10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Use of Commonwealth Oil Refineries’ Petrol Prevented
– I ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries made all arrangements to supply Mr. Cobham with petrol for his flights in Australia, but that he has been unable to use that petrol because other oil companies made it quite clear that should he do so their petrol would not be available to him in his flight from Darwin to London?
– I have received a report which indicates that what the honorable member has stated is correct: Arrangements were completed by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries, at the request of Mr. Cobham, to provide petrol for his flights in Australia - I believe that supplies had actually been sent forward by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries to different points - but I understand that as a result of representations by other oil companies that they would not be prepared to supply Mr. Cobham with the necessary petrol for other stages of his flight if he used the Commonwealth Oil Refineries’ petrol, the arrangement had to be cancelled, and the petrol he required supplied by one of the other companies.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. In the course of the debate last week, speaking on his motion disapproving of the granting of titles, the . honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) is reported to have made references to myself to which I take very great exception. In the course of the honor able member’s speech, the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) interjected that I was responsible for the founding of Canberra as the Federal Capital site. To this interjection the honorable member for Ballarat is reported to have replied -
The honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson) would not like me to say all I know concerning his association with Canberra.
I have not the slightest idea of what was in the honorable member’s mind at the time or what he wished to convey by that remark; but it must be obvious to any one reading these words in cold print in the press, or in Hansard, that the honorable member desired to convey the impression that there was something discreditable to myself in my association with Canberra. Indeed, that is clear from a report of the honorable member’s remarks in a newspaper. Referring to myself, the honorable member is reported as follows: -
– He would not like me to say all we know about Canberra and himself. It is no credit to himself or his title.
That is a deliberate statement, clearly intended to discredit me in the eyes of those who may read the honorable member’s remarks. I desire to say that I have nothing to be ashamed of in my association with the selection of Canberra as the site for the Federal Capital. So far as I am concerned, the honorable member is at perfect liberty to tell the whole world anything truthful that he knows about my association with the matter.
Sydney City Council’s Contract
– Does the AttorneyGeneral consider that he was justified in issuing a writ against the Commonwealth Shipping Board, which is a Commonwealth instrumentality, to restrain the board from accepting contracts from the municipal council of Sydney? Upon whose request has he taken such action?
– The Commonwealth has not issued a writ against the Shipping Board; but a writ has been issued on behalf of Mr. F. L. Edwards, secretary to the Chamber of Manufactures of New South Wales, whose solicitors are Messrs. Sly and Russell. Application for leave to use the name of the Attorney-General as formal plaintiff, in accordance with recognized procedure, was made, and, under the usual conditions, was granted. The conditions provide that proceedings are at the risk and cost of. the real plaintiff. Leave is given only in cases where, for reasons of procedure, this course is the only way of bringing a matter before the court. The Attorney-General does not allow his name to be used unless he has a certificate from counsel that the matter is one in regard to which it may be properly used. That certificate was given in this case.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral aware that in acting as he has done, he has stopped operations at Cockatoo Island, thus throwing a number of employees out of work, and has put the Commonwealth Shipping Board to a considerable amount of expense? Was the honorable gentleman justified in doing that, without consulting Parliament?
– It is obvious that the mere issue of a writ does not stop any one from doing anything. The action which I have taken as law officer of the Crown in a relator action is non-political. No other Minister has anything to do with it, and I am not responsible to Parliament for what I have done. My action was taken entirely as law officer of the Crown, and in a matter which is purely one of procedure.
– If I understood the Attorney-General correctly, he says, in relation to the writ served on the Commonwealth Shipping Board, that he was acting as a law officer of the Crown; that no one else could have instituted proceedings; that he thought the action ought to have been taken, but that he is not responsible as a member of the Government for what he has done. I should like to ask him whether he holds the view that he is not, for this and every other action he takes, responsible to this House, and that the Government, as a whole, is not responsible for anything done by one of its members? I say nothing at all about the action itself; it may have beenand probably was - entirely proper ; but it is certainly a most novel doctrine to propound that something which is done by a Minister of the Crown is not done by him as a member of the Government, and that the Government, as a whole, is not responsible for it.
– The AttorneyGeneral has various functions to discharge, some as a political Minister, others as a law officer. Among those which he discharges as a law officer are such things as hearing appeals in certain matters under the Patents Act, and filing presentments in criminal proceedings. In neither instance does he act as a political agent, and political considerations are quite outside what he does. Such action is not, and should not be, political; it is merely part of the administration of- justice, in regard to which the Attorney-General has an important, but entirely non-political responsibility. Again, in certain civil cases proceedings can be . initiated only in the name of the Attorney-General as the nominal plaintiff. The action referred to by the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) is such a case. In proceedings in relation to charities, the State Attorney-General is, as a matter of necessity, a party, whether ho approves or not of the particular action taken. In all these matters the Attorney-General must exercise his discretion apart altogether from considerations of a political nature, and it would be most undesirable in the interests of the proper administration of civil and criminal justice that any political considerations should enter into them. It was to that aspect of the question I referred when I answered the honorable member for South Sydney.
– In the event of the action against the Commonwealth Shipping Board being successful, and Cockatoo Island Dockyard not being allowed to complete the contract for the Sydney City Council, will the Prime Minister see that the board is recouped for any loss it incurs, and that the loss is not put down as a debit to the board’s expenditure?
– If the honorable member asks whether, in the event of a decision adverse to the Commonwealth Shipping Board being given, the board itself will be recouped from the general revenue of the Commonwealth for any expenditure to which it may be subjected, I can only reply that that is a matter which will come up for consideration if a decision is given of the character referred to. It would, however, make no difference whether the money was found out of the Consolidated Revenue, or a debit was entered against the activities of the board itself. If a debit was made against the board, it would be possible to ascertain the cause of the particular expenditure to which it referred, and the difficulty which the honorable member is trying to avoid - the possibility of the activities of the board being prejudiced - would be completely overcome.
Duties on Petrol, Chassis and Tires - Minister’s Statement.
– With a view to relieving the public mind, will the Prime Minister tell the House whether it is the intention of the Government to proceed with the Federal Aid Roads Bill, or to drop the measure and abandon the collection of the duties on petrol, chassis and tires?
– The Federal Aid Roads Bill is still on the notice-paper, and I shall speak on it later in the sitting.
– Iask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the Argus report of the deputation which waited on him in reference to the sale of petrol, in Victoria, is substantially correct?
– It is.
– In view of the answer just given by the Minister for Trade and Customs, I should like to draw the attention of the Prime Minister to the report of the remarks of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) at the deputation referred to. It is as follows: -
With regard to the question of “ shandygaffing,” said Mr. Pratten, I am very sympathetic, because I think the importing oil companies do not hesitate to suggest “ shandygaffing” by retailers. I unhesitatingly say, from evidence I have, that there is also likely “ shandygaffing “ on their part. … I am inclined to agree with you, Mr. Pratten added, when you say that the importing companies care for no interests but their own. I think that is a fact that should be freely advertised. The sooner we get down to the fact that we are in the grip of the two monopolistic institutions importing petrol here, the better.
I ask the Prime Minister whether the Government endorses remarks of that sort from a Minister on an exparte statement ?
– I shall make my position, and that of the Government, clear, when the debate on the Federal Aid Roads Bill is resumed.
– Tenders for printing and publishing the Northern Territory Gazette closed on the 19th July, and the new contract was to have started on the 1st August, but so far there has been no intimation as to who is the successful tenderer. I should like to know if the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories can tell the House the name of the successful tenderer?
– The Minister for Home and Territories informed me to-day that he hopes to make a statement within the next 48 hours as to the successful tenderer.
– I should like to know if the Prime Minister is aware of the following statement made in the House, a few days ago, by the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) : - “The astounding fact is that the Government’s own hotel at Canberra is to-day a sly-grog shop.” In view of the seriousness of that statement, I ask the Prime Minister whether he will submit it to the Federal Territory Commissioners at Canberra for inquiry and report.
– I desire to ask a question of the right honorable the Prime Minister with regard to the proposed visit of the Duke and Duchess of York, whom I am sure we shall all very gladly welcome. My question is based on a statement made by the right honorable gentleman, that in his view it is desirable that their voyage to Australia should be made in a battleship. I understand that the right honorable gentleman has said -
It is impossible to contemplate the loyalty of Australia to the King and Empire which the visit of the Duke of York will undoubtedly stimulate without conjuring up visions of the might and majesty of the British Navy.
In view of the fact that might and majesty have been at a discount among Australian people since the war, that they are much more concerned with the reconstruction following in the wake of might and majesty, and that we are dispatching delegates to the Seventh Assembly of the League of Nations to promote peace and disarmament, I ask the Prime Minister whether, in connexion with the essentially peaceful mission of the Duke for the opening of Parliament at Canberra, he will leave might and majesty and battleships out of the picture?
– It is in accord with the sentiment of the whole of the people of Australia that the visit of their Royal Highnesses should be made on a battleship, as that will bring home to them the protection afforded to Australia by the British Navy. I have not the slightest intention of reconsidering the matter in deference to the views expressed by the honorable gentleman.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the present King, when Duke of York, came to Australia in an ordinary liner to open the first Federal Parliament, and does he not think that it would be more in accordance with Australian sentiment to allow the present Duke of York to follow his own desire In connexion with what is essentially a visit of peace, and not a visit of war?
– I am aware that when His Majesty, then the Duke of Cornwall and York, came to Australia to open the Federal Parliament, he travelled on an ordinary liner. I am also aware that the Prince of Wales on his recent visit to Australia travelled on a battleship. The honorable gentleman speaks of the Duke of York being allowed to follow his own desire; but I am not aware that His Royal Highness has expressed his desires, or that the honorable gentleman is cognizant of his wishes in this matter. I refer him to the answer which I gave to the question asked by the honorable member for Batman.
– Seeing that the Prime Minister has declared in favour of some warlike demonstration being made in connexion with the visit of Their Royal Highnesses, and in view of his statement that the use of a cruiser is out of the question owing to limitations of space, will he reconsider the matter in the light of the fact that Their Royal Highnesses have decided to leave Their Royal Highnesses’ infant daughter in England?
Question not replied to.
– Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a report in today’s Sun that the Melbourne City Council, by a vote of seventen to seven, decided to purchase from the English Electrical Company of Australia, machinery to the value of £27,448, the reason being that that firm submitted the lowest tender, and that thecouncil’s engineer was of the opinion that Australian manufacturers could not produce equal machinery? The lowest Australian tender was that of Thompson and Company, of Castlemaine, whose price was £32,385. Had that tender been accepted, £10,000 would be made available for distribution among Australian workmen. Will the Minister also say what amount of duty will be payable on the imported machinery, and whether, should the present tariff be not sufficient to prevent this work from going out of Australia, thus taking employment from Australian workmen, he will consider at the earliest possible date the advisability of increasing the duty in the interests of Australian industries?
– My attention has been drawn to the paragraph referred to by the honorable member. Obviously, it is no business of the Trade and Customs Department where public bodies or private individuals or companies place their orders. My business asthe Minister for Trade and Customs is to collect the duties imposed by Parliament upon imported goods. I shall have inquiries made as to the amount of duty payable in this instance, and hope to let the honorable member know to-morrow what it will be.
Speech by Dr. Nott.
– Through you, Mr. Speaker, I desire to ask a question of the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott). I desire to know whether the honorable member was correctly reported in the Melbourne Age of to-day’s date, as having said -
The socialistic station hands in Queensland had eaten more bullocks than they had prepared for sale.
Continuing, the report states, “ The brilliant socialist financiers- “
– I draw the honorable member’s attention, as I have done on previous occasions, to the standing order which provides that after notice of motions has been given, questions may be put to Ministers of the Crown relating to public affairs, and to other members relating to a bill, motion or public matter connected with the business on the noticepaper of which such members may have charge. Does the honorable member’s question relate to a bill, motion, or public matter connected with the business on the notice-paper ?
– I am desirous of obtaining information from the honorable member for Herbert as to whether he was correctly reported.
– The honorable member may only ask questions which are in accord with the standing order.
– My question relatesto a matter of urgent public importance.
– Does it relate to any of the matters covered by the standing order ?
– Yes. The honorable member for Herbert made a statement at a meeting of the Australian Women’s National League -
– Order ! So far, the honorable member’s question does not comply with the standing order.
– As I am not allowed to ask the honorable member for Herbert a question, I ask leave tomake a personal explanation.
– The honorable member may do so only if he has been misunderstood.
– There has been a grave misunderstanding. I desire to indicate how I am affected by the statement attributed to the honorable member for Herbert.
– The honorable member for Herbert, in addressing a meeting of the Australian Women’s National League, is reported to have made statements to. which I take strong exception.
– Does the statement made affect the honorable member personally?
– The honorable member’s statement cast a reflection upon me, as well as upon every other Labour member, which I desire to have removed. Referring to the Queensland Labour administration, he said-
– The Queensland Labour administration is not the honorable member for Capricornia.
– The statement to which I take exception is -
The brilliant socialist financiers had started State fish enterprises, possibly believing that fish made brains. If that were a correct presumption, then the Labour administrators of Queensland should be fed on whale for the rest of their lives.
I take strong exception to those extravagant and grossly unfair reflections upon Queensland Labour administrations. I shall seize every opportunity to defend that State.
– The honorable member made the distinct statement that the matter referred to him personally, but the statement he has read has to do with certain governments.
– When my party is attacked, I, as a member of that party, am also attacked. Governments attacked by the honorable member were in power there when I was a member of the State Labour party of Queensland.
– I have no knowledge that the honorable member was ever a member of a Queensland Government.
He has read a statement having reference to the administration of certain Queensland governments, and the circumstances do not entitle him to make a personal explanation. He has attempted to evade the ruling of the Chair, and I ask him, in future, not to make similar statements under the pretext of a personal explanation.
– I shall defend the good name of Queensland whenever there is an opportunity to do so.
– The honorable member will obey the Standing Orders in what he says here.
Mr.C. RILEY asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Willhe make available a return showing the amount paid by the various Commonwealth Departments to each of the daily newspapers in New South Wales for Government notices during the year 1925-26?
– Steps have been taken to obtain the desired information, which will be made available at an early date.
“KANGAROO” BRAND BUTTER.
asked the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
-The information is being obtained.
– On the 22nd July the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) referred to complaints which had been made in connexion with the stationing of H.M.A.S. Brisbane at Geelong. That vessel was specially commissioned for the purpose of training young ordinary sea men, stokers 2nd class, and boys during the first few months of their service at sea after leaving Flinders Naval Depot, and the ship’s movements have been governed primarily by consideration for the welfare and efficient training of these young ratings. H.M.A.S. Brisbane was based at Geelong rather than at Melbourne, because of the advantages that the first-mentioned port possesses for the training and general welfare of young ratings. At Geelong the playing fields of Osborne House are available for daily use by the trainees. Endeavour has been made to arrange for the Brisbane to visit Port Melbourne fortnightly, but for various reasons it has been found impracticable to adhere to the programme entirely. All reasonable consideration will be given to the convenience of the officers and men of the Maintenance and Instructional Staff, but it is obvious that, in arranging the ship’s movements, the training and welfare of the trainees must have first claim.
– On the 29th June, the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) asked the following questions . -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
Bonuses and Subsidies
– On the 23rd July, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked the following question : -
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?
I am now able to furnish the information, which is set out in the following statement : -
Issue of Gold-mining Leases in Mandated Territory.
– On the 21st July, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) referred to a report, said to have emanated from the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, that gold-mining leases, covering 240 acres, are issued to individuals, and that several persons, by getting together quietly, have been able to secure control of 5 square miles of country. I have had inquiries made, and am now in a position to furnish the following information : -
The Mining Ordinance of the Territory of New Guinea provides that gold-mining leases shall not exceed 50 acres, and that dredging and sluicing leases shall not exceed 240 acres. The Administrator of the Territory states that no gold-mining leases have been issued to date, and that he knows of no such group of persons as that referred to by the honorable member. The following dredging and sluicing leases have been granted, and are still held, in New Guinea: - Edie Creek, four, totalling 33¾ acres; Bulolo River, four, totalling 230 acres; Koranga Creek, five, totalling 127 acres.
The following papers were presented : -
Canned Fruit Bounty Act - Return for 1925-26.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1926, No. 98.
Iron and Steel Products Bounty Act - Return for 1925-6.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act - Ordinance of 1926 - No. 17 - Lunacy (No. 2).
Shale Oil Bounty Act- Return for 1925-26.
Sulphur Bounty Act- Return for 1925-26.
Wine Export Bounty Act - Return for 1925-26.
– I lay on the table of the House the agenda-paper for the Imperial Conference for 1926, and move -
That the paper be printed.
In submitting this motion, I desire to deal with some of the major matters that will be considered at the conference, in order to set out the views of the Government concerning them, and to afford to honorable members an opportunity of expressing their opinions upon them. The number of subjects on the agenda list is limited, but they cover most of the pressing matters now requiring consideration by the Government of Great Britain and those of the various self-governing dominions.
The forthcoming conference is probably one of the most important in the history of the British Empire. Every thinking man must realize that to-day we have come to a turning point in the relations of the different self-governing parts of the Empire and Great Britain, regarding Empire defence and the economic policy of the Empire. I propose to deal with these three questions in broad outline, and not to speak at any length on the minor questions which appear on the agenda-paper.
