the production of power alcohol would be of assistance to a very important industry in Queensland. If it is half as important as he states it to be, one would think that that industry had become sufficiently established by this time to sustain itself without coming to the Commonwealth Treasury for further support. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) and other honorable members deprecate delay. We know that delay is dangerous, but in this instance it may be beneficial to have further inquiry. There are ideas which although they may have originated as long ago as the time of Tiberius Gracchus are still unrealized, and one may hope that they will remain so to the day of general judgment. That is to say in some circumstances delay may be applauded, instead of condemned. In this instance further deliberation may be of advantage, and we should at least have the opportunity for it which the adjournment for luncheon will afford. I understand that it is proposed to pay a bounty on the production of power aclohol from certain commodities, of some of which, such as potatoes, I have heard, whereas others, as cassava, were unknown to me until this bill came before the House. Few honorable members will admit such ignorance, but this is indeed a very intricate subject, and we ought to have further information concerning it. I whole-heartedly support every argument adduced by the. honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) in favour of obtaining further information - not only those arguments which, according to you, Mr. Speaker, were in order, but also - if I may do so - those which were not in order. The latter, indeed, seemed to me to be more convincing than those that were relevant to the motion. It is not customary - though, no doubt, quite correct - to agree to the second reading of a bill and then to discuss a motion to refer the bill to a select committee. In my experience this procedure is unprecedented. But in committee on the bill I shall be free to comment upon some of the products to which it relates. If we can make the measure sufficiently comprehensive to include other pests than prickly pear, by using them for the production of power alcohol, we should do so. Possibly power alcohol may be produced from rabbits; I do not know. In my electorate there is neither prickly pear nor rabbits, but there are a number of taxpayers who are interested in these matters. They have given me a commission - which I regretfully admit may all too soon expire - to represent their interests here, and to inquire into the manner in which their money is being spent. They wish to know how the general public will benefit by this expenditure. An industry of great Australian importance from the point of view of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) and the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), may be of little importance to the citizens in the electorate of Batman. Having further considered thiB matter during the luncheon adjournment, we should return with our minds clarified and our patriotism quickened, and should be able to profitably consider- whether the use of prickly pear, sweet potatoes, and other materials in the manufacture of power alcohol, and in the interests of pure patriotism, should be stimulated by the extension of the proposed bounty at the expense, among others, of my electors. Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 ‘p.m.
.- I can find no- reason for the objection of the Government to a further investigation of this matter. The promise has been given that if a committee were appointed every endeavour would be made to obtain the presentation of its report within six weeks. I am quite satisfied that this House would not consent to an extension of that period, unless it could be clearly shown that the evidence which was being obtained warranted it. What loss would be caused by holding the proposed investigation ?
– What object could be served by such an investigation?
– It would enable us to ascertain whether it is politic, in the interests of the people of Australia, to embark upon this proposal. I regard this as an attempt to insert a wedge, with a view to obtaining other large bounties in future, or the imposition of a duty on petrol entering Australia. Realizing the enormous quantity of petrol that is required in Australia, we are justified in seeking some assurance that we are proceeding along right lines. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has stated that this company is prepared to spend £1,000,000 in the industry. Yet a paltry £5,000 is offered as an inducement to it to carry on! It is asserted that the Institute of Science and Industry has reported favorably upon this proposal. Where is that report? I do not know anything of it. It should be in the possession of this House. What evidence was taken by the Institute, and what is its opinion ? We have been assured that the proposal has the recommendation of the Tariff Board. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has had an opportunity to peruse the report of that board, and he finds that it examined only two witnesses, but one of whom advocated this proposal. What is the nature of the evidence that was given? Some honorable members are taking up an extraordinary attitude. A short delay would not cause injustice to those who have been promised the bounty, nor would it prejudice the establishment of the industry. I would agree to the matter being referred io the Committee of Public Accounts for a specific report. My name has been included amongst the names of those who, it is suggested, should comprise the select committee. I have no desire to go upon that committee, and I should do so only from a sense of public duty. Even though only a small bounty is promised in the beginning, the industry may develop rapidly, and make the Commonwealth liable for the payment of. a much larger bounty in future, or the imposition of a duty upon imported motor spirit. I am not satisfied with the nature of many of the inquiries of the Tariff Board.
– The honorable member will never be satisfied with the Tariff Board.
