10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed the absolute confidence of the Opposition in the Government, as evidenced by the entire absence of members of the Opposition from the chamber for some hours of yesterday’s sitting?
– I do not know whether the non-attendance of members of the Opposition can be construed as evidence of their confidence in the Government.
Mr.Charlton. - The honorable member for Angas should bo pleased that the Opposition was prepared to leave the business of the House, after midnight, entirely in the hands of the Government and its supporters.
– Has the Prime Min ister yet received the report of Sir Arthur Robinson regarding the proposed removal of the head offiee of the Phosphate Commission from Australia to New Zealand? If so, when will he make it available?
– I understand that the report is completed, and will be forwarded to the Governor-General in the course of a few days. Because of the nature of the matters to be investigated, and in order to avoid detriment to the business of the commission, the inquiry was conducted in camera. The publication or non-publication of the report will be governed by its contents.
Alleged Secret Meeting
– I draw the attention of the Treasurer, as Leader of the Country party, to a paragraph in a section of the press stating that, subsequent to the ordinary meeting of the party yesterday, a secret meeting was held, to which the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and I were not invited. Will the honorable gentleman say whether that statement is correct ?
– It is entirely without foundation. Certain senators interviewed me with regard to the arrangements for the referendum campaign, and that interview was probably the origin of the report.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– This Government has already communicated with the British Government asking that the question of the nationality of married women be included in the agenda of the forthcoming Imperial Conference.
asked the Prime Min ister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is it a fact that, as regards absentees, the intention of section 4 of the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Act 1928 is to reduce an absentee ex-soldier’s war-time profits tax to the amount that it would have been had he been an absentee non-soldier?
Refund of Duty
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers so the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is he in a position to give the House any information as to the details of the recent debtfunding agreement between Great Britain and France, and as to the letters exchanged between the governments of those countries and having an important bearing on that agreement, referred toby the British Chancellor of the Exchequer in the House of Commons on 19th July; particularly with regard to the bearing of the (present political and economic situation in France on that agreement?
– No official advice on the subject has yet been received by the Commonwealth Government.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow. -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What has been the amount paid in bonuses, subsidies, or assistance to industries, primary or secondary, in each State during the past four years, enumerating the industry assisted in each case?
– The information is being obtained.
Duties on Petrol, Tubes, Tires, and Chassis.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Sir Nicholas Lockyer’sreport
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– Sir Nicholas Lockyer was not a royal commissioner, and formal minutes of evidence were not taken as is done in the case of royal commissions. The facts were obtained fromofficial documents, signed statements, and by the independent inquiries of Sir Nicholas Lockyer. I will, however, consult with Sir Nicholas, and if it is thought that any useful purpose would be served by printing the documents submitted to him, I shall havethis done.
asked the Minister of Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Staffs in England and America.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) asked the following questions: -
I am now able to furnish the following information : - 1 and 2. Instructions were issued to all Deputy Commissioners, in March, 1918, that collection of all Crown leasehold tax was to be suspended. This was misinterpreted by some Deputy Commissioners. The Crown lease tax was collected from taxpayers in Western Australia and Tasmania. Some tax was also collected from other States, namely, New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland. When the Commissioner became aware of the position, the Deputy Commissioners were again instructed in May, 1922, and the misapprehension was removed.
– On the 21st July, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following question : -
The following are the answers : -
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) (by leave) agreed to -
That, notwithstanding the resolution agreed to by the House of Representatives on the 17th March, 1926, at any meeting of the Joint Committee on Electoral Law and Procedure, one member of the House of Representatives sitting with three other members of the committee shall constitute a quorum, provided that in such quorum both Houses shall he represented.
That the above resolution be communicated to the Senate by message.
Message received from the Senate transmitting a similar resolution.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of the bill is to amend the Petroleum Prospecting Act 1926, in order to enable the expenses incidental to the administration of that act to be charged against the moneys appropriated by it. Under the act as it stands at present, administrative expenses cannot be so charged. The regulations under the act provide for the recipient of a subsidy in aid of boring to enter into an agreement with the Government, which requires him to carry out boring operations in a manner satisfactory to the Minister, to make satisfactory provision for the shutting off of water from the bore, when necessary, and to do other things which the Minister may consider necessary to safeguard the public interest. To enable effective supervision to be exercised over boring operations, and a proper check to be made of claims for reimbursement of expenditure, it is proposed to appoint an inspector, with practical experience of oil fields in other parts of the world, who will be required to periodically visit the various sites at which subsidized boring isbeing carried out, look into the methods being employed, examine the well logs and other local records, and report thereon to the Minister. The appointment will, of course, be of a temporary character only, and will terminate when subsidized boring operations come to an end. As the act stands at present, the cost of the inspector’s salary and other similar administrative expenses cannot be charged against the Petroleum Prospecting Trust Fund. It is considered that such expenses arc a fair charge against the fund, and the bill will make it possible to charge them to the fund.
– Will the Minister say how many bores are to be subsidized?
– The Government proposes to assist the Belford Dome bore and one other in the north-west of Western Australia. We have already agreed to assist a geological survey of the
Lander bore in Queensland, which the Queensland Government has been subsidizing. I understand that approval has been given for the expenditure of £6,000 in connexion with that bore. That action has been taken upon the advice of the Queensland Government. We propose to appoint a geological expert, who will visit the oil fields to safeguard Commonwealth expenditure.
– That will be a charge against the trust fund?
– Under the previous measure the Government could not charge any of the expense against the £60,000 appropriated by this Parliament. The Government now proposes to amend the act to enable any expenditure incurred in respect of the appointment of the inspector to be a charge against the fund held in trust.
.- This legislation is necessary in the interests of the Commonwealth. We should certainly appoint some responsible officer to supervise the work that is being carried out by subsidized companies, and it is only right that the cost of supervision should be debited against the money appropriated by this Parliament for oil prospecting. In the circumstances, I approve of the measure.
.- Although I do not object to the bill, I regret that the Minister has not included in it the amendment that was foreshadowed by him when the previous measure was introduced in January last. I then referred to the fact that oil prospecting in the Mandated Territories was not included in the hill, and the Prime Minister replied -
I understand perfectly the views expressed by the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), and I agree with him that probably New Guinea is the most important oil prospecting area under the control of the Commonwealth. … I do not think that the matter can be dealt with adequately in this measure, which is merely the fulfilment of the forecast * in the Treasurer’s budget speech of last year.
The Government now proposes to make available this year the sum of £100,000 for prospecting for oil and precious metals. I expected, at least, that the bill would include an amendment to sub sidize oil boring operations in the Mandated Territory. The Minister, in January last, said -
The honorable member for Richmond objected that the , bill does not apply to the Mandated Territories. The Government has under consideration oil boring operations in the Mandated Territories.
– Is the honorable member referring to a speech of this session?
– Then the honorable member is out of order.
– In order to obtain information from the Minister, I wish to quote a statement that he made in this House in January last.
– That is not permitted under the Standing Orders.
– The Minister said at that time that he had no doubt that the Government would make funds available for subsidizing oil boring operations in the Mandated Territories. The Prime Minister stated that the Mandated Territories was the most likely place within the Commonwealth Territory to obtain oil, but no mention is made in “the bill of subsidizing oil boring operations there. I have ascertained this morning that the Government has no intention of inserting such a provision in the bill. I should like to know from the Minister whether there is any truth in the rumour that the Government .does not intend to fulfil the promise that it made in January last. The general impression at that time among those interested in oil boring in the Mandated Territories was that they would receive some assistance from the Commonwealth. Before the bill reaches the committee stage, I ask the Minister to state the intention of the Government.