In considering inter-imperial relations, it is, I think, necessary to examine the history of the British Empire to ascertain how the present position has arisen, and why we have an Empire composed of a number of self-governing dominions, and, to all intents and purposes, of independent peoples. It is, however, essential to remember that the British peoples form one great nation. It is a result of the pioneering and colonizing genius of the British race that its nationals are scattered over the face of the globe, and have evolved a system of government inside the Empire under which they are free and independent, and able to conduct their own affairs according to their own ideas. The history of the British Empire is one of gradual and progressive evolution, by which what were once Crown colonies have become the selfgoverning dominions of to-day. Australia and the other self-governing dominions are unfettered and untrammelled, and can express their views as independent communities. Prior to the world war, the great dominions had reached, virtually, an independent status, with full self-governing rights, controlling their own affairs and carrying out their own destinies. But we allowed our foreign policy to be entirely formulated and controlled by British statesmen, acting on behalf of the Empire as a whole. Obligations in respect of foreign policy were then seldom in the minds of those in control of dominion affairs. With the coming of the war there emerged a new realization of the obligations of the dominions as part of the Empire, and of the necessity for the dominions to be consulted with regard to, and to have a voicein the framing of, the foreignpolicy of the Empire from which those obligations arose. When we became engaged in A life and death struggle which exacted our maximum effort, we realized that we could no longer leave questions of foreign policy entirely in the hands of others. We could never again allow ourselves to be placed in a position in which we might be involved in war without having been consulted, or having been put in possession of information as to the cause of the conflict. Britain’s participation in the recent war arose out of her guarantee of the integrity of Belgium, but there were few persons in Australia who were aware that Britain was a party to such a treaty, and that we, as a part of the Empire, were concerned in it. The war made it necessary for the self-governing dominions to consider their position, and many changes were made which have affected their relations with each other, and in particular, with Great Britain. During the war an Imperial War Cabinet was established; but no thinking man would suggest that such a body could be of use except in a time of dire national crisis. It would not be acceptable in times of peace; the self-governing parts of the Empire would not tolerate an Imperial Cabinet whose existence must diminish the rights and privileges which they now enjoy under their own constitutions. The Treaty of Versailles was separately signed on behalf of Great Britain, of the selfgoverning dominions, and of India; there is a separate membership of the different parts of the Empire of- the League of Nations; and the right of diplomatic representation of the self-governing parts of the Empire in foreign countries, in relation to those matters with which they are particularly concerned, has been recognized. Further, a resolution passed at the Imperial Conference of 1923 recognized the right of the self-governing parts of the Empire to negotiate separate treaties. All these things have been done in recognition of the full partnership of the peoples which constitute the British Empire, and are part of the beneficent evolution which has resulted from the genius for self-government possessed by those of British stock. The stage that has now been reached in the ‘ position of the dominions may cause some confusion, but it is a recognition of the autonomy of the self-governing dominions within the Empire, and of their growth, strength, and importance; they are, too, fundamental constitutional alterations in the internal relations of the Empire. The confusion which has arisen has led to the demand, in some quarters, for a clear definition of the status of the dominions, and of their relation to each other and to foreign countries. It is essential, therefore, that we should consider this new constitutional position, to see where it places us, but before doing so I stress the elemental fact that must always be remembered in this connexion, that the British people represent one nation, and not’ many nations, as some have endeavoured to suggest. A wonderful response was made by the far-flung dominions, colonies and protectorates of the Empire, when the disastrous war broke out in 1914. It was clearly demonstrated then that, although people may, in times of peace, argue in an academic fashion about the unity of the Empire, in the face of a foreign foe the British peoples are solid and undivided. The war brought us closer together, and we fought as one: entity to uphold the great principles itf which we believe. But, although the war” showed the strength of our united Empire, it also revealed the weakness and limitations of its various parts as separate units; and it would bn tragic if now, in this time of reconstruction, we should allow the Empire to disintegrate. Should that happen, m-e would lose all that we fought for in the war. The dismemberment of the British Empire would be tragic, not only for the integral parts of the Empire itself, but also for the world at large, far it would mean the dissolution of the greatest force now existing for the maintenance of peace. In these circumstances, it is undoubtedly necessary that we should do everything within our power to ensure the greatest possible measure of imperial cooperation. We must exorcise a sympathetic interest’ in, and seek to gain a sound understanding of, the aspirations and ideals of all parts of the Empire. The situation that confronts us in respect of this new doctrine of imperial relationship must be carefully considered from three points of view. The dominions of the Empire are self-governing. That is the first fact to be remembered. We have complete independence, and absolute authority with regard to our own domestic affairs. We are entirely untrammelled in the conduct of matters . which affect Australia only. If a single thing that could be regarded as a real limitation of our autonomy could be pointed to, I have no hesitation whatever in saying that the Imperial Government would, if possible, remove it; but I know of nothing whatever that could be rightly considered a restriction of the authority of the Commonwealth Government to deal with Commonwealth affairs. The second fact that must be borne in mind is the status of the dominions in regard to imperial foreign policy. At present, the fullest possible consideration is given by the Imperial Government to any views that the dominions may offer on matters of foreign policy. It has been- unanimously affirmed by the representatives of the Empire that we have the right to negotiate with any foreign state on matters which affect us only, although there are some limitations to that power. It has been laid down, for instance, that -
It is desirable that no treaty should be negotiated by any of the governments of the Empire without due consideration of its possible effect on other parts of the Empire, or, if circumstances so demand, on the Empire as a whole.
– Does that apply to Great Britain as well as to Australia?
– Certainly. It is also provided that negotiations for a treaty which may affect more than one of the dominions shall be entered into only with the co-operation of all the dominions concerned. These, however, are the only limitations upon us. We have the right to appoint diplomatic agents and representatives in foreign countries to deal with matters that concern us exclusively. There would be no objection to Australia sending her diplomatic representatives all over the world, though it would be unwise for her to do that. Then, of course, although we have separate membership in the League of Nations, we are British nationals. It is of immeasurable advantage to our people when travelling abroad to be able, as British citizens, to claim the protection and help of the British consular and diplomatic authorities in the countries they visit. The third point that we have to consider in relation to this new doctrine - and really it is the only matter that needs much consideration from us - is our position in the event of an outbreak of war. We must recognize that, in time of war, the British Empire is a single unit, and we are British nationals. When theKing is at war, every one of his subjects is also at war. It is of no use for us to shut our eyes to that fact. It is an inescapable position so long as the present constitutional position continues. Of course, it is open for the dominions to determine what, if any, active participation, they will take in the conduct of hostilities, but we cannot get away from the fact that, when war has been declared by the Imperial Government, all the parts of the Empire are at war.
Whilst, to a great extent, the new doctrine that has been enunciated has been discussed merely in academic fashion, the remarks of certain Empire statesmen have given it a measure of endorsement which makes essential our careful examination of it. In brief, what has been suggested is that a declaration should be communicated to the world powers asserting the international independence of the dominions, and claiming for them recognition as separate international units. Such a declaration could consistently be made to the nations of the world, if, in fact, we were independent nations allied one with the other, but it is hopelessly irreconcilable with the idea of unity of the British Empire. We cannot think that any other nation would tolerate one group of its nationals declaring that, in the event of war breaking out, it had the right to direct itsown affairs, and intended to retain its neutrality and independence. In any other nation in the world, except this amazing British nation, such a thing would never be contemplated, because it would mean the breaking up of that nation. Will any one maintain that, because the pioneering genius of its people have split up the British nation in a geographical sense, considerations which apply to other nations do not apply to it? Or is the preservation of genuine imperial unity compatible with the possibility of one part of the Empire standing aside when the rest are engaged in a life and death struggle? And yet to-day that is almost being suggested by one of the dominions.
– What dominion has suggested that?
– I have no desire to refer specifically to any dominion, but as the honorable member has invited me to do so, my reference is to a recent utterance by the Prime Minister of South Africa. Suppose, for example, that Great Britain was menaced. Will any one suggest that Australia, as an integral part of the British Empire, could stand aside and see Britain destroyed ? Apart altogether from sentimental reasons, self-interest would force us to do all that was possible to prevent the tragic disappearance of Britain as one of the great powers of the world, because the disintegration of the British Empire itself would be the result. This declaration to the world of the independence of the dominions would inevitably lead to the disintegration of the British Empire as it is understood today. Australia’s aspiration must be a closer linking together of all the selfgoverning portions of the Empire, with as full a recognition of the independent status of all the self-governing dominions as is compatible with the recognition of our mutual British nationality, and the maintenance of the closest possible relations between the English-speaking peoples. That, I believe, is the view which this community takes to-day. These considerations make it clear that there is a clean-cut issue to face. We have to say either that we believe in the British Empire, one and undivided; that we believe in the great British nationhood that we enjoy; or that we are indifferent to the breaking up of the Empire, as we consider ourself an independent people. Let us examine the latter contention, to see the results that would flow from our declaration of independence, if that declaration had official international recognition, with, perhaps, some personal link ‘between the different dominions in the British Throne. In the first place, no foreign power is likely to consent to a dominion “having it both ways.” We must be either inside or outside the Empire. Another thing we should bear in mind is that our citizens would thus become possessed of a separate nationality, because common nationality is really the basis on which is determined, in the case of war, what peoples are at war with each other. We cannot enjoy the privileges of nationhood as part of the British Empire without accepting the obligations. If we became independent we should have to provide for the protection of our citizens the world over, to set up diplomatic and consular services, and conduct our own foreign relations. It might be argued that Great Britain could, conduct our foreign relations for us; but surely the conduct of its relations with other countries is the prerogative of an independent nation. If, after having claimed independence, our foreign relations were conducted by Great Britain, we should be in the position of a protectorate. Again, we should be responsible for our own treaties with foreign States, and be subject to the ordinary measures of constraint in the event of any failure to observe them. As an independent people we could look for no outside assistance if we became involved in trouble with another nation. It would be pos sible, of course, to make reciprocal treaties with other countries that are today inside the British Empire ; but, unless those treaties provided for our promising something of a tangible nature in exchange for any assistance that might be received, we should be in the position of a country living under the protection of another country. Could we, as a proud and independent people, enter into any reciprocal arrangement without being prepared to give benefits equivalent to those which we might enjoy? It is obvious that we could not enter into such a one-sided arrangement as that. Lastly, we should have to provide for our defence. I have no desire to discuss this subject to-day. I simply reiterate my view, which is the view also of the Government, that bur safety is ensured by the fact that we are part of the British Empire, and . that our surest line of defence is co-operation with Great Britain. I suggest that it is impossible for us to escape our obligations whilst we remain inside the British .Empire, and that it is impossible to make a declaration of independence. Therefore, we are forced back to the position that we are inside the British Empire, and that whilst we enjoy its privileges we must also accept its obligations. I have referred to the new status the dominions achieved by the war. With this new status there came a demand to be consulted with regard to the foreign policy of the Empire, and to have a voice in framing it. Consequently, our task now is to find the best possible method by which we can have a voice in the determination of the foreign policy of the British Empire. That is the policy out of which war may spring. We must adopt the means that are best calculated to ensure that proper regard will be paid to any view we may express regarding the lines which foreign policy should follow. What position do the dominions occupy at present in relation to foreign affairs? At intervals, conferences of the various Prime Ministers are held in Great Britain. At those conferences the foreign policy of the British Empire is reviewed. In 1923, the question which transcended all others in importance was the position in the Buhr, and the attitude of France in relation to reparations. That conference had to consider what steps ought to be taken to solve a problem that was keeping the whole of Europe in a ferment. A request forco-operation was sent to the United States of America, and, as a result, the Dawes and McKenna committees were appointed. The efforts of those committees considerably brightened the European outlook. At these conferences, the general line of foreign policy can be discussed, and laid down with a fair amount of exactitude. It is competent for this Parliament to indicate at the present juncture the lines which British foreign policy should follow. I, on behalf of Australia, can voice those wishes at the forthcoming conference. When the Prime Ministers return to their respective dominions, they are kept fully informed, by means of cables and dispatches, of Britain’s every act in relation to foreign affairs. That method of consultation can be made quite effective upon ordinary questions of foreign policy, enabling the different dominions to take a full part in matters of Empire concern. Great Britain has never objected to supplying any information that has been sought by a dominion. Every piece of information that is supplied to her ambassadors the world over, and every dispatch that is received by British Cabinet Ministers, as well as any important dispatches that are sent to British representatives abroad are being forwarded to us at the present time, and that practice will be continued in the future. Any dominion Prime Minister who has the machinery necessary for handling those dispatches and cables can make himself better informed upon current affairs than can a British Cabinet Minister, whose principal duty it is to administer his own department. Since this consultative system exists, and since we avail ourselves of it to our entire satisfaction, it follows that we should be prepared to endorse policies about which our advice has been asked, and which we have had a share in shaping. But if a sudden crisis should develop, and the entire outlook be changed rapidly and suddenly, our position must be an awkward one. So long as world circumstances remained normal, any line of policy which might have been laid down would probably be both admirable and effective. The Foreign
Secretary is in the best position to sense impending changes in the world’s circumstances, and when he finds that a new move must be made, he probably consults his Prime Minister. The Cabinet has not the matter before it until a decision must be made in regard to an alteration of foreign policy to bring it into accord with the different circumstances that have arisen. Then the dominions are at a disadvantage. It is true, of course, that the information which comes to us shows, to some extent, in what way a position may be changing, but the difficulty of coming to a common decision to meet the new position still exists. The only person through whom that decision can be conveyed is the representative of the dominion in London. The High Commissioner keeps closely in touch with members of the British Cabinet, and enjoys the confidence of the Foreign Secretary. He really occupies the position of an ambassador. He is made acquainted with any changes that are occurring, and informs his government accordingly. The whole question will have to be discussed at the forthcoming Imperial Conference. I repeat that Australia is within the Empire, and cannot get outside it unless we completely cut ourselves adrift from our British nationhood and the privileges that we enjoy. As a part of the Empire, we have certain obligations. Our principal task is to create the machinery that will enable us to have a real voice in the foreign policy of the Empire.
– Do not the daily advices prepare the mind for the crisis that follows?
– We are advised generally in relation to actual events; but there are other changes which take place almost imperceptibly. The Foreign Secretary may have an impression of what is occurring, but such impressions cannot be adequately embodied in a dispatch or a cable. They may not even be positive impressions. Information can be cabled or dispatched only when the matter has reached the stage when a decision is unavoidable. That difficulty must be overcome by different methods of communication, which will have better results than can be achieved at present. The point
I wish to stress is that any dominion which so desires can create the machinery that will enable it to be kept fully informed upon matters of foreign policy. It is an .obligation upon every dominion to do that. Our present difficulty can be best visualized by considering “a specific case. I take the case of the Locarno Treaty, because it will be necessary for this House to express an opinion upon it.
Prior to the completion of the Treaty of Locarno, and its subsequent signature in Great Britain, long and protracted negotiations took place between the powers concerned. This Government was kept fully informed of those negotiations. Cablegrams and other communications stating exactly how the situation was developing were sent to us daily, and it was open to us at any time to cable back our dissent from the action contemplated by Great Britain, and to indicate our views on the subject. We did not express our dissent, for we believed that the proposed Treaty, of Mutual Guarantee would have the effect of stabilizing the conditions in Europe, and would be a factor in promoting the world’s peace. We were fully informed of all negotiations. There are three aspects from which this House should consider the Treaty; first, whether it will tend to the promotion of world’s peace; secondly, whether its operation will be complementary of, or in opposition to, the Covenant of the League of Nations; and thirdly, what are our- obligations under it. lt is necessary, therefore, to explain the. Treaty, itself.
The Treaty of Mutual Guarantee was drawn up and initialed at Locarno on the 16th October last, and was formally signed in London on the 1st December. The parties to it are Great Britain, France, Germany, Belgium and Italy. Its object is to establish security in Western Europe, a region which has been the scene of devastating conflicts, into which Great Britain, because of her geographical position, has almost inevitably been drawn for the protection of vital interests, and even of her existence. The five powers concerned have shown a desire to break with the unhappy past, and to co-operate for the prevention of war between them. The Treaty contains two different sets of obligations. The first of these applies only to France, Germany and Belgium. Those States agree not to go to war with each other, and to submit all disputes between them to peaceful settlement. Disputes between Great Britain and the other signatory States will, of course, be governed by the Covenant of the League of Nations. The second set of obligations covers the guarantee, and applies to all the five signatory States, which pledge themselves collectively and severally to guarantee the maintenance of the territorial status quo resulting from the frontiers between Germany and Belgium and Germany and France, as fixed by the Treaty of Versailles.
– Does the Treaty of Mutual Guarantee apply to Europe generally ?
– No; only to the west- ‘ ern frontiers of the countries named, as laid down by the Treaty’ of Versailles. The powers concerned also affirm the stipulations in articles 42 and 43 of the Treaty of Versailles, concerning the demilitarised zone on the Rhine. This guarantee, therefore, aims at establishing, once and for all, the present frontiers of Western Europe and preventing any attempt in the future to modify them by force.
– Does the Treaty include Czecho-Slovakia and Jugo-Slavia?
– No; only Western Europe. In article 2 of the Treaty, Germany and France and Germany and Belgium undertake that in no ca.°e will they report to war against each other. That undertaking does not deprive them of the right to act in legitimate selfdefence in the event of any one of them, proving unfaithful to its obligation, and attacking the other; nor does it apply to any action that may be taken under article 16 of the Covenant of thi? League dealing with sanctions. Article 3 of the, Treaty lays down the general conditions under which disputes between. Germany, France, and Belgium are to be settled. These countries undertake to settle, by peaceful means, every dispute which may arise between them. Arbitration is compulsory when the parties disagree about their respective rights, and they pledge themselves to comply with any arbitral decision that is given. Political disputes are to be submitted to a conciliation commission. If, in the event of any dispute, no settlement acceptable to the parties concerned is arrived at, it must be submitted to the Council of the League, according to article 15 of J;he Covenant, and the League itself will then decide the matter. I would point out that the Treaty is in no sense antagonistic to the League. A result of the Treaty will also be that if the Council does not arrive at a unanimous decision under article 15, the parties are pledged not to resort to war. Articles 4 and 5 of the Treaty set out the guarantee given by Great Britain, which really operates on behalf of all the parties to it. The guarantee will operate in favour of Germany, France, or Belgium, according to which country is the victim of aggression by one of the others. The guarantee will operate should one of these three countries resort to war against another without submitting the dispute to peace- ful settlement. The League will play an important part in this guarantee. When a party alleges a breach of the Treaty, it must at once bring the matter before the Council of the League, which, when it has satisfied itself that a breach has been committed, will call on the guarantor powers to assist immediately the country against which the act of aggression has been directed.
– The guarantors are Great Britain and Italy?
– Yes; they are the two guarantors. There is also a provision that in the event of delay on the part of the Council in completing its investigations, and immediate action and defence being considered necessary, it can be taken in the case of a flagrant and unprovoked aggression, and the guarantors have agreed to take it. The Council of the League must, however, continue its investigations and issue its findings to the parties to the Treaty, which undertake to act in accordance with those findings. These findings must be concurred in by all the members of the Council other than the representatives of the parties which have already engaged in hostilities. It is stipulated that the Treaty does not affect the rights and obligations of the parties under the Treaty of Versailles and the London Reparation agreements of the 30th August, 1924. But it seems to me impossible to escape from the ‘ conclusion that when the Locarno Treaty comes into force any dispute between France, . Belgium, and Germany concerning the respective rights of these countries under the Peace Treaty must be submitted to arbitration. The Treaty will come into force only when Germany becomes a member of the League of Nations. No definite duration is fixed to the Treaty. It is stipulated that when the Council, acting at the request of one or other of the contracting parties, decides by a two-thirds majority that the League of Nations affords sufficient security, the Treaty will terminate one year after such decision is reached. There are certain other features of the Treaty to which I need not refer. Honorable members have received copies of it, and can read it for themselves. The other provisions practically set out the machinery showing how and when action under it may take place. The broad lines of the Treaty are that Germany, France, and Belgium undertake that any dispute between them shall be settled by arbitration, and that they will not go to war. Italy and Great Britain are under the Treaty the guarantors for the fulfilment of the obligations which the other three powers have undertaken.
– Must the guarantor powers await a summons from the League of Nations before they can intervene?
