10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Throwing Open of Militaryreserves
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether he will issue tickets for admission to the South Head and Middle Head Military Reserves to enable people to witness the arrival in Sydney Harbour of their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York? This course wasfollowed at the time of the visit of the Prince of Wales, and the privilege granted was very much appreciated.
– I have already had tickets printed and instructions issued dealing with the matter referred to. Each member of the House, should he so desire, will be entitled, upon application, to receive ten tickets of admission to each of the reserves.
– Is the Minister for Markets and Migration aware that recently two vessels - the Narkunda, a steamer belonging to a private company, and the Commonwealth liner Largs Bay - loaded fruit at Hobart, and that the Largs Bay received only a small portion of the fruit cargo offering the great bulk of it being shipped on the Narkunda? If so, what is the reason for the discrimination against the Commonwealth liner?
– I am aware that fruit was shipped by the two vessels named, but not that there was any discrimination between them by the shippers. It is not the function of the Commonwealth Government or of the Department of Markets and Migration to interfere with any arrangement which may be made by shippers as to the vessels by which their produce is exported.
– I wish to askthe Prime Minister a question based upon the following paragraph which has appeared in the press : -
Wellington, New Zealand, Monday. - Sir Douglas Mawson, who is on his way to Australia, to-day accused the Commonwealth Government of apathy in neglecting to take any action to secure control of the Antarctic Ocean. There wasgreat danger, he said, of the whale fisheries being depleted, while the possibilities of Adele Landwere enormous. Although asked by the Dominions Office to express their views on thematter, Australia’s leaders had done nothing Sir Douglas said he was prepared to lead another expedition to the Antarctic if funds were available.
Is it a fact that the Dominions Office made a request to the Commonwealth Government as stated? If so, wasthe matter considered by the Government? Is it proposed to take any steps in the direction of averting the threatened danger of depletion of the whale fisheries in the Antarctic ?
– There have beenno requests from the Dominions Office to the Commonwealth Government to which a reply has not been made. The rights of various countries in the Antarctic wore fully considered at the Imperial Conference, and the steps believed by the conference to be most effective to protect British interests generally, and those of Australia, were determined, and are now being taken.
Leakageof Secret Information
– Has the Prime Min ister inquired into the very serious allegations made yesterday that attempts had been made to induce the Navy Department to exercise its authority over Commander Cresswell in order to prevent him from giving certain evidence before the Wireless Commission?
– I have no knowledge of any attempt to interfere with Commander Cresswell ; but very unfortunately papers which came into Commander Cresswell’s hands in the course of his duties in the Department, and were of a most secret character, dealing with a subject of great importance to Australia, were produced at the inquiry. That, I think, was most undesirable.
– It has been reported in the South Australian newspapers that the Government proposes to establish an aerial mail service between Perth and Adelaide, and I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence to say what stage the proposal has reached ?
– The Government has received offers from several companies who. have expressed their willingness to establish an aerial mail service between Perth and Adelaide. Upon consideration it was decided that the fairest way in which to deal with the matter was to call for tenders for the service. I believe that the advertisement calling for tenders will appear in this week’s Gazette.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Defence say whether the Government proposes to subsidize the mail service referred to?
– In the offers submitted to the Government no subsidy was asked for. It is being left to tenderers to state the terms upon which they will be willing to accept a contract for the service. When the tenders are received, the Government will be in a position to state the exact terms of the contract, if one is let.
– Has the Prime
Minister noticed reports in the press of the successful operation of the beam wireless system between Great Britain and Australia? Has the right honorable gentleman been officially informed whether the tests of the system are a success ?
– I have seen the press statement, but no official information has yet been received by the Governmentthat the British Post Office has accepted the tests as satisfactory.
– Having regard to the serious situation which has been created by the unfair competition of oversea manufacturers with Australian industry, does the Government propose to afford an opportunity during this session for the discussion of the tariff schedule? Will the Minister for Trade and Customs promptly investigate the alleged dumping of foreign goods? Complaint has been made to me that storage batteries, the manufacture of which was specifically protected in the last tariff schedule, and which prior to the commencement of manufacture in Australia were being sold at £11 10s., are now, through the competition of six local manufacturers, being sold by importers at £5 5s. and £6 6s., wth a 40 per cent. discount to garages in lieu of the 25 per cent. discount previously given; whereas Australian manufacturers are unable to reduce their prices below £6 15s. The situation is serious and manufacturers who have invested large amounts of capital are facing the possibility of bankruptcy.
– In reply to the first part of the honorable member’s question, 1 remind him that it is not customary for announcements of government policy to be made in the form of replies to questions. In regard to storage batteries for motor cars, no communication has been received by me from the Australian manufacturers. If a communication is received by the department I will have inquiries made immediately. Apparently the figures which the honorable member quoted, and which show a considerable reduction in the prices charged to the consumers, are a triumph for the protective policy of encouraging local production. A few days ago the honorable member asked some questions regarding the unfairness of American motor car manufacturers in prohibiting the use of Australian-made parts. I have instituted inquiries, as I promised to do, and received this morning some information which indicates that the inquiries may be worth pursuing. I propose to have the fullest investigation made.
-In view of the Minister’s statement that the reduction of prices brought about by the competition with local manufacturers is a triumph for the protective policy, does he consider it desirable that he should take steps to prevent that policy coming to full fruition ?
– As I am unable to grasp the purport of the honorable member’s question, I ask him to put it on the notice-paper.
– The Argus of this morning published the following paragraph relating to a deputation of Canberra shopkeepers : -
Eastlake shopkeepers have made a strong protest against the activities of Sydney traders who have arranged a display of goods at the Hotel Kurrajong. The business men told Mr. Butters that this competition was unfair. The goods shown were not confined to high-class women’s wear, but included hundreds of pounds’ worth of men’s wear, and the representatives of the firms were canvassingthe suburbs for orders. Mr. Butters expressed surprise, and said that the firms had undertaken to confine their activities to the sale of women’s wear not obtainable in Canberra.
Will the PrimeMinister see that the very efficient protection which is being granted to the rest of Australia is extended to the storekeepers of Canberra, so that they may be spared the competition of Sydney traders ?
– I have not read the paragraph quoted by the honorable member, and as I am in a mental fog as to what his question really is, I ask him to give notice of it.
– Will the Prime Minister prevent the Federal Capital Commission from using public buildings for the display of trade commodities?
– I certainly cannot do that. On occasions such displays may be desirable”.
Ages of Officers
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
How many officials are employed in the Clerical Division of each respective Commonwealth Department in New South Wales, including the Public Service Inspector’s Department, who are of or over the age of 60 years?
– The Public Service Board of Commissioners has furnished the following information : - “ Number of clerical officers in each Commonwealth Department in New South Wales, including the Public Service Inspector’s Office, who are of or over the age of60 years: -
The foregoing details relate only to clerical officers, and do not include other officers of the Third Division, such as professional officers, postmasters, and telegraphists.”
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What is the total value of imports and the amount of concessions given thereon under the Tariff, in regard to machinery goods not commercially produced or manufactured in Australia?
Mr.PRATTEN- The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
A modified scat was designed by theR.A.A.F. Experimental Section and E.A.A.F. units concerned were instructed to make and fit scats to the design. This is in accordance with the usual practice under which Flying units carry out minor modifications to their aircraft. In this case, to facilitate the expeditious equipment of aircraft with this modificationR.A.A.F. Experimental Section have made 54 parachute seats.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– It is not the practice for Ministers, in replying to questions in ‘ the House, to give opinions upon matters “ of law or of constitutional power.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
In connexion with the importation of passengers’ luggage, will he inform the House as to
The number of recent successful prosecutions for smuggling; the value of the goods concerned; the number and amount of fines imposed, and what was done with the goods in question; and
What steps are being taken to prevent a continuance of these fraudulent practices in connexion with the importation of passengers’ luggage from abroad?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Treasurer, uponnotice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Yes. 2. (a) Yes.
The committee recommended that stepsbe taken to build up an efficient university at Canberra. It thought that for a net annual cost of £13,700 and a capital expenditure of £12,000 on buildings and furniture, the following instruction could be given : -
The committee also considered that, for successful first year students in science, scholarships would have to be provided to enable them to proceed to another university and complete their courses in science, engineering, medicine, or dentistry.
The report was carefully considered by the Government, whichaffirmed the principle that there should be a university at Canberra, but decided that it could not proceed with the project until conditions at the Federal Capital had reached a stage when a fairly definite idea could be formed of the demands likely to be made upon such an institution in the near future.
