9th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker (Rt. Hon. W. A. Watt) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Exemption of Papua and Mandated
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs advise me whether any decision has been arrived at regarding the exemption of Papua and the Mandated Territories from the coasting trade provisions of the Navigation Act?
– Very careful consideration has been given by the Government to the many representations that have been made regarding this matter, and particularly to the majority report of the royal commission on navigation, just received. It has been decided by the Government to exempt the Territories under section 7 of the Navigation Act from certain of its provisions. The action now proposed will bring Papua and New Guinea into line with the Northern Territory, Nauru Island, and Norfolk Island in this regard.
Disqualification of Residents for Election tothe Parliament.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral is it a fact that persons residing at Canberra are ineligible to contest elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate? If so, will the honorable gentleman take steps to remove that disqualification from residents of the Federal Territory?
– The honorable gentleman has asked me as a question of fact, what is really a question of law, and it is not usual to reply to questions raising questions of law. The matter he mentions is one of considerable importance, and I assure him that it is now receiving very close attention. The honorable member wrote me a letter on the subject, and I have already given his letter very close attention.
– The Minister for Trade and Customs will recollect that, some few months ago, I introduced to him a deputation representing Australian artists and writers, who asked that encouragement should be given to the production of children’s story books by Australian artists and writers. The honorable gentleman promised that the matter would receive consideration. I now ask him whether he is prepared to do anything in this way to encourage Australian writers and artists?
– My honorable friend will remember that the leader of the deputation to which he has referred promised to supply me with certain figures and arguments with regard to what could or could not be done if the request of the deputation were considered. I have not yet received those figures and arguments, and until they are received the matter will be delayed.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed a statement reportedto have been made by Senator DrakeBrockman in Great Britain, with regard to his attendance atthe Geneva Conference of the Assembly of the League of Nations, to the effect that the Government were sending him on a secret mission? Is the rumour current in Perth during Senator Drake-Brockman’s presence theremonth or two ago, that after the Geneva Conference he was to replace Sir J. A. M. Elder as Australian Commissioner to the United States of America, correct?
– Senator DrakeBrockman is not proceeding to America on any secret mission for the Government. There is notruth whatever in the rumor referred to in the second part of the honorable member’s question.
Restrictions upon Local Manufacture ofaccessoriesandparts.
– I wish to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs a question based upon a complaint made to me in Sydney last week. Is the honorable gentleman aware that certain American firms manufacturing motor cars and harvester machines are preventing their Australian agents from locally manufacturing accessories and parts, and have threatened to withdraw their agencies unless the local agents refrain from manufacturing these accessories and parts ? If so, will the Minister take action with a view to . preventing this unwarrantable interference with Australian industries.
– If the honorable member will supply me with some private information regarding the matter, I shall have immediate inquiries made.
Advances to Wine-growers.
– Will the Prime Minister as soon as assent has been given to the Commonwealth Bank Rural Credits Bill seek to make its provisions available for the relief of wine-growers in view of the fact that the capital of certain cooperative companies marketing their vintage has had to be used for the payment of excise duty?
– There is no reason why the Commonwealth Bank Rural -Credits Bill should not be put into operation by the bank almost immediately it becomes law. It will then be possible for the producers to whom the- honorable member has referred to make application through their co-operative organizations to take advantage of the facilities afforded by the rural credits department of the Commonwealth Bank.
Payment for Holiday
– The Prime Minister will remember that I directed his attention to the fact that employees of Cockatoo Island Dockyard were compelled to take a holiday on the occasion of the arrival of the American Fleet at Sydney. I asked him to see that the men were not deprived of pay for that day. The right honorable gentleman promised to give consideration to the request, but so far the men have not received pay. Is it the intention of the Government tq pay these men for the holiday -which they were forced to take?
– This matter is still being inquired into, and the honorable member -will be given a reply as soon as possible.
asked tha Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow;: - 1 and 2. Advances under the Dried Fruits Advances Act 1924 have been made as follows: -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable’ member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Mr. C. C. Judd (temporary), £750 per annum.
Mr. J. J. Feain (temporary) . Is also manager Commonwealth Bank, Rabaul.
Mr. Egan is a qualified accountant, and has had over three years’ experience of the board’s requirements, as he has been employed in the New Guinea Trade Agency, Sydney, which does the buying and selling in Australia for the board.
Mr.Feain is the manager of the Commonwealth Bank at Kabaul, and is acting temporarily as board memberpending the arrival in the Territory of Lieutenant-Colonel Peck and Mr.Egan.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– As stated in a recent reply to the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney), it is not the practice to comment on press reports such as that referred to.
asked the Minister for Def ence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Worksand Railways, upon notice -
– The Commonwealth Railways Commissioner has advised as follows : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will lie inform the House when the royal commission on national insurance was “ specifically asked to consider the possibility of associating the present machinery of friendly societies with the national insurance administration,” as stated by hi.m in his recent budget speech ?
– The desire of the Govern ment that the royal commission should deal with the matter referred to was indicated in the budget speech delivered on the 26th July, 1923, when the intentions of the Government as to the appointment of the commission were announced.
– On the 14th July, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. T. Francis) asked the following question : -
What is the amount of preference per annum granted respectively *by the United Kingdom and the Dominion of Canada on each primary product imported into each country from the Commonwealth of Australia!
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The figures for the year 1923 are as fol: low: -
As a result of the work done at the Economic Conference in London, in 1923, the British preference on Australian goods has recently been generously extended, but detailed statements relating to the trade of the United Kingdom for the year 1924 will not be available until about the end of 1925. It is consequently not possible at present to furnish particulars of the amount of the preference granted in respect of a period subsequent to the year 1923.
Canada. - Up to the present, Canada has granted no preference to Australian goods, but in the treaty now nearing completion provision is made for generous preferences on a number of Australian primary products.
.- I move-
That a select committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the circumstances leading up to the retirement of Mr. Mark Baker Young from the service of the Commonwealth Bank, and into the complaints and charges indicated in his letter of the 15th October, 1923, to the then Acting Governor of the Bank; such committee to consist of Mr. Brennan, Mr. Gregory, Mr. Mackay, Mr. Maxwell, Mr. Frederick McDonald, Mr. Edward Riley, and the Mover, five to form a quorum; with power to send for persons, papers, and records, and 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 one month from this day.
In submitting this motion, I feel that there are certain restrictions imposed upon me because the Standing Orders require that the mover of such a motion must perforce be a member of the select committee if it is appointed. It appears to me that any committee inquiring into this case must be of a strictly judicial nature. It is essential that not only the mover of the motion, but also every other member of the committee should enter upon a consideration of the case without prejudice or without ^partisanship. I take it that it is the duty of the mover of the motion for a select commiittee simply to present to the House such facta as may constitute prima facie evidence, justifying the inquiry. Necessarily such evidence must be ex parte in character. I have no personal interest in this matter. I do not even know Mr. Kell by sight. I did not know Mr. Young before my inquiries, and I am not intimately acquainted with him now. To enable honorable members to judge for themselves whether there is prima facie evidence calling for an inquiry, it is necessary that I should review to some extent the past career of Mr. Young. Before entering the Commonwealth Bank Mr.
Young was for 30 years with the Colonial Bank. In 1912 he occupied the position of Inspector of Branches of that institution. He was then appointed to the Commonwealth Bank by the late Sir Denison Miller, as the first manager of its Melbourne branch. He remained with the bank until the 17th October, 192t!. During the period from 1912 to 1923 he occupied, first, the position of manager in Melbourne and Sydney, and afterwards, and until the date of his retirement, was then called inspector, but was really the chief inspector of the bank. In ordinary circumstances his office ranked next to that of the Deputy Governor. Sir Denison Miller died in June, 1923, and Mr. Kell was appointed Acting Governor.*! During Mr. Kell’s control of the bank certain circumstances arose which led to Mr. Young’s retirement. Mr. Kell affirmed that Mr. Young failed to get on with other officers, and Mr. Young asserts that he was practically forced to retire, and that if he failed to get on with other officers the fault was wholly theirs. Moreover, he made certain serious charges against the management, and they constitute the reasons for an inquiry. His charges and statement of the circumstances surrounding his retirement are contained in a letter to the Acting Governor (Mr. Kell), dated the 15th October, 1923, four months after the death of Sir Denison Miller. I do not intend to take up the time of the committee by reading the whole of that letter, but I shall quote certain portions of it which I think justify an inquiry. Many of the statements are personal, and I do not think that a claim for a select committee could be justly based on the individual grievances of an officer. In any large institution individuals at times consider that they have grievances. The only question that arises in such circumstances is whether the interests of the individual are to be weighed against the interests of the institution. It might be argued that if an inquiry is to be granted into the individual grievances of one officer, those of any other, even of an office boy, should be similarly investigated. The services of a select committee should not be lightly invoked, nor should this House in ordinary circumstances be asked to adjudicate upon the differences of individuals on the staff of a largo institution. But Mr. Young makes charges of mismanagement against the high officers in the bank, and suggests that those charges were the cause of his enforced retirement. To have a claim upon the attention of the House such charges must come from an officer occupying a very high position in the bank. If a junior officer alleged mismanagement on the part of his superiors, the majority of members would agree that his allegations were not necessarily worthy of inquiry by a select committee; but when the officer who was next in authority to the Deputy Governor makes charges of mismanagement, they call for grave consideration. Parliament must be concerned in any serious and authoritative statement regarding the management of a great Commonwealth institution. In Mr. Youngs letter is a statement attributed to Mr. Kell, and not denied by him, that Mr. Young had not failed in his duties as inspector, and that he had always got on well with him (Mr. Kell). I mention that statement in anticipation of any suggestion that Mr. Young’s retirement was essential to the maintenance of discipline within the bank. Mr. Young made the definite accusation that the war loan registers had never been adjusted, and that their condition waa a scandal.
– What does he mean by “ adjusted “?
– I understand that he means that the registers had not been properly kept, and that transfers of stock could not be traced. Further, he asserted that there exists in the bank a cabal, or inner circle, of higher officers, who help each other to suppress any criticism of the management.
– Would it not be better to read Mr. Young’s exact statement instead of merely summarizing it V
– I shall do so. It is hardly necessary to read the whole of the letter.
– That, I think, is quite unnecessary, but the House should know exactly what Mr. Young did say about the specific matters mentioned by the honorable member.
– The first charge was that the registers were in a shocking condition. These are Mr. Young’s actual words -
At the same time X remind you that the position of the war loan registries, which have not to this day been adjusted, amounted to u scandal, and constituted the gravest possible reflection upon the officer of the bank who was clearly responsible for the communication to the press to whichI have referred.
To that communication I have not considered it necessary to refer.
– Was that officer suspended?
– That has nothing to do with the case. This is a changeagainst the management of the bank. If the Prime Minister will permit me not to disturb the continuity of my remarks I shall shortly endeavour to quote other portions of the letter, which I think I have marked, but which I cannot for the moment locate. The next charge is one of improper treatment of the inspector’s reports on the Sydney branch, which he had declared to be inefficient. Apparently, in this instance, the charge is that Mr. Kell did not properly support Mr. Young, as an inspector having the right to point out irregularities. Another charge is one against the management of the bank of resistance to necessary reforms, two of which Mr. Young specifically sets out. The first has relation to the savings bank system, and the second to a self-clearing system between the branches of the bank. These are reforms which Mr. Young, as inspector, had recommended to the management, but which it had neglected tocarry out.I admit, of course, that it was within the authority of the management to disregard those recommendations. But it is suggested by Mr. Young that because of hismaking these recommendations, and because of his criticism of the management, he was finally removed from the staff of the bank. It seems to me that these charges are sufficiently serious to justify an inquiry. Had Mr. Young made the charges lightly, and without justification, simply in furtherance of some personal grievance, he would be worthy of severe censure. If he has done that he must accept responsibility for his action and take the risk of any reprimand which may be administered if the proposed committee considers that the charges were unjustified. But it seems to me that the charges themselves call for attention. If it is contended that this House should not interfere with the bank at all, and that because the institution was established under a special act and made free from political control no authority should be exercised over the management of the bank by this House except by the passage of amending legislation, that is a very important and weighty argument. But if it can be definitely shown that there has been gross mismanagement of the bank, who is there to exercise author rity over it except this Parliament ? As the bank was constituted there was no super-authority at all. I do not suggest that the grossest abuses have occurred, but, if there have been abuses, there is nobody to. correct them unless this House takes upon itself the responsibility of inquiring into them. The Commonwealth Bank, which was constituted by Parliament, has done great work, andI wish to be guarded in my statements. I do not suggest that abuses have taken place. I wish to enter upon the inquiry with an open mind; but if definite charges of mismanagement are made by a responsible officer, they certainly merit further inquiry. There is a particular reason why the House might reasonably be asked to intervene in this case, namely, that the retirement of Mr. Young,which he alleges took place owing to the pressure brought to bear upon him on account of his reports, occurred at a particular time and under peculiar circumstances. It was during the interregnum in the control of the bank. The Governor had died, and the Deputy Governor had been appointed Acting Governor. Although the Acting Governor undoubtedly had all the authority of a Governor, so far as the administration of the bank was concerned, he was the official who made this change, and there was nobody to interfere with him. It was at a time when questions with regard to the future management of the bank were under grave consideration, and there was nobody to intervene between the Acting Governor and the officer, who, because he objected to the alleged mismanagement, was removed. Therefore no authority, except this House, can intervene at the present time. That there were some apparent prima facie grounds for an inquiry was, in effect, acknowledged by the Government, in that it offered to refer the inquiry to the present directors of the bank. Mr. Young has objected to that course being followed, and, I think with acertain amount of reason. Not only from his own point of view, but also from the point of view of the new directors, I think that it was hardly a satisfactory solution of the difficulty. This board has been newly appointed, and it has taken on the management under entirely new conditions. It has to work with Mr. Kell, who is the principal person concerned in this charge, and it was certainly a little unreasonable, I think, to ask, that the board, as one of its first duties, should undertake an’ inquiry into the conduct of a colleague, who alone had come over from the old management and had to work under new conditions. It did not seem to me to be quite fair or just to the new directors, and from Mr. Young’s point of view I think it might reasonably be said that it would be difficult to insure that such an inquiry would be entirely fair to him. I shall not say impartial, for that seems . to imply that the directors would be deliberately prejudiced against him.
– One of them would be.
– I do not desire to introduce personalities. I wish to deal with the matter in a purely impartial spirit. It seems to me that the dice must be loaded against Mr. Young, if the other party to the dispute was. one of the colleagues of the board which was asked to adjudicate upon it.
– Was the board appointed subsequent to the reports by the inspector ?
– Yes; it was appointed subsequent to Mr. Young’s retirement, which took place during the interregnum, when Mr. Kell was acting Governor. By passing the amending Commonwealth Bank Bill the House has already admitted that the old form of authority required alteration, and that for other reasons a different board and different conditions of management were desirable. It may also be suggested that an alteration was required for internal reasons; I do not say that it was, but it is equally reasonable to suppose that it, might be. This, in itself, seems to suggest that the House should certainly look back to the period before the regime of the present board, consider the management of the bank as it was originally constituted, and ascertain whether in this and other respects it was all that was expected of it. In the amending bill it was recognized, particularly, that the interests of officers specially, required safeguarding. A board was created to try to prevent com plaints or disaffection from arising, in any section of the staff. What Mr. Young asks for is, that if some such cause of offence has occurred in his case, a similar right should be given to him, having in view, especially, that he was a highlyplaced and responsible officer. It may be alleged that Mr. Young was not qualified for the position he held, and complaints to that effect may have been made by Mr. Kell. If Mr. Young had no right to the position, who was responsible - Mr. Young, Mr. Kell, or the late Sir Denison Miller, who placed him in his position?
He was called an inspector, but his position was equivalent to that of chief inspector. The statements to which I have referred have been circulating for some time, and have been mentioned on several occasions in this. House. It is most desirable that the matter should be dealt with openly, and finally disposed of. It is not satisfactory that rumours of this kind regarding an important public institution should be unanswered.
A3 regards the conditions under which Mr.
Young finally severed his connexion with tlie bank, I would point out that he states that Mr. Kell endeavoured to force him to resign, and that pressure was put upon him in a very extraordinary manner. He was informed that he could be retained on the staff of the bank only in an inferior position to that which he had previously occupied, or, in other words, that he must be degraded. The principal charge alleged against him was that he could not work amicably with other officers - virtually, that he was an intractable man. He challenged that statement, and no definite charges were brought against him, but, on the contrary, only one year before his retirement he was appointed by the authorities . of the bank as a delegate to the PanPacific Commercial Conference, which was held in Honolulu in October, 1922, and in the latter part of his engagement he had specially committed to him the very important duty of valuing banks, for the acquisition of which negotiations were proceeding. I can hardly conceive of any work in a bank that is more important or responsible, and his appointment to such a position makes it difficult for me to believe that he was turned out of the bank because he was intractable. If there are other charges against him, if it can be definitely proved by the management that he was unsuitable for his position, the facts should be published. If the proposed committee decides that the charges are not substantiated, it will be its duty to say so, and then the blame for bringing the matter before the public will rest with Mr. Young. At the present time we are simply considering exparte statements, but I suggest to the House that those statements are sufficiently important to warrant further investigation, and that the charges are such that they should be answered, not merely in private communications, but in public, and by the management of the bank. If the management of the bank feels justified in doing so, it should come out into the open and meet this challenge with an equal challenge. I hope that in presenting this matter to the House I have avoided any undue exhibition of prejudice or partisanship. I assure the House thatI have none. If this committee is appointed and I become a member of it, I intend to sift the allegations on both sides tothe bottom, and I am equally prepared, according to the evidence, to censure either Mr. Young for the action he has taken, or Mr. Kell for his attitude to Mr. Young. I leave the matter entirely in the hands of honorable members.I ask the House not to consti- tute itself at this stage a final judge of the details of the case, but to determine whether, on the facts I have cited, there is a prima facie case calling for further inquiry.