– They can intervene, and, in fact, undertake to intervene in the case of- flagrant and unprovoked attack by one of the powers upon the other.
– Without a request from the League ?
– That would not apply to an unprovoked attack by Germany on French colonies.
– Both Germany and France give a solemn undertaking not to resort to war in any circumstances against each other.
– The unprovoked attack which would justify interference by the guarantors would be one upon the western frontiers as laid down by the Treaty of Versailles.
– Yes, the Treaty deals with that region entirely.
A matter deserving of consideration is the relation of the Treaty to the League of Nations, and I think that a close examination of it will show that it in no way conflicts with the principles and spirit of the Covenant of the League, but is really complementary to it. There is nothing in the Covenant of the League of Nations which debars a group of nations, should they feel that possible contingencies are not adequately met by the provisions of the Covenant, from coming to some agreement amongst themselves for their mutual protection and the maintenance of peace. This is specifically provided for in Article 21 of the Covenant. In fact, the League has always contemplated the making of regional agreements between nations which will help to ensure world’s peace, and the Covenant provides that all those agreements must be registered with the League, so that their terms may be known to the whole world. The original copy of this Treaty was deposited with the League by its presentation to the Council on the 14th December, and really has now the endorsement of the League. There is nothing in it which can be suggested as conflicting with the ideals underlying the Covenant of the League. The Washington Conference and the Reparations Conference held in London in 1924 were entirely in accordance with the principles and ideals of the Covenant, and so also is this Treaty.
– Germany was to become a member of the League.
– The Treaty is in part the outcome of the co-operation of four nations that are already members of the League - Great Britain, France, Italy, and Belgium. I have said that it contemplates as a circumstance which must take place before it comes into operation that Germany shall also enter the League.
– In what way does it differ from the grouping of nations prior to the war ?
– There was no registration of arrangements entered into in the grouping of nations prior to the war, and such arrangements were in many instances made for purposes of offence. This Treaty is entered into for the purpose of ensuring that disputes between the nations concerned shall be referred to arbitration. It is really an arbitration treaty, as affecting France, Belgium, and Germany, ‘ the two other nations coming in as guarantors of the observance- of the obligation to proceed to arbitration. That is very different from what happened prior to the war.
Another phase of the question is Australia’s position as affected by the Treaty. Article 9 of the Treaty provides that -
The present Treaty shall impose no obligation upon any of the British dominions, or upon India, unless the Government of such dominion, or of India, signifies its acceptance thereof.
The self-governing dominions have two altera atives. They can accede to the Treaty or refuse to have anything to do with it. There are certain facts which it is necessary to bear in mind in considering this matter. Great Britain’s obligation, of course, arises out of her guarantee. Should Great Britain ever be called upon to give effect to the guarantee she has given, it would be only in a case of flagrant aggression by Germany against France and Belgium, or by France and Belgium’ against Germany. Such an act of aggression would set aflame again the whole of the west of Europe, and very possibly the security and existence of Great Britain would be at stake in such a conflagration. We could not, in such circumstances, suggest that we would be neutral, and would play no part in the matter at all. We may remain aloof from the Treaty by our silence, and may decide to have nothing to do with it by express declaration.
– Is that a fact, in view of the attitude of the Government in endorsing the Treaty?
– The Government has not informed the British Government that it approves of the Treaty. On the other hand, it did not say that it was opposed to the Treaty when it was being negotiated. I think that was also the attitude taken up by the other dominions. While we may not have anything to do with the Treaty, by express declaration, we cannot escape from its consequences should the malice of circumstance bring it into operation, otherwise than by leaving the Empire and claiming to be an independent state. In the circumstances I have envisaged, we could not be indifferent to Great Britain’s fate, because, apart from other considerations, our security and that of Great Britain are. inseparably bound up each with the other.
– Canada and South Africa do not adopt that attitude, nor have Ave ever done so before.
– That may make our position awkward; but it does not make it wrong.
– Mv understanding- of the British commonwealth of nations is that it is governed by an unwritten treaty of mutual guarantee, and therein lies its strength. The different parts of the Empire mutually guarantee one another.
– The right honorable gentleman proposes to take away our option and make our guarantee compulsory.
– We have to consider what are the advantages in our maintaining silence in respect of this question, or in our frankly affirming and making it known beforehand that we intend to stand by Great Britain in the fulfilment of her guarantee.
– The right honorable gentleman had better wipe out the League of Nations altogether. That is what he is coming to.
– I think that the effect of the Treaty will be to strengthen the League. In the present position of our relationships with Great Britain, I think that silence on this matter cannot conceivably,’ in the final analysis, diminish our obligations. There is the strongest ground for believing that if France and Germany knew beforehand that Great Britain would intervene in the case of an unprovoked war by one of those powers against the other, neither would run the risk of attacking the other. If this be so, the result of the very existence of the Treaty must tend to minimize the possibility of its ever being brought into operation. It will act as an effective deterrent to a prospective evil-doer who may be contemplating a criminal act of aggression. Chances of success have often stimulated countries to predatory acts. The prospect of failure in such ventures in spires caution and wisdom. If, when the great war broke out in lft 14, it had been made clearly and definitely known that not merely Grp.it Britain, but also the rest of the British Empire, might become involved, that would have had a deterrent effect upon the action then taken. A nation contemplating action in defiance of its obligations will be deterred by consideration of the strength of the forces by which it will be opposed.
– That was done under the Triple Alliance when the war broke out.
– The war broke up the alliance.
– The question that arises is this: whether we do not in reality reduce our risks to the strictest minimum in openly saying that the whole force of the British Empire will be employed to guarantee peace. Would our obligations be increased in the long run by our adopting an attitude of noncooperation with Britain on this matter? That is a question upon which we must come to a decision. If the House believes that this Treaty -of Mutual Guarantee that has been entered into is one which will tend to the stabilization of Europe, and the promotion of world’s peace, and having had an opportunity of expressing its views upon it, decides that it is a good one, it should declare its opinion about it.
– In order that we may do so, does the right honorable gentleman intend to submit a specific resolution?
– It is for us to consider the course which we should pursue. I do not propose at present to submit any motion to the House either approving or disapproving of the ratification of the Treaty by Australia. This is a question of the position of the dominions in respect of obligations entered into by Great Britain, and, as such, will come up for consideration at the forthcoming Imperial Conference. The specific matter of the Locarno Treaty must come up for consideration at that conference. I think it desirable and essential that members of this House should express their opinions upon the Treaty, its effect upon the
Empire and Australia, and upon Europe and the world’s peace, and should indicate their view as to whether Australia should affirm or refuse to affirm it. But it is undesirable that a resolution should be submitted to this House on the question at the present time, because, as I have said, the matter is one which should be discussed at the Imperial Conference.
– If we are not tied up by the action already taken by the Government. [Extension of time granted.]
– At the Imperial Conference there should be the fullest opportunity to consider the position of the dominions regarding all such treaties. If possible, all parts of the Empire should adopt the same attitude in regard to these matters.
– The right honorable gentleman is not going to take it upon himself to commit Australia in this matter ?
– I give the House my assurance that I shall take no action at the Imperial Conference in regard to the ratification of the Treaty, until its ratification has been approved by this House.
– The Treaty by which England and America guaranteed the safety of France was put before this Parliament and ratified by it; and this should be dealt with similarly: We should say “Yes” or “No” to it.
– There should be the fullest discussion of the question at the Imperial Conference before any definite action is taken in the matter. At the present moment the whole question of the status of the dominions is under review. New theories have been advanced to which great importance is attached by some of the dominions. As I have already indicated, I do not subscribe to these, because I do not think they are tenable; but, at the same time, I consider that the fullest opportunity should be afforded at the conference for the expression of these views, and that nothing should be done to prejudice that full discussion by any prior action on the part of a dominion. I think I have made it perfectly clear what my attitude will be.
– Would the right honorable gentleman consider himself bound by any decision of the Imperial Conference 1
– No decision of the Imperial Conference is binding on any part of the Empire until it has been ratified by the legislature of that country. On my return from this conference I shall submit to Parliament the resolutions agreed to, leaving it to Parliament to ratify or reject them.
At the last Imperial Conference, certain resolutions were passed concerning Empire defence, and I think, broadly, they represent views to which the people of Australia generally would subscribe. The first resolution was -
I think that the people of Australia will subscribe enthusiastically to that particular resolution, because it is obvious that the Empire can only be held together so long as there is adequate defence of the territories and trade of the Empire as a whole. To the next resolution, which laid down the obligation of the individual parts of the Empire, every representative at the last conference subscribed. It is as follows : -
That resolution provides for loyal and full co-operation within the Empire, but maintains for each separate selfgoverning part of the Empire the right to decide the magnitude of its own effort. In this connexion the conference laid down certain guiding principles, the first of which was -
Australia has shown that it recognizes the primary obligation which rests upon it, not only to defend itself, but also to co-operate in the defence of trade routes, and, generally, in the defence of the Empire as a whole. In providing for its own defence, it has certainly done more than any other part of the Empire except Great Britain, as, presently, I shall show from certain figures bearing upon the effort made in various parts of the Empire. A second guiding principle was -
This, of course, has a peculiar interest for Australia, because we are living in one of the outposts of the Empire. A third principle laid down was -
Owing to our geographical position and our expressed opinion that the principal defence of Australia, and, indeed, of the Empire itself, is on the sea, we approved of the provision of the necessary facilities for repair and fuel throughout the world. Another guiding principle adopted was -
Prior to the war, the minimum naval standard at which the British Empire aimed was equality with the next two naval powers in the world; but, owing to the great building programmes carried out during the war, and outlined after the war, Great Britain has been compelled to depart from that basis, and now subscribes to a standard which is equal to the naval strength of any foreign power. This, I think, is acceptable to the people of Australia. A resolution was passed dealing with the desirability of the development of the air forces in the several countries of the Empire, so that imperial co-operation could be achieved should the necessity arise. The principal resolution relating to defence affecting Australia was resolution 4, which reads as follows : -
In the application of these principles to the several parts of the Empire concerned, the conference takes note of -
The deep interest of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Dominion of New Zealand, and India, in the provision of a naval base at Singapore as essential for ensuring the mobility necessary to provide for the security of the territories and trade of the Empire in Eastern waters.
This resolution is, of course, of vital concern to Australia, because adequate naval docking facilities in the Pacific are regarded by us as absolutely necessary to obtain what has been laid down as a primary necessity - the security of the territories and trade of the Empire. At the 1923 conference I urged very strongly that the construction of the Singapore base should be undertaken. I contended that it was purely a defence measure, and, as such, was quite compatible with Australia’s and the Empire’s ideal of a progressive policy of world disarmament, and should be proceeded with until that world disarmament came about. The British government of the day subscribed to that view, and announced its intention of proceeding with the work of construction as rapidly as possible; but, within a few months, another government took office in Great Britain, and reversed the decision of its predecessor. On that reversal of policy the Commonwealth Government submitted a naval programme for five years, based upon the assumption that the Singapore base would not be built. It is quite possible that, had the determination to construct the base been accepted by the succeeding British Government, the Commonwealth’s naval programme might have been varied to include a proposal for a contribution by Australia towards the building of the Singapore base. That offer might have taken the form of the supply of material, or there might have been a proposal for the building of a complementary and subsidiary base in Australia.But, with the abandonment of the Singapore project, the Commonwealth laid down a naval programme to the maximum of its available financial resources, and whilst at the forthcoming conference I shall certainly press for the construction of the Singapore base, because the policy of the British Government in this respect has been approved by this Parliament, and is, I believe, endorsed by an overwhelming majority of the people of Australia, it is quite possible, that as the representative of Australia, I shall be obliged to indicate that the Commonwealth is prepared to assist in this work. The form that assistance should take is a matter for this Parliament to decide, in view of our future financial position, and, in this regard, I think it is only fair to set out exactly what Australia is doing for its defence. The figures that I shall now give should bring home to every one a realization of the extensive defence pro gramme Australia is carrying out. They show the amount spent in the various portions of the Empire on defence: -
While these figures show clearly that Australia has realized its obligation to defend itself and co-operate in Empire defence, they also demonstrate how extremely difficult it will be for Australia, because of its extensive commitments, to make any -great contribution towards the construction of the Singapore base. Another resolution carried at the Imperial Conference was: - 4. (b) The necessity for the maintenance of safe passage along the great route to the East through the Mediterranean and the Bed Sea.
To no part of the Empire is the maintenance of this sea route more essential than to Australia. This is a great vital artery of the British Empire, and while 1 do not propose to recall the happenings of the past two or three years, I wish to indicate to honorable members that my attitude on this question will be to ensure that nothing is done to weaken this vital avenue of communication for Australia and New Zealand. I do not think it desirable to stress the matter further. The question of Britain’s air defence was also dealt with at the last conference. Being a matter affecting Great Britain’s local defence, it was obviously among those subjects which ought to be left for the sole determination of Great Britain, but there was a strong feeling at ihe conference that anything which would destroy the heart of the Empire would be fatal to all parts of the Empire. Consequently, a resolution was submitted to which all the representatives of the Empire subscribed. [Further extension of time granted.) The fifth resolution reads -
The Conference, while deeply concerned for the paramount importance of providing for the safety and integrity of all parts of the Empire, earnestly desires, so far as is consistent with this consideration, the further limitation of armaments, and trusts that no opportunity may be lost to promote this object.
That resolution showed the readiness of the Empire to fall in with any scheme the object of which was the reduction of armaments, and that our defence provisions are based on existing conditions throughout the world.
I have dealt with matters affecting dominion status and Empire defence. The remainder of the agenda paper covers economic questions. I do not propose ro deal with them at great length, because on many previous occasions, both in this House and outside, I have expressed my views regarding them. When I was in Great Britain at the last Imperial Conference I urged very strongly that the future of Great Britain and of the Empire depended on a greater expansion cf inter-Empire trade, that on the finding of markets depended the solution of the problem of Empire migration, and the better distributon of the white peoples of the Empire. From the views which I then expressed I have not departed, particularly as the happenings of the last three years have made it abundantly clear that they were correct. I am hopeful that the Development and Migration Commission, whose function it will be to deal with these matters, will result in greater co-operation and the development of inter-Empire trade. Since the last Conference was held, an Imperial Economic Committee has been established, as well as a Marketing Committee, which will have the control of the expenditure of the amount which the British Government voted in substitution -of certain preferences which it- had promised, but which were not given effect. I believe that the Imperial Economic Committee is doins very valuable work in laying the foundations of schemes for the promotion of inter-Empire trade, which should result in great benefit to Great Britain and to the different parts of the Empire. I believe also that the steps which have been taken in Australia during the last three years have tended towards a realization of what I believe to be an essential policy for the Empire. Without dwelling further on these questions, I desire to inform the House that the views expressed by me in 1923 will be the views which I shall, express again on this occasion. I am not dogmatic as to the manner in which interEmpire trade ought to be developed. I am prepared to consider any schemes that may be evolved ; but I maintain that the fundamental requirement for the development of the dominions is the finding of markets. I believe that for the future of Britain, and the maintenance of the position and prestige of the British Empire, it is essential that the dominions shall be developed and populated. Those, broadly, are the views which I shall express in relation to economic questions.
In connexion with the Conference generally, I desire to say that I shall attend it not as the representative of any political party or of any section of the people, but that I shall endeavour to represent the interests of all the people of Australia. Honorable members may not agree with everything that I did at the 1923 conference, but I think that they will at least give me credit for having been animated by the desire to serve the interests of Australia. I shall attend the 1926 Conference animated by the same desire. In discussing this agenda, I ask honorable members to cast aside political bias, and to regard matters solely from the point of view of the future of Australia. Particularly in regard to those questions which affect the status of the dominions and the relations of the different parts of the Empire to each other, I appeal to honorable members not to be carried away by the desire to express views which might be popular with certain sections of the people, but to realize that upon the manner in which these matters are determined will probably depend the future of the British Empire and of Australia.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Charlton) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 23rd July (vide page 4584), on motion by Mr. Paterson -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Since we last met, I have had an opportunity to ascertain the views of the fruitgrowers on theorganization of their industry. While it canbe said that, so far as canned fruit is concerned, they recognize that organization, both at this end and in London, is absolutely essential for the effective disposal of the pack, there are, nevertheless, some phases of the bill concerning which I desire an explicit statement by the Minister. In particular, I desire to know how the power to be conferred on the board by clause 13 is to be exercised.
– With discretion.
– That is not sufficient for me. We should have more than an assurance that the power will bo exercised with discretion. A clear and definite policy should be laid down. When it is proposed to vest in a board the right to determine how the primary producers of Australia shall sell their produce in the markets of the world, we should know exactly what is intended. Under this legislation, the growers will practically be compelled to give their export fruit into the hands of the board for disposal under conditions determined by the board with the approval of the Minister.
– They are not required to do that.
– The board may lay down conditions which are not specified in this bill, governing the export of canned fruit from Australia. Recently, I asked the Prime Minister whether the Government intended to create a Control Board in the case of fresh fruit, such as apples and pears, but so far I have not had a definite answer. Perhaps the Minister in charge of this bill can inform me whether such legislation is contemplated.
– I shall deal with that presently.
– I think thatI should be informed now of the Government’s intention in the matter. It has been held that, in the discussions in this House, honorable members may refer to bills dealing with cognate matters. If the Minister were to say what is intended, I should be in a position to refer to both questions, which, after all, are but one.
– Until there is a greater degree of unanimity among the applegrowers, legislation along the lines referred to will not be introduced.
– I thank the Minister for that information. My question was not asked with the view of urging the introduction of such legislation ; I merely desired to know what was in the Government’s mind.
– An apple pool is needed as much as a pool to deal with canned or dried fruit.
– That is so.
– As to that point, the growers are very much divided.
– Not the growers, but the middlemen.
– In the case now before us, the growers will supply the funds to organize their own marketing; the fruit will pay the expenses of organization. I do not like clause 13, which reads -
For the purpose of enabling the board effec tively to control the export, and the sale and distribution after export, of Australian canned fruits, the Governor-General may, by Proclamation, prohibit the export from the Commonwealth of any canned fruits exceptin accordance with a licence issued by the Minister subject to such conditions and restrictions as are prescribed after recommendation to the Minister by the board.
That gives the board control, subject only to ministerial approval. In my opinion, that is a very dangerous power for this Parliament to farm out to an outside board.
– Was it not done in the case of dried fruits?
– When I was not a member of this House, two measures were passed providing for the appointment of boards to control the export of butter and dried fruits. My opposition to the control of the export of canned fruit is less than it would be to a board to control the export of apples, for the reason that the fruit which is canned is mostly produced in the irrigated areas of the Commonwealth in compact settlements. The pack of canned fruit is purchased by large merchants and eating-houses abroad who buy in huge quantities, so that the conditions regarding that branch of the industry are. altogether different from those under which fresh fruit is handled, both in the wholesale and retail trades. Canned fruit may well be disposed of by means of a board of control in Australia, acting in conjunction with an advisory board in London. The bounty on this fruit ranges from 9d. to 1s. per dozen tins, and there is a British preference on the sugar content in the syrup.