.- When the previous measure was before the House, we understood that its purpose was to encourage oil boring operations in. Australia by the payment of a subsidy. I had no idea that it would subsequently entail the appointment of a staff of geologists, the expenditure on which would soon absorb the £60,000 that was appropriated by this . Parliament at that time. Despite the knowledge of geologists, no supply of oil can be found except by actual boring operations. My experience on the Public Accounts Committee has convinced me that it is of little use to employ geologists to make surveys for oil fields. There is no need to appoint any further officers, because geologists are employed by all the States. Victoria has the ablest geologist in Australia. A great deal of money has been paid to Dr. Wade for his services in respect of oil research work, but I am satisfied that the result has not justified that expenditure. If the amount appropriated by this Parliament is to be absorbed by the maintenance of a staff, then Parliament has been misled. Honorable members were under the impression that the money was to be expended on subsidizing oil boring operations. Australia will never properly progress until a flow of oil has been discovered within its territories. Under the bill there is a danger that the money appropriated for assisting oil boring operations will not be used for that purpose. Why not avail ourselves of the services of the State officers? The States will have to be consulted, because they control the land. The Constitution prohibits the Commonwealth from trespassing on State lands for prospecting or boring purposes. I object to the money that has been voted for boring for oil being spent in setting up boards. I propose to say a few words when the estimates are under consideration to show honorable members how much money this Government has spent in setting up boards of one kind or another. Although our expenditure is increasing by leaps and bounds, it is proposed that we shall evacuate certain fields of taxation. I suppose very few honorable members realize that a man with a wife and ten children is estimated to pay no less than £6 a week in Customs and excise duties. How can we expect to have a surplus when we have debts amounting to nearly £400,000,000? Personally I object to the expenditure of public money without the most searching inquiry. Honorable members opposite may be quite willing to agree to anything which the Government proposes, but I wish to make it quite clear that at present I am opposed to this bill. Whatever money we may have to provide for oil prospecting should be spent on actual boring operations. Oil is not likely to be found in the back yards of Melbourne or Sydney, but it may be discovered in certain distant coastal areas. Victoria has spent a great deal of money in boring, and has I understand sunk something like 9,000 bores in her search for coal. I am sorry she has not succeeded, for had she done so she would not be involved in the Yallourn electrical mess. The Honorary Minister has not given us sufficient information on this bill, and until he does so I intend to oppose it.
– Will the Honorary Minister have a discretionary power in the expenditure of this amount?
– Undoubtedly. He will really have carte blanche in the matter. I know a good deal about, oil prospecting in Australia, for I have seized every opportunity to inform myself on the subject.
– But surely the honorable member will admit that a thoroughly trained geological staff would be useful in advising, at least, where not to bore for oil?
– I think I know as well as the geologists where oil is most likely to be found; and the men who are engaged in oil prospecting are experts. It is very likely that an oil flow will be struck in the Hunter district. Boring for oil ought to follow the various coal seams, as oil, like coal, is a vegetable matter. I want the vote for oil boring guarded, and for that reason I ask the Minister to give us a little more information as to the intentions of the Government.
.- I do not intend to oppose the bill, but I should like the Minister to give me a little information on the matter. Earlier this year he introduced, and Parliament passed, a bill to provide a sum of £60,000 to assist in boring for oil and in making’ geological surveys throughout Australia. Of that amount £22,500 was to be spent in the Fitzroy River aud Price’s Creek districts; a similar amount in the area known as Belford Dome in the Hunter River district; and £5,000 io. assisting to making a geological survey of the Longreach, Blackall, and Ruthven districts in Queensland. I should like to know whether the £6,000 to be provided now to assist the Lander Oil Company to continue its boring operations at Roma is in addition to the amount of £5,000 I have already mentioned. Most honorable members realize that oil will probably be struck first in Queensland. A good deal of work has already been done there, but disasters have always occurred at important stages in the operations. At Roma the bores have been choked on several occasions when the prospectors considered they were on the point of striking oil. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) made some startling revelations in this regard in this House early this year, but as his speech was delivered near midnight very little notice was taken of it. The first bore put down by the Queensland Government was taken to a depth of about 3,703 feet, and then it was practically ruined, a portion of the boring tools being dropped into it. Then two other bores were sunk, to about the same depth, but similar misfortune was experienced. I wish to know whether the proposed expenditure of £6,000 to assist the Lander Oil Company will result in a reduction of the sum allocated for geological survey work in Queensland, and to what further extent the Government will be prepared to assist the Lander Oil Company to carry out additional prospecting work in the vicinity of Roma. I understand that this company, after spending £S0,000 in boring operations, had to abandon the work owing to lack of funds. It seems to me that the £60,000 expenditure, provided under a previous bill, is not a sufficiently generous sum for assistance to oil prospectors.
, - If oil can be found in Australia, too high a price cannot ‘be paid for its discovery. I hope that the prospecting companies will be protected against influences from outside Australia that seem to have operated against the development of the Roma field. It was stated almost openly that such acts as those mentioned by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) were perpetrated. There must have been some ulterior motive on the part of those who set oil bores on fire, or dropped portions of the plant into them.
– The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) asked me why no provision had been made in the present bill for Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. I point out that the Government has in no way receded from the statements made by me in enunciating its policy with respect to the subsidies to be paid for oil boring. While we have provided £60,000 under the principal act for oil subsidies and geological surveys, the budget proposals this year make a further sum of £100,000 available.
– Does that include the amount allocated for assistance to prospectors for precious metals?
– No. The sum of £100,000 is to be provided to enable assistance to be given in boring operations in the Mandated Territory and Papua, apart from the work being carried out there by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company.
– How is that work proceeding ?
– The Government has received good reports; but it is not wise to be too sanguine.
– Will the Minister bring in another bill to provide for the Mandated Territory ?
– Certainly. The reason why the House is asked to deal with this bill as an urgent measure is that we are anxious to appoint the expert that we have in view. I stated in my secondreading speech that the main object of the bill was to enable us to appoint an inspector temporarily. His salary will be a charge against the £60,000 to be voted.
– Otherwise it would have to come out of general revenue.
– Yes. The expert will be paid a weekly salary; there is no fear of another department being established. As honorable members have pointed out, the land where boring operations are being carried on, except in the Federal and Mandated Territories, belongs to State Governments, and we shall be dependent on the advice given us by the State mining and geological departments. Whatever financial assistance has been afforded in New South Wales, in connexion with the Belford Dome proposition, has been given through the Mines Department in that State. In Queensland also, we are obtaining the advice of the State Government through its expert officers. The payment of £6,000 to the Lander Oil Company, and of £22,500 to other companies was simply made in the form of subsidies on the quantity of boring done. I do not agree with the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), who said that he knew where oil could be found.
– What I said was that if I had my choice in the matter, I should concentrate attention on the operations in the Hunter River district.
– The sum of £22,500 is provided for assistance in that field. It is almost essential that oil should be discovered in Australia, and it would be worth while prosecuting vigorous efforts in that direction in order to fight the oil combine that is charging exorbitant prices to Australian consumers. The expert to be appointed will advise the Government with respect to applications for assistance, principally in the Northern Territory, the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, and Papua.
– Is the Minister at liberty to disclose his name?
– I have not the name before me at the moment, but he has excellent qualifications. The honorable member for Capricornia wished to know whether the £5,000 to be made available to Queensland would be additional to the £6,000 granted to the Lander Company. If favorable reports are received from the Queensland’ Government on the prospect of discovering oil in that State, the Federal Government will not he backward in assisting legitimate operations apart from those in the Roma district, and will not restrict the subsidy to £5,000. I hope that the bill will be passed without delay.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Can the Minister say when the bill relating to Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea will be introduced?
.- Now that the first item of the Estimates has been passed, the Government will proceed with the measures indicated in the budget, and probably before the session closes the bill referred to will be introduced. It is stated that there is great likelihood of oil being discovered in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. I hope that that report is reliable. I also trust that oil will be first discovered in Australia. I believe that most of the companies are making genuine attempts to locate oil, but some of them are out to catch the unwary investor.
– What salary will be paid to the inspector?