– Not as it is constituted at present. Surely the honorable member does not suggest that he is satis-] led 1, with the recommendation of that board, seeing that it has examined only two witnesses, one of whom is an interested party, and the other recommended that a bountry sshould be granted upon the production of motor spirit from prickly pear ! I have another reason for wishing that an inquiry should be held. I have in my hand an extract from the Scientific Journal dealing with the production of au efficient motor fuel for tractors. In it particular reference is made to the Nipa palm, which grows in North Borneo. The article reads -
Considerable work baa been done_ in Philip; pine Islands in ascertaining the suitability of this palm for the production of alcohol, and, according to advices, quite recently an experimental plant has been erected in the state of North Borneo. The plant is being run under the direction of the local Department ofAgriculture, and an account of the results of the first year’s working, based on a memorandum supplied by the British-North Borneo Company, is given in the current number of the Bulletin of the Imperial Institute, published by Mr. John Murray. There are about 300,000 acres of nipa palm in North. Borneo, occurring in nearly solid stands of 5,000 acres or more. The sap flows for only six months in the year, but it is estimated that during thiB period 900,000,000 gallons of aap, capable of producing nearly 60,000,000 gallons of alcohol, could be obtained. The results of the first year’s working of the experimental plant came up to expectations in every way. The still was only capable of producing 100 gallons of alcohol per working day of twelve hours, and the costs of running such a small plant were naturally somewhat high, but it is shown that a permanent plant producing not less than 1,000 gallons per day should prove a commercial success. Estimates are quoted in the article of the cost of production for plants of various capacities. For a plant capable of producing 2,000 gallons per day of 12 hours the capital required iis estimated at about £20,000, und the profits on the spirit delivered in Singapore or Hong Kong would be equivalent to a dividend of 10 per cent, on the capital. An 8,000 gallon plant run for 24 hours per day would require a capital of about £122,000, and this, it is estimated, would yield profits equivalent to 30 per cent, on the capital.
I am not acquainted with the properties of the Nipa palm, but is there not a probability that it, and other plants which are capable of producing power alcohol, can be grown in some of the tropical parts of Australia? My chief concern is to ascertain what is going to be the national aspect of this matter. How will it affect production in Australia and the building up of this country? There should be a delay sufficiently long to enable the Committee of Public Accounts to report to Parliament upon its investigations to date, so that Parliament may know the exact position that has been reached, and may be advised of the action that ought to be taken in future.
– Originally, I entertained a certain amount of suspicion regarding this bill; but the attacks that have been made upon it have led me to believe that its opponents desire to delay the granting of any bounty. I believe inthe encouragement of industries by way of bounty rather than by the imposition of a duty. A great deal has been said regarding the lack of information touching this matter.I understand that the Queensland Government has investigated it, and is prepared to advance £25,000 to enable the industry to be established. A private company is prepared to invest in it £50,000 for a start. It would be foolish to expect them to do so if they had not convinced themselves by investigation that the proposition was a sound one. The Commonwealth Government is merely being asked to pay a bounty provided the article is produced. It will take no risks, and will be under no handicap. If the company fails, no bounty will be paid. I cannot, therefore, see any reason for this”storm in a teacup.” The granting of a bounty may assist the development of Queensland, and be the means of employing a considerable number of people in the production of an article that is extensively required all over the world. I consider that this Parliament would be lacking in its duty if it did not consent to the establishment of that industry. Are honorable members prepared to assert that the Queensland Government would be willing to advance £25,000 without having investigated the matter? What will be gained by a further investigation? This is a new industry, and a. great deal of information relating to it is not available. I do not attach much weight to the fact that only two witnesses were examined by the Tariff Board. That board had from the company evidence to the effect that it was prepared to invest its money in the undertaking.
Several honorable members have expressed regret at having been furnished with little or no information regarding this matter. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley), I think, put the whole position in a nutshell when he said that the company is prepared to risk its capital, whilst, the people of Australia stand to lose nothing.
– The company asks that this Government shall give it a bounty before it has any knowledge of the prospects of the industry.
– The company has not asked the Government for anything. For the information of honorable members I shall quote from the evidence that was given by Mr. Board before the Committee of Public Accounts. He said-
I have come here at the invitation of the Queensland Government. A little more than a year ago I had some discussions with Mr. Theodore, the Premier of Queensland, on the question of power alcohol production. Those discussions were renewed when Mr. Theodore was in London this summer. As a result of our discussions a scheme was prepared, of which he approved academically. It resulted inan invitation to my company to sendme out here to investigate the possibilities on the spot. It was understood that if we found a certain sum in London the Queensland Government would itself be financially interested in the initial proposal. I may say that Mr. Theodore’s interest in the production of power alcohol has to do with the question of land settlement.
That is a fact which many honorable members have overlooked. Whilst the main purpose of the bill is to authorize the payment of a bounty on the production of power alcohol-
– Order ! I can hear nothing regarding the bill at this stage.
– Mr. Board’s evidence proceeds -
Additional activities must be provided for men already settled on the land quite apart from providing facilities for further settlement. If I can so far speak for Mr. Theodore, that is the side of the question that appealed to him. It is obvious that the total molasses available in Australia is not sufficient to make any impression on the power alcohol problem.
– That matter is not relevant to the motion before the House.
– The honorable member for Perth has proposed that the further consideration of the bill should be postponed until the measure has been referred to a select committee. Other honorable members have suggested that the House should await the presentation of the report at present being prepared by the Public Accounts Committee. That body has completed the taking of evidence, and will meet on the 31st August to consider the draft report. It is hoped that the approved report will be presented to the House before the middle of September.
– That is a long time to wait.
– Reference to a select committee would mean a delay of at least six weeks. The Public Accounts Committee has investigated exhaustively all possibilities of the production of power alcohol, but I can conceive of nothing being inserted in its report which would influence members in their attitude towards this bill.
– Might not the committee’s report induce the House to widen the scope of the bill?