– (By leave.) - Itwill be within the memory of honorable members that the position of Australia’s representative on the Nauru and Ocean Islands Phosphate Commission became vacant in September of last year. Pending consideration of the constitution of the Commission by the representatives of the partner governments - Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand - at the Imperial Conference no permanent appointment was made, but the Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department, Mr. Deane, was appointed Acting Commissioner. The work of the Commission in controlling the phosphate deposits at Nauru and Ocean Islands was fully considered in London. The Australian Government has from time to time suggested certain alterations regarding the management generally, but the other partner governments were not prepared to fall in with our views, and consequently the system of control by three commissioners, which has existed in the past, will be continued, and it was necessary for Australia to appoint a new commissioner. The late commissioner held a full-time appointment, at a salary of £2,000 a year; but the Government does not think it necessary or desirable that the commissioner should be called upon to give all bis time to the work, or receive that salary. It believes that the work would be as efficiently done if a part-time commissioner were appointed, because the functions to be performed are similar to those of directors of large companies, the executive work being carried out by the chief executive officer and his staff. Accordingly, the Government has invited Mr. Clive McPherson. the Government representative on the Dairy Produce Control Board, to accept the position, and he has done so. The salary which he will receive is £600 a year.
– In accordance with statute, I lay on the table of the House a statement of the reasons for authorizing the use of less than 50 per cent. of Australian-growncotton in the manufacture of certain counts of cotton yarn upon which bounty has been paid. I might explain that a certain amount of elasticity is provided for in the administration of the cotton yarn bounty. The manufacturers have bought the whole of the Queensland crop of cotton, and the Department has allowed a little latitude in respect of the finer counts which are not produced in Australia.
The following papers were presented : -
Audit Act - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial year 1926-27- Dated 9th March, 1927.
Cotton Bounty Act - Statement by the Minister for Trade and Customs of the reasons for authorizing the use of less than fifty per centum of Australian-grown cotton in the manufacture of cotton yarn upon which bounty has been paid.
Northern Australia Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1927, No. 12.
InCommittee of Ways and Means:
Debate resumed from the 15th March (vide page 450), on motion by Dr. Earle Page -
That, towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for the service of the year 1927-28, there be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund a sum not exceeding £5,851,495.
. -It surprises me that the Government’s request for Supply for three months after the end of the financial year has not met with a demand for more information than has been given up to the present. This is a rather extraordinary request, made, of course, under extraordinary conditions; but I think that before Parliament grants Supply to enable the Government to go into recess for six months, honorable members should know what legislation is proposed to be put before this House, and the reason for adjourning for such a long period.
As far as the removal to Canberra is concerned, the whole arrangement, to my mind, has been discreditable.For many years certain honorable members demandedan immediate removal to Canberra; in fact, a strong attempt was made to remove the Seat of Government there last year. It must be apparent to any one who has examined the matter that under ordinary circumstances it is impossible to effect this change quickly. A great deal of expense would have been saved, and many difficulties overcome if we had delayed our departure to Canberra for another year. It is possible to open the Parliament, as Parliament House has been erected; but there will be so much difficulty in transferring the personnel of the departments that the move could well be delayed for another year. In reply to a question asked by me a short while ago, the Prime Minister spoke of the “mental fog” he or I was in. To that remark I can retaliate by pointing out that many of the present difficulties are due to the mental fog of himself, his Ministers, and the departments in regard to the reports presented from time to time by the Public Works Committee, requesting that examinations should be made into the facts connected with the transfer of the Parliament to
Canberra. Had the Prime Minister made those inquiries in an intelligent manner, there would have been a different story to tell to-day. There has been a large amount of departmental carelessness. I remember the Chairman of the Public Service Board being called before the committee and saying that he knew nothing about the number of officers who would be sent there. About twelve months later we again desired to interrogate him, and he reiterated the statement that he was ignorant of the facts required by the committee. Surely it was the duty of the Government to instruct the Public Service Commissioner to make the necessary inquiries. The Government is not justified in asking for an adjournment of Parliament to September or October next. If the Supply asked for is granted, the Parliament will be able to adjourn for six or seven months. There is no reason why we should not have been called together for the present session a fortnight earlier, for there was plenty of important work waiting for us. After the promises made by the Government at the last election to introduce legislation dealing with industrial reform, honorable members expected to be given an outline of what it was intended to do to ensure industrial peace.
Although the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has given us to understand that the difficulties surrounding the question of copyright are enormous, the fact remains that extraordinary demands for copyright fees are being made on the people of Australia. Parliament would be well occupied in giving consideration to that matter. We could pass legislation providing that when any organization makes a demand upon the people it must give an assurance that it has authority for its action. To appeal to the courts of this country is not a satisfactory remedy for the aggrieved parties.
We have not progressed far in giving effect to the Government’s migration policy. When I heard that the Government intended to appoint a Development and Migration Commission, I thought it would do all it could to induce migrants to come here and settle on the land; but when the appointment of the commission was announced, I developed grave misgivings, which have since been accentuated. Apparently there is a greater desire to build upthe secondary than the primary industries. I do not say that the establishment of secondary industries would not be of great value to Australia; but it is ridiculous to start secondary industries unless at the same time we build up the agricultural and pastoral industries, so as to provide a market for the products of the secondary industries. The first essential for the development of this country is to place settlers on the land, so that they can produce wealth and keep the secondary industries employed.
– The present difficulty is to find markets for the produce of the primary industries.
– The honorable member need not worry about that, if he will give the people on the soil reasonable opportunities for carrying on their work. The primary producer should be given the advantages that he is entitled to, and the cost of production should be kept as low as possible. A return supplied to me by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) shows the value of the exports from Australia. I was particularly anxious to obtain in that return figures showing the exports of secondary industries, and the imports and reexports. That part of the question the Minister avoided ; but I must insist upon being supplied with those particulars, for I want to use them to impress on honorable members generally, and on the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) particularly, the value of the wonderful export trade of Australia. Of agricultural and horticultural products we exported £23,747,000 worth in 1923-24; £48,702,000 worth in 1924-25; and £33,982,000 worth in 1925-26. Of pastoral and dairy produce the exports were valued at over £73,000,000 in 1923-24; nearly £93,000,000 in 1924-25, and nearly £90,000,000 in 1925-26. Those exports included animals, butter, cheese, hides, skins, meats, milk, tallow, and wool, and they totalled over £180,000,000 in two years. Those who produce that wealth have to comply with all the oppresive provisions of the Arbitration Act and the Navigation Act, and have to pay an inflated price for all their requirements as a result of the extraordinarily high Customs tariff imposed by this Parliament. I regret to say that a promise has been given to increase that tariff still further. Of the produce of mines the exports were £12,722,000 in 1923- 24, just under £11,000,000 in 1924- 25, and £15,310,000 in 1925-26. The exports under the heading of fisheries were small, amounting toonly £500,000 in the last three years. The exports of forestry products were valued at £1,648,000, £1,845,000, and £1,634,000 respectively for each of the three years. Now I come to the important part of the return. I see no reason why every man in this community should not be given a fair opportunity. The Parliament should not give magnificent conditions and grant special concessions to the people living in the cities unless it extends the same privileges to all. It is essential to Australian prosperity that we should build up self-supporting industries. It is impossible for the country to prosper on tariff-protected secondary industries alone; we must make all our industries, primary and secondary, self supporting. The following figures indicate our export trade in certain lines : -
If protection could ever make an industry self-supporting the Australian boot making industry ought to be so to-day, but we find boot factories being burnt down, many bootmakers unemployed, and those who are working receiving a less wage than is paid to builders’ labourers.
– Does the honorable member insinuate that the boot manufacturers have burnt down their factories ?
– No; but it is extraordinary that so many fires have occurred. The figures show that we do a fairly good trade in biscuits, but have only a small one in confectionery. The figures relating to chemicals and drugs are satisfactory. Surely our object in granting tariff protection to our secondary industries is to make them self-supporting in time.
– Our primary object is to secure the local market for them.
– The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) must recognise that unless we can make these industries self supporting we are engaged in an endless task. Australia is capable of supporting, ultimately, a population of 100,000,000, but we shall never progress unless our industries are built up on a substantial basis. I believe the honorable member for Yarra is anxious that no man shall be settled on the land unless he has a fair prospect of making good.
– That is so.
– But no settler can make good if his cost of production is greater than the market price of his produce. I believe in the workmen of Australia being granted reasonable conditions, but it is folly for us to continue increasing wages and adding to the cost of production until the produce costs more than can be obtained for it. If it were not for the men on the land there could be no secondary industries in Australia; but although our primary producers could carry on without secondary industries, no honorable member would think of suggesting that they should attempt to do so. I submit that our secondary industries must all be built on a basis which will ultimately render them self-supporting. But as long as arbitration awards fix 44 hours as the working week, we shall fail to stabilize these or any other industries. In Brisbane the workers are battling for a 40- hours’ week. The time must come, if we continue on our present course, when we shall not be able to borrow money abroad as we have been doing in the last few years, and I ask honorable members opposite what would happen if all public works which are being carried out on loan money had to cease? The country would be in a sorry plight. The Navigation Act, as well as the tariff, contributes io the present unsatisfactory position. The Tariff Board itself pointed out a couple of years ago in one of its reports 1 hat the Navigation Act rendered it impossible for manufacturers in one State profitably to send their manufactures to distant States. Our coastal shipping freights are much too high. A short while ago a merchant informed mc that he could bring maize from South Africa to Melbourne and Sydney for 223. <3d. per ton, and to Brisbane for 25s. pelton, but if he desired to bring it from
Bowen, in Queensland, to Sydney, it cost him 45s. per ton. I think it was Mr. Justice Powers who, in one of his awards, stated that it cost more to send goods from Melbourne to Adelaide than from Melbourne to London.