– The sugar preference amounts to slightly over1d. per dozen tins.
– On a huge quantity it amounts to a good deal. I hope that the visit of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) to Great Britain will result in a full realization in the London market of the value of preference to Australian products. I am aware of the good work that he did in that respect on his previous mission to the Old. Country. I had the privilege of sending to Great Britain the first emissaries from Australia to secure preference for our fruit ; I refer to the late Mr. Chaff ey, who spent his life in promoting the interests of the industry, often against tremendous odds. It seems remarkable that Australia is flooding the British market with its fruit and neglecting the local market. There is a woeful lack of intelligent, continuous organization in Australia to enable the fruits produced in this country to be conveyed to the doors of the people, no matter in what part of Australia they may live.
– There are too many middlemen.
– Too much is made of that cry.
– It cannot be applied to the trade in canned fruits.
– I am discussing the position of the industry generally. Canned fruit, of course, can be obtained at any grocery establishment, and there are no difficulties in its preservation and distribution comparable with those associated with the marketing of fresh fruit. An excellent opportunity is presented to the Minister (Mr. Paterson) to evolve a scheme to make fresh fruit as easily obtainable as the canned product. Failing a successful solution of this problem, we may as well inform the fruit-growers that the industry is overmanned, and that many of them should turn their attention to other occupations. Tasmania produces fruit of excellent quality, and it has a fine body of yeomanry engaged in the industry; but we have the appalling spectacle in that State of hundreds of thousands of cases of fruit exported for a return insufficient to cover the cost of production.
– Much of the fruit land in Tasmania is unsuitable for other purposes.
– That is so. Land that is regarded as inferior for general agriculture is often admirably adapted for fruitgrowing. Many growers of apples and pears will resent being compelled to place export fresh fruit in the hands, or under the control, of a board.
– They will not be compelled to do so, even if the proposed board is appointed.
– If that is so, what is the object of preventing growers from exporting their fruit? There is a model fruit-growing colony at Quantong. The growers there have all done well, and they pay their way, but last year they were compelled to contribute £275 as a levy to the Government of Victoria for the privilege of selling their currants to their own customers in their own districts.
– Quite right, too.
– It was a heavy levy to make on such a small body of growers.
– What about all the other growers?
– The men to whom I refer do not seek Government assistance. They have founded their colony by dint of their own labour, and they have secured a local market. Why should they not be permitted to sell their fruit to whom they choose, and on their own terms and conditions? The demand for a Government levy of £275 savours of State socialism. Control of that kind should not obtain in a primary industry. Would the honorable member for Barker (Mr. M. Cameron) agree to the potato-growers of Mount Gambier being similarly penalized?
– There is no analogy between the conditions in the two industries.
– The honorable member makes that statement because currants are not grown in his district. If the principle I have enunciated is sound, it applies even to potatoes. I shall have further observations to offer on this bill when it reaches the committee stage. While I realize the necessity for organization of the fruit industry, there is a limit to the extent to which Government interference is justified. If a succeeding government that was unfriendly to the industry wished to establish a compulsory pool, this measure would provide it with perfect machinery.
– Does it not impose compulsion on the growers to a certain extent?
– It is a modified form of compulsion regarding fruit for export. The growers will have freedom to sell their share of the pack in Australia; but the currant growers at Quantong enjoy no such freedom. The levy to which I have referred was not imposed by this Parliament, but by the legislature of Victoria. The Minister will probably say that before the bill can become operative a poll must be taken, and a majority of the growers must favour the proposal. But the bill does not state how great the majority must be.
– The honorable member will admit that the voluntary wheat pool has not been a success.
– I am coming to that point. If a majority of the growers decides in favour of a pool, the terms and conditions of the certificates giving the right to export will be determined by the Minister, after consultation with, and upon a recommendation by, the board. In the event of a pool being established, the minority would be compelled to dispose of their product under the conditions provided in this bill. The Minister can only give an assurance to the House and to the country that the measure will be administered in the manner he suggests while he is in control of the department. He cannot say what will be done by future administrations. This is dangerous legislation, bordering very closely upon socialism.
– It stops at the most essential point.
– Yes. I suppose the honorable member is referring to compulsion. A compulsory pool under a Labour administration would place fruit-growers in an unfortunate position, as Labour governments are always anxious to inter fere in matters of trade and commerce to the detriment of the community. At this stage I do not intend to announce my opposition to the bill. I would be more satisfied if the measure provided for the appointment of boards in London and in Australia, composed of growers, and if arrangements were made for granting further assistance in the f orm of a bounty and additional preference in Great Britain. We are getting too close to the danger-line by placing the power to prohibit exports in the hands of the Minister on the recommendation of the board, or, if the Minister challenges that statement, to lay down conditions under which canned fruits can be exported. There is little difference between this proposal and that which the wool growers turned down, which practically involved export under licence. This really provides for a licence to export under conditions prescribed by the Minister on the recommendation of the board. Sir William Irvine, who now occupies a distinguished judicial position in this State, once said that to grant the power to prohibit export’s to those who desired to handle the export trade of the country was so dangerous that he could not support it.
– Is the honorable member opposed to the standard being maintained ?
– No. If the Government would be content in paying bounties, negotiating for increased preference in Great Britain on sugar syrups, increased British preference on the product, the establishing of a voluntary board in Australia and in London without government representation, as well as assisting in improving the grading of Australian fruit, it would render a great service to the industry. It would be unpopular for the time being to insist upon a very high standard. One State in particular boasts of the quality of its apples, but its representatives will pardon me if I say the standard in some of the mainland States is infinitely better. It is better for the apple-growers in some of the mainland States to take advantage of the market they have already won, owing to the high standard of their product, than to enter any pooling arrangement. Quite recently I had the opportunity of conversing with a very successful orchardist, who, as the result of arduous efforts, has been able to produce fruit of a very high standard for export purposes for which he has a ready market, and he said that, if he were compelled to pool his product, he would have to accept lower prices. If the Government will continue to stress the necessity of producing fruit of a high standard, producers will eventually win the world’s market, and achieve their objective without government control. I am against the proposal to establish a pool in connexion with the apple and pear industry, as at present informed. I shall, however, reserve my remarks in this connexion until a measure which has been foreshadowed is introduced, when I shall have to take a very definite stand. I have received a petition-
– Against this proposal?
– No; in relation to the control of the export of apples and pears. I shall content myself, at this juncture, by warning the Minister that for a time success may come to a government which revels in controlling production and marketing, but if it continues to appoint boards and commissions, and subsequently Labour comes into power, change will be made as in New South Wales, and it will be a very unhappy day for those producers who are keen on this modified form of socialism.
.- It is very gratifying to honorable members on this side of the chamber to find, after years of agitation in Parliament and elsewhere, that even Conservative governments are adopting certain planks of the Labour party’s policy. So long as I can remember it has been the policy of the Labour party to favour the establishment of boards to take the marketing of farmer’s produce out of the hands of the exploiters, agents, and market “ riggers,” and to place the control in the hands of those engaged in the industry. The handling and marketing of primary produce is surrounded with many difficulties, as the influence which such boards wield has a very marked effect upon the community, and renders it difficult for them to function effectively unless they receive the whole-hearted support of the Government. A portion of the Labour party’s policy reads-
Australian-wideco-operative pools for marketing and financing of farm products. . . The promotion and extension of agricultural and rural industries by the establishment of the Federal Bureau of Agriculture to co-operate with similar State bodies, with a view to organizing all those engaged in primary production into a unified body, so that they may be able to more effectively place their views before governments, and to generally co-operate and assist in giving effect to the following policy : -
The encouragement of co-operation among primary producers, in order to bring consumers and producers into direct communication.
The provision of more up-to-date methods of marketing our products, both locally and overseas sales.
The extension of the Commonwealth Shipping Line for the purpose of securing cheaper freights on the carriage of our products, both interstate and overseas.
These are some of the most important planks in the Labour party’s policy ; and have a direct bearing upon the measure now under consideration.
– Some of those planks deal with purely State functions.
– The marketing of products in Australia and overseas concerns not only State Governments, but also the Federal Government. A little while ago, the Minister (Mr. Paterson) urged that something should be done to assist dairy farmers to market their produce in Australia and overseas. The fruitgrowers of Australia, as the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) said, are confronted with many difficulties. The relatively cheaper sugar mentioned by the honorable member for Wannon-
– I referred, incidentally, to the British preference on sugar syrups.
– Of our total production of fruit, 80 per cent. is consumed as fresh, and sugar is used in only 8 per cent. of the 20 per cent. processed. If sugar were obtainable free of cost, there would still be a glut of fruit. The State Governments have been assisting men, particularly returned soldiers, to engage in the fruit-growing industry, who have been encouraged by an ex-Prime Minister, whose slogan was “Produce, produce, produce!” They were told that everything would go all right so long as they produced, and they went on working and producing until infinitely more produce was available than Australia could consume. Not only the fruit-growers, but farmers generally, have been urged to increase their production without consideration of the demand for it. On that point Mr. Henry C.Wallace, Secretary for Agriculture in the United States of America, has made the following interesting observation : -
The farmer is the only large producer who produces without informing himself as to future demands; who sells at the price the buyer is willing to pay; who does not condition his products carefully for market; who dumps them in large quantities on the market soon after harvest, and who therefore pays high charges of all sorts to other people to do what he ought to do himself.
– The farmers are forced to do these things by circumstances over which they have no control.
– To a very large extent, I agree with the honorable member. It is the duty of this Government, and of State Governments also, to assist the fruitgrowers and farmers generally to conduct their business on sound economic lines. An effort has been made to do that in Queensland by setting up an organization to make possible the co-operative marketing of produce. In his book, Co-operative Marketing , Mr. Hermann Steen makes the following pertinent remarks: -
The tremendous growth of co-operative marketing denotes an economic revolution of far-reaching consequences. It signalizes the application of business methods to farm marketing, and the substituting of merchandizing for the dumping that had characterized farm marketing since food products first entered the channels of commerce. Co-operative marketing rewards producers with improved prices and facilities in marketing, reduces materially the cost of marketing and distribution, and furnishes with high-grade quality products often at lower prices. All this is amply demonstrated by the experience of leading American associations. Altogether it is the most hopeful movement for the permanence of American agriculture, and therefore of the nation.
No doubt that applies with equal force to Australia. The position of our orchardists is most unsatisfactory. Their fruit is taken over by wholesale merchants at a low price, and sold to retailers at a tremendous profit. The retailers, in their turn, sell at high prices to the consumers. The net result of all this is that hundreds of thousands of the poorer people in Australia look upon fruit as a luxury which they cannot afford.
– Fruiterers who have shops in Circular Quay, in Sydney, have to pay £25 per week rent. How can they be expected to sell cheap fruit?
– The retailers do not rake off anything like so much as the wholesale merchants, who, employing merely two or three clerks, and having the fruit in their possession only for a few hours, very often net 100 per cent. on it by selling it at very high prices. In my opinion, it would be enormously to the advantage of our producers generally if they were organized on some non-party political lines for the purpose of cooperatively marketing their produce. Why should merchants, agents, and distributors generally make huge profits at their expense? The Minister for Markets and Migration (Mr. Paterson) said, in introducing this bill, that it was designed to enable those engaged in the production and canning of fruit to control their own marketing. I am heartily in agreement with that, and strongly disagree with the statement of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) that the bill is bad.
– I said, not that it was bad, but that it was dangerous.
– Had not the Labour party demonstrated to the producers of Australia the practicability of their controlling their own marketing, no tory government would ever have introduced such a bill; but Labour legislation of this character has proved its worth, and has caused it to come to stay. This Government and others have to some degree adopted that part of Labour’s policy which provides for co-operative marketing. The man on the land sacrifices the comforts and conveniences of civilization to engage in primary production. Surely we are not willing to stand by idly while the speculator, the agent, and the marketrigger robs him of the fruits of his labour. This bill seeks to make operative that form of the socialization of industry which the Labour party advocates. I am never afraid to explain to my constituents how advantageously this policy must affect them. Undoubtedly, our present methods of distributing primary produce are defective. The marketing charges, on fruit particularly, are so heavy that persons who reside even a few miles from a centre of population cannot afford to buy it, although it is one of the most important articles of human diet. The bill does not provide for the handling of Queensland pineapples.
– It does not; but the door is left open for the pineapple-growers to enter if they so desire.
– A committee has been established in Queensland to direct the marketing of fruit. It is run by the f fruitgrowers themselves, who handle and market all the pineapples and other fruit
Grown in Queensland. The scheme has been a great success. It was given to them by the Labour Government. It would perhaps be profitable to honorable members if I explained to them how the Council of Agriculture in Queensland came to be formed and how it works. Its object is to assist farmers to market their produce and to improve the conditions generally. Three and a half or four years ago, the Queensland Labour Government, recognizing that the ‘farmers, as a body, were invariably exploited prior to an election, by certain persons who called themselves Country party candidates, who obtained their support by assuring the farmers that everything would be all right if they were returned to power, determined to set up a marketing organization scheme on non-party political lines. The Government believed that the farmers had been left too long at the mercy of political parties, and that it would be wise to provide means by which they need not take sides politically, at least in regard to the important matter of marketing their produce.
– The farmers must not touch politics!
– They must not be left to the exploitation of certain persons who, for the purposes of self-aggrandisement and political expediency, use them as dupes. These gentlemen, after making the most lavish promise.-) to the farming community, almost without exception, support Nationalist governments soon after their election to Parliament. How can it be expected that a Nationalist government, which is buttressed by the very speculators and agents who rob the farmers, will ever do anything effective to consummate a scheme of co-operative marketing? The Queensland Government decided to rid the farmers of their socalled friends, and to give them the measure of assistance in marketing their produce to which they were justly entitled.
– That is the old dope. The farmers must keep out of politics. Every one must enter the political arena except the primary producers !
– I do not say that; but I do say that, in the past, farmers’ organizations have been destroyed by party politics. The Queensland organization is not political. The honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart) has been true to the principles of the original Country party, and I feel sure that few honorable members of the House are more disgusted than he that so many Country party supporters have deserted their colours. The fact is that the Country party no longer exists ; it has been swallowed by the Nationalist party, and those who have been “true blue” Country party men, like the honorable member, have been left stranded high and dry.
– The honorable member has departed from the subject-matter of the bill.
– I was drawn away by the interjection, sir. It is highly necessary that the primary producers should have some satisfactory organization to control their own affairs. The Queensland Council of Agriculture - a complete and satisfactory organization - was formed to supply that need. There are 700 local branches of this organization, with approximately 28,000 members. Each local association has the right to elect a delegate to ‘a district council. A district council comprises nine members, and eight councils have now been organized. The members of these district councils are elected by the members of the local organizations. Each district council sends one representative to what is known as the Mixed Farming Advisory Board in Brisbane. A Director of Agriculture, appointed by the Government, is the organizer of the whole scheme; and the Minister of Agriculture is president of the Council of Agriculture by virtue of his office. The scheme was financed by the Government for two years at a cost of approximately £15,000 per annum. No levy was made upon the producers for the first two years, but subsequently a levy of ½d. was imposed on every £2 worth of produce marketed for individual producers. The Government subsidizes the amount so raised to the extent of £1 for £1, and its expenditure under that heading is approximately £20,000 annually. The period for which the subsidy is payable will expire in August, 1927, and it is considered that subsequently the primary producers will be able to finance the whole scheme, which is working splendidly. The Labour party’s platform provides for the extension of co-operative marketing throughout the Commonwealth. “We hold that governments should be induced, nay, compelled to encourage the farmers to undertake co-operative marketing. In addition, the primary producers’ organization scheme-
– It is a scheme, all right.
– It is a very effective scheme, which has been of wonderful assistance to the man on the land in Queensland. I was about to say that the Council of Agriculture is responsible for the production of the Queensland Producer, a weekly newspaper, which deals fearlessly with all matters affecting the welfare of primary producers, without regard to party politics. That newspaper is controlled by the Council of Agriculture, and Mr. L. R. McGregor, the Director of Agriculture, who formerly was associated with the cooperative marketing of wheat in “Western Australia, is a member of the controlling directorate. I mention this organization because it has completely demonstrated the importance of well-directed co-operative effort in the marketing of primary products. Practically the whole of the boards, excepting the sugar and wheat boards, have been brought into existence as the result of recommendations made by the Council of Agriculture. Annual balance-sheets are published, so the f farmers know exactly how the council stands financially. The accounts are audited by the Auditor-General, because the Government is at present financially assisting the organization. For the first two years, as I have said, it provided the whole of the finance, and now it is responsible for one-half the administrative expenditure. I say without fear of contradiction that this scheme, which was established by the Labour Government, has come to stay, and it has no equal in Australia. Any one who dared to advocate its abolition would be wiped out of public life in Queens land. The Country party members have to admit that it is the finest organization ever created in Australia for the assistance of primary producers. Tory governments favoured a party political organization of certain groups of farmers whom they could exploit, and opponents of the scheme have been endeavouring to persuade the farmers that the Labour Government intends to bring in a scheme for the socialization of ali forms of primary production. Those bogies are not now needed in Queensland. The primary producers there now control the marketing of their own fruit. The fruit pools established by the Hughes Government resulted in a loss of £600,000. It is not so in Queensland. The decision to establish the Council of Direction of fruit marketing was the outcome of a conference of primary producers. The Government, having no fear of the condemnation of the whole sale fruit, merchants of Turbot-street, Brisbane, gave the movement sympathetic support. Wo Nationalist government and no composite government would have dared to do that. The Government clothed the Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing with certain compulsory statutory powers which affected the whole economic position of the industry to the advantage of the fruit-growers. Considerable opposition was shown to the proposal, chiefly by the wholesale mechants, who realized that they were being deprived of their inordinate and excessive profits under a system which operated very unfairly to the primary producers and consumers.
– That has been pithily described as the “loot”!
– Yes. I recall that some of our friends in the corner a few years ago had something to say about “ switching on the light,” and compelling certain other people to “drop the loot.” “With the sole exception probably of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), they have nothing to say now.
– There are others besides myself.