– Certain clauses narrow the scope of the bill considerably. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) has suggested that the bounty should extend to alcohol made from molasses and prickly pear. But the bill specifically mentions a bounty of 4d. per gallon. Mr. Board told the Accounts Committee that that rate is sufficient for power alcohol produced from cassava, but we have no definite information as to what bounty would be required in respect of power alcohol produced from prickly pear or molasses. Until the Minister is in possession of facts which will permit him to estimate what rate of bounty is necessary in respect of power alcohol from those sources he is powerless to do anything further.
– He has very little data in regard to power alcohol produced from cassava.
– That is the concern, not of the government, but of the company. Certain people say that they are prepared to produce power alcohol from cassava if the Government offers a bounty of 4d. per gallon. If they fail to do so the Government will lose nothing.
– Would not the same argument apply to power alcohol produced from prickly pear and molasses?
– We do not know what bounty is required for power alcohol produced from those sources; 2d. or 3d. per gallon may be sufficient or 5d. or 6d. may be needed to place the enterprise on a commercial basis. But in regard to power alcohol produced from cassava, Mr. Board said definitely that a bounty of 4d. per gallon would be sufficient.
– It may be too much.
– I suggest to the Minister that in order to meet the wishes of many honorable members he should agree to widen the scope of clause 6 which restricts the bounty to power alcohol produced from cassava.
– I shall have no objection to that if it is in consonance with the purpose of the bill.
– Of course, clause 6 is affected by clause 5, which specifies a bounty of 4d. per gallon, but I leave it to the Minister to find a way out of what seems to be a rather difficult position.
.- When, ‘ on the second-reading debate, I supported the request of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) for further investigation of this proposal, T considered, and still consider, that the information submitted to the House was inadequate. This is a big subject, and the bill is altogether too narrow in its scope. The Minister should not persist in his obstinacy. I and many other honorable members on this side of the House favour the payment of a bounty on power alcohol, but we are not prepared to endorse piece-meal legislation such as this bill seems to be. However, if the Minister will agree to postpone the later stages of the bill until the Public Accounts Committee has presented its report, I shall vote against the motion for the appointment of a select committee.
– I shall be prepared to agree to that when this motion has been disposed of.
– Then I presume that if the motion is defeated or withdrawn the Minister will postpone the committee stage so that honorable members may have an opportunity to consider the Public Accounts Committee’s report, and suggest possible amendments.
.- Although I have very great respect for the technical knowledge of the honorable member for Perth, I cannot support his motion. I understand that he desires the bill to be investigated by a select committee because he considers that the House is not sufficiently well informed regarding the technical aspects of the production of power alcohol. Still this Parliament is asked, not to produce power alcohol, but merely to pay a bounty to those who do succeed in producing it. Surely the production of the bounty is easier than the production of the spirit. I desire Australia to become self-contained in respect of all vital necessaries, and on principle I shall support the bill. If the company produces no alcohol the Commonwealth will pay no bounty. Therefore, I cannot understand the objection to the bill. I think, however, that its scope should be widened. There are in Western Australia several growths which are at present regarded as noxious, but which I believe are capable of producing power alcohol, and I hope that the bill will be amended to include them.
-Certainly if justification is shown.
– As the Commonwealth has only to find the money for the bounty, this Parliament has no concern in the technicalities of the production of power alcohol. The company that undertakes this enterprise should, and no doubt does, possess the technical knowledge; if it does not, and loses its money, that will be its funeral.
.- I have been somewhat surprised at the trend of the debate on this motion. The frequent interpositions of the Chair seem to indicate that honorable members have hardly grasped either the purpose or the scope of the proposed committee. The House is asked to decide whether the bill should go direct to a committee of the whole, or to a select committee, which would makespecial inquiry into the subject-matter of the measure. My speech upon the second reading was a carefully-prepared exposition of the many difficulties surrounding this proposal and the need for further investigation which cannot be undertaken by a committee of the whole, because many of the questions involved are technical and economic, and are wider in their scope than many honorable members have been prepared to acknowledge. It is impossible to arrive at a reliable judgment upon them without the hearing of evidence. And the real value of evidence can be tested only by cross-examination and a comparison of the opinions of different experts. A committee of the whole cannot hear evidence of that sort. To-day all sorts of statements have been made; most of them were open to grave doubt, and some were capable of contradiction, and even positive disproof. Yet they were accepted without inquiry or examination. That is not the wayin which this House should deal with legislation for the expenditure of public money. We have been told that Parliament need not be concerned in the failure or success of the company. But surely we have a right to determine the principles governing the payment of moneys from the national exchequer. The question before us is not whether cassava can be grown in Australia or whether alcohol can be produced from it, but whether the proposal contained in the bill is founded on right principles. I expected the Minister to give a categorical reply to the various arguments I advancedin favour of referring the bill to a select committee, but after having made a few casual remarks he sat down without having attempted to deal with my contentions. All that I can say is that, if the House is prepared to vote on the question in that way, it is perfectly useless for honorable members to exercise their ability and industry to help it in arriving at a sound decision. The Minister objects to the reference to a select committee for the extraordinary reason that the gentleman principally concerned in this business is in England wanting to buy machinery, and therefore there should be no delay. By interjection I asked whether the gentleman referred to had any authority or guarantee from the Government, because if he has no such guarantee or authority it is no business of ours to avoid delay. Of course, if the Government’s word is pledged in this regard, I can understand the Minister’s anxiety to avoid delay, but it is distinctly improper that we should be asked not to give thorough consideration to legislation placed before us on the ground that some individual is in England seeking to invest his money. Speaking of the need for technical evidence, one honorable member complained that Mr. De Bavay had not given evidence. In reply the Minister said that he had not offered to do so, yet this morning he told us that he had been in close touch with Mr. De Bavay, and that that gentleman had said this propositon was all right. In fact, the Minister asked us to accept the bill on the recommendation of Mr. De Bavay, although the gentleman’s name has appeared in the press over a statement claiming that the bounty proposed to be given would be insufficient for the purpose. The House is asked to accept the bill on evidence of that kind. I was shocked to think that it would even consider the proposal for five minutes.