– We have been fortunate in securing his services for the equivalent of £1,500 a year. He will be paid weekly at the rate of £30, which, having regard to his qualifications, is a very reasonable salary.
– What other payments will be made from the trust fund?
– I doubt whether there will be any, except, perhaps, for travelling expenses.
.- The object of the original act was to provide a bounty for genuine prospectors for oil, and honorable members did not understand that the money would be employed for any other purpose. We have a council of Scientific and Industrial Research, which employs experts that could do this work. The money provided should be spent exclusively in the way Parliament intended.
.- I am surprised that there should be any opposition to this bill, which is necessary to protect the interests of the Commonwealth. No person or company would think of spending £100,000 on any project unless it employed a capable person to see that the work was done properly. I regret that provision for this appointment was not made in the original act; the necessity for it has probably only dawned on the Government since. It is impossible to obtain a competent man for this sort of work unless a reasonable salary is paid. Without competent supervision some of the prospecting companies might make unjustifiable claims on the fund, which might be spent in a manner equivalent to throwing it into the sea. Many oil prospecting companies have been registered in Australia during the last few years, and there has been no justification for most of them. Supervision by an expert would provide some security for investors.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill, by leave, read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
Bill returned f rom the Senate without amendment.
Debate resumed from 13th July (vide page 4076), on motion by Mr.Marr -
That the bill be now read a second time.
On which Mr. McGrath had moved, by way of amendment -
That all the words after “ That” be omitted with a view to the insertion of the following words in place thereof : - “ this Bill be postponed pending an inquiry into the action of the Commissioners in letting a contract for the building of 300 houses involving the expenditure of £500,000 in Canberra.”
– Some of the points raised by honorable members during the debate on this bill are of sufficient importance to call for a further reply by me. One honorable member said that the cost of the works carried out at Canberra before the commission took charge should be written off, so that the commission would not be loaded with a heavy capital cost. The Government does not agree with that suggestion. The capital cost has been passed on to the commission, which is now faced with the task of paying interest, sinking fund, and working expenses. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) complained of the commission applying to the Trades Hall in Sydney for workmen. Such action is in accordance with the policy of the Government, which gives preference first to returned soldiers and then to trade unionists. From my experience of the trade union movement, and of the Trades Hall in Sydney, I believe that the secretaries of unions, when asked to supply workmen, are careful in their selection; and the work done at Canberra stands to the credit of the men who have done it. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) said that the commission ought not to have power to promulgate ordinances, which should be submitted to the Attorney-General. The commission has not that power. The commission submits its proposals to the Government, which passes them on to the AttorneyGeneral for drafting. After an ordinance has been drafted it is submitted to the Cabinet for approval, and it then needs the approval of the GovernorGeneral in Council. After that it is laid on the table of the House for the perusal of honorable members, who may object to it if they desire to do so. There is thus no opportunity for the commission to promulgate an ordinance without the consent of Parliament. It was also stated that no provision had been made for contributions to a sinking fund; but the Government has made provision, similar to that in the North Australia Bill recently passed by this House, for a sinking fund contribution of 10s. per cent. The commission will have to provide the contributions to that fund. Whether there should be reference to the Public Works Committee of a proposal for the erection of cottages was settled by the action of the House yesterday in referring the proposal in question to the committee. I intended to read the correspondence between the chairman of the Works Committee and the Government, but the chairman of the committee has done that. Some honorable members have said that the Home and Territories Department had endeavoured to evade the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act. I remind honorable members that the department referred to the committee a proposal to carry out certain works in the Mandated Territories, although it was not under any obligation to do so; but as the Government is the custodian, on behalf of the League of Nations, of those territories, it is doing everything possible to safeguard its liabilities there. The Government agrees with the contention of honorable members that proposed works estimated to cost more than £25,000 should be referred to the committee, and any works that exceed that amount will in future be referred to it.
– An honorable member contended that this was a validating bill, but it is not.
– Some honorable members, and some newspapers, have inter- preted the words “this section shall be deemed to have commenced from the date of the commencement of the principal act” as a provision to validate illegal action by the commission in not referring works to the Public Works Committee. Paragraphk of section 14 of the principal act gives power to the commission for -
The construction and maintenance of all works and buildings required for the purposes of the commission.
The commission and the Crown law authorities are not certain that under that paragraph the commission has power to erect cottages and sell them on extended terms. The Government is proposing the insertion in. section 14 of a new paragraph (ka) giving the commission power over the construction of buildings for use as, or in connexion with, residences in the Territory; a new paragraph (kb) dealing with the disposal, upon such conditions as the commission determines, to lessees of land within the Territory, of residences and other improvements erected or made by the commission on that land; and a new paragraph (kc) to enable the commission, upon such conditions as it determines, to make advances to the lessees of land in the Territory for the purpose of building or other developmental work. The provision making the section operative from the date of the commencement of the principal act is necessary because, whilst the Federal Capital Commission took over cottages that were built years ago by the Government, and has had to accept all liabilities in connexion with them, the rents of these buildings are collected by the commission on behalf of the Government. As the commission has been loaded with the. capital cost of these buildings, it is only right that it should be in a position to collect any revenue derived from them to meet interest on cost and running expenses. The retrospective provision is necessary to enable this revenue to be paid into the funds of the commission.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment.
Report adopted; and bill, by leave, read a third time.
Resumption of adjourned debate, from 21st July (vide page 4412), on motion by Mr. Marr -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Commonwealth Public Works Committee Act 1913-21, it is expedient to carry out the following proposed work which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works and on which the committee has duly reported to this House the result of its investigations: - The erection of a building at Canberra for accommodation of Commonwealth Departments.
Motion agreed to.
In committee (Consideration of Senate’s message) :
– The message which has been received from the Senate contains requests for the making of certain amendments in the bill as submitted to it. The effect of the amendments requested by the Senate would be to restore the bill to the form in which it was originally introduced in this House, except for one amendment, which was accepted practically without discussion, to provide that service in any other Federal judicial office should be counted as service for the purposes of pension under the bill. The amendments made in this House in the bill, on the motion of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) have been struck out by the Senate. Substantially those amendments provided that in the case of a justice who retained his position after attaining the age of 70 years the pension should be reduced at the rate of 10 per cent. per annum until, ultimately, if he continued on the Bench, he would not be entitled to any pension. There was a further provision that in the case of a justice who at the commencement of the act was more than 70 years of age, a period of one year should be allowed in which he might elect whether or not to retire on the full pension applicable to him, or to continue under the reducing scale of pension. I move -
That the requested amendments be made.
I ask honorable members who supported the amendments of the honorable member for Boothby to reconsider theposition in the light of the following circumstances. In the first place, we have already passed an Arbitration Bill, in which no provision is made for a descending sliding scale of pensions.
– The House declined to accept such a provision.
– That is so. The House declined to accept an amendment in substantially identical terms applicable to judges of the Arbitration Court. It will be agreed that it would be anomalous if judges of the High Court were placed ‘ in a less favorable position that justices of the Arbitration Court. My motion should appeal to honorable members whatever views they may hold on the subject of pensions.
– The honorable gentleman has not used a sound argument, because we could easily amend the Arbitration Act if the House so desired.
-We have to deal with facts as they are, and the Government does not propose to seek the leave of the House to introduce a bill to amend the Arbitration Act in this particular. I have shown that under the amendments carried on the motion of the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. DuncanHughes), justices of the High Court would be subject to a diminution of pension to which judges of the Arbitration Court are not subject. One of the objects of the bill, in addition to the primary object of securing the efficiency of the court, so far as that may be done, having regard to the constitutional necessity of a life tenure for a justice of the High Court, is to make positions on the High Court Bench somewhat more attractive than they are at present. The effect of the provisions inserted at the instance of the honorable member for Boothby, with which the” Senate has disagreed, would be in the opposite direction, and would make positions on the High Court Bench less attractive than those on other Benches, and particularly that of the Arbitration .Court. The operation of the amendments would be particularly unfortunate. There are at present four members of the High Court over the age of 70 years. Of these, two have served for more than fifteen years, and the other two for about thirteen years. The two judges who have served thirteen years could not, by any means, secure a full pension under the amendment. That, I suggest, is an Unfortunate and quite- unexpected result which would follow if the amending provisions were retained. I doubt whether it was intended, in carrying .the amendments of the honorable member for Boothby in this House, to make it impossible for any of the existing judges of the High Court, however long they might have served, to obtain a full pension.