– I think the honorable member for Wimmera is the only one left in this House, and I understand he has been described as lonely as a “ bandycoot on a burnt-out ridge.” The opposition by the wholesale fruit merchants to the fruit marketing scheme in Queensland culminated in litigation, as a result of which the Supreme Court granted an injunction to prevent the fruitgrowers from handling the whole of their produce through the organization referred to. It was pointed out that there were certain flaws in the legislation. The Labour Government promptly remedied that, and gave the fruit-growers that measure of authority which originally it was intended that they should exercise. This committee of direction comprises local associations of fruit-growers, sectional group committees and sectional organizations elected by the sectional group committees. All branches of fruitgrowing are represented on it, and now the committee controls the sale of all fruit grown in Queensland. It has been able, also, to make better arrangements for rhe transportation of fruit to Melbourne and Sydney. The scheme has the endorsement of an overwhelming majority of Queensland fruit-growers, so it is idle for the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) to say that this form of socialism is not acceptable to primary producers. At all events, the Queensland producers, having had experience of it, want it to continue. Under the rules constituting the committee, any 30 fruit-growers may demand a poll, and any decision, to be effective, must be carried by a two-thirds majority of the members voting. All fruit merchants operating are licensed by the committee. If any of them are not dealing fairly by the primary producers or the consumers, his licence may be cancelled. Altogether, far-reaching powers have been placed in the hands of the fruit-growers to ensure the satisfactory control of their own industry. At present, pineapples are marketed in Queensland by the committee. If, in the future, wider powers are necessary for that body, they will be given. The exportable surplus of canned fruits represents about 30 per cent. of the total output, and, as Great Britain imports 4,000,000 dozen tins of canned fruits, there should be ample market there for Australia’s surplus production. Since a large percentage of this class of fruit is grown by returned soldiers, itseems to me very desirable that propaganda should be carried out in Britain with a view to absorbing the whole of our surplus production, or at all events, to ensure preference being given to Australian fruit-growers. Great Britain draws 80 per cent. of her requirements from California, where the labour employed is chiefly Asiatic. I feel quite sure that the people of the Mother Country would approve of preference being given to the Australian industry, and I suggest that the High Commissioner’s office, instead of being the rendezvous of those who are chiefly interested in champagne dinners, should be entrusted with this campaign in the interests of Australian fruit-growers, many of whom are being forced to abandon their orchards owing to unsatisfactory marketing conditions. We should aim at the highest possible standard. A few years ago, there were complaints about the quality of Australian canned fruits, but there has been a considerable improvement recently. The Minister for Markets and Migration should insist upon the highest standard being maintained. A matter of importance is the marketing of our fruit in England. What is happening to-day? High prices are being obtained for Australian fruit, but instead of. the fruitgrower benefiting, the bulk of the harvest is being reaped by the speculative middleman.
– To which kind of fruit does the honorable member refer?
– I refer particularly to apples. The average wholesale price of apples in England is 2½d. a lb., but the retail price is 7d. a lb. Some persons are making extortionate profits by keeping up prices to such a height that the bulk of the people of Great Britain cannot afford to buy Australian fruit. These are matters into which the Minister should inquire. He should seek the advice of experts regarding improved methods for the marketing of our fruit in Great Britain.
– This year Australian apples realized a higher price in Hamburg than in London ; it has been the best price obtained.
– The Minister should investigate these matters.
– We are well acquainted with those facts.
– I have yet to learn what action is proposed.
– Nothing can be done under this bill.
– The honorable gentleman now has an opportunity to inform the House of the proposals of the Government to remedy the state of affairs I have mentioned. The House will go into recess probably on Friday week, and for six or seven months afterwards we shall not have an opportunity of acquiring information from Ministers. If the Minister in charge of this measure (Mr. Paterson) will say that it is proposed to bring down another bill at a later date, he may allay our anxiety. In his second reading speech the honorable gentleman said that this was a sister bill to the Dairy Produce Export, Control Bill. He claimed that the board which was constituted under the provisions of that measure had done wonderfully good work for the dairy farmers of Australia. I have no objection to offer to the board as a body. It has some good men on it, particularly Mr. H. Osborne. I believe that the Government acted rightly in appointing it. The only objection which I raised when the measure was before the House was that the Government did not propose to take control of more than one-third of the production of butter in Australia, pointing out that the remaining two-thirds would be placed on the Australian market under the haphazard system which allows cut-throat competition to be indulged in to the detriment of the majority of dairy farmers. The Minister went out of his way to give the board credit to which it is not entitled. He endeavoured to show that it was responsible for certain advantages that had accrued in regard to marketing in England.
– Does the honorable member contend that the board has not done good work ?
– I do not; but the direct result to the dairy farmer individually is negligible. When the act under which it was constituted was before this House, I argued that greater assistance should be given to dairy farmers to enable them to obtain better prices and improve the methods of handling their butter in Australia, and the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) said, “ Pass this bill and everything will be well ; there will be a material improvement immediately.” That has not been the case. On the Minister’s figures the savings work out at approximately 8d. per month to each dairy farmer in Australia.
– The honorable member is dealing only with the saving on insurance.
– What other saving has been effected? The board handles 43,000 tons of Australia’s exportable surplus of butter, which is only 12 per cent. of the quantity that goes on the London market. Does the Minister contend that that has influenced prices of butter from all countries in London? What is happening to-day? Because of the depreciation in currency, the dairying industry in Europe is in a very bad condition. Only on the London market can value be obtained, and, as a consequence, that market is glutted with butter. The probability is that the 43,000 tons which was sent from Australia would represent only 6 per cent. of the whole of the butter on the London market. That quantity would exercise a very slight influence.
– According to the honorable member’s argument, it is not worth our while to attempt to do anything.
– On the contrary, every effort should be made to control the marketing of our produce overseas; but the Minister wants to claim for the Dairy Produce Export Control Board the credit for many benefits that are not due to improved marketing. Be honest. I admit that the board entered into an arrangement whereby a saving was effected in connexion with insurance. The Minister pointed out that that amounted to approximately £20,000 per annum, and also said that therehad been an indirect saving of about £30,000 per annum in connexion with dairy produce consumed locally.
– Both of those amounts relate to insurance alone.
– In what way does the board handle the insurance of butter that is sold on the Australian markets?
– That butter is not insured, but, nevertheless, the saving is made. I shall explain that when I reply.
– An explanation is called for. Replying to a question that I asked, the Minister stated that the complete saving had been approximately £53,000. There are, in round figures, 125,000 dairy farmers in Australia. The saving to each would, therefore, amount to 8d. per month, or 2d. per week. Yet the Government expands its chest and says, “ This is what we have done for the dairy farmers of Australia.” The board has upon it men who are skilled in marketing. Certain of them have taken a keen interest in cooperative control, but others have been busily engaged in making the last ounce of profit out of the dairy farmer. The good that the board has done for the individual farmer is negligible. Many dairy farmers have probably been induced to donate a couple of guineas to the funds of the Country party on the strength of the statement that the industry has been saved £53,000. It seems a lot in the aggregate; but when the figures are analysed, it is seen that the saving amounts to only 8d. per head per month, or 2d. a week - hardly sufficient to buy a stick of chocolate for the baby. Quite a number of dairy farmers are working from daylight to dark. They have probably not realized how little the saving has been to them. When the matter is explained, they will see that the Government has not, after all, done very much for them.
– It is a good deal on one item of expenditure.
– The saving would be greater if they carried their own insurance.
– When the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill was introduced, I contended that it would not give au immediate fillip to the dairying industry, and that the dairy farmers would not get a better return for their labour straight away. My phophecy has been borne out. The Minister said that the board had made a considerable saving by withholding butter from the London market. He knows that that action was taken on only one occasion, when 700 tons were held up in Australia, not in London, in the ara part of this year. That which is shipped to London by the board is sold through agents; it is not withheld from sale until prices improve, as the Minister said. The New Zealand Dairy Produce Export Control Board has consigned butter to London and stored it there; and. for that’ action it has been severely criticized by British distributing agents. A similar practice is not followed by the Australian board. Although that board has upon it very able men, and may in time do much better work than it has so far done, it is not fair to say that it has brought to the dairy farmers the immediate relief which the Treasurer, in his speech’ upon the Dairy Produce Export Control Bill, said that it would bring. At the time I felt quite confident that it would not. Time has proved my statement to be right, and the Treasurer wrong.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later , hour.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Bruce) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 28th July (vide page 4688), on motion by Mr. Hill -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton; and other honorable members having questioned me as to the intentions of the Government with respect to this bill, in view of the attitude that has been adopted by certain States, I wish to make perfectly clear the position of the Commonwealth. I requested the House to postpone the further consideration of the Canned Fruits Export Control Bill, which was before us prior to the dinner adjournment, merely to allow me to make a statement on the subject, and at the conclusion of my speech I shall not ask honorable members to continue the debate.
The following telegram has been sent by me to all the States, asking for a direct intimation of the attitude they intend to adopt regarding the Commonwealth’s road policy as submitted to them : -
Between the years 1923-26 the Commonwealth ‘Government made available to the Governments of all the States, sums amounting in the aggregate to £1,750,000 as special grants in aid for the making of roads by the States. These amounts were accepted by all the States. At the recent Federal election the Commonwealth Government submitted to the country a policy for the provision by the Commonwealth of a sum of £20,000,000, spread over a period of ten years, for the purpose of a national scheme of road development. The basis of the scheme was that this question had become one of national importance, and one that necessitated financial assistance of the States by the Commonwealth. The offer of the provision of assistance was subject to a policy of national road development being evolved at a conference between the Commonwealth and the States which was acceptable to the Commonwealth. In pursuance of the announced intention of co-operation with States a Conference of Federal and State Ministers was held in Melbourne early in February of the present year. At that Conference all States were represented, and their representatives took part in the discussion. Many modifications were made to the proposals originally submitted by the Commonwealth on representations from the States, and eventually a basis of agreement was arrived at. Subsequent to the Conference definite acceptance of the scheme was received in writing from five of the six States, viz., Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania, and formal agreements giving effect to the arrangements arrived at were prepared and forwarded to the States for signature. These agreements were made subject to the ratification of the Commonwealth and the State Parliaments respectively. In pursuance of its announced policy, and of the obligation entered into under the agreement arrived at with the States above referred to, the Commonwealth Government has now submitted legislation to the Commonwealth Parliament for the required ratification of the agreement, and to raise the necessary revenue in the manner in which it had been indicated that such revenue would be raised, viz., by taxation to be collected from motor users through the Customs Department. Statements having appeared in the press to the effect that certain State Governments do not propose to seek the ratification of the agreement, I therefore ask you to advise me whether your Government proposes to submit the agreement as a Government measure to Parliament for ratification. The Commonwealth Government is prepared to adhere to the agreement that has been entered into, and to proceed with the ratification of the agreement in the Commonwealth Parliament and with the raising of the necessary revenues to give effect to the national road policy agreed upon. I shall be obliged if you will advise me of the intention of your Government at the earliest possible date.
To that communication I have not yet received any reply.
It is necessary that we should consider the history of the Commonwealth’s proposals and the reason for the present attitude of the States, considering that at a conference they unanimously agreed to and ratified them. During the last three years grants in assistance to the States have been made by the Commonwealth for road construction purposes, and have been accepted and used by all the States as follows: -
The grants in 1923-24 and 1924-25 were made on a £1 for £1 basis, but in 1925-26 an additional £250,000, to allow for the reconstruction of roads, was provided by the Commonwealth, without any contribution by the States. The Commonwealth’s road policy has been very successful.
– What has been the total grant ?
– It amounts to £1,750,000. Honorable members who represent country constituencies will agree that the assistance given to the States by the Commonwealth has led to the provision of increased facilities for road transportation. That fact was so evident that at the last elections the Commonwealth proposed an extension of its assistance to the States for road construction purposes. In enunciating that policy I made it clearthat the Government had no desire to interfere with the legitimate functions of the States. I dealt with road transport, the development of the internal combustion engine, and the need for a national scheme for road construction. I discussed generally the expansion of the Commonwealth’s policy, which, I remind the House, has operated for three years with the full consent and concurrence of the whole of the States. The following statement appeared in my policy speech : -
The revolution which has taken place in road transport with the development of the internal combustion engine has produced a new problem. In the past, the question of roads has been one exclusively within the jurisdiction of the States. This question has now, however, become one of national importance, and of too great a magnitude for the States to handle by themselves. This factor has been recognized by the Commonwealth Government, and for the past two years a grant of £500,000 has been made to the States on a £1 for £1 basis for the construction of main developmental roads. This grant was increased in the present year by an additional amount of £250,000, to be spent on the reconstruction and strengthening of existing main roads. The Government, however, now feels that the time has come when a progressive forward movement must be made in connexion with a roads policy for Australia. The Government proposes to make available to the States a sum of £20,000,000, spread over s. period of tcn years, such amount to be provided out of the revenue derived by the Commonwealth from taxation to be collected from motor users through the Customs Department. The provision of this amount is, of course, subject to a policy of national road development being evolved at a Conference between the Commonwealth and the States which is acceptable to the Commonwealth.
That policy was enunciated at the last election, and was endorsed by the people of this country. I have heard it suggested that the Government was returned to office solely on the issue of law and order.
– That was the main issue.
– I ask honorable members on both sides of the House, who spoke in the country districts during the elections, whether they did not stress this policy. Did they not express their agreement with a proper scheme of road construction? Did they not take credit for supporting it ? I defy honorable members on both sides of the House who spoke in the country districts on that occasion to say that they did otherwise. In my policy speech I stressed the fact that a proper developmental policy would need the co-operation of the States. I again remind honorable members of the words that I used -
The provision of this amount is, of course, subject to a policy of national road development being evolved at a conference between the Commonwealth and the States which is acceptable to the Commonwealth.
To carry out that undertaking the Commonwealth summoned a conference at which every State was represented. The Commonwealth then submitted its proposals. They were examined clause by clause by the representatives of the States, and a number of modifications were made. Eventually an agreement was arrived at between the representatives of the States and the Commonwealth, and three matters only were left outstanding for determination by the Commonwealth Government. The first was the basis of contribution by the Commonwealth and the States. The original proposal provided for contributions by the Commonwealth and the States on a £1 for £1 basis. Certain of. the States suggested that the Commonwealth’s contribution should be £1, and the States’ contribution 10s. Two of the States suggested that the States’ contribution should be 15s. We met the wishes of the States to a certain extent, by agreeing to contribute £1 for every 15s. contributed by the States. The second matter left for the determination of the Commonwealth was the provision of a sinking fund. Under the scheme the Commonwealth undertook to provide £2,000,000 a year for ten years, the money to be made available out of revenue to be raised by the Commonwealth. We intimated that we did not desire to place a great obligation on the States to raise additional revenue. We said that we were prepared to have the greater part of their contributions raised by way of loan, but that, if roads were to be constructed . out of loan, an adequate sinking fund must, be established for the repayment of such moneys as were raised for that purpose, in order that there should not be created an indebtedness which was not truly represented by assets. We said that, while we could ensure that the cost of maintenance of roads would be met for a limited period, that - could not be ensured indefinitely, because of changes that take place in governments. The Commonwealth Government laid it down that the contribution to the sinking fund should be 3 per cent. That could be found out of moneys provided by the Commonwealth, so that it would be no additional obligation on the State. But we insisted, on a large contribution to the sinking fund being provided for. Some of the States desired that the proposed sinking fund contribution should be reduced to 1 per cent., and others that it should be. reduced to 1 per cent. The Commonwealth Government said that it could not agree to any reduction, because, if moneys were borrowed for the construction of roads, they should be redeemed within the term of the certain life of the asset that was being created, and that it would be possible to give the roads a certain life only so long as we could foresee that their maintenance was provided for on a proper basis. That was the second question left for the decision of the Commonwealth, and we determined that a 3 per cent, contribution to the sinking fund should be insisted upon. The third question left for our determination was whether the roads should be constructed by contract or by day labour. The Commonwealth
Government put forward the principle of construction by contract. The representatives of five of the States, in which there are Labour Governments in office, advocated construction by day labour. In the agreement which we eventually submitted, and which is embodied in the schedule to the bill, this clause appears -
The method of execution shall be by contract except that where the Minister for the State considers that tenders received for the execution of the work are unsatisfactory or that execution by day labour would foe more economical and/or expeditious and so informs the Minister, the Minister may, if he is satisfied that action has been taken by the State to ensure that the work will be carried out according to approved methods of construction on which modern plant is utilized to the fullest extent, approve of the execution of the work in whole or in part by day labour.
That was the decision at which we arrived on the third question left for the determination of this Government, and I submit that it is a reasonable and wise decision. The principle of construction by contract is maintained in the interests of the taxpayers, but the principle of construction by day labour is admitted, and its adoption provided for where a State government has the necessary facilities for carrying out the work more effectively than it could be carried out under the contract system. In South Australia, for instance, where a great deal of enterprise has been displayed in connexion with the carrying out of a roads policy, the State Government has probably a more up-to-date plant than any private contractor would at present be able to make available for the work of road construction. There is a further consideration that, while some of the work could be done by any reasonably efficient contractor, some of the finer work, in the completion of road surfaces, requires to be done with minute care, and, as in some of the States men have been trained to do this work, it would probably be more advisable to let them do it.
At the close of the discussion at the conference - after amendments of the proposed agreement had been accepted by the Government, and three questions had been left for our final decision - certain resolutions were passed and certain statements made. The Victorian Minister, Mr. Goudie, in moving a vote of thanks to the chairman of the conference, who was, of course, the Commonwealth Minister for Works and Bailways (Mr. Hill), stated-
I wish to congratulate the Federal Government upon their vision in realizing the necessity of a policy of road construction throughout the Commonwealth, and also for having come forward with the object of assisting the States in connexion with this very important question. We have not seen eye to eye on some of these questions, but it is quite possible that a way out will be found which will be satisfactory to all the States. I am sure that if we can reach finality, the roads question will be definitely settled for the next tcn years, and that the States will benefit enormously by a progressive system of construction.
Mr. Dunstan, the Queensland Minister, in seconding the motion, said - iWo view this project very seriously because of its magnitude. It may be of inestimable benefit to the whole of the Commonwealth. It is difficult to apply a uniform system to a varying set of circumstances, ,but I feel sure that we shall ultimately arrive at a conclusion which will he for the benefit of all.
– The right honorable gentleman had not then told the representatives of the States that the Commonwealth proposed to put a tax on petrol.
– Mr. Cann, of the New South Wales Government - and I stress the reference to New South Wales - moved -
That this conference is in favour of the provision ‘by the Commonwealth of a sum of £2,000,000 per annum to be voted from revenue for road purposes.
These statements indicate the atmosphere of the conference, at which every one of the States was represented. The representatives of every one of the States said they would go back to their governments and recommend the adoption of the policy. They did go back, and the Commonwealth Government considered the three points left to it for decision - the basis of contribution on which we made a concession to the States from £1 for £1 to £1 for 15s. ; the contribution to the sinking fund, on which we stood firmly for 3 per cent., and the question of construction by contract or by day labour, on which we made a concession, but, I suggest, came to a wise decision.