We have also- been told that there is no need for a select committee, because this matter has already- been investigated by the Public Accounts Committee, whose report upon it is due shortly. This, again, is a fact which has just come to light. I admit that some honorable members knew unofficially that the Public Accounts Committee was engaged on this inquiry. But if the Minister was also aware of it, why did he hurry on with this bill and try to get it through before the committee’s report was presented? During the course of this debate we have been advised that a select committee is unnecessary, and that the House should agree to refer the matter to the Public Accounts Committee. I am pleased to hear that it is being investigated by that committee, and I do not propose for one second to criticize the committee or to suggest any criticism of its report; but how do we know what is likely to be the nature of ite report ? Its chairman (Mr. .Bayley) has said that the committee’s report will not bear on the principles contained in this bill, whereas the whole of my argument is that there should be some inquiry into those principles, and I cannot see how even the Public Accounts Committee can deal with them in the way I have suggested that they should be dealt with. I should like to know whether the committee has investigated any of the points I mentioned during my second-reading speech, and if it has not done so, I should like to know its reason for not doing so, because the matters I have put forward are of vast importance, and the onus of proving their case is on the other side. If the Public Accounts Committee has not investigated those aspects of the case which I have set forth, we ought not to remain- in ignorance concerning them. The Minister has given no reason why they should not be investigated, and so far no honorable member has given any reason why we should not have the investigation for which I am asking. I have said repeatedly that I am prepared to sit upon a select committee with an open mind and hear any statement any individual likes to make. I would allow the members of the Tariff Board and the Institute of Science and Industry to bring forward their technical knowledge in an endeavour to refute my assertions.
But the Minister asks honorable members to abide by the report of the Public Accounts Committee, which, according to the chairman of the committee, has not dealt with any of these matters. We are told that there is no need for a select committee because we ought to take the word of a certain company which is prepared to risk its own capital. That remark came from the Opposition benches. On other occasions honorable members opposite are prepared to attack every large corporation on the ground that it possesses capital. They are ready to regard with suspicion everything such a corporation does, and to declare that its opinion should not be accepted. Yet to-day they are willing to accept, without inquiry, the opinion of *-yat** corporation whose capital may be involved in this venture. As a proof that there is reason for inquiry, I may state that to-day I have learned that this company, which has always been known to us under some other name, is apparently closely related to the great Distillers Company Limited which the Minister said this morning had recently increased its capital to about £15,000,000. If this experiment in the growth of cassava is not likely to cost more than £5,000, surely to goodness a company with a capital of £15,000,000 could afford to stand the cost of it without having to come to the Commonwealth Parliament for this bounty. A select committee could find out exactly what are the interests of this company. At any rate, we should not accept the statements of interested people without further and fuller inquiry. In my speech on the second reading I said that the reports of the Institute of Science and Industry on power alcohol were out of date, and I gave reasons for saying so. Yet, the Minister who has the officers of the institute at his disposal, has not produced any later figures to refute my statements. He has mentioned the Tariff Board’s report. That report has not been available to honorable members. Is the Minister entitled to come here and say that this board has recommended a certain thing, and that we must accept the bill on what the board has recommended without inquiry into the ground on which its recommendation is based. If ever a ca% has been put up to show the necessity for the examination of such reports as these, it has been put up to-day. The recommendation of the Tariff Board in this respect is not worth a snap of the fingers, and if its report is an example of the methods employed, and the knowledge possessed by the Tariff Board, it does not do that body any credit. The claim has been set up to-day that a report of a select committee would be useless, because as proposed to be constituted its members would bring in a majority and a minority report. That is an improper suggestion. But even if it were true, I should like to ask how the bill will be dealt with other than on a majority vote. In any case the point raised has no bearing. If the evidence given is properly collected, sifted, and analyzed, it will furnish honorable members with a basis on which to form an opinion. The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) has gone so far as to say that a select committee could obtain no information of value. With all due respect to the honorable member, I say that his remark was a most improper one. How can he assert that the information given to the committee will be valueless? The truth is that the honorable member does not want information. He would rather remain in the dark. He is not in a position to express an opinion as to the relative value of two sources of opinion with regard to one of which he is entirely ignorant. I do not think there is any need for me to labour the matter any further. I expressed myself very freely on the second reading. I have shown that to-day’s debate has not touched in any sense upon the grounds on which I claim there is need for a select committee. I hope sincerely that the House will face the question, as far as it possibly can, quite apart from party feelings. We have a very grave principle to decide in regard to the disposal of public funds. The bill before us is but the thin end of the wedge. It has been said that honorable members do not mind how much is spent in this direction, and we know perfectly well that the amount in this case will be far above the insignificant sum now involved : but a greater principle is involved. Therefore. I urge honorable members to try to look at this matter in a detached way, realizing that the responsibility rests on them to sift all these things to the bottom. If we take no notice of objections that are urged, declaring that it is unnecessary for us to seek information, the House will become more easily the prey of any clever rogue who wishes to work a swindle on us. I do not suggest that this is a clever swindle, but I wish to go into the matter and sift some of the statements that have been made to the House. Some of those on which we have been asked to vote have proved so unstable and unsatisfactory that one begins to be suspicious of all those on which the measure rests. I hope that the House will support me in my request for a select committee.