– The shipping combine, and not the Navigation Act, is responsible for that.
– That is not so. If it were not for their coal contracts, the coastal shipping companies would not be able profitably to continue their operations. Their cargo and passenger trade is not paying them. According to a report in yesterday’s press, Mr. Dunlop, addressing the Chamber of Commerce in Perth, said that while years ago the Australian coastal shipping service was something that we could boast about, to-day we had reason to be ashamed of it. We had a magnificent service before the war, but we have a shocking one today. The Navigation Act is an absurdity, and if I had my way I should immediately repeal its coastal provisions. What we need is competition. The policy that honorable members opposite are following must eventually reduce the competency of the Australian workman until we shall be ashamed not only of him but of ourselves. The Australian workman who is .allowed to work without interference is as fine a type as can be found anywhere in the world; but in consequence of matters affecting industry entering so definitely into our political life, and of some honorable members of Parliament thinking that a legislative enactment is all that is necessary to remedy any evil, we are actually destroying the self-reliance of our people. Enterprise, energy, and self-confidence are necessary.
– The honorable member is advocating the laisser-faire policy of the last century.
– My friend the honorable member for Herbert (Dr. Nott) is so enamoured of the sugar embargo, and the enormous duty on bananas, that he naturally becomes a high protectionist; but does he imagine that sugar would be grown in Australia in excess of the requirements of the people if the embargo were discontinued ?
– The sugar industry is protected all over the world.
– I do not object to moderate protection. Since I did not intend to begin a general tariff discussion, I shall now resume my remarks concerning the value of Australia’s exports. Implements and machinery were exported to the total value of £314,811 three years ago, £307,146 a year later, and £177,708 last year. Our leather exports are valued at nearly threefourths of a million; but none of the other items is worth mentioning. The total of all exports in 1923-24 amounted to £119,487,164, of which the products of manufacture accounted for £4,264,057. In 1924-25, primary products were exported to the value of £162,030,159, while the value of the secondary products sent out of Australia was £4,109,478. In 1925-26 the value of the primary products exported totalled £148,562,209, and the products of secondary industries £4,164,498. In fact, the exports of secondary products amounted to about 2-J per cent, of the total exports of the Commonwealth. Last year Australia had over £140,000,000 worth of primary products to export; but under .the restrictive legislation that Parliament is continually imposing, the position of the primary producer is becoming increasingly difficult. It was discreditable that, at the end of last session, a new tariff schedule was laid on the table, and no opportunity was afforded for its discussion. If similar action is taken at the end of the present session, Parliament ought to be ashamed of itself. I do not complain so long as a matter is decided by Parliament; but should we allow the Government to impose special penalties by way of taxation without the voice of the people being heard? We have had no promise from the Government that at the end of this short session a new tariff schedule will not be placed on the table and left there without an opportunity for discussion being given.
– I believe that Parliament should have control over that matter.
– Then why does the honorable member not complain of the Government’s proposal to go into recess almost immediately?
– The Leader of the Opposition spoke for the Labour party on that matter.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I now make my individual protest about the proposed early adjournment, in case the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) may say on the public platform that the Labour party mildly assented to it. There is no excuse for the lengthy adjournments made from time to time. In the absence of the Prime Minister, and even of a second member, of the Ministry, there should be no necessity for Parliament to remain in recess. I do not agree with press comments to the effect that, when the Parliament adjourns, honorable members have nothing to do. The writers of such paragraphs know perfectly well that honorable members are sometimes rauch busier during recess than when the Parliament is sitting. They have much to do in attending to correspondence, departmental work, and the requirements of their constituents. Most of us have families numbering some hundreds of thousands, and, speaking as an old journalist, I resent the press criticism. With all the momentous matters awaiting consideration, it is highly regrettable that long adjournments are periodically permitted. The day will soon come when the people will demand a change in that respect. We shall close one financial year and begin another before we meet again. I am putting forward a plea on behalf of a very large number of respectable citizens who have families to support, and who in the winter time find themselves out of employment. In this connexion I was hopeful that the Treasurer would be able to carry the reform be suggested to close the financial year on the 30th September.
– That would lead to a great deal of trouble.
– I do not think so, and I remind the honorable member that the British financial year is the same as that desired by the Treasurer. The 30th June is in the middle of winter, when there is always a certain disruption of work; and it is the hardest part of the year for the bulk of the people. It is the practice in both the Federal and State spheres to warn public departments to be very careful about expenditure towards the close of the financial year, in order that the different Treasurers may, if pos-
Bible, meet their parliaments with creditable surpluses. As a consequence of this practice work is cut down, contracts are not let, plants are dismantled, and men are thrown out of employment. By the adoption of a reform securing continuity in expenditure by public departments, a great deal of distress would be avoided. I remind honorable members that the hardship thus imposed upon persons thrown out of employment is not confined to them, but is suffered also by the business communities in which they live. A district in which all the men and women are busily engaged is bound to be a prosperous district. It should be regarded as a duty by governments having large sums of money to expend to see that people are continued in employment, especially during the winter months.
I am one of those who take very strong exception to statements which have been publicly made by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning), who, I am glad to see, is present, and also by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham).
– Why does not the honorable member wait until he knows what I have to say?
– It would have been better if the honorable member had waited, and had carried out his duties according to the instructions given him, to report to the Government, instead of getting on the housetop and calling public attention to little defects in our export trade.
– Who gave me the instructions?
– I understand that the honorable member had to report to the Government.
– The honorable member’s understanding is weak.
– There is no reason why the honorable member should become excited. As soon as he arrived, after shaking hands with him and congratulating him upon his return, I told the honorable member that I intended to attack him, because of the way in which he had attacked Australian producers. I regard the honorable member as a traducer of the producer. It is not because I am on a different side in politics that I make this attack. The honorable member has already been attacked by men who feel that they have been seriously injured by his remarks, and those of the AttorneyGeneral. They have protested particularly against the remarks of the honorable member for Macquarie, because they were repeated at nearly every port of call in Australia. It is time that members of parliament took exception to the practice of men whose expenses are paid to visit the other side of the world, taking advantage of the first opportunity on their return to Australia to disclose to competitors of our producers in other parts of the world little defects in our export trade.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member has made an absolute misstatement. He has said that my fares were paid to and from the other side of the world. I ask that he be called upon to withdraw what is an absolute misstatement.
– I withdraw the statement that the honorable member’s fares were paid, but I still say that some of his expenses while he was abroad were paid by the Commonwealth. I do not speak on this subject without knowledge. For a number of years I was associated with the dairying industry in connexion with the export and local sale of dairy products, and I am aware of the efforts made from time to time to improve the products of the industry. Over twenty years ago I took part in meetings of dairymen held in this State for the purpose of bringing into operation the compulsory grading of cream. That is now the law in Victoria, and as a result the butter produced has been much improved in quality. For seven years or more I laboured amongst the dairymen of this State, New South Wales, and Tasmania, in efforts to bring about improvements in the industry. In connexion with the remarks which were made by the honorable member for Macquarie, I make the following quotations from the Launceston Daily Telegraph : -
So that buyers may be able to distinguish the choice article irrespective of the brand the national brand was introduced and covered by letters patent, and is now the property of the Commonwealth. This brand is placed only on butter which the Commonwealth’s officers have found to be of such quality as can be sold as a choice grade article in competition with other countries.
The foregoing remarks were made by Mr. H. E. Powell, managing director of the Tasmanian Produce and Cool Storage Co-opera tive Company, when interviewed by a representative of the Daily Telegraph of Launceston, with regard to the disparaging remarks dealing with Australian butter and fruit marketing methods made by Mr. J. G. Latham, Federal Attorney-General, and Mr. Manning, M.H.B., upon their return from the United Kingdom. Mr. Fowell said that, taking into consideration the reports furnished to the Dairy Produce Control Board, both directly and through the London agency, he was quite convinced that although Mr. Latham and Mr. Manning had intended to assist Australia by insisting that only choice-quality goods should he sold in London, they had been quite mistaken as to the methods of marketing employed. Both fruit and butter had to undergo a rigid inspection by Commonwealth officers when packed for export. This applied especially to butter. So that buyers might bo able to distinguish the choice article, irrespective of the brands, the national brand was introduced and covered by letters patent, and it was now the property of the Commonwealth.
I have before me the Primary Producers’ News, of New South Wales, a newspaper extensively circulated amongst dairymen in that State. This newspaper comments upon the remarks of the honorable member for Macquarie, and repeats the reply given by the Board of Control regarding the export of butter. I say unhesitatingly that the Board of Control, enjoying the advantage of reports from its London office, and from officers inspecting what is exported, is in a far better position than is the honorable member for Macquarie to comment upon our export trade. The Primary Producers’ News says -
Australia produces wool, butter, wheat, and fruit equal in quality to the world’s best, and recognized as such in overseas markets, but, as with other countries, a small proportion of inferior quality is exported.