– This subject has been discussed in this House on a previous occasion, and has been referred to several times. The motion now submitted provides me with an opportunity to explain the facts. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) saidhe did not think that the appointment of committees to investigate merely personal grievances was justified. In that I entirely agree, for it would be intolerable if all the personal grievances of public servants could be the subject of discussion in this House and of the appointment of commissions or committees of inquiry. I agree that if the allegations made reflect upon the management of the bank, an investigation should be made. I shall place the charges fairly before honorable members so that they may understand their seriousness, and determine the most suitable manner in which to deal with them. The whole case is based upon a letter written by Mr. Young on the 15th October, 1923. At a later date - mainly because of remarks made in this House when this matter was before us previously - that gentleman was asked whether there were any other matters of which he complained. He replied that his charges were all contained in his letter. At no time has Mr. Young suggested that additional matters required investigation. His whole case rests upon the statements in his letter, from which the mover of the motion (Mr. Mann) has this afternoon read extracts, referring in a general way to other matters dealt with in it. A considerable part of the letter discusses the offer of a position to Mr. Young, which he decided not to accept, because its acceptance would have required him to leave Sydney to reside elsewhere. The letter deals also with the compensation payable to him in the event of his retiring from the service of the bank; and it is suggested in it that other officers of the . bank entertained a personal animus against him, and desired to get rid of him. The letter commenced -
You have made your desire tocompel my retirement from the service of the bank very clear. It is very evident that, at any cost, you are determined thatI shall no longer be able to serve the Commonwealth Bank.
Personal references to other officials of the bank occur. Dealing with the attitude of Mr. Kell towards him, Mr. Young writes -
I informed you that I attributed your design to the malign influence which has so long been at work to undermine me. … I asserted that such a charge was a fabrication to discredit me, and had no foundation.
The latter portion refers to the charge that Mr. Young was a difficult person to work with. In another portion of the letter, it is stated that -
I presume that no other waybut to reiterate this calumny presented itself to those who were so active to thwart and prejudice me, to their own personal advantage.
Anotherpassage reads -
The fact is that a deliberate plan has been followed to create this feeling by studied aggression and encroachments, which have not been checked. You informed me that in the past you were not able to check the chief mover in this direction, even if you had wished to do so. I acquainted you with the fact that I was not unaware of the opinions entertained by some of the members of the coterie regarding one another, which, to say the least, are not altogether flattering to them. That, however, is -more or less irrelevant to a statement of »ny own case.
Those extracts are all in the nature of a statement of a personal grievance, which the mover of the motion said should be put aside by the House when dealing with this case. While agreeing with that view, J. draw attention to the tone adopted in the letter. There can be little doubt that when Mr. Young wrote it, he was convinced that there was something like a conspiracy against him, and that every man’s hand was against him. That conviction permeates the whole communication. The most important part of the letter is that in which definite charges are made regarding the administration, and the position of the bank. It is stated that-
It is true that in ‘the course of my duties I have at times had to reflect adversely on the conditions of affairs under the control of some of those officers, but I challenge them to prove that at any time any comment of mine was ever made in other than an impersonal and impartial manner. lief erring to another matter, Mr. Young says -
Then when I inspected the Sydney office subsequently, the reply of the manager to tlie comments that arose was couched in a most remarkable form. I do not think that so much bitterness has ever been imparted into such a communication. To substitute personalities for- an explanation of the matter complained of is, I believe, a novel form of procedure in replying to the inspector’s observations.
The first of the definite charges deals with the condition of the war loan registers. About this, Mr.’ Young said -
I have already alluded to the condition of the War Loan Department. True, the provision of a proper system was undertaken by myself only in consequence of the failure to do so of the officer who should have introduced the necessary scheme. The opposition, obstruction, and delay which followed are matters of record, and, as I have already said, the registries have not even now been completely reconciled. I have often thought it is providential that the bank escaped, with so few frauds in connexion with the War Savings Certificates, as well as bonds and inscribed stock, as have come to light. . . .’ At the same time, I reminded you that the position of the war loan registries - which, have not to this day been adjusted - amounted to a scandal, and constituted the gravest possible reflection upon the officer of the bank who was clearly responsible for the communication to the press to which I have referred.
The state of the war loan registers was referred to in this House on a previous occasion, and the Auditor-General has stated in a report that the books revealed a discrepancy. But it must be remembered that, during a period of nearly ten years, war loans amounting to approximately £300,000,000 were issued- borrowing of a magnitude never before attempted in Australia - and that the bank’s staff was depleted by the enlistment of good men for active service. In these circumstances, to make much of a discrepancy of £3,500 is to exaggerate the seriousness of the position.
– If the books had been properly kept, there would have been no discrepancy.
– I admit that; but the honorable member must bear in mind the magnitude of these transactions, and the difficulties encountered. In another part of his letter to Mr. Kell, Mr. Young says -
While on the subject, perhaps, I might mention that I had the same difficulty in connexion with other matters for the’ benefit of the bank. These schemes were not in all cases of my own initiation, but they had been unwarrantably set aside by officers to whom they had been referred, and I had great difficulty in eventually having them brought into practice. The introduction of one of these systems enabled the balancing in tlie savings bank department to be carried out promptly and effectively. This removed the disorder which previously prevailed owing to the incessant demands made upon the staff in their endeavours to balance under the old system. The selfclearing system between branches, with which you yourself arc familiar, is another instance in which the adoption of modern methods was blocked. This system still awaits introduction.
Those quotations all refer to things which Mr. Young wanted done, but which were not done because of the difficulty of putting them into operation. It is conceivable that, in the administration of the affairs of the bank, there may have been considerable differences of opinion among its officers, but honorable members will agree that when such differences of opinion occur, the junior officer must give way, and the decisions of the senior officers must prevail. Other than the reference to the condition of the war loan registers, there are no serious charges in Mr. Young’s letter. It deals principally with differences of opinion between himself and those with whom he was associated. Beyond the statements in the letter, no charges at all have been made. It is upon those statements that the action to be taken must bc determined. After this matter was last referred to in this chamber, the Government went very fully into it again, and came to the conclusion that, on the evidence before it, an inquiry of a public character was not required. The statements concerned the detailed management of the bank, and suggested that things were- not as satisfactory as they should be. We considered that, at all events in the first place, this was obviously a matter for consideration by the board of directors of the bank. We accordingly invited Mr. Young to place his case before the board, so that it might consider it and report to the Government. I do not propose to read my letter to Mr. Young, announcing the decision of the Government, and inviting him to place any evidence he had before the board, and to make to it any personal representations he might consider advisable. But the last paragraph of the letter I sent to the board reads -
The Government is most anxious that the fullest investigation should take place with regard to this matter, and will be obliged if, after your board has considered Mr. Young’s representations, you will submit a report so as to enable the Government to decide whether the circumstances warrant any further action such as the appointment of an independent tribunal further to consider Mr. Young’s allegations.
That is the only course which the Government could properly have taken. In the interests of the bank, and in the interests of Mr. Young, it was only right that he should have an opportunity to further establish his case. Certainly no impartial person, after reading Mr. Young’s letter could say that a serious charge of mismanagement of the affairs of the Commonwealth Bank was made out. Mr. Young wrote in reply to the Government that he was not prepared to place his case before the bank directors, suggesting that they would not constitute an impartial tribunal. In reply, it was pointed out to him that it was not contemplated that- Mr. Kel] would sit on the board when it investigated the case ; that directors other than Mr. Kell would conduct the investigation. Mr. Young was not prepared to accept that arrangement ; nothing would satisfy him but an open inquiry. After further correspond- ence, I sent the whole of the papers in the possession of the Government to” the board of directors of the bank, and asked it to investigate the matter. The board communicated with Mr. Young, and inquired of him whether he would attend the investigation. He replied that he had intimated to me that he would not attend. Accordingly, the board went on with the investigation of the matter so far as it could in his absence. The whole board did not consider the matter ; a subcommittee, consisting of Sir Robert Gibson and Mr. Mackenzie Lees, was appointed by it to do so. I do not suppose that any one would suggest that those two gentlemen were prejudiced persons.
– I hope I did not suggest that.
– - Not at all. They had had no association with Mr. Kell prior to going upon the board of the bank. The report which they submitted to the. board of directors was forwarded to the Government, and is to the’ following effect : -
With regard to certain allegations made by Mr. Mark B. Young, contained in his communications to the Prime Minister, and especially covered by his letter of 18th December, 1924, which also refers to a letter addressed to Mr. James Kell, Acting Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, dated 15th October, 1923, and in regard to which the board appointed a sub-committee, consisting of Sir Robert Gibson and Mr. Mackenzie Lees to investigate and report to the board, your committee now submits its report in this connexion. In the absence of specific charges and Mr. Young’s refusal to submit same, your committee, after reviewing the communications connected with these matters, is unable to deal with them in otherwise than a general manner. Reduced to their simplest form these allegations seem to resolve themselves into two points: -
The treatment Mr. Young alleges he received from Mr. James Kell, the then Acting Governor, and from some of his colleagues, unnamed.
Further, that the position in respect of the war loan department alone amounts to a scandal, is not merely a matter pf audit but that much more was involved.
After carefully reading their report, I agreed with the finding. I say, with all respect to the mover of the motion, that really those are the only two substantial matters dealt with, and the letter contains no other serious allegations. The committee reported further -
In dealing with No. 1, it is submitted that prior to the letter of 15th October, 1923, no communication other than verbal appears to
Have passed between Mr.Young andthe acting’ Governor. Whilst Mr. Young makes certain statements against the acting Governor, your committee can find no evidence in support thereof. The matter, therefore, resolves itself into affirmation on the one side and negation on the other. In the absence of the names of those concerned it is obviously impossible for your committee to make amy investigation into Mr. Young’s charges against his former colleagues. Your committee desire to draw the attention of the board to the fact that whatever construction Mr. Young may place upon his severance from the service of the bank lie resigned rather than accept the inspectional duties assigned to him; and accepted such compensation as was offered to him by Mr. Kell. As Mr. Kellhas been specifically referred to your committee cannot do otherwise than report that the allegations made are not sustained by the evidence available. Further, your committee considers it incumbent that it should state that nothing has been disclosed in the course of its investigation that could reflect upon Mr. Kell, the then acting Governor in his conduct of the management of the bank. In regard to No. 2. It would appear that total discrepancies in connexion with the issue and inscription of bonds and stock up to 22nd November, 1924, amount to £3,453. It should be pointed out that this total covers the whole war loan period, and embraces control by both the Treasury and subsequently the bank. Having regard to the fact that during this period loans totalling £287,582,469 are involved, and the staffs of the departments concerned were depleted of experienced officers on account of war, it is by no means surprising that discrepancies should have occurred, whatever methods were employed for carrying on the work connected therewith.
– The right honorable gentleman will excuse my interrupting, but who benefited by the discrepancies?
– If we could say who got the money, there would probably be no discrepancy. The report continues- -
Efforts have consistently been made to trace these discrepancies totheir source, but the task would appear to be outside practical compass. Nothing which your committee has been able to trace justifies the expression that this matter amounts to “a scandal,” and it cannot discover any basis for the statement “that much more is involved.” It should further be pointed out that during the period in which these discrepancies occurred Mr. Kell was not the Governor of the bank. Your committee, of course, is quite, unable to carry out a complete investigation of the work of the departments concerned during the period covering these discrepancies, and whatever grounds Mr. Young may have felt that he had for criticizing the methods in rogue during the period referred to, your committee has the assurance of the Auditor-General that the system now in operation for dealing with loan records is such as to reasonably safeguard against a recurrence of such. See attached hereto letter tothe Auditor-General, and his reply thereto. Your committee has further to report that the suggestion of the Auditor-General for the creation of a control account for the purpose of additional check has now been established.
The matter for consideration is really what are the charges contained in Mr. Young’s letter of the 15th October, how serious are they, and what is the proper tribunal to consider them. We have first to determine whether any tribunal should consider them. I have said that, in my view, the letter contains no more than statements concerning the personal relations of Mr. Young with his fellow officers, and the charge with regard to the War Loan registers. There are suggestions about the management of the bank in regard to which Mr. Young says he was thwarted, but this again concerns the relations between him and other officials. In my view, it is impossible that Parliament should appoint a select committee to investigate charges of that character. If the charges made were sufficiently serious, much as one would desire that there should be no political or parliamentary interference with the bank, it would certainly be aproper thing to appoint a select committee, or a royal commission if necessary, to inquire into them. But I say that the charges are not of such a character. There is no case set out in the only document upon which Mr. Young relies to warrant such extreme action by Parliament. Because it is desirable that there should be no suggestion of anything wrong in the management of the bank, I thought it proper that the bank’s board of directors should be invited to make an investigation, ascertaining from the evidence which Mr. Young might submit to it, and from any other evidence it could get, exactly what the position was, and, having done so, should report to the Government so that, if the seriousness of the positiondisclosed warranted it, the Government could appoint a committee of investigation or obtain a royal commission to report upon the charges. The board’s final investigation was carried out in the absence of Mr. Young, who would not attend to give evidence. I submit that if he has evidence other than that contained in his letter of the 15th October, he should have made it known. His letter certainly does not, in my opinion, establish a prima facie case for the appointment of a select committee.
It is most undesirable that we should introduce any element of political interference into the affairs of the bank. On the evidence that we have at present, this matter is solely one arising out of a difference of opinion between two senior officers. In the conduct of any business, if it is to be successful, some one’s mind has to prevail, and when two officers cannot agree, the junior must in the end give way to the senior. I certainly advise honorable members not to accept this motion for the appointment of a committee, but to indorse the action of the Government, which I suggest was the right and proper one in all the circumstances.
– I approach this matter with an open mind, because I have been a bank employee, and I have inspected branches under the supervision of a chief inspector. I consider that when a chief inspector has reported to his senior officer - in this case the Acting Governor of the Commonwealth Bank - that there is a discrepancy in the war loan register of £3,453, the matter should be investigated. Some official or some person connected with that institution must have received that money. It represents a loss to the bank. When the defalcation was reported it was the duty of the Acting Governor, or whoever might have been in charge, to accept the report of the chief inspector and make an investigation. The officer responsible for that register was evidently unable to keep his books properly and must have been negligent in the performance of his duty. He and not the inspector should have been suspended or disrated. The inspector did his duty, and when he submitted his report, the Acting Governor of the bank should there and then have taken his advice and not that of a subordinate officer.
– This matter occurred years before, under the regime of Sir Denison Miller. It was not brought to the attention of Mr. Kell by Mr. Young. What Mr. Young told Mr. Kell constituted a scandal was something that had happened in the past.
– The fact remains chat the register had not been kept properly. I want to know who was the officer responsible, and who got the money. Evidently nobody knows. It may have been the officer in charge of the register. Because the inspector did his duty and wanted the matter investigated he was naturally regarded as a naughty boy.
– It is a grave matter.
– It is very serious. If a bank official loses a pound he has to make it good, but any money paid in excess is retained by the bank. Bank officials are expected to do their work accurately, and to keep their books properly. I commend the inspector for having done his duty. I am not acquainted with Mr. Yoting, but I contend that if a man has suffered an injustice by doing his duty, his case should certainly be investigated. ‘For that reason I shall vote for the motion.