– That difficulty was not mentioned.
– That is so; it has been discovered on further consideration of what were somewhat complicated amendments. The two justices who have served for thirteen years could not, under the amendments, receive more than the pension applicable to a service of fourteen years, as distinguished from a fifteenyears’ service pension, and their pensions would diminish at the rate of one-tenth for every year during which they continued to remain on the Bench. I suggest that it was not the intention of this House that present justices of the High Court should not have the opportunity of retiring upon full pension. Another point has arisen in connexion with the amendment. I ask the particular attention of honorable members to the fact that one effect of the amendment would be that any of the justices who, after the age of 70 years, retired by reason of ill-health, would receive no pension at all. If the justices retired by reason of permanent infirmity or incapacity before the age of 70 they would be entitled to the pension provided after service of five years, in accordance with the length of their service; but they would not, under the amendment, be entitled to any pension at all if they retired after the age of 70 years on the grounds of permanent infirmity or illhealth.
– Because the subclause refers to a justice retiring on permanent disability or infirmity “ before reaching the age of 70 years.” There is no provision that if he retires on those grounds after reaching the age of 70 years he shall be entitled to any pension. I am sure that was not the intention of the committee when it approved of that provision. Finally I suggest to honorable members that whilst the intention of the committee when it accepted the proposal made by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) was to offer an inducement to judges . to retire at the age of 70 years, it is extremely probable that the provision in the bill would have the opposite effect. A judge who, at the age of 73 years, is considering whether he shall retire or continue on the Bench, will have the choice between a salary of £3,000 and a pension of £1,200. At the age of 74 the alternatives will be a salary of £3,000 and a pension of £1,050, and at the age of 80 years, a salary of £3,000 and a pension of £150. On reaching the age of 81 years the judge will have the option of remaining on the Bench at a salary of £3,000, or retiring with no pension.
– The effect would be to encourage judges who were’ in their late seventies to linger on the Bench.
– Yes, if the pension is to be regarded as a pecuniary inducement to retire.
– Since I heard of the amendment that has been made in another place, I have given this matter careful consideration, and, as the original mover of the provision under consideration, I have decided reluctantly to offer no opposition to the Senate’s request. The provision which was carried in this committee at my instigation has been rejected in another place by 21 votes to 8, and I do not think that the matter is of sufficient magnitude to warrant us in jeopardizing the whole measure for its sake. I am in favour of the general principle embodied in the bill, and voted for the second reading, and I do not propose to allow a comparatively minor amendment to outweigh in my mind a general principle. In certain circumstances, honorable members of this committee would be justified in insisting upon their views, even at the risk of conflict with another place; but this amendment, although important, and, in my mind, an improvement of the bill, is not sufficiently vital to warrant such a step. Moreover, the objections which have been mentioned by the AttorneyGeneral this morning give one pause. When I moved the amendment, I had not the slightest intention that any of the present justices of the High. Court should be debarred from obtaining a full pension if so desired. Still less did I intend that a judge who retired after 70 years of age’ on account of permanent disability or infirmity should be denied a pension. My only excuse for the faulty drafting of the amendment is that the clause was already long and intricate, but if any apology is required of me, I hereby tender it. I cannot expect that my attitude will be approved by those members who were ‘opposed to the general principle of the bill and, therefore, voted against the second reading, and later supported my amendment. This is not a party matter. In this Chamber, and in another place, the Government left its supporters free to exercise their own judgment upon the matter; and of my own volition, I must regretfully and reluctantly support the motion made by the AttorneyGeneral.
.^- The humble apology offered by the honorable member for Boothby for the amendment that he moved when this bill was previously before the committee comes as a surprise to all honorable members. I have never previously heard such an apology offered by the proposer of an amendment which was accepted by this committee, but rejected by another .place. I accept the honorable member’s assurance that he is acting on his own volition and that no influence has been brought to bear upon him, but it is strange that the honorable member, who was responsible for the inclusion of this provision in the bill, should now make an abject apology, and consent to its elimination.
– There is no abject apology.
– His remarks could be construed in no other way.
– He has merely acknowledged an error of draftsmanship,
– There is no error ; he moved his amendment deliberately, and I am surprised that to-day he has completely somersaulted. I say that without any intention to offend the honorable member, for whom, personally, I have the highest regard, but when he compares his remarks this morning with his former speech on this subject, he will recognize that what I am saying is well merited. No doubt, the AttorneyGeneral, as the sponsor of the bill, was disappointed when the committee originally agreed to the amendment moved by the honorable member for Boothby, and’ took the necessary action to secure its rejection in another place. The amendment made by the honorable member provided that the pension of a judge who retired after reaching 70 years of age should be reduced by one-tenth for every year he continued ‘on the Bench after that age. That is a wise provision. The object of the bill was to assure to judges an income in their declining years, when retirement from the Bench was becoming necessary. I say nothing against the judiciary. Nobody should, unless absolutely necessary, criticize the administrators of justice, and it is desirable that the very best men available should be appointed to the Bench. It must be recognized, however, that the present judges of the High Court accepted appointment without any expectation . of a pension. The amendment if agreed to would affect only those judges who attain or have attained the age of 70 years. Not one of the present occupants of the High Court Bench when he was appointed to that position expected to receive a pension when he retired from office. This matter was debated years ago when two of the present judges of the High Court were members of this chamber, and they both voted against providing pensions for the judiciary. Since then there has been no attempt to provide pensions for judges. The amendment is for the purpose of insuring the retirement of judges when they attain an age at which their mental capacity may be such that the continuation of their service is not in the best interests of the country. There should certainly be some provision in the bill to ensure that judges retire on reaching a certain age. Otherwise, they will continue in office until they are 80 or 85 years of age, and perhaps in a state of dotage. The amendment provides that after reaching the age of 70 years the pension of a judge shall diminish by onetenth each year that he remains in office. It would be difficult to stipulate in an act of parliament that High Court judges should retire at the age of 65 or 70 years of age, and therefore we could not do better than insist upon the amendment carried by this committee. The High Court judges are the interpreters of the Constitution under which, we live, and therefore they must be capable and alert. The amendment is wise because if inserted in the bill it would indicate to the occupants of the High Court Bench the period at which their services were no longer desired.
– Some judges are mentally and physically better at 75 years of age than others are at 65 years of age.
– That is so. According to this morning’s press, the Government is dispensing with the services of a deputy president of the Arbitration Court at the age of 60, although no pension has been provided for him. The argument of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), that the bill cannot be amended, because we have already passed similar legislation providing for the appointment of arbitration judges with life tenure and with full pension on retirement, is no justification for refusing to accept the amendment. Legislation can be altered at any time if thought necessary, and to my mind it is necessary to include the amendment in the bill before us and also in the measure providing for the appointment of Arbitration Court judges. I was not here when the honorable member for Boothby moved the amendment, but 1 read his speech and I thought that he gave good grounds for his action. The committee acted wisely in supporting the amendment, and should insist upon it even though it has been rejected by the Senate.
– Does the honorable member suggest that we should kill the bill by insisting on this small amendment?
– No. It is the duty of the Government to accept the decision of the committee.
– The Government has made it clear that it will reject the bill if the amendment is insisted upon.
– I am sorry that the honorable member has come under the lash of the Government’s whip.
– That is not so.