All these things having been settled, the Commonwealth Government on the 4th March forwarded to all the States a copy of the agreement which it suggested should be entered into. The State governments replied. Mr. Allan, the Premier of Victoria, on the 29th April wrote as follows: -
With reference to your letter of the 4th ultimo, relative to the policy as finally approved by the Government of the Commonwealth regarding expenditure on the construction, re-conditioning, and maintenance of certain classes of roads in the various States, I desire to inform you that this Government has decided to accept the proposals as set out, and will be prepared to enter into an agreement on the lines indicated by you. I beg to point out, however, that this State is committed to an extensive road construction and maintenance programme, entered upon thirteen years ago, the financing of which is largely dependent upon heavy State taxation already imposed upon motor vehicles; and if published statements are correct that an additional tax on petrol is to be imposed by the Commonwealth to finance the provision of funds, such an impost would be likely to seriously embarrass this State in financing its own scheme, inasmuch as there would probably be a demand for reduction in the taxation on motor vehicles.
The Premier of Tasmania, Mr. Lyons, wired on the 29th March -
This Government approves Federal aid roads scheme.Desires submit same to State Parliament this week. Can you send documents for ratification by next post.
That indicates a fairly cordial acceptance, and a desire to get on with the work. Mr. Collier, Premier of Western Australia, wired on the 18th March -
Reference main roads, this Government accepts conditions outlined your letter 4th inst., and is prepared enter into agreement and submit to Parliament. Kindly advise date you anticipate agreement will be ready signature. Assuming State Governments promptly sign agreement, do you anticipate Commonwealth Parliament will pass legislation before June? Would be serious matter this State if developmental roads programme could not be continued during months July, August, September.
I may say that, with regard to the States that accepted the agreement and were anxious to get on with the work, the CommonwealthGovernment, as the bill had not been passed before the end of the financial year, agreed to make provision monthly on a basis of one-twelfth of £500,000, the amount of the grant the Commonwealth has been making for the last three years. The Premier of Queensland, Mr.McCormack, telegraphed on the 11th March-
Referring to your letter of the 4th inst., relative to the Commonwealth Government road proposals, Queensland Government concurs in proposals, and is prepared to sign agreement.
Mr..Gunn, of South Australia, wrote as follows on the 14th July, some six days after the proposals embodied in the Commonwealth budget regarding taxation had been made public: -
With reference to your letter of the 6th inst. and previous correspondence on the subject of the policy of the Commonwealth Government in respect of the construction and maintenance of roads, I desire to inform you that, after giving the matter most careful consideration and in view of all the circumstances, this Government is agreeable to accept the proposals submitted by your Government.
– He did not know anything about the Commonwealth petrol tax at that stage.
– The honorable member speaks too soon. Mr. Gunn’s memorandum proceeds -
In connexion with the proposed imposition of a duty of 2d. per gallon on petrol imported into the Commonwealth, as announced in the Federal budget, I desire to point out that under the State Motor Spirit Vendors Act, a tax of 3d. per gallon is levied on all motor spirit sold or consumed, the revenue from such tax being appropriated for the. purpose of constructing and maintaining main roads. In connexion with the latter tax, a writ, on behalf of the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, has been lodged in the High Court of Australia restraining the State and Commissioner of Taxes from enforcing the provisions of the State Act on the grounds that the State Act impairs the free trade and commerce between South. Australia and other States. In view, however, of the acceptance of your Government’s proposals in the matter, it is urged that no further action in that regard may be taken. The State act authorizing the tax had received the Governor’s assent thereto prior to the Commonwealth Government’s policy on national road development being submitted, and its provisions came into operation on 1st December, 1925. On receipt of the proposals, legislation was introduced and passed empowering the Government to suspend, by proclamation, the operation of the tax, either wholly or in part, in the event of satisfactory arrangements being made between the Government of the State and the Commonwealth for the payment to the State of any moneys raised by the Commonwealth from the imposition of customs or excise duties on motor spirit to be appropriated for the purpose of construction and maintenance of main roads. In terms of the provisions of the act referred to, it is proposed to recommend His Excellency the Governor to issue a proclamation suspending the operation of the act so far as it relates to the tax of 3d. per gallon with a view to altering the amount to1d. per gallon.
These communications were addressed to the Commonwealth Government by the State Governments. After a conference with representatives of the States had been held; after the Commonwealth Government had con. sidered certain questions left to it for determination; and its decision upon those questions had been communicated to the States, the governments of five of the States intimated that they were prepared to accept the proposals and to submit them to their Parliaments for ratification. But since the Government brought down its budget, and intimated how the taxation was to be raised, a new idea was promulgated. It has been urged that the Commonwealth Government never suggested that there would be any new taxation, and that its proposal to impose duties on petrol and motor chassis and tires came as a bolt from the blue. Such an assertion is almost too ludicrous to waste time in discussing, but these matters have to be cleared up. In my policy speech I said clearly -
The Government proposes to make available to the States, a sum of £20,000,000, spread over a period of ten years, such amount to be provided out of the revenue derived by the Commonwealth from taxation to be collected from motor users through the Customs Department.
I do not know how many speeches I made during the election campaign, but whenever I spoke on this subject I clearly stated that additional taxation would have to be raised, and that it was worth while doing so, because good roads would be of inestimable benefit to the people of Australia. I do not know what private members did, but I know what all members of the Ministry did.
– But that view was not put subsequently to the State Ministers at the Conference.
– I suggest to the honorable gentleman that he should at least acquire some knowledge of the facts before he makes a statement of that kind. I shall deal presently with his interjection.
Let me show what was the view of the people generally before dealing with that of the State ministerial friends of the Leader of the Opposition. Presumably, no one is more interested in a tax on petrol or motor requisites than are readers of the Australian Motorist. In the Australian Motorist of the 1st January of this year an article headed “Federal Proposal to Tax Petrol” dealt exhaustively with the Commonwealth Government’s road policy and the need for additional taxation, and discussed whether or not it should be raised by means of a tax on petrol. Therefore, in January of this year the motoring community, at all events, had grasped the fact that the money for these roads would be obtained from additional taxation. 1 do not propose to put before the House the very many press references to the subject about that time. One example from Western Australia should be sufficient. Western Australia is farthest away from the centre of Commonwealth administration, and possibly the people of that State could be forgiven if they had not grasped what was proposed to bc done. But as far back as the 11th December last year, according to the Daily News of Perth, Mr. McCallum, the State Minister of Works, when speaking on a measure introduced into the State Parliament to tax motor spirit, referred to press reports that the Commonwealth Government intended to impose a petrol tax. Mr. McCallum said, according to the Daily Nexus, that his Government did not intend to duplicate the tax, and he moved a new clause giving the State Government power to discontinue the local impost if the Commonwealth Government imposed a petrol tax. According to press reports and local gossip in far-distant Western Australia as long ago as December last State Ministers were perfectly clear that, whether the Commonwealth Government’s roads policy was good or bad, additional taxation would have to be raised to finance it. Speaking on the same occasion, Mr. Collier, the Premier of Western Australia, referred to the Commonwealth Government’s invitation to Western Australia to be represented at an interstate conference to be held in February, and said -
The Commonwealth Government had informed him that it was intended to collect the amount required for its roads scheme from Customs revenue, and he understood it would bc by way of a tax upon petrol.
– But was that put to the Conference of Ministers? That is the point which the right honorable gentleman said he would answer.-
– I always thought that the Leader of the Opposition knew me well enough to realize that I would certainly not take up one of his interjections unless in making it he was pretty much at sea. ‘ Let us come now to what he regards as the crucial question, namely, whether the Commonwealth Government’s intention was kept secret from the distinguished Ministers for transport, as they really are, who attended the conference in February.
– I could not get a copy of the official report of the proceedings of that conference.
– Uninitiated people, like the editor of the Australian Motorist or the Premier of Western Australia, knew all about the matter in December or January last, but, according to the Leader of the Opposition, these State Ministers knew nothing about it in February, when they met in conference. I shall dissipate the honorable member’s anxiety by supplying him with a report of the proceedings at that conference.
– I shall be glad to have it, because when I was speaking on this bill I could not obtain one.
– Almost at the outset Mr. Gunn, of South Australia, which has a petrol tax of its own, put the question, “ From whom are you going to raise this revenue ? From what source is it to come ?” There is hardly a page in the report of the discussions on which some State Minister is not reported as asking, “ How are you going to raise the revenue? By means of a duty on petrol?’’
– But did the right honorable gentleman tell the conference ? That is the point he is evading.
– No man in his senses could possibly suggest that the Ministers did not know all about it. Prior to the announcement made in the budget as to the manner in which these taxes were to be raised, there was not a tremendous outcry about the additional taxation, which, as I have amply demonstrated, it was well known would be imposed.
– It has not been made clear that it was told to Ministers at the conference.
– We heard very little outcry prior to the budget proposals. It was more or less an accepted fact that the taxation would be imposed; but when a definite announcement was made as to the form the taxation would take it was followed very rapidly by an extraordi-. nary agitation, the like of which we had not experienced for a very long time. I venture to suggest that the whole basis of this agitation was the announcement by the Government of its intention to levy a tax upon imported petrol while- not imposing an excise duty on locally-produced petrol.
There are two classes of complaint against the proposals of the Government which may be regarded as perfectly legitimate, and ought to be considered upon their merits. The first is that the contemplated taxation will apply not only to road users, in accordance with the principle that those who use the roads should pay for them, but also to sections of the community who do not use the roads - - such as aviators, owners of fishing boats, motor boats, and also stationary engines that never leave the farms or the sheds of the primary producer. I can deal with this objection by saying that when the proposals were first brought down there was no definite evidence that the imposition of a petrol tax would inflict hardship on any section of non-road users. But the Government, having received further information on this subject, is now prepared to insert an amendment in the bill that will enable a rebate to be given to those users of petrol who are not road users. I think that disposes of the first legitimate objection to the Government’s proposal. As a matter of fact, as I intimated to the first deputation which waited on me in regard to the proposed taxation, the Government, from the outset, has been prepared to make this exemption upon evidence being produced that a substantial hardship would be inflicted on any section of the community. The other legitimate objection to which serious consideration must be given is that the whole of the taxation raised in certain States will not be spent in those States. That would be a legitimate objection if the Government’s proposals were to be regarded from a sectional, or State, rather than a national point of view. I contend, however, that the Commonwealth Government has no, right whatever in this arena if its road proposals are not to be looked at from a national point of view. If the question is to be considered from only a sectional, or State, aspect, then surely it is one for sections, or States, to handle. As a matter of fact, however, transport in Australia has become of national importance. Time and again the Commonwealth has raised revenue from all parts of Australia, and from different sections of people, to spend on works of national importance in various parts of the Commonwealth, irrespective of State boundaries, sectional interests, or anything else.
Let me quote one or two examples of this, because it appears to me that some people are getting into an amazing confusion of thought. The first example I cite is that of the Murray River Waters scheme, for the irrigation of the Murray valley. That great work is of immediate benefit to the States of Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia,, but the people of the whole of Australia are contributing the Commonwealth’s share of the cost. It is perfectly right that they should do so, because the development of that great area will bring lasting benefit to the people of Australia as a whole. Then, again, some people may say that the trans- Australian railway benefits only the people of Western Australia and South Australia, but I contend that it benefits the whole of the people of the Commonwealth, because it is a national enterprise. Again, we have our tariff duties and our bounties. Who pays for the tariff ?
– Mainly the primary producer.
– If the honorable gentleman is quite sure that the primary producer pays for the tariff, he might concur with the idea that the cities, in which great secondary industries have been built up; should assist in paying for a road transport system for the benefit of the whole of the people of Australia. Let us also consider the bounties which have been paid to assist various industries, and the parts of the Commonwealth that have so benefited. The fruit pool, which continued for a number of years, cost the country £813,000. Of that sum, £569,000 was paid in Victoria. The sum of £667,000 was paid in bounties to the iron and steel industry. Of that sum, £664,000 was spent in New South Wales. Practically the whole of the money paid by way of the cotton guarantee was expended in Queensland, and of the £245,000 paid as wine bounty, £150,000 went to South Australia. Those bounties, which, we believe, are for the benefit of the nation as a whole, were provided by the people as a whole. There has been no recognition of State boundaries, and no differentiation between different sections of the community.
Now that we are beginning to think nationally in the matter of road trans. port, surely we should apply the same principle. Good roads and a good transport system are essential to the development of Australia, and must benefit the whole of the people. If we must for ever have regard to State boundaries in these matters, what will be the result ? A policy providing that the money raised in a certain State, or district, or fashionable suburb must be expended there would get us nowhere. That is an impossible attitude to adopt. Let us go a little further.. The strongest complaint regarding the petrol tax has come from those States which are in the fortunate position of having more motor cars per head of the population, and, indeed, a greater number of motor cars, than the other States. Is their good fortune not due to the fact that those States have developed, and their people have benefited most from the policy by which secondary industries have been established, and great cities built up in this country ? I have read and heard the protests that have been made, and they do not impress me in the slightest, although I live in Victoria, where most of the noise comes from. If we are to argue in this way, many other considerations will have to be taken into account. We shall have to consider the stand-point of a motorist who only uses a particular section of road. What about the people in the outback country, who all the time have been called upon to pay more than the city dwellers for their petrol ? Instead of an extra 2d. a gallon, they have for years been paying 3d. or 4d. a gallon more than the fortunate motor users in the cities.
The argument of our opponents has no basis whatever; it is merely a selfish cry from certain sections. I go further, and say that very few of those who are alleged to be concerned in the outcry fail to recognize the justice of the tax. This agitation is really the result of propaganda on the part of the oil companies, which are trying once more to get their grip upon this country. On this occasion they have gone a little further than in the past. The impudence of their demands is an indication that they are endeavouring to take over the government of this country. They may be able to stir up an agitation which if sufficient to influence certain gentlemen in some State Parliaments - I say nothing about that; it is their business - but they are not .going to influence me or my Government. This kind of thing has gone far enough. I point out that it is in the interests of the motorists themselves that good roads should he provided. Good roads reduce the consumption of petrol, prevent damage to springs, and lessen repair bills generally.
I shall not refer to the decrease in the cost of hauling produce to markets which good roads will mean, and the advantage which that would mean to the whole nation. I shall leave that to be dealt with by other speakers. T purpose discussing only one other ;phase of the question; and I do so as lead of the Government, with a full sense of responsibility for the attitude I am taking. I desire to deal with the action taken by the oil interests to try to dictate the policy of this country. Let us see what has taken place. There was no noise, no clamour, no trouble until the Government announced its intention to place a tax on petrol. Then the trouble began, and it has continued ever since. Naturally, a motorist objects to a tax on petrol. That is the attitude adopted by all sections of the community in relation to taxation which affects them. But the motorist, after all, is fair and reasonable. He is prepared to accept facts. The motorists of Australia would not have continued the agitation against the petrol tax, had it not been for the oil companies. Some time ago, a deputation of motorists waited on me. As soon as they realized that they would be called upon to pay only a fair proportion of the cost of road construction, they were satisfied that they had no real grievance against the Government. They were prepared to fall into line, and would have done so, had it not been for the propaganda of the oil companies.
I propose to inform the House of what has been going on, and, in so doing, to show the motorist that his alleged friend has now completely deserted him, and is prepared to see him mulcted to an even greater extent than he would be by the Government’s proposals. The real agitation against the petrol tax started in Melbourne on the 22nd July, on which date a meeting was held to protest against it. About one-half of the persons present at that meeting were representative of the oil interests, or were in some way connected with those interests. Mr. “Wagstaff, the general manager of the British Imperial Oil Company, addressed the meeting, and urged that the deputation which was to wait on the Prime Minister subsequently, in connexion with the petrol tax, should inform him that the motorists of Australia were determined to take the gloves off, and make it a fight to a. finish. He told them that they should give the Prime Minister to understand that this would be made a political issue, and- would be remembered by motorists at the next election. He said that motor cars were very valuable at election time, and that the Prime Minister should be reminded that the motorists’ vote was of a magnitude not to he ignored. That is what the head of one of the great, oil monopolies told the motorists they ought to do. While I do not mind what these people say, I suggest that, in Australia, we do not expect the representatives of any business concern to make threats of political action against the head of the Government. The deputation waited on me. Mr. Wagstaff was a member of it. He put forward his views, and with an appreciation of the ground I was going over, I said to him, “ I suppose it would be all right if an excise duty were imposed on motor spirit ? “ He answered, “ Certainly.” I leave honorable members to interpret the significance of that reply from a gentleman who was endeavouring to stir up motorists to fight this iniquitous Prime Minister, who was depriving them of their legitimate rights, and placing upon them a tax that they should not accept and which should not be countenanced! A few days later, that extraordinarily astute gentleman made a paralysing slip. Up to this point, I remind the House, he had always posed as the friend of the motorist. A few days after the deputation, my distinguished colleague, the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), when in Sydney, made some reference to the petrol tax, to which remarks Mr. Wagstaff later took exception. With some of his remarks, however, Mr. Wagstaff was in agreement, for he is reported to have said -
Dr. Page has, probably unconsciously, opened the road to the solution of the whole difficulty in quoting the fact that the South Australian and West Australian Governments have imposed a petrol consumption tax which went through without opposition either from the trade or general public, as the proceeds are allocated to road purposes exclusively, and apply only to all users of the roads regardless of what petrol they use or where ‘it is produced. If these States can do this, surely all the other States can do the same, and there would be no further need for the Federal Government to impose taxation of this kind, the result of which has raised a storm of opposition throughout Australia.
I ask honorable members to consider the significance of that statement. There is no reference to an “ iniquitous tax “ of 2d. a gallon, or to the imposition being “ remembered at the next election “ ; no talk of making it a political issue. The gentleman, in effect, says, “ Of course, T was rather upset about that 2d. a gallon Federal tax; but I do not mind if all the States do what South Australia has done, namely, impose a tax of 3d. a gallon on petrol, so long as it is riot confined to our petrol, but applies also to that supplied by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, and to power alcohol as well.” Will honorable members contend that that man is acting in the interests of the motorists? The motorists of Australia will be able to judge him.
Many other things have taken place. The representatives of these oil companies are visiting garage proprietors and asking them to wire to their Federal parliamentary representatives, urging them to advocate the repeal of this tax. It is neither more nor less than a form of political blackmail that is being exercised by these oil interests. One of their representatives in one of the big cities in this State, I understand, also asked various ‘ people if they would consent to telegrams in their name being sent by him to members of this House, the idea being that a whole sheaf of them should be produced. That kind of thing cannot be tolerated in this country. At the meeting to which I have referred, the sum of £200 was subscribed to meet the expenses of a monster meeting of protest against the tax, and to bring home to the Government that, if it had any regard for its political future, it would be wise to discard the tax. Of that £200, a large proportion was subscribed by the oil companies. That, too, is a significant fact. Throughout Australia, not only in the cities, but also in the farthest outpost, the press has made re ference to this tax. It must be clear to any one that some one is extraordinarily interested in telling the people of Australia about the iniquity of the Governmet ment’s proposal. Not only in the big metropolitan dailies, but in very many country newspapers also, there are whole page advertisements drawing attention to this “ iniquitous “ proposal of the Government. Here is one from the centre of New South Wales. A page advertisement in The Richmond River Express urges farmers, motorists, and everybody else to rally up and save the country from this Government that is going to destroy it ! Here also is a page advertisement in the Launceston Examiner to the same effect. These interesting advertisements contain the statement, “ Issued on behalf of the Town and Country “Union.” I have nothing to say about that union - I know little about it; but it certainly has not attained such financial strength and importance as to be able to deluge the city and provincial press of Australia with whole-page advertisements of the character that I have indicated. The money for these advertisements has probably come from the Oil interests. The whole of .this propaganda, and the entire atmosphere that has been created, are the result of their activity.