.- It is not very often that I have the pleasure of heartily supporting a motion which has been moved and seconded by honorable members behind the Government, but I offer my support for what it is worth to the motion moved by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann). He has done me the honour of including my name in the list of members whom he wishes to form the proposed select committee, and perhaps, therefore, it is a little invidious for me, from one point of view, to discuss the subject at this stage. But I take it that in including my name he was to some extent influenced by the fact that I occupy a position in relation to the matter very similar to his own, in that I was associated with the discussion that took place in this chamber on the 9th October last, as he is associated with it now. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) and other honorable members on this side of the House also spoke during that discussion. I can assure the House that I have no desire to serve upon the committee if there is the slightest feeling amongst honorable members that by so doing the obtaining of an unbiased decision might be prejudiced in any way. There I leave the personal aspect of the case. [Needless to say, I regret very much that the Prime Minister took the stand that he is opposed to the appointment of this committee. He was opposed to it in October last. But I take it that he leaves the proposal for the appointment of a select committee, originating as it does from the Government side of the House, for the discussion and decision of the
House, free altogether from party considerations. .For my part I have not the slightest intention of making party capital out of it here or elsewhere. It would be a great pity if a matter of this kind, involving the control of a large Commonwealth institution, and the dispassionate consideration of whether justice or injustice has been done to a senior officer of the bank, were decided on merely party lines. I believe that those of us who favour the appointment of this committee have made some progress with the Prime Minister since October last, because when the right honorable gentleman was replying to the honorable member for Fawkner, who initiated this matter through a series of questions in this House, he said that the management of the Commonwealth Bank had been solely in the hands of the Governor of the Bank, and in future would be under a board of directors. Nothing had occurred to justify any want of confidence in the management, and it was, therefore, considered essential that in all matters of internal administration, and in the investigation of any charges the board should be free to take such action as it deemed fit and without political interference. That was the dictum of the Prime Minister on that occasion. I was glad to note from the speech of the Prime Minister this afternoon that he does not now take so strict a view regarding the limitation of the powers of this Parliament to discuss a matter of this kind, and that while he argues that this particular matter is one for the board and not for the Parliament . or a selected number of members of this Parliament, he does admit, as he should admit, that there are many public questions, notwithstanding the ukase against political interference affecting this bank and its management, that this Parliament may have to discuss. I would point out to the House that the authority of this bank originates with this Parliament. The amplitude of its powers springs from this Parliament, and therefore, any limitation may be imposed upon the powers of the bank by Parliament. It is suggested that if anything of the kind is to be done by this Parliament, it can only be properly initiated by means of a bill on the floor of this House. I venture to suggest that a bill may originate in this
Parliament as a result of the inquiry which we are now suggesting should take place. At all events, this Parliament unquestionably has the right to make an inquiry, and the limitation which it deliberately placed upon itself in regard to the internal management of the bank should be very strictly construed, but not construed against the national Parliament in case of doubt. I suggest that anything to the contrary would be a very dangerous precedent. This certainly is not a matter of internal administration. One easily recognizes why this Parliament deprecated the interference of Parliament in the management of the bank, and why it would be a very unbecoming thing, for instance, if a person who was seeking accommodation from the bank, and was not able to get terms as advantageous as he desired, were able by lobbying members of this House to create a political atmosphere on matters of that kind. One easily understands that if it were a question of appointing or dismissing officers of the bank under the administration of the board, it would be very unbecoming and indecent that the board should be harassed and hampered in its operations by continuous or even occasional political interference. The object of Parliament is easily understood, but I would point out that the matter which we are now discussing arose before the appointment of the present board. It originated in a complaint made by a senior and, as everybody admits, highly-respected officer of the hank. That does not seem to be open to question or argument. It is a matter affecting the general public iri its relationship with the bank, and not. the mere local or internal administration of ‘the bank itself. I think, therefore, that it needs no further argument, because the” Prime Minister doe3 not seriously to-day counter this view of the case. It needs no serious argument to establish the proposition that there may be scandals or developments in connexion with the national bank of Australia - the Commonwealth ‘Bank - requiring immediate ventilation in this Parliament. The question may arise later whether, on the report of this select committee, if it is appointed, we shall take any action. The question would then present itself whether any proposed action was an undue interference with1 the- autonomy of the bank as at present constituted. All these questions would1 much more fittingly arise on the- consideration- of the report of this committee than they do at present, before- we have decided whether it should be1 appointed or not. I submit the view that despite what the Prime- Minister has said1, the honorable member for Perth anet the honorable member for Darwin (Mr; Whitsitt)’ have made out a good case for inquiry, which is at present all that we ave asking for. We are toM that the board is the proper body to make this- inquiry. I suggest that it is unbecoming for the Government to1 attempt tff coerce this’ aggrieved ex-officer of the bank to go before a tribunal, which he has again and again argued is unsuited to- hear and to decide upon the subjectmatter of his complaint. The fact that Mr. Kell was’ the Acting Governor of the bank, and is at present a member of the directorate, the fact that he is in close association with his fellow members on that directorate, the fact that a sub-committee, eve parte, and without having heard- evidence, came to a sort of interim- decision on the merits of the case - all- these facts make the objection against the board determining this’ question stronger to-day than it was on the 9tb October last, when Mr. Young made it perfectly clear that an inquiry by the board would be unpalatable to him. As the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) said, this motion is not a reflection upon the1 board. There is a. wellknown maxim applying to the administration of justice that one should avoid, not only evident bias, but even the suspicion or suggestion of bias. The public interest has to be considered; the public has to be satisfied that there has been a disinterested and; dispassionate inquiry by persons who had no preconceived ideas upon the issue, and no personal interest in it. It is very unfortunate for- Mr. Kell, who is personally concerned in the charges made, and to be made,, by the late inspector of the bank,, that he went to- such trou’ble to prevent * friendly inquiry by the Primes Minister, in the presence of himself and Mr. Young. That fact unquestionably tells strongly against Mr. Kell. The right honorable gentleman invited- the. dis- putants to ‘ come fee-fore him. Mr. Young expressed’ his willingness to accept the invitation. Mr. Kell refused, and I should have thought that the Prime Minister would have been more ready to agree to the appointment of a select committee after having been snubbed, by Mr. Kell. Instead of accepting the- Prime Minister’s’ invitation to appear before him. and discuss his difference with Mr.. Young, the acting governor confronted the right honorable gentleman with a legal opinion that he had no- right to interrogate, him on- the subject of. the dispute. Obviously,, tlie reply of the Prime, Minister should- have been, “ I am not concerned with legal opinions.. I have invited you to. come before me. and discuss) a. difference between you and a senior officer of the bank, and if you. are afraid,, or unwilling, to do so, there must be some reason not altogether creditable to you. that prevents you from laying your card’s on the table, and having a heart-to-heart talk in a friendly and private manner before the matter has .a chance of becoming, apublic scandal.” The Prime Minister did not contend that he had the power to compel’ Mr. Kell to come- before him ;: he did not arrogate the powers of a royal commission, to compel the attendance of witnesses; he merely invited the two gentlemen concerned to come to his office and’ state their case. Mr. Young consented, but Mr. Kell, apparently for some good reason, was quite unwilling’ to do so.
– Tn fairness to Mr. Kell, I should point out that the legal opinion was not that I had not the- right to call him before me, but that it would be- very unwise for him to come.
– In endeavoring by that interjection to be fair to Mr. Kell, the right honorable gentleman has certainly not helped him. It is- quite possible that an astute legal adviser - if there’ is one - having interviewed Mr. Kell on the- subject and obtained the whole of the facts, would give, him quite disinterested advice that it would! be unwise for him to appear before the Prime Minister.
– The actual words employed in the legal opinion were, “itwould be an improper function of your office to discuss such matters, with the Prime Minister.”
– That convinces me that he was an astute legal adviser, because he put the advice in more diplomatic language than that employed by the Prime Minister. Something has been said regaining the merits of Mr. Young’s complaints. Neither when this matter was before the House on a previous occasion, nor to-day, has any honorable member presumed to pass judgment in this dispute. I do not pretend to know a great deal about these intricate financial matters which have given rise to the serious charges made by Mr. Young, but to some extent it has been necessary to go into the substance of the complaints. For instance, reference was made - unfortunately, I think - to the fact that Mr. Young was considered to be a difficult man to deal with, or, as the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) better expressed it, “ an intractable man.” The evidence is that throughout his service with the bank he was held in the highest esteem by, not only the higher officers, but also the rank and file of the staff. His intractability simply amounts to a clash with certain senior officers, and we are asking that a select committee shall inquire into the merits of that clash.
– His intractability only showed itself during the last few months of his connexion with the bank; it had been dormant for over 30 years.
– Apparently, it was something of very recent growth. The late Governor (Sir Denison Miller), who had controlled the destinies of the bank from its inception, had the very highest opinion of Mr. Young, and selected him for positions of trust and authority, including the mission to the Honolulu conference. The Prime Minister said rather weakly that the subject of Mr. Young’s complaints cannot be regarded as very important, because in war loan transactions, amounting to hundreds of millions of pounds, the discrepancy in connexion therewith amounted to a paltry few thousands of pounds. The question at issue is not the amount of any particular discrepancy, but if, in fact, Mr. Young, a senior officer of the bank, was punished because he had called attention repeatedly to certain inaccuracies in the accounts, a gross injustice was done, and that would not be a small matter, but a very grave one. I am informed on very good authority that in connexion with the war loan there was no adequate system of registration until a practical proposition by Mr. Young was adopted in December, 1920. I should like the Prime Minister to take notice of the fact that the bank staff has been constantly endeavouring to balance these accounts, and” that up to 1923 no balance had been arrived at in respect of transactions dating from 1915 to 1920. Is that a trifling matter? Whether the view I take, or that taken by the Prime Minister, be right, surely these allegations justify an inquiry, and I ask the House to agree to the appointment of a select committee. Naturally, the Prime Minister’s authority is recognized by his supporters, but he will admit thatno honorable member of the Opposition when addressing himself to this question has given any indication of party rancour; we have shown our desire to cooperate in a helpful spirit with ministerial members in trying to get justice done. I am quite aware that several motions for the appointment of select committees have been submitted to the House in recent months. I express no opinion upon the merits of other such motions, but in the last resort this Parliament is the highest and final tribunal in such matters, and I contend that the case we are discussing to-day is worthy of trial by the highest tribunal. We must recognize the fact that Mr. Young was not a junior or unimportant officer of the bank. The fact that he was a trusted officer, almost the highest in the institution, and enjoyed the esteem and confidence of those who knew him best - otherwise he could not have been appointed to such a position - are cumulative reasons why the House should grant an inquiry into the grave charges he has made. The matter has not been finally settled by the somewhat argumentativespeech of the Prime Minister, a speech which might well have been delivered after inquiry by a select committee, but as a mere statement of half-truths was somewhat premature. Let us know the whole merits of the case as the result of inquiry, so that this matter maybe finally disposed of.
.- I shall not detain the House long - certainly not sufficiently to prevent a vote being taken on the motion - but I do not wish to cast a silent vote. If the Government had refused to grant any facilities for the re-opening of this matter, I would have been most willing to vote for the appointment of a select committee, but we have been informed that the Government did get into communication with the COrn.monwealth .Bank authorities, with the result that Sir Robert Gibson and Mr. Lees were appointed a sub-committee of the board of directors to make inquiries with regard to the facts that led up to the resignation of Mr. Young. It seems to me that if Mr. Young’s case was very strong he would have taken advantage of the opportunity ^afforded him to bring it before Sir Robert Gibson and his colleague.
– He was willing to place it before the Prime Minister.
-I quite understand the objection that was raised by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) to Mr. Young appearing before the board of the bank, had Mr. Kell been present, but we are told that only two members of the board were to make the inquiry, and that Mr. Kell was not one of them. -Something, I think, has been clone to ascertain the facts of the case, and it has been done by men who have peculiar facilities for finding out what those facts arc. If Sir Robert Gibson and Mr. Lees say that it is impossible to trace, for example, the discrepancy of £3,000, and discover on whom the responsibility for it rests, I do not see how a select committee of this House could hope to go any further than those gentlemen have gone. Although a discrepancy of £3,000 is a considerable item, .we should remember that it related to a total sum of £300,000,000. The degree of error, therefore, was only one- thousandth part of. 1 per cent. I feel satisfied -that the Government took some action, at any rate, to ensure that Mr. Young’s case would be inquired into, and had the case been particularly strong I think that that officer would have taken advantage of the opportunity afforded him to have it investigated.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, provision should be made by the Commonwealth Government, without delay, for the establishment of an adequate shipping service for both passengers and cargo between Hobart and Melbourne.
It will be remembered that, on the 5th July, 1923, I submitted a motion that, in the opinion of this House, it was desirable that a select committee be appointed to inquire into the necessity of the Commonwealth providing an up-to-date shipping service between Hobart and the mainland. At that time, and on several subsequent occasions, the Minister in charge secured the adjournment of the debate, and the House was not given an opportunity to take a vote on the motion. It was contended by the Government that sufficient information on the matter would be collected by the royal commission on the Navigation Act, which had just been appointed. That commission, so far as collecting evidence in Tasmania is concerned, has completed its work, and its report is in the hands of the Government. I am not aware that any supplementary evidence relating to Tasmanian trade is to be taken by the commission, or that any further recommendation is to be furnished to the Government, and, therefore, I now submit that the Government must be in a position to say whether it thinks that the service indicated by the motion should be provided. Since, under the Standing Orders, I may not continue my speech after 4.30 p.m., I ask permission to resume my remarks at. a later hour this day.
– The honorable member cannot resume his speech at a later hour to-day.
– If not, there will be no opportunity to have a vote taken on the motion. I ask leave to continue my speech on the resumption of the debate.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Question - That the adjourned debate bo made an order of the day for a later hour this day - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 5
Question so resolved in the negative.
Order of the day called on for the resumption of the debate (vide page 1411), on motion by Mr. Latham -
That, in the opinion of this House, means should be provided for the effective enforce ment of all the laws which Parliament places or allows to remain upon the statute-book, and that as a general rule such enforcement should not be left to the initiative of interested parties: in particular, that officers should be appointed for the purpose of making necessary inspections and inquiries for the purpose of securing the observance by all parties of awards of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and of enforcing the provisions of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
Order of the day postponed until17th September.
Mr. PRATTEN (Martin- Minister for
Trade and Customs) [4.39]. - I move -
That whereas in pursuance of the provisions of paragraph (a) of sub-section (3.) of section 9 of the Customs Tariff 1921-1924 the Minister of State for Trade and Customs has referred to the Tariff Board the question whether, having regard to the reciprocal benefits which have been or will be granted to Australia by the Dominion of Canada, it is desirable in the interests of the Commonwealth that the British Preferential Tariff in the Customs Tariff 1921-1924 or the Intermediate Tariff in the Customs Tariff 1921-1924 (hereinafter respectively referred to as “ the British Preferential Tariff” and “the Intermediate Tariff”) should apply to the Dominion of Canada, and, if so, the extent to which it should so apply:
And whereas the Tariff Board has reported that it is desirable in the interests of the Commonwealth that the British Preferential Tariff and the Intermediate Tariff should apply to the Dominion of Canada to the extent specified in this resolution:
That the British Preferential Tariff and the Intermediate Tariff respectively shall apply to the Dominion of Canada to the extent that, in lieu of the duties of Customs imposed by the Customs Tariff 1921-1924, or by that Tariff as subsequently amended, on goods the produce or manufacture of the Dominion of Canada imported direct from that Dominion, there shall be imposed, on and after a time and date to be proclaimed, duties of Customs, as hereinafter set out, on the undermentioned goods the produce or manufacture of the Dominion of Canada imported direct from the said Dominion, namely: -
In October last, as honorable members will remember, a resolution was passed by this House to extend the rates of the British preferential and the intermediate tariff to- certain specified goods’ of Canadian origin. That resolution was passed in accordance with the procedure Paid down in the Customs Tariff Act, which provides- that the British preferential tariff and the intermediate tariff may be applied by proclamation wholly or in part to any part of the British Dominions. Such a . proclamation can only be issued’ after reference of the question to the Tariff Board and in accordance with the resolution of each House of Parliament, The resolution provides that the rates of the British preferential tariff shall be extended to the following Canadian goods: - Pish, textile gloves, linotype and similar type composing machines, printing machines and’ presses, adding and computing machines, typewriters, cash registers, and printing and writing paper. In additi’on, the rates of the intermediate- tariff were to be applied to corsets, wrought iron or steel pipes not exceeding 3 inches in diameter, goloshes and sand shoes, chassis and vehicle parts n-.e.r., and boiler tubes. The motion which I have submitted makes no alteration whatever in regard either to the Canadian goods to which tariff concessions are to> be granted or to the rates qf duty which are to apply to those goods. The position remains’ precisely the same in this respect as it was under the original resolution. The Canadian Government has, however, found it necessary to propose certain alterations in the rates which are to apply in Canada to the Australian goods covered by the agreement. Although these alterations provide for more, favourable terms to Australia than those proposed when the original resolution was passed, the Government has considered it necessary to submit the question! again to the House. The concessions on Canadian gc-ds were proposed in return for reciprocal benefits under the Canadian tariff on Australian goods entering Canada. As the benefits to Australian goods as a rule were greater than, could be given under the existing Canadian tariff., it would have been necessary for the Canadian Parliament to agree to a number of tariff amendments increasing rates of duty under the general tariff, and reducing the duties under the preferential tariff. To make this point clear, I might quote the example of, say, fresh meats1. Under the existing Canadian tariff the British preferential rate is 2 cents per lb-., a-nd’ the general tariff rate 3’ cents per lb. These rates gave the possibility of a preference of I cent only. The Canadian Government, however, agreed to a preference of 3 cents to be effected by reducing the British preference rate to 1 cent, and increasing the general tariff rate to 4 cents. This item is typical of a number of the items concerned. The communication received from- the Canadian Government indicated that it found- it impracticable to induce the Parliament “of Canada to agree to increase- all the tariff rates. It was- therefore necessary to find same other means of compliance with the preferences agreed to. To meet the position, the Canadian Government proposed that the margin of preference agreed’ upon should be maintained, and that this end should be secured by leaving the general tariff rates as they were and creating the necessary margin of preference by reducing the rates of the British preference tariff to the extent required for the purpose. For example, in the case of fresh meat, which I have already quoted, the rates agreed upon were 1 cent British preferential tariff and 4’ cents general tariff - a margin of 3 cents. The Canadian Government’s proposal now is that these meats be made free under the British preferental tariff.’ and that the general tariff rate remain as it was,, namely, 4 cents per lb., thus keeping the margin of 3 cents per lb, originally agreed Upon. In two items of minor importance - Beeswax, and eucalyptus oil - the arrangement of the Canadian tariff did not admit of a preference equal to that- agreed to to be maintained, and as the items are of little value this Government has not demurred. The Canadian Government has now also agreed to increase . the preference on canned vegetables from 1 cent per lb-, to 1£ cents per lb., and, in addition, to include in the agreement unsweetened fruit pulp imported by Canadian manufacturers for the manufacture of jam and preserves, and sugar also-, both raw and refined. Unsweetened fruit pulp will be admitted free of duty. In consequence of this addition, Australian unsweetened fruit pulp will enjoy a preference of 2$ cents per lb., which amounts to a concession of £11 13s. 4d. per ton. Sugar, also, both raw and refined, will be admitted at the British preferential rates of the Canadian tariff. If any better terms than these are granted at any time to sugar produced in the British WestIndies, such better terms will likewise be extended to Australian sugar. As a result of this provision, Australian refined sugar will be admitted at $1.09 per 100 lb., as compared with a rate of $ 1.89 per 100 lb. under the general tariff. The preference of 80 cents is equal, approximately, to 74s. per ton. As regards raw sugar the present preference is slightly over 83 cents per 100 lb., or 77s. per ton ; but a provisional agreement has been made between Canada and the British -West Indies increasing the preference to $1 per .100 lb., equal to £4 I3s. 4d. per ton. Subject to the agreement being accepted by the Canadian and West Indian legislatures, this preference will likewise be extended to Australian raw sugar. Honorable members will note that in the paper headed “ Statement B,” which has been circulated, items 22 and 23, the rates are shown for refined sugar of a polarization exceeding 98 degrees, and not exceeding 99 degrees, and for raw sugar exceeding 95 degrees and not exceeding 96 degrees. These items are .those which would normally apply to the classes of sugar produced in Australia, and are quoted for that reason. The Canadian tariff contains an elaborate arrangement of duties ou sugar based on the degree of polarization, and if Australian sugar is of a degree of polarization higher or lower than that of the items I have quoted, such sugar will similarly receive the benefit of the Canadian British preferential tariff, or of any better terms extended at any time to any other country. By consulting the statement “B “ which has been circulated, honorable members will see exactly how the present proposals compare with the original proposals. The column numbered (2) shows the original rates on Australian goods entering Canada as agreed to at the time the previous resolution was passed; while the column numbered (3) shows the rates under the present Canadian proposals. It will be noted that in regard to the following goods, namely, raisins and currants, canned meats, tallow, onions, pears quinces, apricots, and nectarines, no alteration has been made : the position remains just as it was when the previous resolution was agreed to. The respective rates of the British preferential tariff under which the Australian articles mentioned will be admitted and of the general tariff are shown in the statement to which I have just referred. The position also in regard to wines and brandy remains unchanged. These articles will receive the same treatment as is accorded to France under Canada’s tariff treaty with that country. The rates of duty under the agreement represent very substantial reductions on those to which Australian wines are at presentliable. In regard to the majority of items covered by the treaty, the Canadian Government, as I have explained, found it necessary to make certain alterations in the rates of duty originally agreed to, but, in making these alterations the margin of preference in favour of Australian goods has not been disturbed. Honorable members know of the delay that has taken place in connexion with the operation of this preferential treaty, seeing that it was approved in this House last October by 35 votes to 7. The delay has not been caused by any representations from Canada concerning the alteration of the incidence of British preference, as the Canadian Government accepts the British preferential conditions as laid down by this Parliament for Great Britain. The delay that has occurred has been due to the parliamentary conditions in our sister dominion. The renewed negotiations that were necessary in connexion with the re-adjustment of the treaty passed by this House have resulted, in some additional advantages to this Commonwealth, inasmuch as two more items of major importance to the primary producers have now been included, viz. : - sugar, and pulped fruit, upon which substantial pre- feirences from Canada had been secured. I scarcely think it necessary to traverse the arguments which were used here last year when the treaty was before the House. As the attack then made upon the Government’s proposals largely centred on paper, I assure the House’ that, although the manufacture of news print paper in Australia seems to be appreciably nearer than it was last year, the condition of our treaty with Canada ensures that should it be necessary in the not distant future to legislate for this new industry, this treaty will not tie the hands of any government, as- British preferential terms only are accorded Canada in whatever tariffs may be enacted, or which may already be in existence. A very careful examination of the importations into Australia for the year ending 1923-4 of the item.3 covered by this treaty under which Canada will bo given either British preferential, or intermediate terms, shows that any prejudice to established Australian industries has been avoided. No complaints of any kind in connexion with the suggested treaty have been received from any Australian manufacturers affected. The total imports into the Commonwealth from foreign countries in the items to which we are now giving Canada some advantage total £18,140,371, of which motor chassis account for more than half, so that omitting motor chassis, which, unfortunately, are not at present made in Australia, the total trade in which Canada would participate to a greater extent than before will be about £8,000,000. Canada’s trade in motor chassis with this, country, until we begin to make motor chassis for ourselves, should be looked upon with favour by all those who believe in inter-imperial trade. On the other hand, very substantial preferences have been given by Canada to the Commonwealth, much more substantial in the percentage of value than are given by the Commonwealth to Canada. Her total importations from all countries in the commodities upon which Australia will get substantial preference amount in value to £13,880,311 for the year ending 31st March, 1924. Sugar forms a very considerable part of the importation, but there are large importations also of meats, lard, eggs, cheese, butter, onions, dried fruits, fruit pulp, canned fruits, fresh fruit, wines, glue, gelatine, and brandy. All. these commodities are imported by Canada in very considerable quantities at a time of the year which corresponds with our harvest. Honorable members will probably have noted that the trade with the Commonwealth by Canada has seriously diminished during the last twelve months. I repeat the hope that Canada will do all the trade possible with Australia so long as none of our industries are prejudiced thereby. I have said that no complaints have been received from industries affected by the opportunity of trade with Canada, which it is hoped will be extended by this treaty. It must also be remembered in stressing the great balance of trade in favour of Canada that has taken place during the last few years that Canada has done that trade on her merits. She has paid full general tariff rates. I believe that the majority, if not all of the members of this House, would sooner see trade being done by Australia with our sister dominions than with a foreign country. This treaty places Australia in as good a position as any country doing trade with Canada, and abolishes some of the handicaps we have had in trading with that dominion in the past. The exports from Australia to all countries of commodities covered by the treaty amount to £11,279,000. The imports of the commodities upon which we are getting a preference from Canada amount to nearly £14,000,000. So that the substantial preferences provided for in this treaty open up an exceedingly large new market for our primary producers. However the treaty may be analysed, there is no question that, given proper representation and progressive selling organization, Australia should benefit substantially in her exports under the proposals now submitted to the House. I do not expect that we shall very quickly catch up the preponderance of trade with us which Canada now enjoys, owing to some extent to greater industrial development in the dominion than we have here, but the opportunities opened up by the treaty of substantially increasing our trade with Canada are provided for in the bill, and it will be for those interested to pursue its benefits. I have had some little interest in perusing the remarks made in opposition to the treaty when it was before this House last year. Some extreme arguments were used, and I may inform my honorable friend, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Anstey), who used them, that some extreme arguments were also used in the Canadian House of Commons when these proposals were under consideration. One honorable member said, regarding the treaty, that it was 4< one of the grossest, most unfair, and most iniquitous measures ever imposed upon the people of Canada.” One might almost imagine that it must be the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) who used such terms. ishallnot pursue what was said in the Canadian House of Commons, beyondstating for the information of the House and the country, that one honorable member, referring to the treaty, said that he wished Canada could trade Governments with Australia because the Australian Government lookedafter its own country. i want to say, further, that the visit of my honor- able colleague, the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), did much to increase the friendly sentiment thathad been exhibited towards us in Canada. i say with knowledge, and it is found inscribed in the Canadian *Hansard, that the honorable gentleman’s visit to Canada helped in the most substantial way the addition to the treaty of those two very important items of primary production in Australia - sugarand fruit pulp. i may explain that, in accordance with the resolution, the British preferential tariffand the intermediate tariffon the Canadiangoods specified will apply , as under the present tariff, or any future amendment of it. That is to say, the British preferential tariffterms and the intermediate tariff terms can be changedby this Parliament at any time, and the terms as changed will apply under the treaty. This reso- lution,if passed by the House, will not prevent us from imposing dumping duties on goods specified in the treaty, subject, of course, to the conditions governing the imposition of such duties that now exist, or may exist under any enactment of this Parliament. Nor will the resolution interfere with our bringing into effect anydeferred duties applicable to the goods specified in the treaty. The treaty may be terminated by either party on six months’ notice. i am sure that honorable members will welcome the increasing development of inter-imperial trade. Those who travel know what Great Britain and her Dominions mean. A Canadian landing on these shores, although not an Australian, salutes the same flag, and enjoys in common with Australians the citizenship of the British Empire. i want to say that no amendment of either schedule can be made except with the approval of this Parliament, at any future time. As the treaty has been arrived at inthe form of an agreement, honorable members will recognize that the conditions now offered by Canada,which are better than the conditions previously offered, must be accepted or rejected as a whole. They cannot fee amended. The schedules will be brought into operation, should they be passed by both Houses, at an early date mutually agreed upon byboth Governments concerned. In conclusion, i want to say that the policy of the Government is, and will be, preference to Britain, the cultivation of inter-imperial trade, the opening up of further markets to Australian exports, and the development of our own country.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Fenton) adjourned. automatictelephone exchange,manly.
– I move -
That in accordance with the provisions of theCommonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-21, it is expedient to carry out the following work: - Establishment of an automatic telephone exchange at Manly, New South Wales, whichwas referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Wonka, and on which the committee hasduly reported to this House the result of its investigations.
This is a very necessary work, and the Public Works Committee recommend that it should be gone on with as soon as possible. The development that has taken place at Manly is very great. The existing manual exchange there is not sufficient to cope with the traffic offering in the telephone department. The provision that is being made is for 3,200 subscribers’ lines. This is to be made immediately, and ultimately the number of lines will be extended to 5,000. This will meet the requirements of Manly for something like five years. At the expiry of that period, it may be necessary to put in another exchange to accommodate new subscribers, as a result of the development taking place. The existing site will be used, and upon it will be erected a building at a cost of about £7,000. The cost of the air conditioning, heating, ventilating, vacuum cleaning, and air compression plant will be £4,500; exchange equipment, including that necessary at other exchanges, £51,625; sub.-station equipment, £8,266; and diversion of the line plant and cutover of equipment, £470, making a total expenditure of £71,861. We have reached the limit, of the capacity df the existing exchange, and it is desirable that this work should be proceeded with at once.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Dr. Earle Page) read a first time.
Debate resumed from 21st August (vide page 1650), on motion by Mr.. Pratten -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill is really a validating measure. It appears that since 1907 certain provision relating to preferences has been made by various Ministries, and apparently there is now a doubt about the validity of ‘ what has been done. It is therefore necessary to . take action to place the matter beyond doubt. In 1907. a preference was given on goods containing 25 per cent, of British manufacture. Last year, the percentage of British manufacture was increased to 75 per cent. There appears to have been little complaint about the preference when the percentage was fixed at 25 per cent., but evidently it was much easier at that time to obtain partially manufactured goods from the Continent, to complete them in Great Britain, and to send them to Australia. In 1922, I moved in this House a censure motion, and pointed out that we were permitting large quantities of iron and steel goods, manufactured cheaply in either Germany or Belgium because of their depreciated currencies, to come through Great Britain to Australia. Mr. Massy Greene, who was a Minister at the time, said that my case was built on assumption. It is gratifying to me to know that the present Minister “for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) has made statements in different parts of Australia supporting the attitude that I took up at that time. He has shown clearly that, during the time that I referred to, large quantities of materials were coming into Australia under the preference to goods of 25 percent. British manufacture, to the detriment of our own industries I well, remember when the great steel works of Newcastle’ were closed down. The Minister for Trade and Customs appears to be alive to the position. He increased the percentage of British manufacture required from 25. per cent, to 75 per cent. One can well understand that this increase has met with a great deal of objection from overseas. The people who traffic between the Continent and Great Britain are now feeling the pinch. They are not able to get materials purchased from foreign countries through to Australia as easily as before. Consequently, there will no doubt be some objection on their partto the bill. Certain statements in British newspapers in opposition to this measure clearly indicate that the increase in the percentage of British manufacture is not relished by certain people in Great Britain. I am not referring to the manufacturers of Great Britain, because many of them are in a bad way. Factories are closed down there, and hundreds of thousands of men are out of employment. This applies especially in the iron and steel industries, which in turn affect the coal industry. The increase in the percentage of English manufacture to 75 per cent, should be beneficial to Australian trade. We must protect our own industries from foreign competition, and that is really the object of the bill. This House should have some control over matters relating to preferences. Previous Ministers have acted on their own interpretation of section 8 of the Customs Tariff Act. I doubt very much whether we are not losing parliamentary control in permitting this to be done. We should, as far as possible, keep control of these matters. I have no objection to the Minister taking action provided it is ratified by Parliament. In any case, Parliament should not be constantly asked to pass measures to validate actions taken by Ministers. Our legislation should be beyond doubt.-
– This legislation was challenged last year.
– And it may be challenged successfully in the near future. I regret that this is not the only legislation that can be challenged. Recently two or three validating measures were before this Parliament. It would be a serious matter for us if au appeal were made against certain actions under the Customs Tariff Act since 1907. Any decision against the Commonwealth would be retrospective, aud it would be almost impossible to estimate the amount of money that had been illegally collected and would have to be returned. The Minister, in bringing the bill before the House, is acting in the interests of the Commonwealth, and he should be commended for his action..
– What about the future?
– There should be some provision in the bill for the future. Any action agreed upon by the Minister should come before Parliament, to give honorable members ain opportunity of discussing it.
– They will not have that opportunity if the bill is passed iu its present form.
– The bill can be amended, and .1 am prepared to move an amendment in committee to that effect. I shall support, the second reading of the bill.
.- The bill is far more important than it appears at first glance, ft is a small bill, but has far-reaching effects, and some of these should -be pointed out to honorable members, so that they may not blindly pass the measure. It is, in effect, a one-clause bill, consisting of three sub-clauses. I shall first of all deal with the last subclause. There should have been attached to this bill as a schedule the statutory rule to which reference is made in the last sub-clause. It is really part of the bill. I do not know whether honorable members have taken sufficient interest iu this matter to study the meaning of statutory rule 29. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has referred to the principal subject under the bill, but there is far more contained in it. Statutory rule No. 29 of which we are asked to approve, requires a full discussion. As the Leader of the Opposition has said, the introduction ‘ of validating measures is not the proper way to legislate. This statutory rule and the principles involved in it, were discussed a year ago, and honorable members will recollect that on that occasion I was the only person in the House to protest against them. In fact,” iu order to get tlie matter ventilated in the House, and notwithstanding that I had been more or less definitely promised that the House would be afforded an opportunity of discussing it, I was then forced to speak on the Supplementary Estimates at 2.30 a.m. I pointed out that the rule was invalid, and that the whole method of procedure was irregular and amounted to a flouting of Parliament. My representations at the time received no attention, and although the Leader of the Opposition now recognizes the importance of what was done, and says that Parliament should not be asked to validate the irregular acts of the Minister, yet last year there was not even a whisper of support from the Opposition for the, principle I was enunciating. The method adopted by the department was most improper. The Minister says that because of some doubt about the validity of the statutory rule, it was thought advisable to confirm it by statute. When that invalidity was pointed out by a. member of this House, the Minister should have made further inquiry into the matter. We were told that the Crown Law authorities were satisfied that the statutory rule was quite in order, but honorable members will recollect that I later quoted independent legal opinion that it was invalid. That opinion was in the possession of the Minister.
– At the time?
– I am not certain of the date, but the Minister was aware of that opinion, and therefore he acted improperly in continuing to control the Commonwealth trade with the Mother Country as he has done. The regulation wm brought into force on the 1st April of this year, and has been in operation ever since. Willingly or unwillingly, trade has been carried on under the restrictions which the Minister improperly imposed, and it is difficult for us now to review the arrangement in detail, because an amendment of the law would bring about a further dislocation of trade. The fact is recognized that the conditions imposed upon trade should be stable. The tariff is accepted in all Parliaments as a nonparty question, and I protest emphatically against the Minister ignoring any private member who takes the trouble to study these matters and point out to the Government that it is taking an unconstitutional course. When a Minister persists in error without giving satisfaction to either a protesting member or the House, this Parliament is being used merely to confirm the acts, right or wrong, of the department. This House is not a mere rubber stamp.
– That is true of this side of the House, but not of the ministerial side.
-No protest against the Government’saction came from the Opposition.
– The honorable member seems to be vigorously attempting to make this a party question.
– I am merely protesting against the House being used as a rubber stamp to mark approval of what the department has done. Be the departmental policy right or wrong, the proper course is to submit it to the House, and not ask us to confirm a practice that has been so long in operation that it is almost impossible to alter it. When action has been taken by a Minister, the members of his party feel more or less bound to support him. Thus a matter which should be judged independently is given a party aspect, and the House is robbed of its freedom of action. Some features of the statutory rule are open to grave objection, and, if possible, I would prevent its validation. The principal effect of the rule is to increase the percentage of British labour or material necessary in imports to qualify them for admission at the British preferential rates. That proportion has been advanced in respect of some goods to 75 per cent., and we are told that the object is to assist Australian industries, and that the rule is not directed against the British manufacturers, but is intended to exclude from the benefits of the preferential tariff foreign goods masquerading as British. If such a provision is necessary, and that is a matter of opinion, the 75 per cent. requirement is so high as to practically counteract its own intention. In many manufactured articles the raw material constitutes at least 25 per cent. of the total value, and if a British manufacturer uses foreign raw material which amounts tomore than 25 per cent. of the total value of the finished article, that article cannot be admitted at the British preferential rates of duty.
– Only if he does not put all possible manufacture into it in Britain.
– If the object of that statutory rule is to prevent the importation of foreign goods, it will probably have the opposite effect, because by making more difficult the importation of British goods having only 75 per cent. of British labour or material, it increases the tendency to purchase foreign goods. Is it better to import goods that are 100 per cent. foreign, or goods with even 50 per cent. British labour and material in them?
– It is better to import goods that are 100 per cent. British than goods that are 75 per cent. foreign.
– Most British manufacturers import their raw materials from abroad ; therefore, it is impossible to get goods that are wholly the product of British labour and material. Honorable members know quite well that the real purpose of the statutory rule isto prevent the importation of British goods ; indeed, that has been expressly stated by the Government. I have previously quoted the following passage from a letter written by the Commonwealth Government to the New Zealand Government : -
In most of the dominions, especially in Australia, thelocal manufacturersare adequately protected by the tariffand anti-dumping duties against foreign goods, and such are not feared in competition so much as British goods under the present conditions of preference.
Clearly the object of the statutory rule is to discourage the importation of British goods. That being so. why does the Government pretend that it is endeavouring to protect British manufacturers? The statement that such importations will have a serious effect on Australian industries is absurd; their effect will be helpful rather than injurious. Whether that be so or not, why do we pass legislation of this kind under the pretence that it is to assist British manufacturers when it really puts obstacles in their way ?
– The honorable member takes a wrong view.