– Mr. Speaker, I should like to know whether, before the motion is disposed of, the Minister can, by leave, make a statement as to his intentions in regard to the Bill ?
– The Standing Orders are emphatic on the point. The reply of the mover of the motion closes the debate. I understood the Minister to have made some explanation by interjection, but I did nob hear what it was.
Question - That the motion (Mr. Mann’s) be agreed to - put. The House divided :
Ayes ……. 10
Noes ….. … 51
Majority … … 41
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill committed pro forma.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
– (6y leave). - From June and July of this year many honorable members opposite, including the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), the honorable members for Reid (Mr. Coleman), and Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), and a number of honorable members on this side of the House, have asked for information of the intention of the Government in connexion with the recommendations of the royal commission on the assessment of war service disabilities, made on the 22nd December last. I propose now to make a definite statement to the House. As honorable members have not been furnished with copies of the recommendations, it is necessary I should read them. Generally speaking, it may be said that the royal commission arrived at the opinion that the act is being administered sympathetically, and that the claimants are receiving the fullest possible measure of relief permitted by an honest interpretation of the act. The finding of the royal commission is summarized in paragraph 12 of the report, which states -
After full and careful inquiry into all matters arising out of the reference, your commissioners unanimously agree that, in the majority of cases, the present machinery for determining disability and assessing pension ia sufficient.
There are, however, certain types of disabilities present in a small minority of ex-soldiers which are for various reasons inadequately determined. The inadequacy to some extent has been due to defects in the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act, sections 22 and 40. In some cases rulings made with the object of facilitating the grouping of cases have been found in course of time ‘to operate harshly in exceptional cases, and some unavoidable delay has occurred in determining suitable alterations or modifications required. Section 22 of the act states -
The rate of pay of the member means the rate of pay received by the member of the forces as a member at the time of the occurrence of the casualty or the contraction of the disease which resulted in his death or incapacity, and includes such allowances as are prescribed by the regulations under the act.
The royal commission recommended the amendment of this section to provide that a pension shall be payable in accordance with the member’s rank on discharge, and not at the time of occurrence.
– What does that, mean?
– It means, of course, that payment in respect of the disability will be estimated, not upon the rank held at the time when the disability was received, but, assuming that subsequent to the disability the ex-soldier had been promoted, upon the rank held at the time of the granting of the pension. As this amendment would mean only a difference of about 3d. a week - pension rates for ex-soldiers from privates to lieutenants (inclusive), as prescribed by the act, are the same - it is not considered advisable to amend the act as suggested. The consideration is too small. Section. 40 of the act reads - ….. a pension shall not be payable in respect of the death of a person …. after the expiration of seven years from the date of his discharge, except to the widow and children of that person, and unless the person died from the result of an ocurrence happening during the period he was a member of the forces, and was at the time of his death in receipt of a pension.
The royal commission recommended that section 40 of the act be deleted as unnecessarily hampering the repatriation administration, which can be relied upon to estimate the value of time in assessing claims. I think it was not recognized at the time that the Repatriation Commission had had this matter under consideration, and had dealt with it by regulation 89 o, which came into operation on the 12th May, 1925. Actually this regulation gives effect to the recommendation of the royal commission.
The recommendation in paragraph 16 a is to the following effect: -
That an allowance, in addition to the present pension, be paid to blinded soldiers for an attendant.
When making this recommendation, the royal commission overlooked the fact that the Repatriation Commission had, by a regulation gazetted in October, 1924, provided for the payment of an allowance of 20s. a week to a totally blinded soldier, and also, if the services of an attendant should be considered necessary, to a soldier whose eyesight is, in the opinion of the Repatriation Commission, so defective that he has no useful sight. This allowance is paid whether the services of an attendant are utilized or not, so that an ex-soldier with a wife or grown-up daughter may have the benefit of their assistance, and receive the same allowance as if he were obliged to pay an attendant.
We come now to the crux of the whole question. Honorable members, I know, are anxious to ascertain the views of the Government with reference to tubercular oases. The commission recommends -
A permanent pension insome degree be paid where tuberculosis has resulted from war service.
The Government has decided to accept this recommendation, and it will be given effect to from the 1st July last.
– What will be the basis of the permanent pension ?