– What is the use of passing a bill through the committee stage if the decision of the majority of honorable members is not to be insisted upon ? It is very necessary to consider measures in committee. We frequently find that mistakes have been made in the drafting of a bill, ‘and some measures do not convey the real intention of the Government. The acceptance of the amendment is the only way to overcome the difficulty that was mentioned by the
Attorney-General himself on the second reading of the- bill. He said, in effect, that he did not wish to reflect on members of the judiciary, but he thought that there was a time in their lives when their retirement would be in the best interests of all concerned. Surely a member of the judiciary should not be allowed to retain his position until he goes to the grave. At present we have no control over a High Court judge respecting the period at which he should retire, but the provision of a diminishing pension, as proposed by the amendment, might induce him under ordinary circumstances to retire from office at the age of 70 years. I admit that some men at 65 years of age are more capable and alert than other men at 45 years of age, but we should indicate to the High Court judges that at 70 their
Services would be no longer desired. They occupy a responsible position, and it is necessary that the people of Australia should continue to have the confidence in the High Court Bench that it has had in it ever since federation. The judges themselves would admit that some provision should be made for them to retire on a pension. I am sorry that the honorable member for Boothby does not intend to insist on the amendment that was carried by this committee. Perhaps, on reflection, he will see how necessary it is for him to stand by his previous decision. I am not speaking in a party view, because it is well known that the Labour party is opposed to paying pensions to judges. That principle has been established, and is not now at issue. We of this side will certainly stand by the amendment as it previously left the committee.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
.- The attitude adopted by the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. DuncanHughes) towards this request is surprising. When I take a stand on a question, I do so on principle; but apparently the honorable member for Boothby had no principle supporting him in this instance. Evidently he likes a second thought on these subjects, for the action of the second chamber suited him. I am jealous of the powers of this House. If I could I would take such action as would pre vent the Senate from amending bills of this character. I suppose I ought to he charitable to the honorable member for Boothby over this inconsistency, for he is a young man. The Attorney-General gladly fell in with the request of the Senate, for its acceptance will restore the bill to its condition when introduced. In my opinion, our High Court judges will not worry whether the request is accepted or rejected. A judge who retained his position until he reached the age of 80 years would, during his last ten years, draw £35,000 in salary, whereas a judge who retired at 70 years would draw only £17,000 in pension. I shall not at the moment express an opinion on the wisdom of fixing 70 years as the retiring age for judges. Possibly, as their experience increases, judges, like members of Parliament, become more efficient. No doubt the Senate, in making this request, is acting under instructions from the Government. This Government, like various State Governments, uses the second chamber to achieve its own ends. I can well remember Sir Henry Parkes, Sir John Robertson,, and Sir Alexander Stuart using the Upper House in New South Wales to achieve objects which they could not attain in the Lower House; and this Government is taking a leaf out of their book. I understand that honorable members opposite are prepared to accept the request, but it is regrettable to me that they should do so. Although there are judges at present on the High Court bench who are over 70 years of age - I understand that one is 72, another 1Z, and another 74 - they are not likely to worry over our attitude on this question. Judges, in consequence of their high salary, are well able to make adequate provision for their old age. Besides, they are not in the position of honorable members of this Parliament, who have to meet .many and varied calls for help. Nobody comes to them, and asks for his fare to his home town, or the like, but that happens every week to honorable members. Parliament is spending public money much too freely in these days, and the Government appears to have no hesitation whatever about bleeding the taxpayers. Our acceptance of this bill is a step in the wrong direction. One of the greatest scandals attached to parliamentary government in Great Britain is that persons are able to obtain pensions almost irrespective of their public service. I suppose that situation will continue until men of the calibre of Mr. Ramsay Macdon ald become firmly settled on the Government benches. In these democratic days, the payment of heavy pensions, irrespective of need for them, is repugnant to the popular feeling. Our oldage and invalid pensions are paid on the ground of necessity, but no one could argue that judges who have been sitting on our High Court bench for many years, and have been in receipt of salaries ranging up to £3,500 per annum, can he in need. This Parliament should not be a benevolent institution.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).The honorable member is now going outside of the scope of the question before the Chair.
– There is no need, in my opinion, for us to provide these pensions. Judges have fixity of tenure in their office, and do not have to submit themselves for re-election every three years, as we do; nor are they required to work 44 hours every week. They can take half a day off at any time, and the members of the bar would not feel aggrieved at them for doing so, for it means additional fees for them. All these things make the position of a judge very comfortable. I am disappointed that the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) did not insist on his amendment. If I had been in his position, I should have shown more spirit than he has displayed. The rejection by the Senate of an amendment that I advocated would have excited my fighting in- tincts. I realize that the Government has a majority in the other branch of the legislature as well as in this Chamber, and its followers have been submissive to its will, placing party considerations above all others.
Question - That the requested amendments he made - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; report adopted.
Bill amended accordingly.
Ordered - That the bill, as amended, be returned to the Senate.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
In committee (Consideration of message of the Deputy of the Governor-General) :
Motion (by Dr. Eaele Page) agreed to-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys be made for the purposes of a bill for an act to authorize the raising of moneys to be loaned to the States, and for other purposes.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Dr. Earle Page and Mr. Pratten do prepare and bring in a bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Dr. Eaele Page, and read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a short measure extending for another year the provisions of the States
Loan Act 1925, so that the Commonwealth Parliament and the Government may, in accordance with a resolution of the Australian Loan Council at its meeting of the 27th May last, borrow moneys for the States for 1926-27.
– This bill gives the arrangement arrived at last year a life of two years instead of one year?
– That is so. During the last two and a half years the loan operations of the Commonwealth and the States have been conducted in accordance with agreements made by the Australian Loan Council, which at present consists of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth and the Treasurers of the States other than New South Wales. The Australian Loan Council was originally formed in order that the loan business of the various governments might be carried on without clash or competition, and experience has shown the wisdom of this policy, as the treasurers acting in concert can secure better terms than if they acted independently. Further, by regulating borrowing in a systematic manner it has been possible to give the money market definite periods of freedom from government issues, and thus more money has been made available for private enterprise. In the budget I set out the general policy of the Loan Council, and, briefly, it is that every maturing loan shall be converted in the place where the original loan is domiciled. For new money the States are to rely on both the Australian and overseas markets, the amount to be raised overseas being determined by the Loan Council after consideration of the amount of money which will probably be available in Australia. The Commonwealth will not raise new money for its own purposes in Australia, but will satisfy its requirements by oversea borrowing.
– Is it not compelled to do that by regulations under the act?
– No. That course is followed because it is found that the requirements of the States absorb practically all the Australian money available. It is to assist the States in maintaining their position in the market that that practice is adopted. Loans raised beyond Australia, in countries other than Great Britain, either by the Commonwealth or by the States, are raised by and in the name of the Commonwealth. This bill does not deal with borrowing by the Commonwealth for its own purposes. That borrowing is dealt with by a special Commonwealth act.The purpose of this measure is to give authority for the year 1926-27 to borrow on behalf of the States.
– New South Wales is not shut out altogether from the Loan Council ?
– No, the door is always open to New South Wales; and the treasurers of the other States in common with myself are anxious that we should, as early as possible, have again the comprehensive Loan Council that we had in the beginning. Under the act passed last year, the Commonwealth floated a loan in Australia for the States, of £5,100,000. The rate of interest offered was 5¼ per cent., or¼ per cent. below the rate at which £67,000,000 of our own war loans-, which matured on the 15th December, 1925, had been converted. The 5¼ per cent. loan raised for the States was over-subscribed, a total of £6,274,810 having been raised. Later, the Commonwealth was able by private negotiation to secure a further sum of £1,640,000 on the same terms on behalf of the States. As regards borrowing overseas, the States participated in the £15,000,000 loan raised by the Commonwealth in New York to the extent of £5,008,733, so that the total borrowing for the States in Australia and overseas under the act passed last year reached the sum of £12,923,543. This measure does not contain any authority for the Commonwealth to borrow moneys for its own purposes. A bill was before the House during the week before last for the purpose of giving authority to borrow for Commonwealth objects. This bill merely enables the Commonwealth, during this financial year, to borrow for the States in exactly the same way as we did last year.