– I am quoting the view of the Minister himself as expressed in official correspondence. This statutory rule, which consists of twelve pages, and which we are asked to swallow holus-bolus, is, in effect, a new tariff schedule. Such a proposal should be introduced in the ordinary way as a tariff schedule, and be subject to full discussion and analysis. by the House. Important arrangements have been, made with regard to imperial trade, a,,nd:.we are asked to accept them simply by attaching this statutory rule to a clause of the bill. It is a serious position for the Government or the country to take up, in view of the fact that for years attempts have been made to improve imperial trade, promote better imperial relations, and strengthen the bonds of Empire. After all, trade is the life-blood of the Empire, and it should be fostered rather than repressed. If we ask Great Britain for trade concessions on the one hand, and then pass a measure of this kind, which diminishes imperial preference, we take something from the Motherland with one hand and slap her face with the other.
– And this follows other preferences of great value that Great Britain” has given us.
– In what way do we diminish her preference ?
– Do we not diminish it by requiring that 75 per cent, instead of 25 per ‘ cent, of labour and material in an article shall be of British origin ? The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has said that factories in England are in a serious position and that unemployment is rife. I suggest that if measures of this kind are adopted to any extent, more factories will be closed and there will be greater unemployment than heretofore, for some factories in Great Britain have been established for the special purpose of producing goods in which only from 25 to 40 per cent, labour and material is of British origin .
– Putting foreign goods in packets and calling them 25 per cent. British t
– The honorable member is quoting an extreme case, simply for the purpose of his argument. Lie knows very well that under this provision the importation of goods in a number of genuine cases will be stopped. It is easy to take an extreme instance, as the Minister did recently. He quoted what I regard as very trumpery and absurd cases as examples of the great trade between the Motherland and Australia, and his action .was not quite worthy of the subject. There are several other features of the statutory rule to which we are asked to agree, but I do not propose to go into all of them. It is obvious that we cannot discuss every clause of the rule. We must either accept it as a whole or reject it. .We cannot go into committee upon it and discuss its various provisions ; but I point out that there are several matters to which exception may be taken. For instance, there is a provision that in determining the current market value of the goods imported from Great Britain, the value at the date of invoice or at the date of shipment is to be taken. I ask the House to consider what that really means. We know that British manufacturers have stacks of goods at Home, and they have their agents in Australia trying to sell them. These are prepared to take orders in advance, and when they accept seasonal orders for forward delivery a certain price is fixed, but the goods reach Australia perhaps three or six months later, when the market price may have altered considerably. The importers, therefore, are obliged to take into consideration, not the price at which .they buy the goods, but the current market price at the time of shipment. I ask honorable members whether that is a fair business arrangement.. It may be said that if the price falls the importer will receive the benefit of it, but that is not the position under this provision. If the price falls the tendency is to diminish the proportion of British labour and material which give the preference. If, on the other hand, the price rises the importer has to pay a higher rate of duty, and, therefore, he is hit whichever way one regards the matter. But a period when prices are falling is not the time when purchases are likely to be considered. It is when prices are rising, that purchases in advance are made to enable importers to protect themselves against the market. Consequently, this provision is almost certain to prove very unfair to the purchasers of British goods iu Australia. A view is held by a certain section of this House that the operations of importers are inimical to the best interests of the people, and that, being an enemy of the public,, their rights should not be considered. I do not hold a brief for the importers of good’s, because, in spite of what m&y be said in this House, they do mot worry very much over this matter,. Whatever it costs them to import ian article is passed urn to the consumer. It seems to rae that tariff questions are continually being considered from the point ‘of view only of the seller. The buyer’s point of view is very seldom considered.
– The Australian point of view should be considered.
– The Australian point of view is just as much that of the huyer as that of the seller; in fact, it is more the point of view of the buyer because, without him, no transaction can take pia-ce. If we diminish the purchasing power of the buyer, we reduce the turnover of the seller. I am here to champion the cause of the buyer, and I say emphatically that this provision will have the sole effect of increasing the cost of goods to the huyer. At a time when complaints are rife as to the high cost of living, we are making no effort to reduce it, but are making new imposts- which further increase it. The commercial reports in the press constantly refer to the overstock of goode, and the diminished purchasing power of the people. We hear of had seasons and bad business, and the reason is that the purchasing power of the people is declining because prices are being sent up by just such measures as this. It should be well understood now that we cannot import goods without producing other goods with which to pay for them. A free flow of imports means that we shall stimulate rather than retard our own manufactures. Apart from the imperial aspect of this matter, the provision in this clause is only a pretence. If we are to consider it purely from the Australian point of view, let us look at it from the point of view of the Australian consumer. The regulations have been brought in in an entirely irregular and improper manner. I have said so for the last twelve months, and it .seems absurd that we should be asked to agree to a measure of this description simply because it is said that outside legal authorities regard the regulations as invalid. The Minister said that they had been whole-heartedly accepted by the British manufacturers themselves, as if that was any recommendation. Of course, they have been considerably modified owing to .representations made by the British manufacturers, but I have pointed out already how protest after protest was made against adopting the 75 per cent, standard, and the Minister knows perfectly well that the majority of the representatives of the British manufacturer asked him that the proportion should not be more than 50 per cent.
– Tha* is only a veneer.
– It ought to be 100 per cent
– I shall not go over the ground that I have already covered. In my view, an important provision like this should he discussed more fully with the Imperial Government itself. We aTe entering into trade arrangements with other countries, and yet we adopt important regulations of this kind without consulting the Imperial Government. I have been informed, on the best authority, that when this action was proposed the British Trade Commissioner desired to approach the Federal Government and. ask that the application of the regulations should he delayed to enable them to be considered by the Imperial Government, in order that their full effect on trade might be understood. That seemed to be a very reasonable request from a country which is our best and largest customer, but it was refused. No delay was allowed. I believe also that very grave restrictions were placed in the way of the Imperial authorities even becoming aware of the terms of the proposal. I venture to say that if that policy is pursued it will cause grave tension between the Imperial Government and ourselves. We should not break the harmony of the relations between Australia and the Old Country by hostile legislation and ill-considered action. The trade figures show that Great Britain is by far our largest customer, and an ordinary rule of business is for the seller to consider to some extent the interests of his buyer. Having said that, I proceed to consider the first and second subclauses. It was represented by the Minister - and the position was apparently accepted by the Leader of the Opposition - that the object of the first sub-clause was simply to prevent action being taken against this Government for something which may have been done so far back as 1907. As I have already pointed out in this House, the conditions of British preference have been denned by the Minister, and the Minister only, without power or authority from Parliament, and this having been discovered, it was feared that some action might be taken against the department for something done during all the intervening years. It is perhaps advisable to validate what has been done, and to protect ourselves against the ill-advised administration of past Ministers. But the bill means more than that. Clause 2 says -
Where in or under any Customs tariff whether passed before or after the commencement of this section duties of Customs are imposed upon goods the produce or manufacture of any country, goods shall for the purposes of that act be deemed to be the produce or manufacture of that country if the prescribed conditions of their production or manufacture are complied with.
In other words, this is a measure not merely to validate what has been done, but to give to the Minister for Trade and Customs to-day, and for the future, a far greater power than he has ever before possessed. The Minister said the purpose of the bill was to restore to the Parliament the control of these matters,but, on the contrary, it will permanently place them beyond the control of the Parliament. It will give the Minister power to prescribe anything he likes, for ever, by regulations. It may be contended that the regulations have to be approved by Parliament. Honorable members know what happens to departmental regulations. They have to be laid on the table of the House. They may come into operation when the House is in recess, and they remain in force unless a resolution disallowing them is carried - and what chance is there of carrying a resolution of that kind against a Government supported by a majority of honorable members ? The regulations we are now asked to approve were brought into force on the 1st April last. Therefore the bill will not bring the control of these things back to Parliament, but will make a farce of control by Parliament. I wish to go a little deeper into the consideration of this clause. It says, in effect, that under certain conditions British goods shall not be deemed to be British goods, and it will rest entirely with the Minister to say what those conditions shall be. He can by regulation do all sorts of things to alter the decision of Parliament. I shall give honorable members a present-day instance of that. In the Customs tariff the Parliament has prescribed that the duties on motor cars shall be levied under three headings - bodies, chassis, and tires. One would suppose that that was sufficiently comprehensive, and that the evident intention of Parliament was that those should be the three headings under which motor cars should be dutiable. The Minister, or his department, by regulations or administrative ordinances, has taken from the motor chassis certain parts, and has said, “ These are not to be included in the chassis, but are to be treated as something else.” The result is that instead of motor cars being dutiable under three main headings, they are dutiable under no less than fifteen headings, and the rate of duty imposed by Parliament has in some instances been increased by from 50 per cent. to 80 per cent. I want honorable members to see where they are being led. That has been done by what is called a “ departmental interpretation.”
– To prevent importers robbing the Customs.
– That is one way to put it; but the effect is undoubtedly to rob the buyer. That policy is what makes all the necessities of life so expensive in this country. This bill says that the Minister may lay down any conditions.
– The honorable member asked what hope an honorable member would have of carrying a motion disapproving of a departmental regulation. The same difficulty surely exists in opposing a bill.
– When dealing with a bill there is, at any rate, a chance of open discussion before anything is done, and Parliament is made responsible for its actions. Under the other system Parliament is often asked to validate something that is done behind its back during the recess. A bill gives an opportunity for public discussion, which elicits information of what is taking place.
– The honorable member’s argument applies to many of the Government’s actions.
– It may; but this bill is a technical one, and honorable members should be very chary of allowing taxing powers to be taken by a subterfuge. The authority to tax should be. rigidly guarded by Parliament. Whether in tlie matter of direct or indirect taxation, thE authority of Parliament should be paramount, and should be preserved, lt is possible for the Minister or his officers to bring in most absurd and fantastic regulations. Let me quote one instance within my own knowledge. It would be possible for the Minister to say that potable spirits should not be imported into Australia unless manufactured by a process similar to that employed in Australia. Many people would say, “Hear, hear “ to that, but I mention this instance because the proposition has been advanced before the Tariff Board as a reason for imposing further duty. Apart from the question of quality, or anything else, the method of tlie manufacture of certain potable spirits in Australia is different from that employed in Great Britain. What right have we to prescribe the conditions which shall be observed in manufacturing processes in other countries ? It is the quality of the article that should count. If a person wishes to buy English spirits because he likes them - and I- do not say that they are better - why should he be prevented from obtaining them because they are made by a process different from that employed here? The regulations can be used to bolster up inefficient methods of manufacture. _ The department, by prescribing hours of labour and other conditions, could interfere improperly with manufacture in other countries. This clause asks us to allow the department to do that. It will give the control of our tariff legislation to the Minister and his departmental officers. One hears many complaints from time to time about the difficulty of calculating income taxation, but the complexities of our direct taxation are a mer© bagatelle compared with the complexities of our indirect taxation. I recently read an interesting book, written by Mr. Stephen Mills, late ControllerGeneral of Customs, on “ Taxation in Australia,” and in it a statement is made regarding the maladministration of Customs affairs over 100 years ago that would exactly describe the conditions of our Customs laws and Customs regulations to-day. Mr. Mills says - “
Tuc: statute-book was crammed with innum erable acts relating to tlie Customs that overlapped, and were eliaotic and unintelligible. Undoubtedly at the end of tins reign (George 11., 17t>0) there was no citizen competent to act as a clearing agent for all classes of goods, and no Customs officer who thoroughly understood the whole of the Customs regulations. The documents used in payment of duty were miracles of elaboration.
Those words could be applied, and would fit exactly, the conditions of to-day. Those who deal with the Customs Department are afraid to complain, because they fear that if they do they will be marked.
– The honorable member is making charges against people who cannot defend themselves.
– I think I have heard the honorable member do much the same thing with less public warrant. There is a public warrant for what I am saying. During the past week it was reported from Sydney that the Customs Department had prosecuted a firm for the nonpayment of duty, and that the Bench had dismissed the case without even hearing the evidence for the defence.
– That must have been a rotten case.
– Of course it was a rotten case. The whole of our Customs legislation, to which we are now adding, is getting into a very bad state. The Customs Act contains an iniquitous provision, which presumes the guilt . of the defendant.
– It is much more necessary in Customs legislation than in any other legislation.
– That all depends on the circumstances, but it can be universally applied under the act, and may be used very unjustly. On top of the acts, to which we add from time to time, are. the voluminous regulations, of which, this is an instance, and on top of those there are hundreds, thousands, and, I think I would even be right if I said scores of thousands, of other documents called “ Interpretations of the tariff,” which have to be studied and understood. They make a huge volume, and no one can be familiar with all the intricacies of the business. In all this labyrinth of regulations it is always easy to trip up a merchant. It is a most unfair and unjust incubus upon trade. I maintain that the Customs Department has become more and more a ground of complaint, and is growing in disfavour with the public, because of the disabilities it puts upon trade - disabilities which result in overtaxing the purchaser and increasing the cost of living. It is becoming a real Augean stable, which should be cleaned out. The whole thing is becoming more complicated day by day. The proposed new sub-section 2 of section 151 a does not even prescribe that one general rate shall apply. Different goods or classes of goods are to have different rates. The proposed new sub-section reads -
It shall not he necessary that the same conditionsbe prescribed as regards all goods or classes of goods, but different conditions may be prescribed as regards different goods or classes of goods.
All over the world it has been proved that complicated regulations, while not necessarily leading to corruption, provide opportunities for corrupt practices. Some local manufacturer may be producing his goods under totally uneconomic conditions; he may even be inefficient-
– That is the sore spot in connexion with the whole tariff.
– I realize that. Notwithstanding his inefficiency and the uneconomic condition of manufacture, that manufacturer may bring pressure to bear upon a Government to impose a higher tariff on the imported article against which his goods have to compete. As a result, a regulation may be made prescribing a tariff which will impose a further incubus on the imported goods whose competition he wishes to eliminate. We have no right to pass the powers of Parliament over to any Minister or department. Already they have gone too far in asking us to accept this statutory rule. It should have been submitted to Parliament for consideration and fully explained a year ago. We are forced to delve into these things ourselves because of a want of candour on the part of those responsible. At the present time a provision of this nature is most inopportune, as it may place a heavier burden upon the consumer.
– That would not matter if it were an intelligent protection.
– I doubt if any protection is intelligent. The position confronting us is very serious. This departmental decree must seriously affect our relations with the Mother Country, to which I, for one, am not ashamed to confess that we owe a great deal. Our debt of gratitude to her is so great that we should endeavour to maintain and strengthen the existing relationship rather than to place obstacles in the way. What is the use of talking about the value of Empire if we try to stab the Mother Country in the back by interfering with her trade? This kind of thing hinders the development of trade relations between Great Britain and ourselves. No matter what is allegedas its object, the tendency will be to drive trade out of Imperial channels into foreign channels. Even if it does not do that, it must increase the cost of those articles which constitute a great volume of the trade with the Old Country. Those who contend that these articles should be made in Australia are merely perpetuating an old fallacy, of which we still hear so much, although it has long since been exploded. We cannot sell our goods if we refuse to buy anything in return for them. There are some who believe that for our exports we can be paid in gold ; but that is not so, as honorable members who remember what happened in the United States of America must realize. We have only to look at the fundamental principle underlying trade to realize that such a thing is impossible. We are now asked to pass legislation which will be capable of being manipulated, at the behest of certain individuals, narrow, class, or local interests, against the interests of the country as a whole. The existing regulations I believe to be utterly wrong, while I contend that the new provisions are an abrogation of the entire powers of Parliament in. regard to this important question. I shall oppose the bill.
.- I listened attentively to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), but neither from an Australian nor a British stand-point can I compliment him on his utterances.
– I have an Australian point of view as well as the honorable member.
– These proposals are not to increase the protection to Australia, but are the carrying out of a principle which this Parliament adopted many years ago. This Parliament was the first to offer to Great Britain a 10 per cent. preference. At that time we fixed at 25 per cent. the proportion of British labour or material in the goods to entitle their manufacturers to that preference. That continued for some time until it was found that the British manufacturers were not treating their own people fairly. A number of firms in Great Britain were not patriotic enough to employ their fellow countrymen, but preferred to obtain the goods from other countries, doing in their own factories only sufficient work in connexion with those goods to entitle them to a 10 per cent. preference here. It eventually became known that in the manufacture of steel products British manufacturers imported their blooms from Germany and elsewhere, and then did only sufficient work on them to comply with the condition that the finished article should represent 25 per cent. of British manufacture. In that way they obtained the benefit of the preference granted by Australia. That was done, not only in connexion with iron and steel, but with many other articles also. In some instances the placing of the finished article in a cardboard case was considered to be sufficient to entitle them to the preference. Ultimately, Australian legislators found that they were not giving the 10 per cent. preference to British manufacturers at all, but to continental firms, who supplied the articles to finishers in Great Britain. This bill does not give any added protection to Australian manufacturers, but asks that British manufacturers shall employ their own countrymen if they desire to obtain the benefit of the preference. There’ are millions of unemployed in Great Britain to-day, a state of affairs which will continue so long as Great Britain is willing to accept from Germany goods instead of cash in payment of reparations.We in Australia are suffering from the samecause. The honorable member who has just launched his charges against all who stand for Australian production has now deserted the chamber.
– His charges were couched in extreme lenguage.
– The honorable gentleman and others who speak so much of Empire, but who were wanting when the Empire was in danger, now taunt others with being unpatriotic. A man who is truly loyal does not proclaim his loyalty from the housetops whenever he feels that he is about to be hit. These provisions are intended to continue the 10 per cent. preference to Britain, but to obtain that preference we ask that they shall at least give us. British goods. Nothing more than that is asked. People in Great Britain have no right to import goods from other countries, and then merely for giving them some polish claim that goods are of 25 per cent. British manufacture, and entitled to a preference of 10 per cent. Actions of that kind defraud both the people of Great Britain and of Australia. That section of the British people which is guilty of such practices justifies the Napoleonic criticism that Great Britain is “ a nation of shopkeepers.” Such people will certainly not make a nation of manufacturers. The honorable member for Perth, in a most cowardly attack, made charges against our Customs officials. Those men are unable to defend themselves in this chamber. Of all Government employees, I think that the Customs officials have the most arduous duties to perform. The honorable member should go back to the time when the late Hon. C. C. Kingston dealt with those dishonest importers who imported materials in cases with false bottoms, the valuable goods being hidden while those of less value were on top for examination by the Customs officials. He is championing people of that class; while, like the cuttle fish with its ink, he throws discredit on other people who try to do something for Australia.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was referring to charges made by the honorable member for Perth against officials of the Trade and Customs Department. The honorable member’s attack was one of the worst to which I have listened in this Parliament.