I may say, by way of parenthesis, that I am 11uL one who would advocate the export of goods of any quality from Australia. 1 realize that we must send our best grade. In view of the large percentage of products of first quality that we send to the other side of the world, it is very unfortunate that any one should proclaim from the housetop that we send inferior products abroad. Such a statement .is very damaging to Australian producers -
It is somewhat remarkable and very regrettable that politicians and other Australians who travel abroad have based their reports upon the small quantity of inferior produce and have ignored the high standard of quality of the. larger proportion for which Australia has won a reputation in all parts of the world. In doing so, they plead patriotism and a laudable desire to protect the good name of Australia, but they overlook the damage inflicted by proclaiming our minor defects, and thus giving competitors ammunition to use to the great detriment of Australian producers. Mr. Manning, M.H.R., is one of these detractors. He has just returned from a trip abroad, and claims to have made “ a thorough investigation.” Surely in the course of his inquiries he must have heard something in praise of Australian produce, because it is passing strange that in the whole of his report he does not say one word of appreciation concerning the large percentage of superior-quality butter ex* ported to the United Kingdom. He also refrains from mentioning the fact that prior to his departure abroad effective measures had been taken to remedy the defects complained of by him.
I need not quote further from this article. It ill becomes us to cry “stinking fish” in regard to our own products. Let me quote the percentages of butter of first quality in the export from the different States of Australia -
On referring to the figures submitted to the Control Board at the last meeting in Sydney it was found, Mr. Fowell stated, that the quality of the butter shipped from the various States from the 1st July, 1926, to the 27th January, 1927, showed a satisfactory proportion of choice and first-grade butter as follows: - Tasmania, 92.1 per cent.; Victoria, 91.6 per cent.; New South Wales, 83.2 per cent.; South Australia, 82.7 per cent.; Queensland, 63.1 per cent.
– The average was 68. per cent, of first quality.
– People should be very careful about decrying our products when our exporters can supply such figures. Why is it that some second-class butter is exported? We could sell the whole of it to Australian confectioners and pastrycooks, but for the fact that 10,000 tons of margarine produced in Australia come into competition with it.
– Could our producers secure as good a price for second-class butter here as they can in England ?
– Owing to the competition of margarine second-class butter is scarcely saleable in Australia.
– Why make second class ?
– Butter cannot all be of the first quality.
– If the raw material is made as good as possible, the finished article is certain to reach a high standard. For several years farmers, factories, and exporters have co-operated to improve the standard of Australian butter and extend its sales overseas. During the last ten years more has been done to that . endthan ever before, and it ill becomes a public man to cry “ stinking fish “ of the products of his own country. Even if the butter were much worse that’ the honorable member for Macquarie said it was, he would have no right to make statements so damaging to our producers. I am defending the progressive and conscientious man who produces the best of which he is capable. I do not say that the honorable member’s leg has been pulled, but 1 am authoritatively informed that an Australian High Commissioner was so duped on one occasion that he sent to Australia a drastic report regarding certain exports from this country. Later his statements were refuted, and he had to apologize. If a High Commissioner can be so deceived, I do not wonder that a mere visitor should have been misled by a sample of butter shown to him in the United Kingdom. I have always protested against newspaper defamation of the products of Australia, and I think there is an even greater obligation upon public men to set a good example of loyalty to local industries. Mr. Smith, M.L.C., of Victoria, after his return from London last year, spoke scathingly of the marketing of Australian apples. Yesterday he met the fruit-growers at a combined meeting; and Mr. Bailey, who is regarded as one of the foremost authorities in this State on the growing and marketing of fruit, fairly “ wiped the floor “ with him. “What justification have Australian public men for defaming our products ? Would a man who called himself my friend proclaim my vices from the housetop? Would he not rather come to me privately and advise me as a brother and a comrade regarding my defects? That should be our attitude towards 011 I producers. Wo should endeavour privately to direct them as we think they should go. Denmark’s great export trade was built up, not by proclaiming to the world that bad dairy produce was being sent to Great Britain, but by internal organization and co-operation between producers and sellers. The result is that to-day Denmark is the foremost country of the world in the production of highclass butter, bacon, cheese, and eggs. Australia produces some of the finest butter, fruit, meat, and wheat, and I, as a good Australian, prefer to proclaim that the bulk of our produce is the best in the world to drawing attention to the small proportion that is defective. Already some of our public men who have travelled abroad have earned for themselves peculiar names, and, if we have many of these defamatory statements, the public will ask to be protected against pestilential peregrinating politicians. The journal from which I have just quoted says -
In marked contrast to the statements made by Mr. Manning are reports received by exporters from their London distributors. A Victorian company was informed that “‘your brands never stood higher in the estimation of buyers than they do to-day.” Another expert reported upon a consignment of Australian butter for Germany by describing it “Perfect; for all selling purposes the line could be graded anywhere from 05 to 100.” We stand higher in the estimation of English buyers than we ever did.
A considerable amount of propaganda will be required to counteract the injurious effects of the statements by the two parliamentarians I have mentioned. Do honorable members think that our competitors in the overseas markets will fail to use this material to our detriment? I shall not be surprised if the statements made by those gentlemen are printed in large type and circulated in the markets in which our products should be supreme. I shall quote only one more statement from the Primary Producers’ News, and that relates to the opinion of Mr. Nathan, who is largely interested in dairying in New Zealand and Australia -
Convincing evidence of the reputation of Australian butter comes from New Zealand. A leading producers’ journal in the dominion recently published an interview with Ma-. E. J. Nathan of the firm of Jos. Nathan and Company, and mayor of Palmerston North, who had returned from a visit to Australia.
I may explain that Palmerston North is second only to Taranaki among the dairying districts of New Zealand -
The writer said: - Mr. Nathan was enthusiastic concerning the improvement which he had noticed in the quality of Australian butter. He had no hesitation in saying that the best Australian butter was equally as good as the best in New Zealand. “ I can only attribute the improvement to the splendid system of inspection and instruction which the State Governments have instituted in Australia,” continued Mr. Nathan. In thiB respect he thought that Australian producers were more alive to and seemed more keenly interested in agricultural education and research.
The honorable member for Macquarie said that I should not condemn him until I had heard him. I have afforded him a fine opportunity to make a crushing reply, and I hope that I shall be pre-sent when he speaks. I assure him that all my guns have not been fired to-day. As a loyal son of Australia, I shall barrack always for Australian goods, primary or secondary. I shall do my level best to ensure that only the best is sent from this country. But I hope that never again will a public man be so cruel as to speak as the honorable member for Macquarie did of an industry which, after having spent hundreds of thousands of pounds in organizing an export trade, is still in a critical condition. All the help of which I am capable will be given to our producers. Public men should be extremely careful in the statements they make after their return from trips abroad. Three of them have done to the primary producers a great dis-service. I hope their example will not be copied, but that all loyal Australians will cooperate with the Minister for Markets and Migration in endeavouring to raise the standard of export produce so that it may rank second to none in the markets of the world.
– About twelve months ago the Tariff Board was directed by the Minister for Trade and Customs to investigate and report upon the tobacco-growing industry. The inquiry was completed in July, 1925. The board heard the evidence of the growers in northern New South “Wales and Victoria, and finally took evidence in Melbourne from representatives of the British- Australasian Tobacco Company. Its report should have been available before the House adjourned in August last. Doubtless, the death of Mr. Hudson, the chairman, interrupted the board’3 work, but the inquiry into the tobacco industry had been practically completed a considerable time before that sad occurrence. In any case, there remained ft period of five or six months after the appointment of the new chairman in which the board could have completed its report. But, apparently, that docu ment is not to be presented to Parliament this session, and we shall have no opportunity to consider it until towards the end of this year. The tobacco industry, like many others in Australia, needs protection. Those who control the industry have a tendency to underrate the importance of tobacco culture in this country. Certainly, the industry is not yet very great, but, with encouragement, Australian growers could produce the whole of the tobacco smoked in the Commonwealth. In the last five years an average of 12,000,000 lbs, of tobacco leaf has been imported into Australia annually, 90 per cent, of which came from the United States of America. The average duty collected annually on that tobacco was £3,000,000. The average quantity of tobacco manufactured in Australia for each of the last four years has been 12,000,000 lbs., the excise duty on which each year was £1,400,000. It will be seen that the industry yields to the Commonwealth Treasury each year about £4,400,000. Few Australian industries can boast a similar record. The tobacco-growers of America have a monopoly of the supply of leaf to Australia, largely through the instrumentality of the Tobacco Trust, which, for the last twenty years, has had its heel on Australian manufacture. Good results may accrue even from a monopoly, and it can be admitted to the credit of the Tobacco Trust that it has made the manufacture of tobacco for our own people a wholly Australian industry. A duty of 5s. 4d. a lb. is collected on foreign tobacco leaf imported in the raw state. At one time most of the tobacco consumed in Australia was imported in the manufactured state; but to-day about 90 per cent, of the tobacco smoked in this country is manufactured locally, and a large industry is controlled by the British- Australian Tobacco Company, which is an offshoot of the American Trust. Although control by a combine possesses advantages in the concentration of effort, and the elimination of waste and competition, there are certain disadvantages in this policy, and one is that some of the producers are penalized. I conducted the case for the tobacco-growers before the Tariff Board, and I was bitterly disappointed by that body’s incapacity to deal with a primary industry. It is essentially a manufacturers’ board. I have always been a pro- tectionist, and I recognize that a Tariff Board is essential to a protective policy. But the present board needs reconstituting if effective protection is to be given to primary industries. We have one representative on the board, but he is dominated by the representatives of the manufacturing interests. I do not say that the members of the board do not do their best to try to understand the primary industries, but their mentality is incapable of comprehending the nature of the difficulties of primary producers. What do we find? When the Tariff Board conducts an inquiry into the tobacco industry, the representatives of the great tobacco trust follow it all over Australia. Wherever an inquiry is held we find a battalion of presidents, expresidents, and directors of this company sitting in solemn array, resembling the Venetian Council of Ten, met to decide the fate of some proscribed wretch. The growers attend before the board almost in a condition of nervous prostration, as an employee might approach a tribunal to ask for an increase in wages with his “ boss “ sitting close by to hear what he has to say about him. The representatives of the tobacco trust, with sphinxlike countenances, attend the board to hear what the growers have to say. The tobacco-growers have one boss - the British Australasian Tobacco Company. This practice has a demoralizing effect upon the growers, who are typical primary producers. It is exceedingly difficult for them to explain their case before these high-and-mighty gentlemen sitting in judgment upon them. The average farmer does not keep books, although he knows all about his industry and how much it costs; but when he goes before the board, and is questioned, very often impatiently, by men used to hearing the evidence of secretaries and accountants of large companies who supply it with properly-audited statements, his nerve fails, and the board assumes that he does not know his business.