Who are these distinguished and interesting people who have apparently made up their minds to exercise control in this country as they have succeeded in doing in a number of other parts of the world ? Propaganda of this nature has been carried on in every portion of the globe by these two oil companies when it has suited their purposes. I refer to the Vacuum Oil Company, which is the child of the Standard Oil Company - one of the great monopolistic institutions that control the oil market - and the BritishImperial Oil Company, which is an offshoot of the Shell group. We are told at times that the latter is really a British company, but the fact is that it is controlled by the Royal Dutch group. It is not a British-controlled company at all, and the designation “ British Imperial Oil Company” is a misnomer. I propose to place before the House a few facts regarding these companies. I do not object to any persons or companies who trade in Australia, if they conform to the standards that we have set up; but when they proceed to try to dictate the policy of the country, and take over its control, it is time that something happened. They had better understand that whatever they can do in other parts of the world, they will not be allowed to take over the management of Australia. It is well known that with one small exception the whole of the oil business is controlled by the Royal Dutch group, and by the Standard oil group of America. They have parcelled out the trade of the world in oil and petrol. Nobody has any doubt as to what they have done, and what the position is to-day. So often has- the story of their ramifications been told, that I do not now propose to reiterate all the details of their operations. The fact is that practically the oil wells of the world are under their control. They are the parent companies, and they have a number of children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. I remind the House briefly of the position that has been established time and again. In 1914, when the Anglo-Persian interests were purchased by the British Government, the First Lord of the Admiralty spoke of th, way in which various countries of the world had been bled by the two great oil concerns. The position to-day has not changed. With the exception of that controlled by the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, these institutions control over 95 per cent, of the world’s remaining supply. In 1920 a British parliamentary committee, of which the chairman was Mr. C. A. McCurdy, investigated the subject of motor fuel, and its report contained the following reference to the American and Royal Dutch groups: -
The concentration of control over the price and distribution of fuel in the hands of these two enormous capitalistic combines, practically world-wide in their scope, constitutes so dangerously powerful a force if improperly used, that it is imperative that the Governments of the world should give some attention to it.
Their possession of the main sources of supply, the chief pipe lines, tank steamers, and a considerable part of the distributing arrangements of the various consuming countries, practically prevents the setting up of any private competition which might operate to destroy their monopoly or force them to reduce their price.
It is not necessary for me to relate at any length the story of the profits made by these companies, but I propose to deal with one or two facts concerning them.
We are told that in Australia they are struggling for a bare existence - that they are really making no profit at all. There are certain matters that are sub judice, and of them I shall say nothing; but when we go one stage back we find that they are doing quite nicely ! Take the Standard Oil group. We learn that the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey from 1896 to 1913 paid dividends ofabout 40 per cent., and from 1913 to 1922, 20 per cent. In November, 1922, a stock dividend of no less than 400 per cent, was declared - the figures are so amazing that one can hardly credit them - raising the nominal capital of the company to $825,000,000, of which $700,000,000 has been issued. The Standard Oil Company of Indiana is alleged to have inflated its capital by 3,000 per cent., that is 30 times. From 1912 to 1923 it paid on the inflated capital dividends averaging 25 per cent., representing about 750 per cent, on the original capital before it was watered. And so the story goes on, of the ramifications of these companies. The Royal Dutch-Shell group has a capital of £250,000,000 spread over about twenty companies. The Shell Transport and Trading Company, one of the main subsidiaries of the group, from which the British Imperial Oil Company obtains its product, paid last year a dividend of 22^ per cent. Unquestionably they are taking terrific toll of the countries of the world to-day, and because they resent any action that will prevent them from exacting a full toll we have the present agitation.
I remind honorable members of some of the facts regarding petrol prices in Australia. The Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, although the agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company was signed in 1920, did not begin operations until 1923, but a comparison of the prices ruling from 1921 to 1926 in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and Australia makes illuminating reading. In 1921, firstgrade petrol was selling in Australia at 3s. 2£d. a gallon, and. in 1926 the price was ls. 9d. ; in the United Kingdom it wa3 2s. 8d. in 1921, and ls. 5d. in 1926; and in the United States of America the price dropped from about ls. 3d. in 1921 to lid. in 1926. The prices throughout that period were very much lower in America than in Australia and the United
Kingdom. Naturally there was not so great a fall in Australia as there was in the United States of America. The reason for that was given recently in a delightfully naive way by a visiting American oilman, who explained that that country sent petrol to Australia, although there was always a song about petrol getting short in America, because “ we make a better profit on our petrol in Australia than in America. Countries which have no petrol within their own borders must pay a premium to those which have.” [Extension of time granted.] I am grateful for the opportunity of completing my remarks, because this important subject should be carefully investigated. The following table gives the comparative prices of petrol in Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America, from 1921 to 1926: -
We are frequently told that the American gallon is different from the imperial gallon; but the figures I have quoted are based on the imperial gallon. We are also informed that Australia demands a much higher grade of petrol than is sold’ in America, and that, therefore, a higher price must a paid for it. I point out, however, that the extra cost of refining to provide the requisite grade of petrol is about a halfpenny per gallon, so that that story can be heartily discounted if it is advanced.
– How does the cost of manufacture in Australia compare with that in other countries?
-I am coming to that point.From time to time the operations of the. oil companies are the subject of investigation. In 1919 an application was made by the Vacuum Oil Company to Judge Rolins, of New South Wales, who, in refusing a request for an increase in the price of petrol in that State, remarked : -
The real result of the trading for the five years ended 30th November, 1918, was that on the original capital of just over £1,000,000 a profit of £2,220,000 had been made. The profit of the company made during the war has been very great, as disclosed by the figures, and as the company has seen fit to pay itself a dividend of 17 per cent. on the first halfyear’s operations (in 1919) - really 34 per cent. on the whole year - and paid nominally 16 per cent. - but really 32 per cent. - on the operations for 1918, the commission might fairly for the present refuse to recommend any increase in the price of one of the company’s commodities, even if the result was that the company lost somewhat for the present. Whether it would really lose mightbe doubtful when depending on the credit to be given to the company’s evidence. The suspicion of the Crown as to the credibility of witnesses for the company appeared to him (JudgeRolins) to he fairly justified.
I emphasize the judge’s concluding words, because companies of whom such scathing remarks are made from the Bench, would not hesitate to foster an agitation of the character that I suggest is new proceeding.
I now propose to refer to two recent episodes in the history of these oil combines. The first is the public spirited action they appeared to take in September, 1925, when they reduced the price of petrol in Australia. On close investigation, however, we find that that apparently public-spirited action was not taken in the interests of the people of the Commonwealth. The reduction took place on the 25th September, and on the 30th September the price in the United States of America had increased by two cents, per gallon. I commend that fact to the notice of the House, because we hear so often that the price in Australia is governed entirely by the price in the United States. The Vacuum Oil Company is one of the dependent companies of the Standard Oil Trust. It would take a good deal to convince us .that, five days before there was an increase in America, these companies were so innocent that they went to the extent of reducing their prices in anticipation of a reduction there. That is a story we can hardly credit. The reduction was deliberately brought about in an endeavour to get rid of certain small competitors who had become a little troublesome in the Australian market. As a result the -Neptune Oil Company, which distributed the Waratah spirit, was acquired by the British Imperial Oil Company, and the interests of those controlling the Golden Crown product were acquired by the Vacuum Oil Company. There is also evidence that another small company ceased to operate about the same time, but it. is not sufficiently clear to enable me to use it. The reduction here occurred, as I have said, on the 25th September, 1925. The rise in prices in America became effective on the 30th September of that year; but these companies took no action in that directiion until the small competitors had been absorbed, and had disappeared. In January, however, they showed a modern and enterprising spirit in regard to their methods of distribution in Australia. Suddenly - it was done in one night, I think - they entered into an agreement with the garage proprietors throughout Melbourne, under which the proprietors were lied to them and their petrol pumps. That occurred on 23rd January, but nothing at all was said then concerning a contemplated increase in the price of petrol. Having thus tied up the garage proprietors, a week later - on 30th January - they increased the price of petrol by 1½d. a gallon. I do not propose to repeat the story of the additional profit they made, or suggest whether it was sufficient to more than cover the whole of the capital value of the petrol pumps they installed. I merely point to the fact that they in- creased the price by 1½d. a gallon, because, as they said, petrol prices had increased in America, although, as I have indicated, the increase in the United States of America took place as far back as September of the preceding year. There has been a subsequent rise in prices in the United States of America, but these companies have not yet responded to it. Unquestionably, when this action was taken, the principal distributing companies in Australia were confident that the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited would also increase its price, and that there would be no trouble at all in that respect. The Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited did not increase its price, and does not intend to do so, because, as I shall explain in a moment or two, it is quite unnecessary. These manipulators increased the price of petrol by l.d. a gallon overnight, and” the garage proprietors, who were then tied down to them, could only say, “Thank you very much. Is there anything else you would like to do?” Yet when the Government indicated that it proposed to impose a duty of 2d. a gallon on petrol, not to swell the profits of the oil companies, but for the purpose of providing Australia with a satisfactory roads system, one could not hear oneself speak for the opposition that was raised. The greater part of this opposition is inspired by the foreign distributing companies, and I shall indicate later why they are responsible for it.
– Does the right honorable gentleman suggest that the attitude of honorable members has been influenced by these companies ?
– I am not making any such suggestion, but am merely endeavouring to give the House a few facts. I now wish to try to indicate why these companies have objected so strongly to the petrol tax proposed to be levied by the Commonwealth through the Customs, and why they have not the slightest objection to a petrol sales tax being levied by the States. Heaven only knows what business it is of theirs to advise the States, but they are doing so. Their objection to our Customs duty is that there is no possible warrant for their passing it on. There is not the slightest reason why the imposition of this duty should cause them to increase their price by even one farthing a gallon. If these companies do not pass on the duty it will have to be paid by them. Therein lies the trouble. There is no difficulty in recouping themselves if the tax is levied by the States, but there are grave obstacles in the way if it is collected through the Customs Department of the Commonwealth.
Figures have been showered on me showing why these oil companies need not raise the price, giving the margin of profits made by them, and the millions they are taking out of this country, but I am not going to discuss them. We should have a first class brawl for the next year if we did, and we should have these cunning and astute people trying to show that there was a fly in the ointment so far as these figures were concerned. Let us get down to a common-sense basis. The Commonwealth Oil Refineries, which is now firmly established here, has to bring the whole of its’ crude oil to Australia, and in doing so incurs a loss of about 5 per cent., which completely wipes out any advantage obtained under the existing protective duty. In addition to that handicap, the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is faced with the necessity of selling its by-products such as kerosene, crude oil, &c, in Australia, where there i3 only a . very limited market. In addition it has to pay the heavy costs of shipping its petrol to Sydney and Adelaide. It also has to pay Australian rates of wages for the labour it employs, whereas the British Imperial Oil Company employs only Chinese or coolie labour at very low rates. ‘ Because of the higher standard of ‘living in this country the costs of production are rather greater than in other countries, and higher certainly than in those where coolie or Chinese labour is employed. Notwithstanding this, the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is to-day selling petrol 2d. a gallon cheaper than these other companies are selling it. The advantage of the duty of Id. per gallon is wiped out by the 5 per cent, loss on the importation of crude oil, but the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is still selling at 2d. & gallon less than its competitors demand. Provision had to be made to meet certain losses incurred by it during the first two years of its operations, which were only natural to a young manufacturing industry, invading a market that was strongly held by well-established competitors. It had also to meet certain adverse circumstances such as the offensive smell which, in the first instance, its petrol gave off. All these difficulties have been overcome. This Parliament and the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, which is a partner under the agreement, have helped it by wiping off the whole of the debit to profit and loss, thus enabling it to start with a clean sheet. To-day it is paying its way, and as a result of the year’s operations on the present basis, it will be able to pay interest on the capital invested. It can pay interest on capital expenditure while selling its product at 2d. a gallon less than is charged to-day by its competitors, which are the largest petrol refiners, and have not only the world’s markets for the disposal of their spirit and their kerosene and other by-products, but also the benefit of reduced overhead charges resulting from the magnitude of- their production. The Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited is producing only 6,500,000 gallons of spirit annually, which is infinitesimal compared with the production of its competitors. It has also to compete with companies that are highly efficient as the result of long experience, and whose overhead charges must, for the reasons I have given, be much lower. If, then, any one says that these companies cannot produce as cheaply as the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, it is the first time I have ever heard of a great monopoly being so inefficient. Having regard to the whole of the circumstances, it is impossible to explain why their price should be higher than that’ of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. In fact, it should be very much lower. The companies could pay the duty of 2d. per gallon which it is intended to impose and would still be. doing extraordinarily well if they sold at the present price. We should not retreat before these people, who suggest that the money to meet the cost of our roads policy should come out of revenue raised by a States’ petrol sales tax, if such a tax is constitutional. It appears to me that, we should merely be playing into the hands of these people, and giving them a further opportunity to exploit petrol-users in Australia. I hope I have made it clear that the Government has had just about enough of this attempt at dictation on the part of these companies, which are endeavouring to usurp the powers of a government elected by the people.
– That is a good reason why we should carry the referendum. We should be given additional powers under the Constitution to deal with them.
– There is something in the . honorable member’s suggestion. There appeared in the press last night a statement to the effect that petrol is to cost 2d. a gallon more within the next ten days, and that the companies must pass on the duty. That is neither more nor less than a threat. I trust that the State Governments will adhere to the agreement which five of them entered into with the Commonwealth after the fullest discussion, and after the most careful examination on the part of the Commonwealth with a desire to meet their wishes. I trust that they will stand up to it. If they will, the Government will certainly go on with its policy. We shall impose this petrol tax. We do not intend to listen to what these gentlemen have to say. When an appreciation of all the facts comes home to the State Governments and Parliaments, I have no doubt whatever that they will hold to their agreement, and that the Parliaments will ratify it.
I do not ask that this debate shall be continued to-night. The Government is prepared to wait until the State Governments indicate their attitude on the matter. In direct answer to the threat of the companies that I have referred to, J wish to state that, on the evidence that the Government has been taking some pains to collect during the last f ew weeks, it is able to say that, through the instrumentality of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, petrol can be imported and sold in this country, plus the duty of 2d. per gallon, at the price that the oil companies are charging for petrol today. For some time the Government has been moving towards the establishment of facilities to supply petrol in all the States, as it is now being supplied in some of them by the Commonwealth Oil Refineries, Its actions in this respect will be accelerated, if necessary, to check these overseas oil interests. So far, the Government has moved quietly to establish storage facilities, and not with the object of entering into the business of importing petrol. Honorable members know my views on governments dabbling in trade. I believe that a Government should embark upon trading enterprises only when circumstances force it to do so. Our object in establishing these storage facilities was simply to place us in a position to handle any emergency situation that might arise. If, however, the tax which we propose to levy on imported petrol is passed on to the public, we will go ahead with our developmental scheme, not quietly as hitherto, but at a sufficiently accelerated pace to enable us to bring enough petrol into Australia, through the agency of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited, to make our people independent of these companies. It will be remembered that recently a measure was passed authorizing an additional Government contribution of £100,000 to the capital of the Commonwealth Oil Refineries. This, and the clearing off of the debit to profit and loss account, which had resulted from the first two years’ trading, and the .substantial depreciation provision which the directors have wisely made, will provide sufficient money for the Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited to go ahead with its programme at a much faster pace. If the facts warrant the Government representatives on the board supporting this policy, they will not hesitate to do so; and the Government itself will not hesitate to come to Parliament to ask for any further vote that may be necessary to push the policy to a successful issue. I am confident that in so trying to save this country from exploitation by these oil interests, it will have the support of honorable members and the people generally, irrespective of party.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Brennan) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 4794).
.- My remarks on this measure will be brief, for I do not desire to delay its passage; but I wish to make a few observations on the important subject of the organized marketing of certain of our primary productions overseas, with which it mainly deals. The bill is similar to the Dried
Fruits Export Control Bill and the Dairy Produce Exports Control Bill which have already been passed by this Parliament, and it gives a wider application to the principle of compulsory pooling for export. It provides that canned fruit may be exported only on such terms and conditions as may be determined, and under licences granted, by the board which is to be. constituted. I heartily support the bill, and am glad that the Government has introduced it. But T feel constrained to ask why the Government will not extend the principle to marketing within Australia. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) expressed the opinion that legislation of -this character has the effect of levelling down industries instead of levelling them up.
– I said that, broadly speaking, the effect of compulsory pooling is to lower the standard.
– I disagree with the honorable member. I admit that there are primary producers who reach a very high standard of production - men who are on a pinnacle so to speak - who produce the finest grades of dried fruit, the highest class of wool, or the best quality of wheat. It may be that their standard will be reduced somewhat, and that their shining light will be dimmed; but if the effect of the measure is to improve the standard of 80 per cent, of the producers, its operation must mean, in the aggregate, a gain to the whole industry. The honorable member’s contention is, therefore, right only to a limited extent. Although, generally speaking, I do not believe in compulsion where it can be avoided, T must admit that the object of the bill can only be achieved by compulsion. The Government has apparently recognized that, for this is the third measure of the kind that it lias introduced. If I could see a way of successfully organizing the marketing of our primary production without compulsion, I should gladly adopt it in preference to this; but I cannot see one. Unfortunately there is always a small percentage of primary producers who will effectively cripple the efforts of the majority of their fellows to organize the marketing of their production on a voluntary basis, and honorable members- cannot ignore it. On the evidence I have, I judge that the
Dried Fruits Exports Control Board and the Dairy Produce Export Control Board have thoroughly justified their appointment, and I see no reason why the appointment of the Canned Fruits Export Control Board should not be followed by equally satisfactory results. We shall have to give much more attention in the future to the long-established and unsatisfactory custom in Great Britain of passing produce from the wholesale merchants to the consumers. Apparently it is exceedingly difficult to avoid the present channels of communication, or to build new ones, and yet it seems to mc that new methods are absolutely essential to real success in marketing. I presume that a subsidiary board will be set up in London similar to those that have been appointed under the sister measures that I have mentioned. In my opinion, that board should give close attention to improved methods of reaching the actual British consumers. Some time ago the British Government appointed a Foodstuffs Commission, which made a recommendation to the effect that the Government itself should purchase our produce and distribute it to the people of the United Kingdom.