– I have made no charges against the Customs officers.
– The honorable member left it to be understood that, in his opinion, there was an Augean stable to be cleaned out.
– That remark was made in another connexion altogether. The honorable member could not have listened to my speech.
– I listened very carefully to the honorable member, and if he did not mean what he has led me to believe he should, in fairness to the officers of the department, have been more clear as to what he considered the Augean stable. Public officers cannot defend themselves against attacks made in this House. If they do wrong there is a proper way to deal with them, when they may have a chance to reply to charges made against them. The only interpretation that could be put upon the honorable member’s statement was that the Minister and his officers, having the power under the Customs. Act to do certain things, have not carried out their duties properly. If the honorable member meant to say something else, he should have done so. He complains of the alteration of the regulations from time to time. They are altered to suit the differing conditions of trade. Ever since Customs taxation has been imposed the power has rested with the department to vary the classification of goods. This has been necessary to protect the revenue and to see that goods imported carry the [duties intended to be imposed upon them. This practice has always been followed by the department, but because it is followed to-day the. honorable member for Perth considers that the power to make these alterations in classification should be taken away. Let me give an illustration to show how necessary it is that such a power should be vested in the Minister for Trade and Customs. I have no doubt that we should all like to promote the ‘ cultivation of cotton in Australia, and regard the cotton-growing industry as one which, by the extent of its production, may finally rival the woolgrowing industry. Because cotton was not grown extensively here, Parliament, in fixing the duties upon cotton goods, was very careful to impose them upon finished articles of cotton manufacture. An ordinary bath-towel imported has to pay duty, while cotton piece-goods for the manufacture of such articles may be introduced duty free. But the method of importation adopted by these honest importers was to bring in a series of towels joined together only by the extension of the .threads at the end of each. The importers claimed that these were piece-goods, and not liable to a duty, although each separate towel had only to bo cut off from those to which it was joined.
– And now duty is imposed upon both piece-goods and separate towels.
– Why not, when it is quite clear that the practice adopted by the importers was merely to evade the duty payable on the finished article? Importers have been doing this kind of thing all along. They . have been concerned to discover how they could import their goods so as to evade the duty, or to pay as low a duty as possible. My illustration shows how necessary it is that power should be vested in some one to watch these practices and reclassify goods imported to prevent the evasion of duty. I have not had a great deal to do with the officers of the Trade and Customs Department, but I know enough of their work to be able to value their services, and I say that no country in the world has a better staff of officers.
– That applies to the whole of the Commonwealth Public Service.
– I agree with the honorable member, but I was referring to this particular department. Some honorable members go to a department, and if its officers do not agree toT do all that they ask, they assume that something is wrong, and that the officers are not the right men for the positions they occupy. These proposals will not increase the necessary protection for the benefit of the industries of this country. They will only increase the duties payable upon goods imported into Great Britain from foreign countries by British traders, and sent out here as British goods to flood the Australian market. The honorable member for Perth spoke qf the Empire and of the desirability of extending our trade with Great Britain. No one will quarrel with that, but the idea in allowing a preference to Great Britain under the tariff was to increase the importation of British and not of foreign goods. In my opinion, the regulation requiring that the goods to which the preference shall be applied must be to the extent df 75 per cent. British manufacture, has been too long delayed. It should have been insisted upon, not only in the interests of Australia, but in the interests of Great Britain. The fact that since the war reparations to Great Britain have been paid in goods instead of cash, is no doubt responsible for the large army of unemployed in England to-day. We cannot buy goods abroad, and at the same time have our own people employed. We have been giving preference, not to British goods, but to German goods, although honorable members on the other side only a little while ago declared that we should not trade with Germany again for the next ten years. Our Customs revenue last year exceeded that of the previous year by £3,000,000. My own and other districts of the Commonwealth are feeling the effect of these huge importations, and because of them men’ are going about hungry, searching for work. The tariff affects the worker of Australia only in so far as it enables him to find employment in the workshops of this country.
– There is nothing to prevent them doing so.
– If the honorable member visited the industrial centres of the country, he would find that there are many men walking about looking for employment. The increased revenue from Customs last year, as compared with the previous year, really means that goods to the value of £3,000,000, which might have been made in this country, were imported from abroad. It might be said that they could not be manufactured here as cheaply as they are manufactured abroad ; but from my experience of manufacturers in this country, I say that they have no objection to the competition of manufacturers in other countries employing people on the. conditions prevailing in Australia. If in these circumstances they are beaten in tendering for the supply of goods, they must put up with it. But what happens in this country ? I can quote cases in which governments in this country have given preference, not only to British, but to American firms against Australian manufacturers.
– I have never known that to be done.
– I can give instances and produce figures to prove the correctness of my statement.
– I challenge the honorable member to produce them.
– I shall certainly do so. This practice is not confined to one. state. It is done by railways commissioners, who are controlled by state ministers. In my own state an Australian tender for a boiler was £800 less than the overseas tender, but for some unknown reason the imported boiler was purchased.
– The honorable member should not reflect upon civil servants, who cannot reply.
– I said nothing about civil servants. The honorable member’s remark shows his inattention to and his ignorance of the subject. For years past Australian manufacturers have fought the prejudice that Australian- made articles are not as good as the imported. The history of these efforts from their inception, if it were printed, would read like fiction. This prejudice is carried to such an extent that to remove it would require the imposition of a prohibitive tariff, or an action such as America took when it boycotted British goods after its war of independence. There is a strong sentiment against using goods manufactured in this country.
– Statistics are against that.
– I am only following the freetrade speech of the honorable member. The bill will not affect the tariff of this country. It will merely right a wrong. Its purpose is to prevent English traders who send foreign goods to Australia from getting the benefit of the 10 per cent. preference. We are only asking the British manufacturers to do a fair thing. We are prepared to. give them a 10 per cent. preference if they will give us goods of 75 per cent. British manufacture. There is nothing unreasonable in that proposal. If we ask for British goods, let them be from Britain, and not from Sweden or other foreign countries. All the twaddle about Empire trade goes by the board when traders within the Empire deliberately violate the intention of the Customs Act to obtain the 10per cent. preference. We give it voluntarily and freely. The honorable member for Perth said, in effect, that we shall offend Britain by asking her to employ her own people. I remind the honorable member that this preference was not given without consulting
Britain. In 1923 an officer of the Customs Department accompanied the Prime Minister to England to discuss this matter with the Imperial Government, and some agreement was. arrived at. What is the use of all this twaddle about offending Great Britain?
– The word “twaddle “ is not parliamentary.
– It is really nonsense.
– That makes no difference.
– I favour a preference on goods of 100 per cent., instead of 75 per cent., British manufacture. I have been informed that those controlling the rolling industry of Great Britain, instead of patronizing the English manufacturers engaged in the iron and steel trade, purchase material from the Continent and elsewhere, roll it to give it 25 per cent. British manufacture, and send it to Australia to take advantage of the preference. The Minister will be well advised to insist upon preference being given to none other than articles wholly manufactured in Britain.
.- I feel that I must vote against the bill. I listened very patiently to the speeches of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) and of the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) . I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Perth. I am very sorry that the honorable member for Newcastle did not attempt to reply to or refute one of the arguments raised by the honorable member for Perth. I object to the bill, not because it tries to validate a wrong that has been done since 1907, but because it purports to allow such wrongdoing in future. It gives to the Minister for Trade and Customs, whoever he may be, a blank cheque, and gives to other honorable members in the chamber, as representatives of the people, no opportunity of deciding what shall be the policy concerning matters of vital importance to this country. I object to that, and honorable members will better understand my objection if for a moment they imagine me to be Minister for Trade and Customs, with this power in my hands.
– I thought that that would put another aspect on the matter.
In such a case, honorable members would hardly be satisfied to allow me to decide what constituted condition’s of production and what duty should be put on this and that article. This matter should not be left in such a nebulous condition. As the honorable member for Perth said, there should accompany ‘ this bill a schedule setting out for the approval of the House such things and such percentages concerning different articles with which it was intended to deal. If some alteration were required later, it could be made. This bill puts too great a power in the hands of the Minister. It will tend to upset, the . mercantile community of this country because of the uncertainty of purchasing from the Mother Country anything at a fixed price. The Minister, under this clause, will consider any article, and determine what its value is, or what duty is to be placed upon it. This is a common practice under the regulations to-day. I do not propose to try to regulate the trading conditions in the Mother Country. There are in Australia to-day certain persons who are trying to . regulate British shipping. I object to being one to try to regulate the British manufacturers’ business. England is the best customer of Australia. It is in the interests of Australia from a _ selfish point of view alone, to .encourage British trade, because Britain is our best market. For the year 1924-5 the value of Australia’s exports to Britain amounted to over £60,000,000, representing 40 per cent, of our total exports. Britain purchased 90 per cent, of exported Australian butter, 23 per cent, of our flour, 26 per cent. , of our wheat, 38 per cent, of our wool, 61 per cent, of our beef, 91 per cent, of our mutton, and 90 per cent, of our dried fruits. Surely, in the light of these figures, we should not, when dealing with a small matter of preference to England, be pernicketty, by carefully examining every item that comes here to see exactly how it is made up. England is not similarly interfering with our trading relations with her. These large figures can still be further extended. The greater the prosperity of Britain, the greater her purchasing power* for Australian products. Every -assistance given on the Australian market to British goods means assistance to Australian products.
On these grounds, we want to be very careful, when we bring in legislation, not to give to a Minister, whoever he may be - Mr. Pratten, Mr. Mann, or myself - power to over-ride the will of Parliament. It must be manifest that what has been going on since 1907 was not intended by this Parliament. This House is indebted to the honorable member for Perth for pointing out that this illegal practice has been carried on for a long period. Although this irregularity is to be rectified, the Minister has made no mention of the fact that the honorable member for Perth insistently drew his attention to it. This bill will perpetuate the practice that the honorable member for Perth objected to in its incidence, and give still greater power to the Minister. I claim that this House, elected by the people, should have the right to consider all these vital changes, whether they be in connexion’ with the fiscal or any other policy of Australia.
.- An important effect of this bill is the power it will give to the Minister, and the mere possibility of the honorable member for Forrest presiding over the Department of Trade and Customs makes me resolve not to give the Minister too wide a discretion. I would certainly be averse from giving unlimited power to a Minister holding the same fiscal views as the honorable member for Forrest; but if I were Minister for Trade and Customs I .would require all the powers that could possibly be vested in me by Parliament to protect the industries of Australia. At the same time I concur in the general principal enunciated by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) that Parliament must have power to criticize and review all important actions and, if possible, to criticize all proposed actions; but often in the administration of a tariff circumstances arise that prevent the consultation of Parliament before action is taken. It is therefore necessary to give to the Minister some latitude. The extent to which that can be done without robbing Parliament of its control must be considered when this bill is in committee. I give to the honorable member for Perth all credit for having raised this issue last year. He did emphasize the invalidity of the action- .that the Minister was then proposing to take, but I do not think that many honorable members accepted his view. I am not certain that I accept it now, but the Government has done so, and is at least making assurance doubly sure by asking Parliament to validate what has been done by administrative act. If it is agreed that certain statutory rules require validation, the honorable member for Perth deserves all possible credit for having discovered ana announced that fact to the House- twelve months ago. My main criticism of the measure is that if validation is necessary the Government ‘ should have acted last year. The honorable member for Perth is quite correct in saying that ‘f the illegality to which he called attention is serious enough to necessitate legislative action now, it was serious enough to receive the attention of the Government last year. The Government made a gravemistake in not taking immediate action to legalize actions which it was warned twelve months ago were illegal. The honorable member for Forrest ‘ (Mr. Prowse) said that by this bill the Government is endeavouring to regulate the business of British manufacturers. It is doing nothing of the sort. We are asked to regulate the business of our own people by deciding what goods shall be admitted into the Commonwealth at preferential rates of duty. Surely we are entitled to do that. The honorable member quoted statistics to emphasize the large percentages of Australia’s total exports that are purchased by Great Britain. I submit that those statistics constitute an argument in favour of this measure ; they are a sound reason for giving absolute preference to the British article, and not to the foreign article. The purpose of the bill is to prevent foreign manufacturers from dumping into Australia goods that have been sent to England to have a British label put on them. The argument of the honorable member for Forrest is that Britain is such a large customer for Australian products that we should not pass this measure, which will make the preference to British manufacturers, as against their foreign competitors, more effective. The honorable member for Perth has misjudged .the meaning of the bill. He said that if 25 or 30 per cent. of an article imported from Great Britain was of foreign origin, that article could not be admitted to Australia under the British preferential tariff. That is not so. If the raw material imported into
Great Britain cannot be obtained in Britain, the value of it is not counted in the cost of the article. Only so much of the raw material as could have been obtained in Great Britain is included in the total cost for the purposes of estimating the duty. The bill provides that, to be eligible for admission at preferential rates, an article must contain at least 75 per cent, of British labour and/or material; but if the whole of the labour of manufacture was done in the United Kingdom it does not matter what percentage qf the value of the article is. represented by foreign raw material. For instance, the whole of the raw material in a British-made copper dish is imported from abroad, because it cannot be obtained in the United Kingdom. That raw material represents 80 per cent, of the total value of the article, but although only 20 per cent, of the value of the article is of British origin, the preferential duty applies, because the whole process of manufacture has been carried out in Great Britain. The Minister has adopted a reasonable course to ensure that the preference intended to be given to British goods under a reciprocal arrangement shall be enjoyed by the British manufacturer, and not by his foreign competitors who label their goods “ British.” In moving the second reading of the bill the Minister made a very interesting speech, and advanced strong reasons in justification of it. Some of the instances he mentioned corroborated what has been common knowledge for years. I remember that within a week of my return in 1922 as the representative of Yarra, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) moved a motion of censure upon the Government for allowing foreign manufacturers to dump their goods into Australia, often under conditions which enabled them to get the benefit of the British preferential duties. Since that occasion the same issue has been raised several times in this House by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) and others on this side; but their protests have been ignored, and the foreign manufacturers have continued to take advantage of the preferential tariff to dump their goods in Australia, in competition with British manufactures and the products of struggling Australian industries. To his credit, one of the first administrative acts- of” the present Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) was the adoption of a remedy for that evil by requiring that goods admitted under the British preferential duty shall contain not less than 75 per cent, of British labour and material. The mistake he made was in deferring the operation of the rule. In September last he announced to the House that the proportion of British manufacture and material would be increased from 25 to 75 per cent., but, to my amazement, he said that the new arrangement would not come into effect until the 1st April of this year. He chose a very suitable date. Why was six months’ notice of the alteration given? The explanation is that certain negotiations were taking place between Australia and New Zealand in order to get uniformity in regard to preferential duties-. If that was sufficient reason for delaying the operation of the statutory rule, - and I do not admit that it was - it surely would have justified deferring the announcement of the intended change. The effect of the alteration from 25 per cent, to 75 per cent, was to increase the duties on a large quantity of goods, which hitherto’ had been accepted as of British origin, but would in future be classified as foreign, and that is the first occasion within my recollection of political history when a Minister has given six months’ notice of his intention to increase duties. In effect, the Minister gave a warning which enabled the importers to rush in large quantities of foreign goods in anticipation of the increase in duty. Usually a proposed increase in the tariff, whether by means of regulation, or statute, is kept a close secret. The first public indication of it is the placing of the. schedule’ upon the table, and from that moment, although Parliament has had no opportunity to deal with them, the new duties operated. The justification for that procedure is that if notice of the intention to amend the duties were given, importers would clear goods through the Customs House at an abnormal rate, as they have been doing during the last few weeks. It is futile to say that no advantage has been taken of the announcement which the Minister made in September last. The importers are keen business men, and as soon as they learned that after the 1st April articles which did not contain 75 per cent, of British labour and material would not be eligible for admission under the British preferential duties, they began to dump foreign-made- goods iri order to take advantage of the lower rate of duty. In regard to the general tariff, too, the Minister for months past has been forecasting an increase in. duties. The Governor-General’s Speech contained an intimation to the same effect, and one naturally expected that within a week of the meeting of Parliament the new tariff schedule would be placed upon the table. But it has not made its appearance yet. Thus an opportunity has been given to shrewd business men to anticipate the increase of certain duties, and flood the country with imports. That that has been done is proved by a comparison of the importations during last year with the figures of three years ago, which show that the Customs revenue has increased by about £4,320,000 during that period, and all the time the strangulation of Australian industries has continued. Between the date of the delivery of the Governor-General’s Speech and the introduction of the amended tariff schedule, almost sufficient time will have elapsed for a ship to be loaded in Europe and sent to Australia, and its cargo cleared through the Customs House. That is not protection. Although the new duties may be satisfactory, they will not effectively protect Australian industries for probably a year or eighteen months after they have commenced to operate, because the delay which has occured has enabled the warehouses of the importers to be filled to the ceilings. The increase in prices that will probably follow an increase in the tariff will for a long time be to the advantage of the importers. In reality, therefore, our protectionist policy, which is designed to benefit industries, will play into the hands of the importers of cheap and shoddyforeign articles, because the Government has been merely talking protection for a year or more, instead of putting” it into operation. The Minister, in introducing the bill, said that the textile goods manufactured entirely on the Continent were dyed, measured and wrapped in England, and sent out to Australia as of British manufacture. They are made under the cheap-labour conditions of .Europe, while our textile industries have been strangled and many persons have been thrown out of employment. Some of the mills have been closed down, while others are only working part time. Let me give another illustration. It was pointed out by the Minister that machines in parts manufactured in foreign countries were merely assembled in Great Britain, but were sent out to Australia as of British manufacture. Instances similar to- this hav.e been known for a long time, and therefore the measure should have been brought down at least a year ago. The imports of iron manufactures from the Continent to Great Britain since 1922 have increased fourfold. The Minister admitted it, but if the course pursued last April had been adopted six months earlier, a considerable proportion of those goods would have been manufactured in Australia. It is a serious indictment of the administration of the Customs Department that it gave notice of its intention to increase a duty. The imposition of the new regulations in April undoubtedly had the effect of reducing the tonnage of imports. While Great Britain was importing iron goods from the Continent, the iron and steel industries of the Commonwealth were in a perilous condition, and if the regulations had been in operation six months earlier, Australian industries would have been benefited. 1 support the bill, but 1 say that it is belated. I would support any increase in the tariff for the protection of Australian industries, although that, too, will be belated, and the advantage will not be felt until after next year, or. probably later. The criticism that too much power is given by the bill to the Minister can be considered in committee, but the complaint that the measure increases the duty on foreign articles camouflaged as British can only come from those who wish the lowest possible duties to be imposed on foreign goods. Those who wish to see the goods we use manufactured in this country, and the goods we cannot manufacture here imported from British countries only - those who are really protectionists - will derive some measure of satisfaction and relief from the bill.