– Cannot the growers have a representative?
– No, unfortunately.
– If they combined, they could easily provide against that.
– They are not allowed to have an advocate before the
Tariff Board. The witnesses have to state their own case. This greatly handicaps the tobacco-growers, who are certainly not used to doing that sort of thing. I myself appeared for the growers, and gave evidence before the board. I am quite sure that it had the opinion that the growers had a very poor case. The representatives of the British Australasian Tobacco Company afterwards gave evidence before the board, with no one present representing the growers to test the value of their evidence. They usually hand in carefully written statements, which are accepted as evidence by the board. These statements “put it all over” the growers. The Tobacco Company says that because it buys some Australian leaf the growers are really under a great obligation to it. First of all, the company libels the growers by saying that, so far, they have not been able to grow a tobacco leaf that can be smoked by our own people. Before the Tobacco Company was formed, as far back as 1904, a number of Australian companies were producing 100 per cent. Australian-made tobaccos, which were smoked by our own people mostly as plug tobacco. To-day, all those brands are things of the past. The Tobacco Company says that the Australian smoker uses only (he American leaf, that the Australian leaf is rank - which is another untruth - and that in the manufacture of tobacco it uses only 10 per cent, of Australian leaf. Before the trust was formed Australian tobacco companies were using in manufacture 20, 30, and 40 per cent., and, in some cases, 100 per cent, of Australian tobacco.
– There is no doubt that the trust has largely killed the Australian tobacco industry.
– Undoubtedly. This company is not a poor concern. It has been able to crush out all other buyers. The representatives of companies formed in Queensland used to visit northern New South Wales and offer the growers, say, 3s. a lb. for tobacco leaf. The representatives of the British Australian Tobacco Company would come along and offer 3s. 6d. a lb., but only for that year. The next year the other companies would not be buying, and the trust would give the growers only ls. 6d. or 2s. 3d. a lb. That is only one of the methods employed by the trust to kill private competition. I find from a newspaper extract that the profits of the company have been as follows : - 1921, £610,000;1922, £789,000; 1923, £792,000;1 924, £804,000; 1925, £805,000; 1926, £815,000. The company has paid a 12 per cent. ordinary dividend, and a 6 per cent. preference dividend in each of those years, and is certainly not suffering from financial strangulation. It maintains that it is paying much above the world’s parity for Australian tobacco. It says that the leaf grown here would fetch 6d. or 8d. a lb. in the London market; but we have the evidence of Mr. Temple Smith, the Victorian expert, that in 1920 Australian leaf sent to London was sold at from 1s. to1s. 9d. a lb. That, according to the British Australian Tobacco Company, is an impossibility. The Australian growers will produce good tobacco if they receive sufficient encouragement. They have their own American expert, who has stated that he has seen tobacco leaf here quite as good as the American leaf. The tobacco leaf is divided into several grades, and about 2s. 6d. a lb., is paid for what is called bright lemon-coloured leaf. The industry here is really in its infancy. In America growers have been producing tobacco since 1624, whereas in Australia it. has been grown only during the last 50 years. In addition, the American leaf is produced with negro labour, whereas in Australia only white labour is used. The Chinese have largely gone out of the Australian industry, which is now carried on by small farmers. These men have established throughout northern New South Wales a considerable number of tobacco flues which were obtained on the advice of the tobacco company, the representatives of which said that they wanted good flue-cured leaf. Yet the company pays only1s. 6d. or1s. 9d. a lb.
– For what sort of tobacco ?
– There are various classes of tobacco - dark mahogany, bright mahogany, and light lemoncoloured, the last-mentioned being best. The price paid for best quality averages 2s. 3d. ; for medium quality, 1s. 9d. ; and for other quality about1s. or1s. 3d. A few years ago1s. 3d. and 1s. 6d. a lb. was paid for inferior Chinese-grown tobacco. The average price of all qualities this year is1s. 9d. The company is offering 2s. 6d. for the highest quality, but pays about 2s. The lowest price is about 4d. for rank stuff.
– The honorable member mentioned three varieties. Are there three qualities in each variety?
– There are dark, medium dark, and light qualities only. There are also different classes of soil, and the quality of the tobacco depends a great deal upon the soil. The growers have expended a large amount of money on this enterprise, and although only two years have passed since the flues were erected, they now find that at present prices it is absolutely impossible for them to continue the industry. The company has an agreement with the growers to buy about 1,400 tons of fluecured leaf a year for three years. The growers are not able to supply this quantity. In three years they have produced only 2,770 tons of leaf, of which about 900 tons, or about 16 per cent. were flue-cured. Including flue-cured and air-dried leaf they were still about 2,600 tons, or roughly 50 per cent. short of the agreed quantity. The cost of a plant to grow flue-cured tobacco is estimated at £1,000. Allowing for interest, depreciation, bad leaf, crop failures, and other circumstances, the grower cannot average 10 per cent. on his money. Many growers have lost heavily on tobacco. Unless the company pays decent prices, and the Government gives some assistance, such as a bounty over a period of years, the industry will probably die. If it is a good thing to spend millions of pounds on other primary industries in bounties and other assistance, surely this industry, which is capable of developing enormously should also receive assistance. Only a few hundred growers are concerned ; but their numbers may develop into thousands. They have difficulties to contend with, but that is common toall primary producers. They are prepared to take the risk of continuing provided that they get a decent price for their tobacco. The policy of the company, no matter what the circumstances of the growers are, is to keep down the amount of Australian tobacco used in manufacture to 10 per cent., and to pay not more than from1s. 6d. to 2s. 6d. a lb. for it, The company buys probably 1,200 tons a year, and by cutting the price a few pence, is able to save thousands of pounds. I suggest that the growers should receive a bounty of 6d. a lb. for good leaf, say, for three years. This, on the present production, would cost about £20,000 annually. It is not a great sum considering that hundreds of thousands of pounds are given to other industries without hesitation. We must give the company some inducement to buy Australian leaf. It is no use arguing with it - we must go after it with a big stick. The only inducement is to make it worth the company’s while to buy our leaf. I therefore suggest that the excise duty should be reduced. That duty is 2s. 4d. on both Australian and manufactured leaf, which is distinctly unfair. The actual protection given to Australian tobacco is only 2s. a lb.; but in Great Britain it is 8s. 2d. a lb. A reduction in the excise duty of, say, 1s. 4d. a lb., and an increase of the tariff duty would give an effective protection. It would then pay the company to buy the Australian leaf. The company says it is assisting the growers to test the tobacco-growing possibilities of Australia. It has offered £50,000 as a grant if any Australian Government will contribute a like amount to experiment in tobaccogrowing anywhere in Australia. Three tons of American soil were brought to Australia to see if it would have any effect on the quality of the tobacco. If the company would use more Australian leaf by increasing the proportion used in manufacture to, say, 20 or 30 per cent., and pay a good price for best quality leaf, there would be some inducement for the growers to carry on. Much skill is required in curing tobacco. I ask the Minister, if we cannot get the Tariff Board’s report this session, not to let the matter stand over until the end of the year, because, by that time the industry if not assisted will no longer be alive. I suggest that he makes some agreement with the company. The company is favorable to a reduction of excise duty, contending that that would be a solution of the troubles of the growers; but it is not favorable to an increase of Customs duty. This shows that a reduction in excise duty is not the solution of the growers troubles.