– I realize that this measure is necessary, and I therefore do not offer any opposition to it. We have made arrangements for the Commonwealth to borrow for the States, and for this purpose the Loan Council has been appointed. I have always held that it is far better that there should be only one borrower for the whole of Australia.
– This is a step in that direction.
– It is a big step in that direction. Unfortunately, at the moment one State does not see its way clear to come into line with the rest and join the Loan Council. I do not wish on this bill to open up a general discussion, because we have been debating the financial position on the budget, but I should like to say that the various governments of Australia and the Loan Council need to be very careful indeed in regard to their loan commitments. The debt of this country is enormous. During my absence from the House I read the speeches by many honorable members, including the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) on the budget, and concur in much that they said. It is to the advantage of the Australian people that there should be one borrower from Australia in order that we may get the money we require as cheaply as possible; but it is also urgently necessary that all Australian governments shall do as little borrowing as possible. Any borrowing that is necessary should be carried out so far as possible in Australia. If we borrow huge sums of money from countries overseas, it will be idle for us to pass tariffs for the encouragement of local industries. When we borrow from overseas, we do not obtain the money, but must import the goods of the country from which we borrow to the extent of our borrowing. This imposes on the people of Australia the necessity, not only to pay interest, but also to impose additional taxation through the Customs.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 13th July (vide page 4043), on motion by Mr. Paterson -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Mr. PARKER MOLONEY (Hume) T2.551. - The Minister for Markets and Migration (Mr. Paterson), in introducing this bill, told us that it was a sister measure to the Dried Fruits Act and Dairy Produce Export Control Act. We are becoming accustomed to this form of legislation. I find myself supporting these Government measures, but I am consoled in doing so by the knowledge that this legislation is a leaf extracted from- the book of the party to which 1 belong.
– The honorable member and those associated with him go around the country at electiontime condemning this form of legislation, but when their private interests are jeopardized they have to resort to the adoption of principles advocated by the Labour party to extricate them from their difficulties. We have been accustomed to hear honorable members opposite condemn this class of legislation as socialistic, and an interference with private enterprise. I have often heard the honorable member for Indi condemn the Labour party for its support of what he terms socialistic legislation and the socialization of industry; but if this measure is not a socialization of industry, then I do not know what it means.
– It means control by the growers.
– Honorable members on this side have always advocated that the growers should have adequate representation on all these boards, but that the Government should also be represented and should accept responsibility. That is precisely what is proposed in this measure. In supporting legislation of this kind, the Minister for Markets and Migration, the honorable member for Indi, and others associated with them are in much the same anomalous position as the temperance advocate who, when he gets a bad pain, flies to the bottle to relieve him of his sufferings. On the hustings honorable members opposite condemn this class” of legislation, and describe it as the socialization of industry; but when a particular industry in which they are concerned gets a pain and private enterprise falls down on its job, they run to the bottle provided by Labour in order to relieve their suffering. I do not condemn them for the adoption of remedies applied by Labour Governments as far back as the time when Mr. Tom Price was Labour Premier of South Australia. He pioneered in Australia the State marketing of produce, and kindly recollections of the benefits that accrued to both producer and consumer from this legislation continue to this day. His
Government demonstrated the advantage of eliminating the middlemen -who stand between the producers and the consumers. Unfortunately, the Price Ministry did not continue in office long enough to give greater effect to its beneficent policy.
– But the State Produce Depot is still in operation.
– To a certain extent it is still operating to the benefit of the producers and consumers, but, following on the defeat of the Price Government, it was shorn of much of its former usefulness. I assume that the Minister) for Markets and Migration submitted this measure for the approval of the Attorney-General, and I am reminded that the latter gentleman, before he became a Minister of the Crown, was a very candid critic of this class of legislation.
– He criticized his way into the Government.
– It appears that some honorable members opposite are cunning enough to deliberately indulge in frank criticism in the hope that some day they will be offered a portfolio as the price of their silence. The Attorney-General has been promoted from the Country party corner to the ministerial bench, and is now presumably a first-class advocate of what he formerly regarded as dangerous socialistic legislation. When the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill, which the Minister referred to as the sister measure, was before this Chamber the Attorney-General, who was then a private member said, in reply to the present Minister for Markets and Migration -
I do not understand why, if 90 per cent, of the butter producers are sufficiently intelligent to see that the establishment of a single agency is required, they do not set up such an agency on their own account. Why do they’ not form a company and do for themselves what is required to. be done? Why do they ask the Government to do for them something which, if they appreciate the position, and have the energy, they can do for themselves? Nobody has explained why this cooperation should be brought about by compulsory legislation which will interfere with individual liberty.
This class of legislation has always been designated by opponents of the Labour party as an interference with individual liberty.
– The Attorney-General’s opening words were that he did not understand.
– I suppose that since he has received his reward he has seen the light. He continued -
This habit of rushing to the Government for support is to be deplored. It appears to be assumed nowadays that if any industry, owing to market conditions, such as the collapse of the German mark, finds itself in a difficult position for a season or two, it is the business of some Government - and in the last place, it is to the Commonwealth Government that the appeal for assistance iB made - to help it out of its dilemma. That is a very dangerous proposition to accept. . . . All exporting industries, where the exportation is at all substantial, are in exactly the same position as that outlined by the honorable member for Gippsland in regard to the dairying industry.
– And they are all primary industries.
– Not all.
– Practically all.
– I am dealing with the principle. The arguments of the honorable member for Gippsland apply to all exporting industries, where the exportation is substantial. If there is one rule for butter, ought not there to be the same rule for all other commodities?
– The potato-growers are in a bad way at the present time.
– Where are we to draw the line? …. The argument of my honorable friend (Mr. Paterson) does not appear to me to be sound. For the reasons that I have given I must oppose the Bill, though I regret having to do so.
Mr. Paterson. If my memory serves me aright the honorable member for Kooyong was not speaking in reference to the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill, but in connexion with another matter.
– The Minister is speaking without his book. I am quoting from the debate on the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill on the 28th September, 1924, as reported at page 4518 of Hansard. No doubt the AttorneyGeneral has assured the Minister that this bill is quite in order, and the Minister is astonished to fmd that his former candid critic is to-day in perfect agreement with him. “
– At any rate, the Minister has not been inconsistent.
– He has not; but I am showing that certain honorable members who a few years ago described this class of legislation, when proposed by Labour Governments, as a dangerous form of socialism, are now subscribing whole-heartedly to it. At first they approached the waters of socialism timidly, but finding them not so chilly as they had anticipated, have plunged in bodily. Certainly the Attorney-General has taken the plunge.
Mr.Stewart. - The honorable member has been trying for years to educate him, and he should not now complain because his teaching has borne fruit.
– I hope that honorable members opposite who are prepared to support this bill will discontinue their endeavours to frighten the electors by denouncing the evils of what they term socialism, to which they are so ready to fly when the industries in which they are interested can be saved only by the use of that remedy. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) said in 1924, when speaking on the Dried Fruit Export Control Bill -
I received the surprise of my life when I heard the honorable member for Kooyong apeak the other night. In opposing the bill in this chamber he said that the habit of rushing to the Government is to be deplored. I agree withhim.