– I am about to explain. Ex-members of the forces proved to be suffering from tuberculosis as the result of war service will be paid a permanent pension of not less than £2 2s. a week, but will be required to present themselves for periodical medical examination in order that they may be advised as to the progress of the disease and necessary treatment. There will be no right or authority for the pension to be reduced at any time, but it can be increased if the disability has become worse.
– Are they to receive two guineas for life whether they are cured or not?
– Am I not speaking clearly enough? Each of these men will receive at least £2 2s. a week independent of his condition as disclosed on re-examination. He will only be re-examined for his own benefit, so that he will know what progress he has made, and be told the line of treatment he should pursue. The pension will not be reduced under any circumstances, even if, as I said yesterday, he is one of the fortunate individuals who show some progress towards cure; nor will it be reduced when he is ultimately cured.
Paragraph 16 c of the commission’s recommendations refers to repatriation form “ K,” which is filled in when exsoldiers are medically examined. The form recommended could be introduced, but it would not be of any benefit to the soldiers. The form which was viewed by the royal commission had been replaced, as a result of experience, by a more comprehensive one before the commission took evidence. The revised form was instituted after comparison had been made between the previous form and those in use by the British and New Zealand Governments. It is considered that the new form is quite sufficient. The form suggested by the royalcommission would be suitable for a general stocktaking of health, but is not considered necessary from the pointof view of the Repatriation Commission or the exsoldiers concerned. It would be of distinct benefit in a stocktaking, so to speak, of the physical health of the community, but that is not the duty, nor could it be carried out under the province of the Department of Repatriation. It belongs to the Department of Health, which has been so freely criticized within the last two or three days, and that criticism, I hope, will result in some progress in the health administration.
Now I come to paragraphs 16 d and e, which refer to the steps taken in connexion with cases of venereal disease, and read as follow: -
The royal commission in its quotation from Ruling 83 (4) of the Repatriation Commission had evidently not noticed an addition to that ruling, which was adopted by the Repatriation Commission on the 8th October, 1923, namely - except where the commission is satisfied that the nature of the shock and strain of war service has materially influenced the onset of their latent sequelae.
The sequelae are often delayed, it may be for ten, fifteen, or twenty years.
– Or even longer than that.
– That is so; but in all these cases definite arrangements are being made, not to treat them, but to refer them by telephone or letter to the various clinics that have been established in every capital city. There are excellent clinics in Melbourne at two of the teaching schools, and there is also a night clinic in some portion of the city. All cases are referred to these clinics, and we follow them up to ascertain whether they have submitted themselves for treatment. At the same time, honorable members must bear in mind that we have no authority whatever over the patients, and cannot demand that they shall submit themselves to definite treatment until they are cured.
– The state has that power.
– A number of the states have passed acts, but most of them are in abeyance.
– In justice to Victoria, I should say that very good work is being done in that respect here.
– I am glad to hear that. There is one other recommendation, to which I desire to refer, namely, 16 j, which is as follows:-
That where it is necessary to appoint a trustee for the pension of alcoholics, it should be a public officer rather than a wife or a personal friend.
This is practically the only recommendation by the commission with which I disagree. The Chairman of the Repatriation Commission tells me that there are a great number of cases in which the wife, by reason, of her special qualifications and control over her husband, is the most suitable person to act as the trustee for the children. This is a discretionary power which must be left with the Repatriation Commissioners. The Royal Commissioners point out clearly the work that they are doing, and I refer honorable members to the findings of the commission.
I am very pleased to say that there are certain aspects of the work of repatriation which are most gratifying. I find that the total death-rate amongst soldiers who are receiving pensions is no greater than amongst the civilian community. This is a most satisfactory state of affairs, and was not foreseen when the Repatriation Acts were passed. Honor able members may ask why is there an increase every year in’ the expenditure on the department, since the war has been over for seven years. It was estimated that the third year would be the peak period in connexion with all payments in connexion with the war, but we now find that we have not yet reached the peak. Last year was more costly than the previous twelve months, and if I administer the Repatriation Act for the remainder of this Parliament there will probably be an increased expenditure to the extent of between £100,000 and £200,000 for which the Government will have to make provision.
– Is that due to an increase in the number of cases or an increase in the amounts to be paid?
– It is due to the fact that the Minister is reviewing every case that is sent direct to him. Frequently honorable members complain that to repeated applications for consideration of particular cases they have received no reply. That may be perfectly true. I do not deny it, but I do deny that those cases have come before me personally. Any request sentto me from an applicant himself or sent on behalf of his dependants by an honorable member of this House is dealt with by me personally. I open the letter, and examine the file from beginning to end, and if there is one shadow of medical doubt - I may say that nearly all the repatriation problems that arise to-day are of a medical nature - I refer the case to a special medical advisory committee which sits in Melbourne whenever required, and is composed of leading surgical and medical men.
– Does the Minister make available the previous medical reports.