The Government should give the industry a bounty of 6d. a lb on the best quality leaf, which would not cost more than £50,000 for a period of three years. In addition, it should reduce the excise duty by1s. a lb., and increase the import duty by a similar amount. That would obviate the necessity for the Government sacrificing any revenue. If the import duty were not increased, the amount of the reduction of the excise duty would be a loss of revenue, which I have estimated at £60,000 a year. That would mean that the Government would lose, including the bounty, from £80,000 to £90,000 a year. If the extra duty is imposed for a few years until the industry gets on its feet, the Government will not lose anything.
– Is my honorable friend advocating an increased Customs duty, a reduction in the excise duty, and also a bounty ?
– I am advocating a bounty in any case; it is a very necessary form of encouragement, and represents sure money, of which the grower has none at present. It will not induce the company to buy, but may induce it to pay less than it pays now. As an inducement to the company, I advocate an increase in the import duty, and a reduction of the excise duty. There is no reason why a present of £100,000 should be given to the British Australian Tobacco Trust. That concern is a gigantic monopoly, which is making nearly £1,000,000 net profit a year. It is not unreasonable to require that company to pay £.100,000 a year to encourage the growth of Australian tobacco. I know that their statement is that we cannot grow satisfactory tobacco, but the fact remains that there are hundreds of men in the industry who are producing tobacco which experts in this country say is quite good. Mr. Temple Smith, the Victorian Government’s expert, in evidence before the Tariff Board, said he was quite satisfied that the Australian grower could grow leaf as good as the American if he had sufficient encouragement. The proposal I am now putting forward is advocated by Mr. Temple Smith. The American experts disagree with that opinion; but it must be remembered that they are the servants of the trust, and that the trust is posing as the benefactor of the Australian grower and consumer. The taste of the smoker iu this country has been cultivated not by the smoker himself, but by the trust, which regulates the amount of Australian leaf in the tobacco it manufactures. The Australian smoker does not know whether that amount is large or small. The trust also says that the Australian grower cannot grow leaf of a quality that can be made into 100 per cent. Australian tobacco, but our experts say that the Australian grower can do that. The question must he decided -by some authority, which, I suggest, must be the Commonwealth Parliament. If the trust is the friend of the growers, it will comply with these conditions. It says that it will be only too happy to see leaf grown in Australia, so that it will be independent of American supplies. If this country were cut off from the rest of the world by war conditions, no tobacco, or an insufficient quantity of it, would be imported for local use. The company imports £3,000,000 worth a year, and that represents about 90 per cent, of our requirements. If this country had to face the tragedy of invasion, the solace of tobacco would probably be a great factor in the winning of the war. Under present conditions, we are chiefly dependent for tobacco on negro labour in the United States of America. Parliament has a chance of creating one of the finest white labour industries that can be established in Australia. The question for honorable members to consider is, Shall we give this down-and-out industry the same helping hand that we are ready to extend to most other industries, great and small.
– A few days ago I addressed a question to the Assistant Minister (Mr. Marr), which implied that inquiries were being conducted at Canberra into allegations of graft. To that question the Assistant Minister gave an evasive reply. I use the term “ evasive “ advisedly, because he merely denied the existence of graft, but did not deal with the question at issue. I wish to place on record the fact that I have received information from sources that I have no reason to regard as unreliable, implying that inquiries have recently been held at Canberra into irregularities on the part of at least one sub-departmental officer. Among the charges were allegations of irregularities, which, in my opinion, were approaching graft. Whether those charges were proven or disproven, I do not profess to know; but I have been advised that the officer was suspended, and subsequently dismissed. It would be in the better interests of the Commission and the Minister if they were frank in answering, and less adroit in evading, questions, whether there have been irregularities or not, there is no reason why, in the public interest, a frank answer should not be given to such a question as I asked. I should not like it to be believed that I ask questions on such serious matters without having some justification for so doing, or with a desire to attack unfairly the Federal Capital Commission.
Leaving that subject, I suggest that the Government should take steps to deal with the whole question of Canberra. We have heard complaints about the excessive cost of housing there. Complaints have been made not only by public servants, but also by others, about excessive housing costs, and about the unbusinesslike way in which contracts on .a large scale are let to certain builders. I have made inquiries, and have been reliably informed that the War Service Homes Commission, whose co-operation, advice, and assistance should have been sought, is building houses in the neighbourhood of the Federal Capital Territory - for instance, at Queanbeyan, Goulburn, and similar places - at considerably less cost than the houses erected by the Federal Capital Commission. These are matters that call for investigation by this Parliament. Honorable members, as well as public servants, will be invidiously affected by these excessive costs. I should also like to know what wi]l be done regarding the municipal and judicial control of the Territory. Will it be governed for all time by a system of ordinances ? Are we to live in Canberra and be governed by a dictatorship consisting of three commissioners who will control matters which should be in the hands of either an elected local authority or this Parliament ? Are we to have the anomaly of a judiciary appointed and operating under a system of ordinances passed by the Executive Council, but not authorized or approved by this Parliament? We are rushing into the new Capital area with problems of some consequence to the good government of the Capital and to the dignity of this Parlia- ment unsolved, and without any solution being presented by the Government. The Government has been recreant in its duty in not dealing with these and similar matters.
I direct the attention of the Treasurer to a complaint made on behalf of the Commonwealth taxation officers who waited on him on the 21st July last year, to obtain an assurance from him about their positions in the event of the Commonwealth evacuating certain fields of taxation. It was expected that such action by the Government would result in the retrenchment of the officers concerned. Surely the period from the 21st July last year to the 16th March this year was sufficient to enable the Treasurer to make a pronouncement, of policy on the question submitted to him, so as to relieve the anxieties of the officers likely to be affected. A fortnight ago the matter was brought under the notice of the Treasurer by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks), but still no information has been given to the officers. I submit that the Government has been most unfair. The officers have no security of tenure or guarantee cf adequate compensation in the event of certain fields of taxation being evacuated, mid they have waited for nearly a year to obtain the necessary information.
Grave concern is being caused in the Public Service of the Commonwealth at the present time by a matter which I should consider, if I were a public servant and a member of any union in the Service, would warrant a strong protest against the arrogant action of the Government. The conduct of the Government in this matter, if it was applied in an outside industry, would result in a strike that could be justified in every way. I refer to the Government’s interference with the award of the Public Service Arbitrator, who, in the exercise cf the authority with which this Government vested him, has plenary power to determine all industrial matters in the Public Service, providing that he does so with equity and good conscience. Fie has an authority, to which I see no limitations in the act. to regulate wages and conditions of employment. Some time ago the Arbitrator, after an inquiry at which the Public Service Board was represented, increased the maximum salary in respect of which child endowment should be paid to £600 per annum. The decision was accepted by the Public Service Board and endorsed by the Executive Council, and I am informed that child endowment was paid to the officers concerned. But, in spite of that, the Government has introduced a motion in another place to disallow the award. What is the motive behind its action?
– It is a government which has always urged its employees to stand by the principle of arbitration.
– It appointed the Public Service Arbitrator for the specific purpose of impartially determining -
All matters submitted to him relating to salaries, wages, rates of pay, or terms or conditions of service or employment of officers and employees of the Public Service.
I should like to know why the Government introduced this motion? So far as I can see, it has neither moral. nor legal justification for it. At any rate, no adequate justification was given when the motion was introduced. Sub-section 4 of section 22 of the Arbitration Public Service Act, which deals with this matter, reads -
If, before the determination is laid before the Parliament, the Attorney-General advises the Prime Minister that, in his opinion, the determination is not in accord with any law or regulation of the Commonwealth referred to in his opinion, the Prime Minister shall cause the opinion to be laid, together with the determination, before both Houses of Parliament.
If, in the case of a determination accompanied by such a statement of the Arbitrator, or opinion of the Attorney-General, as is above referred to, either House of the Parliament, within 30 days after the determination with the statement or opinion has been laid before both Houses, passes a resolution disapproving the determination, the determination shall not come into operation.
As no reasons or legal opinions have been given why the award should not be continued, the Government has been guilty of a remarkable departure from accepted procedure. I cannot remember one other case in which a Commonwealth government has taken steps to disallow an award of this or a similar authority. In any event, I submit that the matter should have been introduced in this chamber, and not in the other place, for this is the representative House. I trust that the Government will definitely indicate its policy in respect c-f these matters, for it is always advising Australian unionists to honour arbitration awards and to bend their knee so to speak, before the god of law and order, though it does not set them an example in so doing. A grave principle is at stake here, for the Public Service Arbitrator is practically a judicial authority. The Public Service is not permitted to state its case before the ordinary arbitration court, but has been given this special means of advancing its claims and getting redress for its wrongs. When the measure to which I have referred was before Parliament, it was quite definitely stated that the Arbitrator’s decision should be final. On this point section 13 reads -
In relation to every claim or application made to him in pursuance of this act, the Arbitrator i shall act according to equity, good conscience, and the substantial merits of the case, without regard to technicalities or legal forms, and shall not be bound by any rules ot evidence, but may inform his mind on any matter in such manner as he thinks tit.