.- The object of the bill is, first of all, to enact as law statutory rule No. 29 of 1925, and to provide that the Minister may from time to time, as he thinks fit, alter it by regulation and substitute for it any other provision defining the goods to which the British preferential tariff shall be applicable, so far as the first object is concerned, looking at the substance of the legislation as it would operate if the bill were passed, I am in favour of the 75 and 25 per cent, provisions, because it appears to m© that they will make the British preference real. Probably some British exporters who have been exporting to Australia under the old provision, will suffer, but the bill will be all to the advantage of those British manufacturers who are providing increased employment in Great Britain for British workmen. It appears to me that the examples which the Minister gave in his second-reading- speech, and which I learn from other sources might be almost indefinitely extended and amplified, are sufficient to justify the enactment of a provision requiring a larger percentage than was previously required of British labour or materials in goods entitled to the benefit of our British preferential tariff rates. It is impossible to say that the intention of Parliament in enacting the preferential tariff has been carried out, when Continental goods are given a lick-over in the United Kingdom and then exported to Australia as British manufactures. Accordingly, on the substance of the measure, I am prepared to support it, but I think that the House should itself take the responsibility of fixing the amount of British material or labour which shall entitle goods to tariff preference. As the bill is drawn, it leaves that matter entirely to the discretion of the Minister. It merely provides that the Minister may, by regulations made from time to time, determine the conditions upon which’ the goods shall receive the benefit of the preferential rates, and it validates the existing regulations under statutory rule 29. I do not wonder that there is a doubt as to the validity of that rule. Parliament has said that goods produced or manufactured in the United Kingdom shall be admitted at a certain rate. If goods are the product or manufacture of Great Britain, they are entitled to come in at that rate, and the department has no right to determine, by regulation, what the act of Parliament means. In an important matter like this, Parliament should make its legislation plain, in order that manufacturers and ex- porters in the United Kingdom, and people in Australia, may know exactly where they stand. The Minister stated in his second-reading speech that it is necessary to have a specific definition in order that the mercantile community may understand exactly the conditions of preference. I agree entirely with that, but this bill would leave it open to the Minister to alter the percentages the day after the bill became law from 75 and 25 to 5 and 2£, or to any other figures.
I am not suggesting that the Minister will do that, but, as a matter of general principle, it appears to me that the question of the class of goods to receive the benefits of preference is sufficiently important to be determined by Parliament itself. Accordingly, I ask’ the Minister to consider whether he will not accept an amendment, the effect of which would be to embody the substance of the statutory rule in the bill. Instead of providing that the Minister may make regulations from time to time for determining the conditions under which the goods shall have the benefit of the preferential tariff, and then validating the statutory rule, the measure should read, “ Goods which comply with the following conditions shall be entitled to. the benefit of the preferential rates.” Then we could set out what- now appears in the statutory rule. The effect of that would be that Parliament would have determined the questions of percentage and other matters referred to in the bill, so that they could not be- altered by an exercise of ministerial discretion by way of regulation. One must recognize that a certain degree of elasticity and flexibility to meet conditions and circumstances which change from time to time is required in some tariff items, and it is impossible to prescribe in a statute every condition relating to the whole ‘of those items. Therefore, while I suggest that the second clause of the bill should be amended to incorporate the words of the statutory rule, I also suggest that it is still necessary to leave to the Minister the power to determine at least two things in addition to the other matters which he is allowed to determine under the present statutory rule. Under the new regulation 34b (1) a, there is a reference to goods which are wholly produced or manufactured in the United Kingdom, but there is a condition that “ as to manufactured goods, these will only be considered ‘wholly manufactured in the United Kingdom ‘ if in the raw materials used, and also in the finished goods, no manufacturing process has been performed outside the United Kingdom which is being commercially performed in the United Kingdom.” I suggest that it should be left to the Minister to determine from time to time whether or not any particular manufacturing process is being commercially performed in the United Kingdom. Further, I think that it ought to be left to the Minister to determine under a later clause whether any goods are of a class or kind not commercially manufactured in Australia. That also appears to me to be a condition that has to be considered from time to time, and the application of the tariff must be varied according to whether or not the goods are being commercially manufactured in Australia at a particular time. It is proper to leave that discretion to be exercised by a responsible Minister, but so far as the main features of the rule are concerned, I suggest that it would be preferable if they were embodied in the bill so that they could not be altered without the consent of Parliament. There is one other matter to which I should like to refer. The main provision relating to goods which are entitled to the benefit of the British preferential tariff is to be found in section 8 of the Customs Tariff Act of 1921. That section was quoted by the Minister in his second-reading speech, and it provides that the rates of duty set out in the schedule in the column headed “British Preferential Tariff” shall apply to goods the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom, subject to the condition that the goods have been 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 appears to me that this amendment relating to the conditions under which goods may obtain the benefit of the preferential tariff ought to be associated with the principal section in the Tariff Act of 1921, and not with the Customs Act. This amendment proposes to leave section 8 of the Tariff Act of 1921 unchanged, in the words I have read, and then to bring in, by way of validation of a statutory rule, another set of provisions. I suggest that the amendment should be alongside the section which it in effect amends. It is proposed to insert it after section 151 of the Customs Act. That might mislead anyone who was trying to ascertain the law relating to the British preferential tariff. There is nothing in section 8 of the Tariff Act of 1921 to show that it is affected by another act.
Finally, I venture to draw attention to the drafting of this statutory rule. I do not wish to occupy the time of the House with mere drafting points, but I maintain that honorable members are entitled to have the rules that are placed before them drafted in a proper manner. This rule is not’ properly drafted, and one needs only to glance at it to see that. I shall not go into the details of it, but the introductory sentence is : -
Goods which comply with the following conditions shall be deemed to be the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom, for the purposes of the operation of tlie British Preferential Tariff, viz :-
After that one would expect to find, but does not find, a list of conditions. First there is a description of a class of goods -
Goods which are wholly produced or wholly manufactured in the United Kingdom.
The next paragraph is a description, and the next is a description. Paragraph d is a condition, the next is a definition, the next is a further portion of that definition, and the final paragraph is a. direction for a calculation for the purpose of applying a definition. From a drafting point of view, the form of the rule is indefensible. The legislation of this Parliament provides that, the goods must have been shipped in the United Kingdom to Australia, and there are various conditions about transhipping. In this statutory rule, we find that those words are repeated as if they derived their force not from an act .of this Parliament, but from the power of the Minister to make regulations. A part of the statute is actually repeated as a part of the regulation. Surely that is entirely wrong and it is certainly confusing. I do not like to say what I think of this form of misdrafting. It gives a great deal of trouble, it makes it very difficult for anyone to consider legislation efficiently and effectively, and it is apt to mislead the public. ‘ This rule appears to me to be very useful as a series of layman’s suggestions for a draftsman to work on.
.- I hope the Minister will survive the severe attack of the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham). I think he will agree with the indictment of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), for if any Minister should be like Caesar’s wife - above suspicion - that Minister is the Minister for Trade and Customs. No one knows better than he, keen business man that he is, that if any notice is given to the public of impending changes in Customs duties, large sums of money are made by importers, but no benefit is derived by the public. As soon as duties are increased prices go up. We are hearing once again the old argument of freetrade and protection. For a real freetrader, a conscientious freetrader, I have every respect. The argument always puts me in mind of the see-saw on which boys and girls play. At one end there is the real freetrader, who does not want a penny piece from the Customs House, and at the other end is the real protectionist, who also does not want a penny piece from the Customs House, and would admit into the country free of duty everything that cannot be manufactured here, and would apply prohibition to some articles. I am that sort of protectionist. Between the two extremes there is the revenue tariff advocate, who stands like the boy on the middle of the see-saw. When he leans to one side, that side goes down; and when he leans to the other side that side goes down. In the Victorian Parliament, when Victoria had a tariff, and later in the Federal Parliament, the revenue tariff man stood on the centre of the seesaw, and. gave a little. “ fat “ first to the freetrader, and then to the protectionist. While I have respect for a true freetrader, I have none for the “ shandygaff “ variety, and I am sorry that the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) is of that type. He stated that increasing the percentage of British manufacture from 25 to 75 would injure the trade of manufacturers in Great
Britain. The action of British manufacturers in taking advantage of our generous preference by sending us goods that were 75 per cent, of foreign manufacture, with a paltry veneer of 25 per cent, of British manufacture, was a fraud. And yet they had the audacity and impertinence to ask Australia to give them a preference on the whole 100 per cent. In view of those facts, I do not think I am severe in saying that the honorable member for Perth is a “shandy-gaff” freetrader. If 25 per cent, is a thin veneerto enable British manufacturers to perpetrate a fraud, 75 per cent, is only a thicker veneer. English manufacturers should welcome from us a decision to insist upon 100 per cent, of British manufacture. Such action would assist true British manufacturers, and would do something to remove the terrible unemployment in the Homeland. There are only two or three honorable members who support the veneer, and they would be the first to. say that Great Britain can make everything to their satisfaction. Why, then, do they not support the bill, which, if not perfect, is at least a very long step in the right direction? What a paltry thing it is to talk about a veneer of 25 per cent, when England has so much unemployment, and so many men, women, and children unable to obtain proper food, shelter, and clothing ? We hear of these patriotic, so-termed Englishmen sending orders to Germany for six large oilburning steamers. This bill should be, and I believe will be, welcomed by all real Englishmen. It is said that a straw shows the way the wind blows. A little while ago my daughter presented me with a pair of gloves. I accepted them gratefully, as I do all presents from those I love. I looked at the buttons, and saw “Fownes, London,” and I naturally thought that the gloves were made in England. My advice to my children has always been, “ If you cannot buy Australian, buy British.” I happened to look inside the gloves, and saw “ Czechoslovakia.” I returned the gloves, and said, “ My dear, I cannot accept your gift.” My daughter took them back to the shop, and, after much trouble, obtained a pair of gloves made entirely in London. I believe that “ the firm of Fownes sent the buttons to Czechoslovakia., where hey were attached to the gloves, and sent to’ England. When the gloves came out to Australia, they claimed preference on 100 per cent, of their value. That was a fraud, a swindle. If not that firm, at least another firm equally as large, was fined, and those connected wilh it ought to have been put into jail for a long term. When I went to England to represent this Parliament at the coronation of the King, 1 wanted to buy a good English lead pencil. I remembered that- Cumberland was supposed to produce the finest material in the world for lead pencils. I went into a shop, and asked for an English lead pencil. The assistant said, “ We have a very good one from Germany.” I said, “No, I want an English one.” He then said, “ This is a good American pencil.” I again refused the foreign article, and told him I wanted an English pencil, which I finally .obtained . I asked him, “ Are you an Englishman?” and he said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you proud of being an Englishman ?” He replied, “ Yes.” I then said, “ Why do you try to make me buy a German or an American pencil instead of an English one?” He said, “Well, sir, we have big rents to pay, and we get a larger profit on the foreign pencils.” I said, “ Man alive ! Stand up for your own country, and put it always first.” I compliment the Government on the bill. Some amendments may be moved in committee, but so far as I am. concerned their object will be not to injure the bill, but to improve- It. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann), made a great deal of motor chassis and bodies which he said were admitted under fifteen instead of under three headings. If he studied the tariffs of the world, as contained in the Shipping World Year-Boole and The Tariffs of the World, he would find that the items in the Australian tariff are few compared with those of some other countries. Whereas there are 430 items in the Commonwealth tariff, occupying 41 pages of the book, there are 581 sections in the tariff of the United. States of America, some sections containing as many as 30 items. The tariff of France has 654 items, and that of Germany 946 items. The three finest tariffs in the world are those of Japan, the United States of America, and Germany, all of which I commend to the Minister and his splendid officers for their consideration. Our cigar-makers are protected to the ex tent of about 15s.’ a lb. on cigars. That is the difference between the duty paid at the Customs House and the excise duty. Cigars costing £10 for 1,000 which enter Japan have to pay a duty of £35 10s., which would equal about £3 lis., as against 15s. a lb. to protect the white cigar-makers in our community against the products of coloured labour in the Philippines or in Havana. When I think of England with her huge army of unemployed, and of the suffering of many of her people, and realize that she will not manufacture enough to supply her dominions which are granting her 10 per cent, preference, I am tempted to question whether the British race is becoming decadent. Perhaps I should not have used that word, for it is only since the awful debacle of war affected that country that the workers of England have been able to make their influence felt through the ballot-box. I myself, when in England, was robbed of my vote for five years. When the women as well as the men of England realize their power, they will determine that the flag of England shall not fly over vessels carrying goods that are a fraud, in that the amount of British labour employed in their manufacture is so small as is the case at present. I am glad that the Minister has introduced this bill, and I believe that he will do his best to ensure that by no idle word of - his will any importer gain an undue advantage.
.- If we give to British goods a preference over other imports, it is reasonable to suppose that we have the right to decide what shall be the proportion of British material and workmanship in those goods to entitle them to that concession. Whether or not 75 per cent, is the proportion which will give the best results to both Great Britain and Australia, I do not know, but it appears to me to be a very reasonable proportion. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) said that if 75 per cent, of British workmanship and material were insisted on in British goods to entitle them to the preferential rate, it would mean an increase in foreign trade. It is probable that if the goods which at present contain 25 per cent., or 50 per cent., of British material or workmanship were put into the same fiscal category as goods manufactured wholly in foreign countries, it might have the effect mentioned by the honorable member, but if, because of the increased percentage, we reduce our British imports by 20 per cent., we could depend upon the 80 per cent, which would still come from that source containing a much greater amount of British workmanship than is the case to-day. If this bill had been drafted simply to validate ‘ regulation 29, which deals with that 75 per cent, proportion) it would have my unqualified support, but I believe that it gives the Minister a great .deal more power than that. Under this bill, the Minister will have the power to prescribe that goods must contain any proportion he may think fit, from 5 per cent, to 100 per cent., of British workmanship and material in order to obtain the benefit of the preferential rate. The Minister could, if he desired, entirely ignore the regulation that prescribes 75 per cent. One can imagine that a Minister - I do not suggest it of the present Minister - might override the will of Parliament. For instance, if this House decided to refuse an increase in the duty on some particular commodity coming from Great Britain, and the Minister for Customs of the day was particularly anxious that that increased, duty should operate, it would be possible for him to flout the “will of Parliament by a subterfuge. He could alter the regulation in such a way that something which now comes in on the 75. per cent, basis would not be regarded as of British manufacture unless the material and workmanship were wholly British. If that were done, it would mean that such goods would be excluded from enjoying the British preferential duty and would come under the general tariff. I consider that to grant to a Minister such power is to vest in him more authority than it is desirable that any Minister should possess. I should like to hear the opinion of the Attorney-General as to the powers which the bill will confer upon the Minister for Customs/
– Having heard the remarks of the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) regarding the officers of the Customs Department, I desire, first of all, as one who has had experience in that department, to say that I consider that nowhere in the British Empire is there a more cap- able body of officers than in the Commonwealth Customs Department.
– I said nothing to the contrary. I referred to the Customs legislation.
– If legislation is at fault, Parliament is to blame, and the honorable members’ remarks must be construed as a reflection upon Parliament. His remarks this afternoon seemed to suggest that he was referring to the officers of the department, and I am glad to have his assurance that that was not so.
– I made a specific statement on that matter.
– I accept, unreservedly, the honorable member’s statement. Regarding the bill itself, the present Minister found that like his predecessors he had to decide on- an interpretation of an important section of the act, which said that, subject to certain conditions, British preferential rates should apply to goods the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom. This House did not attempt to define, for the guidance of the Minister, what constituted the goods the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom. The Minister found himself in a difficult position; and therefore supplied his officers with a definition of British preference. Judging from the views that have been expressed by honorable members on both sides, that interpretation seems to have been generally accepted as the right attitude for Australia to adopt in this matter. However, that interpretation as well as the application of the rule has been questioned - whether properly questioned or not, I do not say. The Minister desires that any regulation passed by the GovernorGeneral in Council shall be beyond question, and that any action taken by him shall be approved by Parliament. He therefore asks, in the latter part of this measure, for the validation of the regulation which is specified in the bill. The Minister, not desiring to be left where he is, asks also that the Governor-General in Council shall be given the power to prescribe, by regulation, the conditions under which these goods may be imported, and that provision to- that effect be incorporated in an amendment to the Customs Act. Despite the criticism of my learned friend, the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) I contend that the Customs Act is the proper place for the amendment to be made. The Tariff Acts, which are temporary measures, are not the place for amendments of this nature. Their purpose is to set out specifically the taxes which shall be imposed.
– Sometimes it is done in accordance with by-laws.