No doubt, if this bill is taken to a vote the honorable member for Swan and the Attorney-General will be found together supporting it as if they had always been staunchadvocates of legislation of this kind. The honorable member for Franklin(Mr. Seabrook),’ who is always exploiting the socialistic bogy, and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) also will support the bill, and I hope that when addressing their electors in future they will refrain from theirhypocritical attacks upon State socialism. If the honorable member for Indi has not joined the ranks of the Labour party he has, at any rate, been converted to a plank of the Labour party’s platform. If to-day I am in the rare position of being in agreement with the Government, it is because the Government has -adopted an important feature of the Labour party’s policy. A few features of the bill call for comment. The Minister told the House that Great Britain imports annually 4,000,000 dozen tins of fruit, of which only 850,000 dozen tins are from Australia. In other words, Australia supplies only 20 per cent. of Great Britain’s requirement of canned fruits, and that is not at all satisfactory. The present Government is undertaking to provide land for migrants, many of whom, no doubt, will engage in fruit-growing. That being so, the United Kingdom has a moral obligation to provide a better market for the products : of its own people whosettle in Australia.
– That is an obligation resting on the British Government.
– That is so, because these immigrants are English people. At present, Australian canned fruits represent 20 percent . and Californian fruits 80 per cent. of Great Britain’s consumption. I am credibly informed that 40 per cent. of the workers engaged in the dried fruits industry in California are Asiatics. The other day. in answer to a question, the Minister said that under the bill the Government would accept no responsibility whatever. the arrangements for the marketing of fruit resting with the board. There is great danger in the Government handing over every form of responsibility to boards. I quite understand’ that fruit experts and fruit-growers should be represented on the board, but, to bring about a better understandingbetween Governments, they should have some say in the arrangements made respecting the marketing of our produce overseas. The Minister, when introducing the bill, to show how necessary it was to controlthe export of canned fruit, referred to the success of the butter trade since the Dairy Produce ExportControl Board had taken control. He said -
I was very interested recently in a graph slowing the fluctuations in the price of dairy produce during the first six months of the board’s operations, and for the same period of the previous year. The graph for the period prior to the establishment in London of an agency of the Dairy Export Control Board, was like a series of mountain peaksand valleys; whereas for the six months just ended, when the marketing was under thecontrol of the board, there were slight fluctuations only; in no case did they exceed lid. per lb., although previously they were as much as 4d. or 5d. per lb.
That statement gave the impression that everything was well with the butter industry, and that the arrangements were working smoothly under the control of the board. The following paragraph, which appeared in the Age on the 19th
July, shows that the position respecting the export of butter is not quite so satisfactory as the Minister has indicated
Like fresh fruit, butter is suffering from excessive retail prices. Despite the recent low wholesale values butter is still being retailed at from1s.10d. to 2s., but the most important factor keeping down prices is the excessive supply, both colonial and Continental. Never before has there been such a large inquiry for Continental butter, while the policy of storing colonial butter in an attempt to maintain prices has resulted in unprecedented accumulations. Official figures, which do not reveal the contents of private cold stores, show that at present there are 1,000,000 boxes in cold storage. In view of this fact and the heavily reduced consumption in the industrial areas owing to the strike, it is the considered opinion of many importers that low prices have come to stay, at any rate for some months.
The time has come when we should control the export of fresh fruit. While this form of legislation is desirable to enable us to deal with our surplus stocks, yet it appears to me that the Government is beginning at the wrong end. I have always maintained, and the Labour party too, that the best market for our primary products is the local market. There are thousand of families in Australia to-day who do not know the taste of good fruit. Standing between the producers and the consumers arc certain agents who secure large profits. In this way, the consumers are deprived of good fruit and the producers of a fair return for their labour.
– That position has obtained for years, but, unfortunately, it is becoming more pronounced. Most of the trouble in the export of our primary produce would be obviated if we built up the local market. When speaking on the Dried Fruits Export Bill I quoted the case of a returned soldier who is engaged in the dried-fruit industry in the northern part of Victoria. He sent 80 boxes of fruit to the Melbourne market, and afterpaying for freight and cases, his profit for the consignment was 19s. 6d.
– Unfortunately, that is not an isolated case.
– At that time the newspapers were full of such cases. A similar position exists in
England respecting the marketing of fruit. On the 19th July the Age also published this paragraph -
We are approaching the end of the Australian and New Zealand fresh fruit season. As far as aggregate shipments are concerned, it has been a record season, for Australia and New Zealand exported over 3,000,000 cases, about 1,000,000 more than they have ever sent before, but financially the season must rank as the most calamitous in the history of the trade.The fruit has shown less signs of disease than usual, but there has been an exceptionally high percentage of small-sized fruit. As far as the condition of the fruit is concerned, except for a disastrous turnout in one hold of the Port Adelaide, the amount of ship damage to apples has not been great, but pears were not so fortunate.
The market had never been goodfrom the beginning. Without doubt the arsenic scare, due to the condition of American apples prior to the first Australian arrivals, definitely reduced the popularity of apple-eating throughout the country.
The season was marked by an expensive advertising campaign financed by the growers, the Commonwealth Government, and the Fruit Traders Federation, but as things turned out it appears that the retailers alone profited from it - their prices to the consumers were the same as in previous years, when the wholesale prices were at least 33 per cent. higher. Since the strike the average wholesale price of apples has been about 2½d. per lb., but the average retail price was seldom less than 7d. The general strike produced a tremendous congestion of all fruits.
Most of what we term our exportable surplus would be consumed in Australia if sold at reasonable prices.
– Later, I shall direct the attention of the honorable member to the composition of the London board. I have investigated the position in London.
– It would be interesting to learn the personal experience of the honorable member. I am surmising that there is something radically wrong in the method of marketing in England.
– There is.
– We should exercise somecontrol of the export of fresh fruit overseas. The wholesale price of fruit in London is 2½d a lb., and the retail price is 7d. a lb. The position is similar at our own doors. While it may be desirable to deal with our natural exportable surplus, we should first try to devise means to increase the consumption in Australia. If fruit were marketed here at a reasonableprice ensuring an adequate return to the grower, we should not need to trouble so much about the market fluctuations overseas. The bill when given effect will no doubt do a great deal to overcome the high cost of distribution and marketing; but a greater measure of responsibility should be placed upon the Government. I want the people overseas to obtain our fruit at a reasonable price ensuring to the Australian producer an adequate return, and also the Australian consumers to have the advantage of a reduction in the price of all classes of primary produce. We should exploit our own market before devoting too much attention to those overseas. Irealize, of course, that the local demand for some of our primary commodities has been overtaken, and we must make provision for exporting in such cases. I should like the Minister to let me know whether it will be possible for any canned fruit to be exported except under the provisions of this bill.
– It will not.
– It is highly regrettable that although boards of this kind are set up to handle our export trade, some producers will not link up with them, but remain outside to the detriment of the industry generally, and their fellow producers in -particular. That has happened in connexion with the Dried Fruits Export Control Board and the Dairy Produce Export Control Board.
– No one can export a pound of butter except under a licence from the hoard.
– But a number of producers have withheld from participation in its business so that they may take advantage of a favorable local market.
– That is happening in regard to the dried fruits industry to-day.
– It is regrettable that it should be so. These producers might be’ aptly termed nonunionists.
– But the Government is opposed to the compulsory pooling of wheat.
– It is, unfortunately; but I am glad to say that it is coming some distance along the road with the Labour party. I hope that later it will make all these pools compulsory.
– Plunge right into the pool, so to speak.
– Yes. When the Dried Fruits Export Control Bill was before the House some time ago I urged that action should be taken to compel all dried fruit producers to hand their produce over to the board for marketing; but the Government, at that time, could not see the force of my argument, nor, apparently, does it yet see it, although I hope that ultimately it will. It is not fair that a few growers should be permitted to exploit the local market to the detriment of the industry generally.
– All the growers will have to participate in this scheme for export.
– But some of them will be able to sell locally.
– However that may be, I must congratulate the Government upon adopting at least a portion of the Labour party’s policy in regard to the marketing of primary produce; but it will have to go all the way before both the producers and the consumers are completely satisfied. I understand that the levy of¼d. per tin which it is proposed to charge, under this bill, would produce £10,000.
– A farthing per tin is the maximum; but it is improbable that the whole amount would be levied.
– It seems to me that it is too much to ask. I complained when the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill was before us that the levy it provided for was too high.