Section 20 provides that the determinations shall not be appealed against: -
No determination of the Arbitrator made under this act shall be challenged, appealed against, reviewed, quashed, or called in question, or be subject to prohibition or mandamus, in any court on any account whatever.
In spite of these legislative provisions, the Government, without submitting any reasons whatever, is asking another place to nullify an award. In giving his decision in the child endowment case, the Public Service Arbitrator took into account many considerations. He knew that child endowment is an integral part of the wage fixation system of the Commonwealth Public Service, and is an essential factor in fixing Public Service salaries. It was a consideration in the last two basic wage declarations of the Arbitrator. The Commonwealth Service basic wage is now £204 per annum, plus child endowment. If child endowment were not paid it would be £215 per annum. The raising of the maximum amount of child endowment eligibility from £500 to £600 was expressly due to considerations of salary relativity. Officers in receipt of salaries exceeding £500 were actually financially prejudiced by the bar at £500. The proposed Commonwealth national child endowment scheme could have no relation to the Public Service scheme, as the cost of the former will be met, in part at least, by the Commonwealth Government, while the cost of the latter is paid wholly by the officers themselves. Under the Com- monwealth Public Service scheme *he single man as well as the married maw has to contribute towards the endowment fund. Public servants could not be brought under the national scheme without a vital alteration in the system of wage fixation for the service, which would inevitably lead to -an increase in salary. On the other .hand, the payment of child endowment in the Public .Service in respect of salaries <up to £600 per annum, could not be used as a -valid argument for fixing such au amount in regard to outside industry. The two systems differ fundamentally, and have no direct relationship. I could discuss this matter with further arguments against the Government’s action for another half-hour, tout I shall content myself with making this strong protest against the action «of the Government in interfering with the administration of the Public Service Arbitrator. Public servants could submit many reasons to support their claim that the present Public .Service basic wage standard is not based upon outside conditions ; and if the child endowment dietermination of the Public Service Arbitrator is not allowed, it simply meatus that the wage of the Service has (been reduced.
I wish briefly bo refer to the serious delays which have occurred in a number of inquiries that the Tariff Board has in hand. Earlier this afternoon I asked certain questions of the Minister for Trade and Customs in respect of the manufacture of batteries. I wish again to refer to that matter. An application was made to the Tariff Board seven months ago to investigate this industry, but it has not yet done so. More recently a deputation from the Chamber of Manufactures waited upon -the Minister for Trade and Customs in Sydney, and complained that the congestion in the business .of the Tariff Board had resulted in serious delay in hearing their claims. I should like to know what the Minister has to say on the matter. The position of the battery manufacturing firms ia Australia is serious. In the last two years six firms have begun operations in this industry., in order that they might supply at least a portion of the £250,000 worth of batteries used annually in Australia. When these firms commenced operations the retail price of imported batteries “was £11 10s., but the Australian firms were at. once able to retail similar batteries for £8 10s. Scandalous methods were then employed by these foreign exploiters to strangLe the Australian trade, and the price of the imported batteries dropped tcn £6 5s. and £5 5s. for different types of batteries. The lowest price at which the Australian manufacturers can profitably market batteries is £6 15s., and their capital as well as the livelihood of many hundreds of their employees depend upon them being given such protection as will’ enable them to carry on their business. If something is not done quickly to. assist them they will become bankrupt. When imported batteries were being sold here for £11 10s. each a discount of 25 per cent, was- allowed to garages, and 33 per cent, to service stations- handling specific brands of batteries ; but since the price has been reduced to £6 5s. and £5 5s’., the discount allowed to garages and service stations has’ been increased to 40 per cent. A duty of 27^ per cent, has be paid on British,, and 40 per cent, ©n foreign batteries, as well as the usual freight charges. In the light of these figures it would appear that importers are landing these, batteries at approximately £2!. If it is not dumping I should like to know what it is. If the Parliament is not to have a fair opportunity to discuss fiscal matters, the time has arrived when the Minister should be given con.siderable executive power to shake off these thieves. I can call them nothing less than thieves, because their business methods, are positively immoral.
– The carbide industry f urnished a similar case.
– I am glad to hear the- honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) supporting my argument. I protest against the manner in which Parliament is abruptly closed, and I regard with perturbation the gradual sending to I he wall of dozens of our industries. I am concerned about the matter, not only because the interests of Australian industrial development are at stake, but also because I desire to see increased absorption of labour.
A paragraph appeared in the Melbourne Age this morning concerning the manufacture of artificial flowers. Until I had visited the factories in which these goods are made I was inclined to ridicule the value of such an industry; but I found that young girls were employed there under union conditions in a clean, healthy, and artistic environment. This industry is going to the wall because of dumping. According to the Age the value of the importations of artificial flowers for 1926-27 will be about £200,000, or about double the imports for the previous year. This shows that the tariff, owing to the dislocation of exchanges abroad, and the organization of great cartels, trusts, and rings to exploit overseas markets, is inadequate, and the Government will have to take other steps, even to the extent of introducing embargoes, if certain industries are to survive. Business men who gamble on the practical support of Parliament, take tremendous risks when- there are other avenues’ of investment in which their money is absolutely safe, and unless Parliament effectively protects our industries there will be a gradual diminution of capital invested in out manufacturing industries, with disastrous results to our development. Gilt-edged securities are available to capitalists, and they can invest their money in them without risk of loss. Numerous industries, with a great power to absorb labour,, are capable of being developed on sound economic lines, and those who embark upon them should be rewarded by adequate protection.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.1 - Honorable members are,. I think, aware of the fact that a grave injusticehas been done to the veterans of our military forces. After 25 years’ of continuous service, and in some cases as much as 48 years’ service, they have been turned off, literally paupers. That is very wrong, because they gave the whole of their effective lives to the service of their country. During, and just prior to the war, they rendered invaluable assistance in the training of that magnificent army which Australia sent overseas, which proved the finest fighting material in the world. The Permanent Military Forces Veterans’ Association of New South Wales has written to the members of both branches of (he Legislature setting forth the case of these men, and since no other honorable member has, so far, taken up the cudgels on their behalf I propose to present it.
– We are all most sympathetic.
– I believe that. It was originally intended to embrace within the scope of the superannuation scheme all soldiers retired from 1914 onward. But an alteration was made, and the scheme applies only to men retired since 1920. It is contended that if the change had not been made, a number of the veterans would have obtained superannuation benefits. The practice of giving a month’s pay for each year’s service was in voguein New South Wales prior to federation; but if the Commonwealth Government could not recognize that payment as something to which the men were legally entitled, at all events it should have regarded them as having a moral right to it. When a deputation from the New South Wales Military Forces Veterans Association presented a petition to the Minister for Defence (Sir NevilleHowse), he said that they had done magnificent war work, and that without their services efficiency at the front could not have been maintained. That was a very significant statement, coming from such a high authority. I know well that the old sergeants and corporals and the other men who were responsible for the training of the troops that went to the front had a life of monotonous drudgery. Many appeals have been made on behalf of those who served at the front; but, in my opinion, the veterans to whom I refer arc as much, if not more entitled to consideration. While the young men who served abroad experienced hardships and dangers, they also had periods of recreation, and very goodones in cities such as Cairo, Paris, and London. I am not speaking disparagingly of them; I am merely comparing their life of excitement with the monotonous service of the veterans. The soldiers at the front were stimulated by the spirit of adventure, and they took the rough times with the smooth; but the old men on whose behalf I am pleading had the rough all the time. For them there was no relief.
-What difficulty stands in the way of assisting them?
– The trouble is that a number of them received the benefit of the regulation providing for a month’s pay for each year’s service, and were provided for under the retrenchment act of 1922, but certain others did not. The regulation provided that a month’s pay should be given for each year’s service unless the applicant was near the age of retirement, and the superannuation provisions applied. I do not know why the Government has refrained from taking action in their interests. I understand that, in New South Wales, only 25 of them are left. There were 28 when they presented their petition; but several have since died. Their grievance is not an imaginary one, having regard to the fact that merely through the incidence of dates they are prevented from participating in advantages enjoyed by their comrades. The petition presented by them on the 30th April, 1925, was couched in most moderate language. It read as follows : -
To Major-General Sir Neville Howse, V.C., Minister of State for Defence, Commonwealth of Australia.
From the Permanent Military Forces Veterans’ Association of New South Wales.
We, the undersigned, do respectfully and earnestly submit this our petition to you as Minister of State for Defence.
We ask that you will place before the Federal Government our claim now made that either compensation at the rate of one month’s pay for each year’s service, or a pension under the Superannuation Bill of not less than £2 per week, be granted us.
We submit this claim as old soldiers who have faithfully served their Majesties Queen Victoria, King Edward, and King George, in the Permanent Military Forces of Australia, both in peace and in war, for periods up to 48 continuous years, including the period of the Great War.
We have thus given the whole of our lives to the service of our country, and we do not feel that we are asking more than what is justly due to us, according to British standards, in appealing for protection against destitution and want in our declining years.