– That is so, but not the power to make regulations. The power to make regulations of a general character for the administration of the Trade and Customs Department is provided for in the Customs Act. Then we have to ask whether, with respect to the definition of the goods entitled to preference, it is possible to set out rigidly in the Tariff Act what constitutes goods the produce or manufacture of Great Britain, though the bill does not deal only with Great, Britain. It is in dealing with this point that the difficulty arises. If honorable members endeavoured to arrive at a definition to be included in the act for all time, they would bring about a very awkward position. The experience of the department has been that new processes of manufacture and new conditions in relation to trade, even with Great Britain itself, have constantly called for a revision of the definition. That is why the Minister asks that the conditions should be fixed by regulation. After all, he is asking for a definition of his power under the existing act. He is asking that he should not be left in the position that he occupies at present, but that the power in relation to this matter should be exercised by regulations. He is asking that he should start with the regulation already issued and in operation. That will be the basis of the administration. It is true that power is given to the Executive to alter the regulations from time to time. The reason why it is asked that this should be put in the form of a regulation is that there are continually changing conditions in relation to trade, commerce, and manufacture. The Minister asks that the Governor-General in Council should have power from time to time to give effect to the will of Parliament in giving preference, and should be able to make regulations adapted from time to time to meet changing conditions. It is open to Parliament to decide that the GovernorGeneral in Council shall require 25 per cent. of British manufacture in the case of certain goods, and 75 per cent. in the case of other goods. For a long time Parliament accepted the requirement of 25 per cent., but the Minister found that the operation of the preference then provided for needed reconsideration. For that reason the regulation was altered to meet changed conditions, and the existing regulation, which has met with the approval of Parliament, was issued.
– The Attorney-General will agree that the day after this bill is passed the Minister can alter the 75 per cent. to 5 per cent., or to 95 per cent.
– Of couse, there is the power of alteration, but what is done will be by regulation, and will be under the control and will of Parliament. We are dealing with a statutory regulation. There is a condition “ As prescribed by departmental by-law.” If the Minister exercised his full powers under that provision he could refuse to give the assistance intended to be given under the act to some of the factories and industries in Australia today. In giving these powers to the Executive, the Parliament must assume that they will be exercised with reasonable discretion. There is the alternative to put the definition rigidly in the act, but to do that would in all probability cause hardship and difficulty. It is proposed to let the Executive make regulations to give effect to what it knows to be the will of Parliament. Powers of a discretionary character are given to judges, and if they were to abuse those powers they could render the whole administration of justice a mockery and a farce. It is assumed that judges and other high officers in whom powers are vested will act with reasonable discretion, and exercise their powers according to the intentions of the acts under which they are given.
– We do not give the judges legislative powers.
– We are not dealing here with a legislative power.
– It is tantamount to that.
– No; the legislative power is exercised by Parliament in fixing the rates of Customs duties to be imposed. The Customs Act could not be administered with justice to the people of Australia or to importers if we tried to set down everything in the act and left no discretion to the Minister. That will be admitted by any one who has had the slightest experience of the working of the Trade and Customs Department.
– That is admitted, with the distinction that more is done by the Minister to-day than by the Parliament.
– On consideration the honorable member will find that that is not so. We are dealing now with the particular matter of the definition of goods the produce or manufacture of the country of export, Great Britain.- The honorable member for Kooyong has criticized the drafting of the present regulation. I believe the officers who drafted it are capable men who know their work, and it is a good piece of drafting. I ask honorable members to study the regulation. They will see that a number of conditions have had to be included in order to carry out the intention of Parliament to give preference ‘to goods the produce or- manufacture of Great Britain. When the British preference came into operation, it was found that goods were being imported into the United Kingdom from abroad. The conditions of trade enabled them to be imported very cheaply, and a provision intended to benefit Great Britain was found in practice to be benefiting foreign countries. The Minister was, by regulation, able to meet this difficulty. Take another view of the matter : Great Britain, in the manufacture of some goods, is consuming a. great deal of Australian raw material. The finished article is coming to Australia. How is that to be treated? The Minister has to face that problem, and he deals with it under the regulation. Then, again, a new industry has sprung up in Australia for the manufacture of wool tops, which have been used in England for the manufacture of goods to be imported to Australia. The question arises, To what extent are those goods of British manufacture? There is another problem that had to be solved. If we tried to deal with all these varying conditions in a rigid definition included in the act, we should in all probability defeat the purpose we have in view. When the Parliament passes a tariff act it tells the Minister what to do, and he then frames regulations to give effect to the policy declared by Parliament. The phrase “ prescribed conditions “ has a technical meaning. Under the Acts Interpretation Act 1904, “prescribed” means “ prescribed by the act or by the regulations under the act.” Those regulations must comply with certain conditions. One is that they must be tabled in Parliament, which has the power of disallowing them. That is part of the machinery provided for dealing with regulations. A regulation is not the mere dictum of the Minister. It is the deliberate act of the Executive Council, and it must then comply with the provisions of the law governing the issue of regulations. I am reminding honorable members of the inadvisability of rigidly fixing conditions in the act. itself. My view is that the proper course to follow is for Parliament to lay down the policy, that, for instance, goods the produce or manufacture of Great Britain should be given tariff preference, and then to allow the Minister, knowing that they may vary, to issue regulations setting out the conditions under which the preference should be given. It is not a question of fixing the rate of tax, but of the application of two different rates to specific goods.
– That does affect the tax.
– I am pointing out that it is not the fixing of the rate of the tax that we are now dealing with, but the application of the tax to particular goods. The point to be decided is whether certain goods are or are not goods to which preference should be given. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) complained that notice was given across the seas that it was intended to impose these conditions. I say that that was a proper thing to do. The issue of this regulation is entirely different from the introduction of tariff resolutions, fixing rates of duty upon goods. Notice is given to people who intend to send goods to Australia that they must comply with certain conditions in order to ‘ obtain the benefit of the preference offered to goods the produce or manufacture of Great Britain. This is not a matter of the collection of duty, but of giving preference to British goods and encouraging and promoting the manufacture of goods in Great Britain. It is reasonable to say in this case that if British manufacturers comply with certain conditions their goods will bo given the benefit of the British preference on their arrival here. I suggest to honorable members the great difficulty of setting out a definition in the act. The safest course to follow is to adopt the proposal of the Minister. He should not be left as at present, with a power undefined, but should have the guidance of regulations to assist him.
.- It is quite correct, as stated by the Minister, that we are getting almost an entirely foreign import instead of one having a fair proportion of British manufacture, which was the intention of Parliament and of the department. But I question whether to make the tig jump from 25 per cent. to 75 per cent. in the requirement relating to British manufacture is not too great. The Minister knows that Great Britain in her palmy days right up to the beginning of the war was a large importer of raw materials that were worked up in the factories of the United Kingdom and then imported. I feel that we have been treating Great Britain too severely, especially when we have been negotiating preferences with other countries which are now practically completed. We have been changing our policy to an extent which does not conduce to Great Britain extending her generosity in relation to preferences for certain of our perishable and other products. I must protest against the administration, not only of this Minister, but of his predecessor, regarding the operation of the dumping provisions. These provisions were conceived and approved just at the close of the war for special reasons, one being the inequality of exchange. The exchange problem was very serious, indeed, particularly in some countries immediately after the war, and to some extent to-day. The Minister has imposed the dumping duties with a vengeance. Take, for instance, cream separators. In that case therewas no question of protecting an Australian in dustry, because a cream separator had never been made in Australia. The ordinary duty was about 30s., and even that was not a protective duty. The Minister on top of that imposed a dumping duty of £5, with the result that the duty on two small cream separators was considerably more than their cost, including freight and other charges.
– The duty was eventually altered.
– That is so. I wish to refer to the development of the interior. The ravages of recent years by foxes, wild dogs, and rabbits have completely devastated portions of the country. When I appeared before the Tariff Board in Adelaide, I drew its attention to the position inNew South Wales. In the western division of that state some seven or eight years ago there were 9,000,000 sheep, and to-day there are not many more than 4,500,000. Hundreds of thousands of pounds will have to be spent in that country to erect vermin-proof fences, and assistance will have to be given to the settlers to enable them to obtain the necessary wire netting.
– Why did not the honorable member cure the Kidman blight?
– One blight at a time. Parliament, in its wisdom, practically set aside the duty on. wire netting. To assist a newly-established industry in Australia, a bounty was provided for the manufacture of wire netting. The Minister will admit that he has been severe in the interpretation of the dumping provisions in relation to wire netting, because he introduced a new practice which meant almost prohibition. It applied against Great Britain. The clumping duty was imposed on any article whichwas invoiced at a price less than its domestic price in the country of origin. I submitted invoices of several shipments to the Minister, and in every instance hut one the invoice price was above the domestic price in the country of origin, which was Great Britain. Despite my efforts, a dumping excess was imposed on wire netting. This action is absolutely inconsistent with the policy of removing the duty altogether to enable the struggling settler to erect verminproof fences. The settler is being penalized when, in the interests of the country, he should he assisted. I hope that the Minister will be moregenerous, and a: little just in the administration of his department in relation to the items I have mentioned. The same remarks apply to plain fencing wire and galvanized iron, which are requiredjust as much as wire netting in the development of our vast territory.
– I have done nothing yet regarding those two items.
Mr.FOSTER. - I am mentioning them so that the honorable member may not do anything to affect them. A provision was wisely agreed to by Parliament that importations, particularly of machinery of a type that could not be made in this country, might be relieved of duty.
– Thathas been done on several occasions.
– In some cases, it has not. The industries of this country cannot be built up unless we have efficiency. We have no business to impose an extraordinary tariff unless there is efficiency in the industry that it is desired to protect. Unfortunately, we are a long way. from efficiency.
– Has any other country better man power than Australia?
– There will never be efficiency here while there is industrial unrest and turmoil such as there is in Australia to-day.
– That has nothing to do with the tariff.
– It has a lot to do with the tariff. Other countries arean example to us in this direction. We must have efficiency in man power, in organizing ability and in mechanical power. We should then have justification for giving whatever protection is necessary to industries that are effectively conducted. I do not know whether I shall vote for the bill. It seems to me that we are wandering from the good and sane paths of the past. I admit that, in the Customs Department, there must be a more extended authority than is necessary in the administration of other de partments. But we now have the Tariff Board, and although I was one of the first to assist in its establishment, I never thought for a moment that Parliament would be practically handing over its authority to the Minister and to the board.
.- I believe in the preferential treatment of British goods, even to the extent of 100 per cent., but the preference must be reciprocal. If Australia, has raw material that it cannot use in manufactures, Great Britain, before being given preferential duties, should be obliged to purchase that material from Britons in Australia rather than from foreign nations. The area of the British Empire is not increasing; this is the last portion of it to be settled and developed. I desire that people of British stock, and no others, shall be admitted to Australia, and that the British Empire shall realize that in this country we can maintain a large population in accordance with the highest traditions, ideals, and standards of our race. The products of black labour in any country should not be imported into the Commonwealth. Whenever possible, Australian raw material should be converted into manufactures in Australian factories. I do not believe in keeping the people of other nations busy in converting Australian raw material into manufactures; we should encourage our secondary industries, in order to give employment to our own people; but if raw material must be sent abroad, I prefer to send it to Great Britain. Our trade preferences, however, should be reciprocal. For instance, I do not approve of Great Britain purchasing dried fruits that are the product of Greek labour receiving 10d. per day, when products of Britishers in Australia who are receiving 12s. per day lack a market. Preference should be a business deal, involving mutual concessions. I appreciate my country and its assets, and I wish its industries to be untrammelled, and its prosperity to advance upon a continuous stream of trade and commerceto the advantage of our people and of the British Empire as a whole.
– I desire to reply briefly to some of the statements that have been made in the course of this, debate. I assure honorable’ members that the genesis of this bill dates back some years; it was partially shaped and moulded while the Prime Minister and the Comptroller-General of Customs were at the last Imperial Conference. Questionnaires were sent by the Australian Association of British Manufacturers to 506 representative British manufacturers who do business with Australia. Two hundred and seventy-two replied, and of this number, 226 favoured preference being confined to goods containing at least 50 per cent, of British material and labour. Had they been asked whether, in respect of imported raw materials, that were not obtainable in the United Kingdom, they were in favour of the whole of the workmanship being put upon them in Great, Britain, a very large majority of them would have replied in the affirmative. I entirely repudiate the suggestion that this bill is an unfriendly gesture towards the Imperial Government. There is no friction or misunderstanding either between the Commonwealth Government and the British Government, or between the Commonwealth Government and bona fide British manufacturers. Certain insinuations were made against the Customs administration in connexion with the recent prosecution in Sydney of a man named Chambers. Honorable members are aware that before any legal action is taken by a Government department, the Crown Law officers are consulted. Some honorable members have asserted that the Minister and the Tariff Board have taken out of the control of Parliament the levying of Customs duties. Those who make that charge do not fully understand the subject. The tariff includes some concessional items, particularly Nos. 174 and 404, in respect of which, subject to departmental regulations, and after investigation and report by the Tariff Board, the Minister has power to make concessions in certain circumstances. Before the concessions can be made siu inquiry must he held, and never since I have been in office has any concession been made that has interfered with a bona fide Australian manufacturer. Parliament itself placed in the discretion of the Minister these concessional powers, and when the Minister refuses a concession he is not imposing a duty, but is merely collecting a duty that Parliament has declared shall bc collected in certain circumstances. Reference has been made to the Industries Preservation Act. The Minister cannot impose dumping duties under that statute until the matter has been investigated and reported upon by the Tariff Board, and while I occupy the position of Minister for Trade and Customs I shall administer the law without fear or favour, and in accordance with what I understand to be the intention of Parliament. In doing that, I shall not be imposing duties of my own volition, or exceeding the prerogative which Parliament deliberately vested in the Minister. I was glad to hear the general approval accorded the principles contained . in the regulation that was laid upon the table when the bill was introduced. The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) seems not to fully understand the proposals of the Government. The 75 per cent, and 25 per cent, provisions are alternatives. No handicap is imposed in respect of raw materials imported into the United Kingdom. They may be imported from any part of the world, and, so long as the whole of the processes of manufacture, irrespective of their value, are carried out in the United Kingdom, the resultant goods are eligible to be admitted to Australia at preferential rates. But if British manufacturers will not, when they can, carry out all the processes of manufacture, their product, to obtain preference, is subject to the condition that 75 per cent, of the labour and material iu them must be of United Kingdom origin. I was very glad to hear the honorable member for Perth explain by interjection his reference to the Augean stable. I challenge him, or any other member of the House, to point to one administrative act in the Trade and Customs Department that has not been within the law and in accordance with the will of Parliament. That remark applies even to those imported machines the duty on which is lifted for one day only. There is nothing suspicious about such occurrences. The duty is waived’ because those machines are not manufactured in Australia. They are admitted upon the condition that Australian engineers shall be allowed to inspect and copy them if they so desire, and no further machines are admitted Tinder similar conditions until Australian shops have had an opportunity to produce them. The debate upon this bill has given me a preliminary baptism of the fire that I may expect when the general tariff is under consideration. I suppose that as a tax gatherer I am included in the category of “ publicans and sinners,” but, I remind honorable members that most of them are glad to vote for the expenditure of the money that the Trade and Customs Department collects. Without the revenue obtained by that department much of the expenditure which their constituencies enjoy would hot be possible. Of course, no person likes to pay more taxes when he can avoid it. Many importers, tax-dodgers, indent agents, and all sorts and conditions of people who are interested in foreign trade, might say much the same things as the honorable member for Perth has said to-night, but I am very glad that the House has almost unanimously accepted the principle which the Government has laid down with regard to British preference. The only debatable point seems to be the power to be exercised by the Minister. The criticisms offered by honorable members on that point will be very carefully considered, but the Government will not agree to any amendment which will take away that elasticity in administration which is provided for in the new regulation 29. I have been criticized for having given considerable notice of the intention to alter the basis of British preference, and the suggestion has been made that revenue has thus been lost. I had not been in office many months before I announced, with the acquiescence of the Government, the proposed change. I remind honorable members that British preference has been in operation for at least eighteen years. At the conference of dominions customs officers in London in 1921 the 25 per cent. proportion of British origin was reaffirmed, and in common courtesy to the other Dominions the Commonwealth had to give some little notice of its proposed departure from that arrangement. Moreover, the organization of the Customs Department in London, and the instruction to exporters in regard to what would be required occupied some months. I hope the House will agree to the second reading. The bill is, I admit, brought in quite late enough.
The measure will admittedly help all bona fide British manufacturers, and it will relieve unemployment in Great Britain itself. This regulation has stopped the importation of camouflaged Anglo-Continental goods, which I am sure Parliament never intended to receive the generous preferences given. I am confident that the bill has the approval not only of the House, but of the country. It certainly has the approval of the vast majority of British manufacturers who wish to do a genuine trade in British goods and do not wish to take advantage of the sweated labour of the Continent. In no dominion are the conditions of British preference prescribed in detail in an act; in every dominion the conditions are left to regulation. One or two extreme possibilities have been quoted, but no Minister in his senses would take action as suggested. If there is one thing more than another, to be said in favour of the stand adopted by the Government it is contained in a telegram placed in my hands after the dinner adjournment from interested importers in Sydney, asking us not to make the bill retrospective, because they intend to take legal action against the Government to get back some of the duties that they have paid under this provision. I have no doubt that in the circumstances Parliament will have no hesitation in agreeing to the bill. A great deal of trouble has been taken by the department and the Government in arriving at what was considered to be a fair arrangement, and I believe that the House will accept the new conditions, as will all good. Britishers in Great Britain. They will not only protect our revenue, but protect our manufacturers from illegitimate competition, and help to reduce unemployment in Britain itself.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.
The following paper was presented: -
European Security Pact. - Further documents relating to the proposed Pact.
House adjourned at 10.20 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 August 1925, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1925/19250827_reps_9_111/>.