– Only half the amount is being levied.
– I quite understand that a large sum will be needed for propaganda purposes. I believe in the principle of this bill, and I am glad that the Minister has been converted to it.
– When did I oppose it?
– The Minister’s party opposed it strenuously at one time, though it has since altered its attitude. I trust that in the next election campaign honorable members opposite, having accepted this measure of socialization in industry, will not condemn the Labour party for advocating the principle. I believe that this bill will do something to improve our marketing arrangements; but even if it goes only a little way. towards eliminating the speculator, who is killing Australian primary industry today, it will be well worth while.
– I claim to have had some experience of this business, for while I was Minister for Trade and Customs I handled two packs of canned fruit without having any State machinery for the purpose; but I have no desire to see again the Government handling packs in the same way. The bill proposes a distinct improvement in our methods of marketing Australian primary produce overseas by putting into operation a principle which I have advocated for many years of creating an advisory body overseas. It would be dangerous, however, to allow an unsympathetic government to veto the export of our primary produce; but the constitution of a board from the industry such as is now proposed is highly desirable. I have been favorable, for a long while, to the establishment of a board composed of a government nominee as chairman and representatives of the individual growers and the co-operative and State canneries. The system was tried by the last Parliament, and I understand that it is working very well. Of course, any board is liable to commit errors of judgment and to cause congestion and dislocation in the world’s markets by withholding supplies at the wrong time. It is always dangerous to allow produce to accumulate. I had personally to decide when I was Minister for Trade and Customs whether to place on the market a pack or portion of a pack of produce, or to withhold it, and a Minister is in an unenviable position when he has to rely upon the advice of parties abroad in such a matter. It is not a proper function for a responsible Minister. I have a clear recollection of the Eromanga consignment of fruit, which was sold overseas greatly to the detriment of Australia’s good name. I was confronted with the term “damaged goods” during my term of office, and I know that it took us a very long while to regain our good name. We had to recast all the regulations, set up a better grading system in regard to butter, fruit, and meat, and generally to remodel our marketing arrangements because shipments of inferior produce happened to get abroad. A lost market is extremely difficult to regain. I had the privilege of founding the Australian Meat Council, the Australian Dairying Council, and the Australian Fruit Council, which set up the new export standards. The Dairying Council, among other things, determined on a national brand for our butter. Australia should follow her goods overseas. Instead of having them thrown on the market at any time and under any conditions, as is the position at present, an. organization in London will be able to advise the board in Australia regarding the state of the market and the standard of each season’s pack. Irrespective of the regulations which may be in force, fruit will sometimes be faulty and flavourless. The fruit of different seasons will have different features. ‘ A board on the other side of the world could render great service to Australian fruitgrowers. I commend the Government whole-heartedly on having decided to establish an agency in London. In doing this, we are following the excellent example set by the people of the United States of America. They follow their goods here, and put them right into our hands. With such a system in operation, no one can say that the goods offered are those of another country than that from which they purport to come. While this is a step in the- right direction, it is somewhat dangerous to place in the hands of a body inferior to Parliament the power to veto the export of goods from this country. I do not expect this board to be . free from mistakes. Every trader in the markets of the world must allow for a proportion of failures. The primary producers of Australia can only hope to obtain average prices, and fair opportunities for their produce in the world’s market. The man who always expects to get the top price will die with his hopes unrealized. There is to-day a definite glut in the butter market because of the policy followed by Australia and New. Zealand. The Danes, more experienced in these matters, cleared their stocks, and now hold none in a depressed market. There is a good deal to he said for the contention that greater efforts should be made to develop the home market. Unfortunately, in the early days of the fruit-growing industry, tens of thousands of trees were planted, the fruit of which no one now wants. That was one of the fundamental mistakes made in that industry. Because of the natural objection to uprooting trees that had taken years to grow, it has taken a long time to remedy that error. During recent years things have greatly improved, but we have not yet equalled our great rivals in California, who place their goods on the market in the most attractive and saleable manner. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Mr. BRUCE (Flinders - Prime Minister and Minister for External Affairs [3.51]. - In moving -
That the House do now adjourn.
I desire, in response to the request of a number of honorable members who have made inquiries in the matter, to intimate that the debate on the agenda for the seventh Assembly of the League of Nations will probably be resumed on Tuesday next.
– There will probably be a second-reading speech first, but that will be the main business to be dealt with on Tuesday.
.- On the 23rd June, the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. A. Green), when speaking on the Supply Bill, urged, in the interests of the pearling fleet working off the north-west coast of Western Australia, the desirability of establishing a storm-warning station at Browse Island. This matter has been the subject of consideration by the Commonwealth Meteorologist, who reports that the storm-warning system instituted by the Meteorological Bureau in 1912 meets requirements, and that the slight advantage which would be derived from the establishment of a station on the island would not justify the expenditure which would be involved. Since the establishment of the existing stormwarning system, 24 cyclones have been recorded on the north-west coast, and on only two of those occasions were losses of boats recorded. On the 15th April, 1920, two luggers were wrecked but no lives were lost, and on the 8th March, 1923, two luggers founderedandone Malay was drowned. Although it is, I understand, usual for the pearling fleet to lay up during the hurricane season, consideration has been given to the question of instituting some means whereby warnings of impending storms may be conveyed to fleets at sea. In response to a suggestion made by the Commonwealth Meteorologist, that sound signals be used for the purpose, the Western Australian Government in 1913 issued a supply of bomb rockets to the president of the Pearlers’ Association, Broome. In addition to reports received from Koepang and north-west coast stations, the Weather Bureau receives, daily, wireless reports when the vessels are at sea, from five vessels running regularly between Perth, Wyndham and Darwin, and from six vessels trading between the East Indies and Singapore, via the Timor Sea and Sydney. These reports, although intermittent, are of much value to the bureau, in framing its forecasts and warnings for the north-west coast and adjacent waters, and to some extent take the place of reports from an ocean island station.
.- I desire to draw the attention of the Prime Minister to a report which appeared in the Melbourne Age, of to-day’s date, as follows: -
Job May be Declared “ Black.”
At the meeting of the Building Trades’
Federation, to be held this evening, consideration will be given to acommunication from the Builders Labourers’ Union, in which it isstated that a residence in course of erection at Frankston, consisting of 30 rooms, which is being built for Mr. Bruce, Prime Minuter is staffed with non-union labour. The secretary of the federation (Mr. W. J. Duggan) stated yesterday that an organizer had visited the job, and the men had refused to join the unions for their respective trades. It would be impossible for the work to proceed under the conditions which existed, and it was quite on the cards that at the meeting the job would be declared “ black.” In that case union labour would not be available to 611 positions for which non-unionists could not be obtained.
In view of the fact that the Prime Minister, during the last election campaign, sought the votes of trade unionists on the ground that his Government was prepared to assist every class in the community, I consider that the press report referred to demands an explanation from him. Honorable members will recollect that, in one of the comic papers, the Prime Minister was depicted as the “ leader of the trade union movement in Australia.” The contractor for the building may have employed non-unionists without the knowledge of the Prime Minister; but it is the latter’s duty to see that work carried out for him is done under Australian union conditions.
– The honorable gentleman, instead of confining his remarks in this House to the criticism of my political actions as Prime Minister of this country, has descended to referring to affairs connected with my private life. I suggest that that was not a worthy course for him to adopt. As, however, he has asked the question, my reply is that I saw in the press this morning a statement regarding a week-end house which is being built for me atFrankston. I do not know who is employed on its construction; that matter rests with the architect and the contractor who are carrying out the work. I do know, however, that practically all the men employed are returned soldiers. If returned soldiers - whether unionists or not - are not entitled to preference, who, I ask, is entitled to the opportunity to obtain work? Beyond what I have said, I have no knowledge of the matter referred to by the honorable member.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.68 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 July 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260723_reps_10_114/>.