– Yes; I make every report available, and no item in connexion with the case is overlooked. If honorable members had the right to supplement my statement to-day, there are some present who -would be able to say that they have been permitted to go through the files carefully; that after certain facts have been discovered cases have been referred to the medical advisory committee, with the result that some soldiers who had been refused pensions previously, or had not received them for some years, are now in receipt of them. This committee was not appointed with the object of dealing with definite cases, but with the special object of laying down principles for the guidance of the Repatriation Commissioners. I have used this committee, however, in another way. I have already so employed it that if there is any shadow of medical doubt a case may be referred to the committee, and I shall point out what has actually occurred. The committee was formed on the 19th February, 1919, and it worked under the original conditions until the 16th January. 1925. dealing with 107 individual cases. I took over the department at that time, and since then the committee has dealt with 120 cases. The result of its work should be extremely interesting to those honorable members who say that we are making no effort whatever to review the appeals which are outstanding, and have been frequently submitted during the last four or five years.
– The department is holding up cases.
– The honorable member cannot say that.
– I say that definitely.
– The honorable member has a perfect right to say it, but he cannot sustain his argument in the face of the evidence I am now giving.
– The department even holds up a reply for six weeks.
– No less than 120 cases have been sent to the committee since the 16th January last, as compared with 107 individual cases dealt with during the preceding five years. I am pleased to say of that number 69 applications have been acceded to. Forty have been rejected, and eleven deferred for further particulars.
– Does not that indicate that there should be a change in the personnel of the commission?
SirNEVILLE HOWSE.- Does it not indicate to the honorable member that the Minister, not because of excess of ability, but because he happens to belong to the medical profession and is prepared to sweat over the files, is making some effort to deal with every case?
– The Minister cannot deal with every case himself.
– I intend to deal with every case myself. The commission was not appointed for the purpose of elucidating medical problems, but to administer the act. The Repatriation Commission is not competent to elucidate problems of a medical nature. It is very difficult for a layman to say whether a medical problem exists or not. If we were to have a committee to deal with every case, it would have to sit permanently, and men of the class composing the advisory committee are earning ten times the amount we should be able to offer them judging by the salaries attaching to other appointments.
– Will the Minister deal with any cases that honorable members on this side submit to him?
-Not any case, but every case that a member will give me notice of, and every case that is sent direct to me. When I am unable to carry out that duty, which, I believe, devolves upon the Minister in charge of repatriation, I shall retire from the office of Minister for Repatriation.
– Is the honorable gentleman the Minister for Repatriation?
– Who is, if I am not?
– I do not know.
– Order ! I ask the honorable the Minister to proceed.
– Pensions were considerably liberalized when the 1920 act was passed, and in the following years the expenditure on pensions increased until in 1924-5 it amounted to £7,178,226. This financial year the Government has budgeted for an annual expenditure of £7,200,000. But this increase will not wholly meet the need? A number of fresh claims are still being received and acceded to, and these new charges more than balance the decrease due to the deaths of pensioners, the remarriage of widows, and the adolescence of dependent children. The money required for pensions is steadily increasing, and I take it that the increase will continue for a few years.
– The trouble is that your department is unpopular.
– The administration of war pensions should be handed back to the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Commissioners.
– It was the wish of the Government that I should take the action I have, and, wherever a definite doubt exists, give the benefit of that doubt to the applicant. I ask honorable members to be reasonable. A War Pensions Act, like all other legislation, must be based on some definite principle. This measure is based on the principle of the payment of a pension because of disability arising from or caused by war service. I admit that there are a tremendous number of hard cases of men who cannot maintain themselves owing, not to illness, but to their inability to get work. There is a most sympathetic administration, and if Parliament thought fit we could have a fund to deal with every man who has been on service. But we who have been on active service have been accused of claiming that we are the only human beings with the right to exist, and to claim any such special privilege for ourselves, because we had the honour to serve our country, as against those who did not serve, would be ridiculous, and would be playing into the hands of those who think that we are asking for too much.
– It must be presumed that war service has affected these men. as against the ordinary civilian.
– The civilian also has his rights.
– I can assure honorable members that it is the wish of the Government that the Repatriation Act should be administered liberally and with sympathy. There is no question of charity in dealing with war pensions. The people of the country insist that those who served shall be treated with justice and generosity.
Debate resumed from 27th July, 1923 (vide page 1757, vol. 104), on motion by Sir Littleton Groom -
Th at the bill be now read a second time.
.- This is a very small bill, but it is important, inasmuch as its object is to secure uniformity of nationality through out the Empire. Before the war the children of the first, second, and third generation born abroad of British fathers were British subjects. An alteration was made, but as a result of representations by British communities in different parts of the world, the Government of Great Britain restored the conditions existing prior to 1914, and the bill before us will make Australian legislation uniform with that in Great Britain. It should commend itself to honorable members.
.- I should like the Attorney-General to state whether the Government will grant the request of many women’s organizations in Australia, who desire that Australian women married to aliens should not lose their British nationality. I can understand why the present bill, the object of which is to secure uniformity, does not include that provision, but I ask the Attorney-General to say whether, in his opinion representations ought to be made to the Imperial Government with a view to securing a further amendment of the act in this direction.
.- Many representations have been made to me on the same lines as those mentioned by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). There is a genera] demand by women’s organizations in Australia that an amendment should be made so that Australian women who marry aliens may not lose their nationality. The women seem to have a good argument to support their case.