– That was an extraordinary recommendation for the commission of a Conservative Government to make.
– That is so. The very fact that commissioners of such calibre and training made that recommendation, is evidence that there is room for substantial improvements in the present methods. We have been told that the local market is the best market for our primary producers, lt has not always been, and it will not be the best market until we have effective control of the marketing of primary production within the Commonwealth. The Minister, by way of interjection, whilst the honorable member for Capricornia was speaking, said that the Commonwealth Government did not have the power effectively to control the local market. Unfortunately that is true. Unfortunately, also, the Government has made no effort to secure those powers, though it has taken steps’ to secure other powers which, I believe, are necessary. We find no reference to this power in the proposed referendum, and, according to the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), there is little likelihood of this issue being placed before the people for the next three years. I regret that the Government has not brought forward a proposal to organize the local market. The Ministry cannot consistently apply the principle of compulsion in regard to the export of primary produce and withhold it in connexion with the local market. I have received a letter under date of 25th July, from the secretary of the Australian Canning Fruitgrowers Association. The writer states, among other things -
I would much appreciate your assistance in using the opportunity in debate to impress upon Parliament and the country the fact that the canning fruit-growers are as yet unable to obtain from the canners a payable price for fruit. My members have repeatedly asked the Minister for Markets and Migration to insist that canners should pay at least £12 a ton before they are allowed to participate in the bounty granted by the Federal Government. The following facts are of interest: - Since 1912, orchard workers’ wages have increased 150 per cent., and orchard requisites by 50 to 60 per cent., yet the price of fruit is less by £3 and £4 a ton.
That is a remarkable statement-
Canners paid this last season f 10 a. ton at’ local canneries ‘or loading station. They re> fused to pay £12 as asked, yet, within a month pf- that refusal the canners, reduced the price of canned fruits to distributors fid. a ‘dozen. This was not enough to reflect any difference in the price to the consumers, (t was a direct sop to distributors, yet the reduction of fid. a dozen if granted to growers, would have .been equal to £2 10s. a ton on .the fresh fruit. I would be glad for you to make thic known to the House, or emphasize the fact that if this sort of treatment is continued it will force fruit-growers to demand a hoard of control for Australia as well as for export, in which “case, canners would be compelled to pay a fair price, as is the case with the sugar industry.
I commend the points raised in that letter to the Minister. I have no desire to delay the passage of the bill. I congratulate the Government on having brought it forward, and also upon the conversion of the Ministry to the principle of organized marketing. I hope that it will go further and apply the principle to the local as well as the export market.
– The bill is of very great importance to fruit-growers throughout the Commonwealth, and, with the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), I commend the Government for having introduced it. I understand that the canners are largely satisfied with the measure, but there are one or two features to which I intend to direct attention. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) said that the effect of the bill would be to bring the Government into competition with private enterprise. If I thought it would have that effect, I should not support it.. I am satisfied that it will go a long way towards giving growers control of their exportable surplus products. In recent years the Government has stressed the need for increased production. To this end it placed a large number of returned soldiers on the land. In many instances production has overtaken the local demand, and growers are now confronted with the problem of successfully marketing their surplus products. Apparently the only way in which this can be secured is by the proper control of the exportable surplus. There is not the slightest doubt that the appointment of inspectors in canning factories has resulted in the production of a high grade of canned goods intended for export. We have one pf the finest fruit-growing climates in the world, and there is no reason why our canned, products should not be able to compete with similar products from other countries in overseas markets. The honorable member for Hume also said that the home market was the best market. We have heard that argument on many previous occasions. It is true if we are not producing more than the local market can absorb, but, if .we had to depend upon the home market for the disposal of our wool, wheat, butter, fruit and other primary products, prices would be so unprofitable that very few people would remain on the land. The bill makes provision only for the growers of apricots, peaches and pears. Tasmania, as honorable members are aware, produces twice as many apples as the whole of the mainland of Australia.
– The bill deals- with canned fruits, and the three fruits mentioned by the honorable member are canning fruits.
– That is the point I am making. It makes no provision for the export of other kinds of canned fruits.
– It leaves the door open.
– I suggest that it should include also canned apples, plums, gooseberries, currants and raspberries”.
Peaches, pears and apricots are largely mainland productions. Tasmania grows a few pears and apricots, but hardly any peaches, so the whole of the bounty will be paid to growers of fruit on the mainland. Tasmanian canned fruits should be included. If we are not producing more than sufficient for the local market, their inclusion in the bill will make no difference. I hope the Minister will adopt my suggestion. The bill provides for the appointment of a board, to consist of one member representing the Government, one member representing privately-owned and proprietary canneries, and one member to be elected to represent cooperative and State-controlled canneries. No one can object to that arrangement. Sub-clause 5 of clause 4 makes the following provision : -
The election of representatives in pursuance of paragraphs b and c of sub-section (2) of this section shall be carried out in such manner as is prescribed.
A later sub-clause provides that an elected member may be removed from office by the Governor-General, on the recommendation of the board. The bill does not say who are to elect those representatives.
– They will be elected by the representatives of the canneries.
– What about the proprietary companies?
– All canneries, including proprietary canneries, will have the right totake part in the poll.
– The bill does not say so. There is no definite statement as to what the fees and expenses are to be, and by whom the money will have to be found. If a further burden is placed on the producers many of them will go out of business. Two boards are to be appointed, one in Australia and the other in London. Each will have a staff. The growers want to know if they will have to bear the expense, or whether the canners will be called upon to meet it. Even if the canners are made responsible they will reduce the price that they payto the growers.
– That is always the case.
– The growers to-day occupy a position of insecurity, and are complaining that they cannot pay their way. I agree that some control should be exercised over the industry ; but the Government should see that the growers are not further penalized byhaving additional expense placed upon them. Canned fruits may not be exported except in accordance with the determination of the board. Presumably all canned fruits will have to be handed over to the control of the board, which will determine what quantity is to be exported. I should like to know what will become of that which is not exported.
– The board will handle only the export pack. It will exercise no control over the local market.
– In that case there is not very much ground for complaint in that direction. The licensing of traders in canned fruits, as set out in clause 14, is a matter that requires explanation. Can the Minister tell me whether the licences will be for a period of twelve months; and, if not, for what period? Frequently, when a boat is being loaded in Tasmania with apples for shipment to London, cable advices are received to dispatch certain quantities of canned fruits and jams to Eastern countries. The canners have only a few hours in which to make the necessary arrangements, and they will be prevented from shipping the fruit if licences are granted only at the time when shipments are being made.
– The licences will be for such periods as the board determines.
– That is most unsatisfactory. Thevessels remain in Tasmanian ports for only a short period, and unless the licences will enable the canners to get straight to work, and have the order placed on the steamer, the fruit will be left behind. That will lead to a curtailment of trade with Eastern countries. If the board were to grant licences for twelve months,I do not think the slightest objection would be raised by any section, and the canners would be well satisfied. I have been approached by canners in both Victoria and Tasmania in regard to that particular provision. They realize the difficulties with which they will be faced unless licences are granted for twelve months. Reference has been made to fresh fruits that have been shipped from Australia, and particularly to apples that have gone from Tasmania. That State produces for export more than twice the quantity of fruit that is shipped overseas by the remainder of Australia. I admit that, in Tasmania as elsewhere, there are growers who deliberately export fruit of inferior quality. At the end of the last fruit season, the agents who shipped fruit for the growers received a letter from the Customs Department containing a list of the growers that exported fruit not up to the required standard, and stating that next season the department intended in such cases to proceed against both the agents and the growers. I would point out that every case of apples that leaves Tasmania is subject to a charge of ½d. to meet the cost of employing Commonwealth Government inspectors, and if the fruit exported is of an inferior quality, surely those inspectors are to blame. It is a serious anomaly for a Commonwealth Department to dispatch threatening letters to agents for shipping inferior fruit when its own inspectors pass the fruit in question as fit for export. A few years ago, when the canned fruit industry was in a parlous condition, the Government commissioned American firms in England to sell Australian canned fruit there. I sincerely hope that nothing of that sort is intended under the bill. We have to compete on the London market with American canned fruit, and it seems to me to be a wrong principle indeed to commission an American firm to sell Australian fruits, because it is only natural that it will give preference to American fruits. Surely there are reputable Australian firms in London that are capable of selling our canned fruit there. I trust that the Minister will consider bringing within the scope of the bill such fruits as apples, plums, gooseberries, and raspberries. We grow large quantities of these fruits in Tasmania, and they are very suitable for canning purposes. Thousands of bushels of apples which at present go to waste every year because there is no market for them are suitable for canning. A large number of apples in Tasmania are subjected to the evaporating process, and by giving to the dried apple industry the assistance that
J3 given to other dried fruit industries, the difficulty of marketing overseas large quantities of what may be termed inferior apples, would be largely overcome. We claim in Tasmania to produce the finest dried apples in the world. Although, in limited quantities, we have a good market for them in Australia, they cannot be placed on the English market because of the freight and other charges. The fruitgrowing inr dustry is of as much importance to Tasmania as is any other industry to the mainland, including even the steel industry. If other industries are assisted by bounties, then surely some assistance can be given to the Tasmanian apple-growers to enable them to compete successfully on the English market with the American dried apple producers. The Government has refused our previous requests for assistance for this industry, amounting to about £5,000, but it does not. hesitate to grant as much as £200,000 to assist other industries. The dried fruit industry of Tasmania could be permanently established with a little assistance from the Government. I hope that the bill, when in committee, will be amended in certain respects. I have pleasure in supporting it, and I hope that the Government’s effort to assist, not only the canned fruit industry, but also the man on the land, will be crowned with success.
.- I do not propose to detain the House many minutes at this late hour, but a few things have been said during the debate to which I can reply only on the motion for the second reading of the bill. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney), in his characteristic and inimitable way, suggested in the most airy fashion that the principle underlying this bill is exactly the same as that advocated by the party of which he is a member. So far as I can understand, the platform of that party it stands for government marketing and government control. The principle underlying this bill is that marketing shall be done through the ordinary business channels controlled by the producers themselves. There is as much difference between the principle underlying this measure and that advocated by the honorable member for Hume as there is between east and west, or between the poles and the equator. A poll is to be taken of the producers to decide whether or not they are in favour of this measure. I am satisfied that if the producers and canners of fruits took seriously the words of the honorable member for Hume, and believed that this bill meant government control, it would be extremely unlikely that their poll would be in favour of the bill. I do not think that they are. likely to take the honorable member seriously.
The honorable member also said that a moral obligation rests upon Great Britain to provide a better market for us than she provides for the foreigner. That remark was emphasized by way of interjection by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), and the same sentiment was expressed this afternoon by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde)’. With that sentiment 1 cordially agree. T hope the time is not far distant when for our canned fruits we may obtain from Great Britain some preference over and above the mere rebate on sugar- contents that we are given to-day. I am surprised, however, that the honorable member for Hume, or any honorable member opposite, should have had the temerity to raise the question of preference in view of the, attitude taken up by the party opposite some two years ago, when it had an opportunity to really do something in support of preference to Australian productions in Great Britain. It will be recalled by honorable members who were in this House during the last Parliament that an opportunity presented itself for members of the Oppo- sition to get into touch with their colleagues in the then British Government; but they did not so much as raise a finger in an effort to obtain British preference for Australian productions as recommended by the Economic Conference. Shortly after that conference put forward its proposals, which our Prime Minister advocated so strenuously, the British Government went out of office, and was succeeded by a government of the same political complexion as honorable members opposite. If the Opposition had used its influence with that Government it is probable that a very large proportion of the recommendations of the Economic Conference would have been given effect to. The pledge which was given to the British electors that no fresh taxation on foodstuffs would be imposed could very ‘well have been fulfilled by permitting the existing revenue duties to remain so far as they applied to foreign productions, and repealing them so far as productions of the dominions were concerned. Nothing of the kind was done. Although honorable members opposite protest that they are in favour of preference being given in Great Britain to the produce of Australia, when they had the opportunity to do something practical ‘to give effect to their professed desire they failed to take advantage of it. It will be remembered that when thememorable division was taken in the British Parliament upon this -matter the preference proposals of the Economic Conference were turned down by a majority of only four. If the Opposition in this Parliament had used its influence with its political colleagues overseas, that majority of four against the preference proposals might easily have been converted into a majority, of four in favour of them. The honorable member for Capricornia suggested that we might do considerably more for ‘our producers in this market, and -that it is hot sufficient to deal only with the over- seas market. That is very true’; but I point out that under the Constitution we. have no legislative authority whatever in. this market. Our powers are confined entirely to the overseas market, and what we can do under the Constitution is being done. The honorable member contended that the consumption of canned fruits in the local market is much less than it should be, and we ought to do something to increase it. - 1 remind him that an advertising campaign was carried out some years ago,- shortly after the present Government took office, with the result that the Australian consumption of canned fruits was raised from an average of one to three tins per head per annum. It therefore cannot be said that no attempt has been made to improve sales in the local market. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) had something to s.ay about clause 13, which is undoubtedly the crux of the bill, and without which the measure would be practically useless. The honorable member said that it means farming out great powers to an outside body. Surely the ‘ honorable member would not contend that r these powers should be exercised by the Government rather than by the producers’ representatives ?
– I said that the power to prohibit export is indeed a dangerous power for any government.
– To farm out?
– Either to use or farm out. “ Hands off the export of primary products “ has been a slogan of - this country for years.
– The honorable member must realize that without clause 13 the bill would be a dead letter. The
Minister assuming the responsibility of accepting conditions of the licences recommended to him by the board is responsible to the Government, and the Government is responsible to Parliament, so that Parliament will have some voice in the matter. I point out to the honorable member, further, that there is no obligation to export.
– But we have a big surplus of production.
– If there is a surplus, there must be a certain amount exported ; but there is no compulsion on the individual to export. He can if he wishes sell his product in the local market. There is one other matter with which I should like to deal, and that is the extraordinary ‘ remark of the honorable member for Wannon to the effect that it is the pet hobby of the Government to interfere with industry. That remark is extraordinary in view of the quarter from which it came. Before the present Government took office, a government with which the honorable member for Wannon was associated interfered with the canned-fruits industry to a much greater extent than is proposed by this measure. From 1920 to 1923, during part of which time the honorable member for Wannon was in charge of the Trade and Customs Department, there was a canned-fruits pool, and during that period the fruit was bought outright by the Government and marketed by it. Unfortunately, it was not all sold. An endeavour was made by the Government to market it, with the result that during 1920-21, 1921-22, and 1922-23 there was a loss of £700,000. I do not say that the honorable member for Wannon was in any way to blame for it, but it was during the regime of a government of which he was a member that this took place. When the present Government took office, it determined to put the business on a different basis, and told the canners and growers that they must be responsible for the marketing of their own fruit. At the same time it got them out of their immediate difficulties by giving them a bounty on production which proved to be necessary for that one season only. To my mind, it is extraordinary for the honorable member for Wannon to have made such a statement. The honorable member for Capricornia also brought into this discussion the statement that the saving made by the Dairy Produce Control Board was about £50,000.
– Yes; Sd. per farmer.
– I congratulate the honorable member on his arithmetic, because, on his own figures, a saving ot £50,000 on insurance alone, divided by 150,000 dairy farmers, represents about 6s. 8d. for each farmer. When the honorable member said that the total saving obtained by the board for the dairy farmers was £50,000, I interjected that that saving was made on the item of marine insurance alone. The actual saving on marine insurance for that part of the produce which was exported amounted ‘ to about £20,000, but there was an equivalent amount saved on that part of the produce which was sold on the local markets, for the simple reason that, whenever it is possible to reduce the cost of exporting any particular commodity, a corresponding advantage is gained in the price of the locally-consumed article which is based on the export parity. If it costs 3d. a lb. to market a certain line of produce overseas, and by a reduction of freight or marine insurance, or from any other cause, it is possible to reduce that cost to 2d., the value on the wharf of the exportable commodity is raised by Id. and the value of the article on the local market is correspondingly increased. That is why £50,000 may be claimed by the Dairy Produce Export Control Board as the saving on insurance alone. It is obviously impossible to gauge the savings effected by the board for the dairy producers as a whole, because no one can estimate what the produce would have brought had there been no board in existence. There are no figures showing what prices might have been realized had there been no board in existence, so that no proper comparison may be made; but I am convinced that the advantage derived by producers from the operations of the board is enormous and runs into large figures.
– I took the Minister’s figures from his answers to my questions.
– But the honorable member distorted them. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) was anxious to know whether the levy would be paid by the growers. It will be paid by the canners. I admit that, as a rule, anything paid by the canners in the ordinary way goes back, in the long run, to the growers, but in this instance the canners will receive a freight subsidy on condition that they pay a certain fixed amount to the growers. It is difficult, therefore, to see how the grower will pay the subsidy. The honorable member for Franklin also spoke about the inclusion of certain kinds of fruits besides apricots, peaches, and pears. Clause 3 makes it clear that “ canned fruits “ means “ canned apricots, canned clingstone peaches, canned pears, and such other canned fruits as are prescribed”; so that if the honorable member wishes to have certain other fruits included in the bounty, there is no reason why applications should not be made to have them included. The matter can be dealt with by regulation.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) proposed -
That the House donow adjourn.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Government, even at the risk of delaying honorable members, the unfair position of some branches of the Public Service. Since 1924 the Public Service Board has been engaged in classifying theService, but quite a number of branches are yet awaiting a classification, and it is rather significant that among these are the lower-paid branches which can ill afford to wait. I wish to bring under notice the position of assistants who take the place of officers known as fifth-class clerks. In many cases these assistants have not yet been classified, but in some instances the board has classified their salary as £224, whereas the Public Service Arbitrator, when their case was brought before him, immediately fixed it at £260. Those assistants are. not yet classified, and the longer the matter is delayed the greater will be the injustice done, because the Public Service Arbitrator has no power to make retrospective awards. He has made representations that that anomaly should be rectified. Those assistants who were classified at £234 have since received an increment of £10, making their salaries £244. The clerks, however, have had their salaries raised from £276 to £306, an increase of £30. Can that differentiation be justified? Further delay is likely to occur by reason of the appointment of the chairman of the Public Service Board (Sir Brudenell White) as chairman of the committee to make arrangements for the forthcoming visit of their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York. I hope that the Prime Minister will announce, before Parliament adjourns, that these injustices will be rectified.
.- The matter referred to by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) is already under consideration by the Government. I shall, however, bring his remarks under the notice of the Prime Minister, who will probably make a statement regarding it before the end of the session.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.45 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 3 August 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260803_reps_10_114/>.