. - I know that there has been some correspondence between different parts of the Empire regarding the nationality of women who marry aliens. If the requested amendment were made in this bill, we should confer a boon on the members of the fair sex. A number of Australian women are married to Germans, and immediately on their marriage they become German nationals. In some cases, when their husbands were sent out of the country, they went with them. I do not know whether they were sent with them, but one might say that they were, seeing that they were German citizens. Women should be free to say whether they retain their own nationality or accept the nationality of their husbands.
.- I support the remarks of the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb). Australia is leading democracy by placing women on a political equality with men, and if we adopt the suggestion of the honorable member, and say that a woman who marries an alien shall retain her nationality unless she sacrifices it by an act of renunciation, we shall place the women of this country where the nation desires them to be. We gave a lead to the Englishspeaking world, after many a difficult fight, when we conferred the vote upon women, and it would be only logical to place them on the same plane as men in the matter of nationality.
.- I support the bill and the remarks of the previous speaker, but there is one difficulty regarding which I should like to be informed. If children have an Australian mother and a German father, what nationality are they?
– Let them take the nationality of the mother, according to the old Roman custom.
– That would raise certain difficulties.
.- Western Australian membershave received communications from the Women’s Public Service Guild, Perth, relating to the nationality of the wives of aliens. The Public Service Guild is an entirely non-party organization which has interested itself keenly in this question. I shall never forget the painful scene I witnessed during the war in the Town of Albany. Several Jugo-Slavs, who were then Austrian subjects, were being embarked with their Australian wives and children. The women and children were weeping bitterly on the wharf at the prospect of being sent from their own country to a country they had never seen, and among people whose language they did not know. I could not help thinking of the remark of Abraham Lincoln, who, when he saw women being sold on the slave block in New Orleans, said, “ If ever I get a chance to knock that system, I will knock it.” Any system that makes it possible for Australian women and children to be sent abroad in this way in time of war, or at any other time, should be abolished, and there should be no chance of such things recurring in the future. I trust that the Minister will see his way clear to insert the desired amendment in this bill. War is bad enough in all conscience, but we ought not to say that the women of the country shall not be allowed to remain here because their husbands happen to be nationals of an enemy country.
– I ask honorable members to pass the bill in its present form, because it is highly desirable that our legislation should be uniform with that of other parts of the British Empire. The issue raised by honorable members is a very important one, and will have to be very closely examined before I can make any definite promise on behalf of the Ministry. The subject is on the notice-paper in the name of an honorable member, and in the meantime I will convey to the Minister the views expressed by honorable members, so that every consideration will be given to the subject.
– Will it mean bringing down another amending bill?
– If it is considered to be necessary, yes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title and citation).
.- I ask the Minister if it is not possible to accept a small amendment to the bill to allow Australianborn women who marry aliens the right to retain their nationality, notwithstanding the marriage service.
– That subject was mentioned on the second reading, and I told honorable members that I would consult with the. Minister to whose department this matter relates. The honorable member must realize that the alteration of a nationality measure on the spur of the moment may lead to serious consequences. It may affect the status of persons and particularly the position of children, and I cannot promise to accept any amendment until I have an opportunity of considering it.
– May such women regain their nationality by naturalization?
– At present through marriage they become aliens. That is the whole trouble. Naturally, the desire is to keep the law relating to nationality uniform within the Empire.
– Does not the bill provide for that?
– It provides for uniformity. When the war was concluded, certain persons born abroad who desired to regain their British nationality, found that they had been deprived of that right by an alteration of the law in England. This bill is based on the British legislation.
Mr.LAZZARINI (Werriwa) [3.48].- It seems to be the general opinion of honorable members that something should be done to enable Australian women, who are married to aliens, to retain their nationality. We are not expecting a war to-morrow, and surely it would not affect the position if this bill, which purports to make uniform the laws respecting nationality within the Empire, were delayed until next Wednesday.
Mr.FENTON (Maribyrnong) [3.49]. - The Attorney-General has laid great stress upon the necessity for uniformity in respect of nationality lawswithin the Empire, but surely that does not preclude us from passing legislation that may be a little out of harmony with that existing elsewhere, if we consider it a desirable advance. We have set an example in legislation in many ways - in respect of our franchise, for instance - and if we can make a greater advance respecting the relative rights of men and women, let us do so by all means. There is no need for us to confine ourselves to absolute uniformity in regard to our laws and those of the rest of the Empire.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 2 to 4 agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill, by leave, read a third time.
. - I have to inform the House that theAddress-in-Reply will be presented to His Excellencythe GovernorGeneral, at Government House, at halfpast 2 o’clock on Wednesday next.
– For the information of honorable members, I wish to inform them that cars will be at the steps of Parliament House at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, andI trust that asmany honorable members as find it convenient will accompany me to the Governor-General’s residence.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) proposed -
That theHouse do now adjourn.
.- Will the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) request the Government Printer to allow time off to Mr. Ernest Bean, late secretary of the Victorian Cricket Association, to enable him to complete his annual report, which is very anxiously awaited? This is a small matter, and although the Printing Office is not wholly under the control of the Commonwealth Government, I ask the Prime Minister to give this request favorable consideration.
– I promise the honorable member that I shall look into the matter, but he will, of course, recognize that there is a principle involved, and that if this official is allowed timeoff, it may establish a precedent.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.54 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 August 1925, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1925/19250821_reps_9_111/>.