We feel that it was the intention of Parliament, when granting compensation on retrenchment of one month’s pay for each year’s service, and later, when passing the Superannuation Act, that we, as old soldiers of long service, would benefit by one of these measures; but such has not been the case, because, owing to the incidence of dates fixed, we are not eligible. We ask, therefore, that such action be taken, legislative or otherwise, as may be necessary to bring us within the scope of the measures mentioned.
We submit that all members of the Permanent Military Forces of New South Wales served under the full belief that, upon retirement, they would receive one month’s pay for each year’s service, and that when federation took place this would continue. That there seemed no reason for any doubt was borne out by the application of this provision in the cases of officers and others who were retired from the Permanent Military forces of New South Wales prior to and shortly after the advent of federation, and they were paid a sum of money equivalent to one month’s pay for each year of service.
We do not wish to include further detail matter in this petition, but rather to place before you the broad principles upon which we act, and in so doing trust that our claim will receive that measure of consideration which long and faithful service entitles us to expect.
That petition was signed by 28 members of .the Old Veterans’ Association, and the rank and length of service of each is set out.
– Are there only 28 of these veterans?
– There are only about 25 left now in New South Wales. There would probably be some in the other States, but they would not number very many altogether. The secretary of the association wrote letters to each member of this Parliament in connexion with the claims of the association, and sympathetic and favorable replies were received from Senators Pearce, Newlands, Crawford, Glasgow, and Grant, and Messrs. Hughes, Charlton, Bowden, Gregory, Lazzarini, Marr, Groom, R.’ Green, West, Watt, Francis, Ley, Parsons, Mackay, Coleman, Maloney, A. Green, Matthews, and Page. This shows that there is a great deal of sympathy for the claims of these veterans in both Houses of this Parliament. Surely those who sent favorable replies to the secretary of the association were sincere in doing so, and did not intend to fool these old men. It is the duty of the Government to do something in this matter. These men gave the best of their lives to the service of the country, and the least we can do is to show that we are grateful for the services they have rendered. I shall leave the matter at that in the hope that the Cabinet will give it consideration. In view of the sympathy with the claim which members of this Parliament have shown, I do not know what result might follow if other steps had to be taken to secure for these old men what is due to them.
There is one other subject to which I wish to refer briefly. It is one in regard to which I have not received sympathetic treatment from the Govern ment. The subject has occupied my attention for a good many years now, and although in connexion with it I have sought redress from various Commonwealth Governments, my every application has failed. I failed to secure the appointment of a select committee to make inquiries into the subject, which, as honorable member^ are probably aware, is the removal of the Quarantine Station from Manly. I do not expect the Government to tell me that the Quarantine Station will be removed straight away, but I do look for some little sympathy in my endeavours to have the matter inquired into. I have in my constituency the magnificent summer resort of Manly. I think it is the most popular summer resort in the whole of Australia. The Quarantine Station, situated practically in the midst of a populous place like Manly, is an absolute danger to the whole community. Tourists and pleasure seekers from all parts of Australia visit Manly in the summer season. Thousands of them crowd its beaches. The Quarantine Station has a ridiculous .area of something like 640 acres, when half that area would be ample for the purposes of both the Health and Military Departments. The Government insists upon continuing to occupy this immense area. I have positive knowledge th.at when there were small-pox cases in the Quarantine Station, contacts climbed the fence and took part in dances in Manly. That indicates the danger to the whole of the people of Australia in having the Quarantine Station at North Head, because, as I have said, visitors come to Manly from practically every part of every State, and if an epidemic occurred at Manly it would probably spread throughout the country. Of course, I am always met with the question, “ Can you suggest another suitable site for the’ Quarantine Station? :’ I admit that at present I am not prepared to suggest another suitable and accessible site; but surely some ‘ arrangement might be made to remove the existing menace. There is no quarantine station in London. Would it not be possible to have a quarantine ship 1 The Government might show a little willingness to comply with my request. I understand that the matter comes within the purview of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten). .
– No, the Department of Public Health.
– When it comes to a question of public health we have Dr. Cumpston to deal with, and he is against everything.
– The honorable gentleman should bring forward an alternative site.
– Some alternative sites have been suggested that do not meet with my approval.
– We do not want the quarantine station at Balmain.
– I do not think there is a suitable site there. I think perhaps a good site might be found at Coogee. I ask the Government to send to Manly two responsible officers, one from the Department of Health, andanother from the Defence Department. They could give notice to the Mayor, and other important people at Manly, to be ready to meet them with all the evidence they can bring forward in order that the matter may be discussed and some solution of the difficulty arrived at. I take it that the quarantine station will not be permitted to remain for ever in close proximity to Manly, a place which is rapidly growing. We shall shortly have a crowded area right up to the very boundary fence of the quarantine station. The officers of the Defence Department say that if big guns were placed there all the windows in the neighbourhood would be broken when they were firing, and it is therefore necessary to prevent houses being built in the immediate neighbourhood. There are big guns at South. Head, and although there have been instances in which the firing of those guns has resulted in the breaking of windows, I do not think that the objection urged in this connexion is a valid reason for retaining the whole area of 640 acres for a quarantine station. I know that it is of no use to endeavour to persuade Dr. Cumpston. If he has the say, and apparently he has had it up to the present, no reasonable steps will be taken to meet the request I have been making for years. I ask the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), to take a note of this matter and see whether it is not possible for the Government to treat my request in a sympathetic manner. I continually receive the reply that nothing; can be done, and no endeavour is made to discover whether an alternative site for the quarantine station can not be found. I submitted a motion in the last Parliament for a select committee to inquire into this matter, but the Government opposed it. I tell the Government that loyalty can be stretched too far, and remind it that recently we had a good many defections from the party on this side. A few more defections such as those witnessed in dealing with the per capita payments might bring about a serious situation.
Mr.Fenton. - We gave the honorable gentleman support for a select committee.
– I think that there was only one other member who, I believe, was a Labour man, who voted with me for the motion. The rest of theHouse voted against it. I was very much hurt by the way in which my motion wasreceived, and my grievance has rankled ever since. I again ask the: Government to send a couple of officers to confer with the people of Manly and see whether any reasonable suggestion can be made for a solution of the difficulty.
– I should like to say a word or two on the lines followed by other honorable members in this debate. I do so especially because the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) is present. It seems to me that there are some patent defects in the Customs Tariff’ Act which should be remedied. Attention has been called to a certain number of these, and I shall bring under notice one or two more without going into details as to the names of firms or manufacturers concerned. Addressing a public meeting not long since in Sydney, I called attention publicly to the question, and the Minister for Trade and Customs was good enough to advert to the same subject and to attempt to rebut my arguments. I assure the honorable gentleman that there were brought under my notice quite a number of industries, not large, but struggling and capable of reaching some dimensions, that have been practically forced to the wall because of price-cutting tactics from continental competitors. In some cases the chief competition is with goods imported from Germany. One case to which I shall now refer will, I think, be identified by the Minister, because it has been before the Tariff Board, the pressed steel manufacturing industry in Sydney. (Ellis industry has been so badly hit by competition that those ‘controlling it have been forced to consider seriously the closing of their work3. The plant and machinery are capable of producing four to five times the present output, . but the industry is so inadequately supported by the tariff, and its prices have been so .seriously undercut by imported commodities, that half the presses and the major portion of the machinery are idle, and only one fifth of the number of men for whom work could be found are now employed. Representations have been made to the Tariff Board, but action by the Government has been delayed, and the manufacturers have received no satisfaction. These delays are often fatal to industries. It is not a sufficient answer for the Minister to say that these are only small industries - suburban backyard industries employing only a few men. Every great industry has small beginnings; the small industries are often big industries in embryo; but those to which I refer are not small. They employ several hundreds of men, and might employ several thousands if they were given adequate protection, and had command of the home market.
– The honorable member will, of course, specify the industries to which he is referring.
– I have already mentioned one, but I naturally am reluctant to mention the names of firms and individuals, lest they should suffer an injury in consequence.
– Still the honorable member might mention the nature of the industries for which he is appealing.
– I have mentioned one, and in Sydney, in the presence of the Minister, I referred to the book manufacturing industry, which undoubtedly could expand greatly if properly protected against the Competition from the United States of America and Great Britain. I mentioned that certain educational books could be produced in Australia, hut for an ironical feature of the tariff, which operates against Australian industries instead of against the importer. The local printers would require to import from the United States of America certain master plates from which they could reproduce others for their own use, and would then be in a position to proceed with the setting up, printing and binding of books. But, because of the duty they are required to pay upon such plates, they are unable to compete against books .completed ‘in America and admitted free of duty. I ask that the duty on those plates be removed, or a duty imposed on the books printed and manufactured in America and imported into this country. No doubt the Minister will say that if the particulars of any case of hardship are brought under “his notice, he will make sympathetic inquiries, but I am concerned not so much with the individual cases as with the general tendency of tariff legislation. There are defects in the fiscal system which lead to fatal delays. If the Minister had power to take executive action in order to do justice to languishing industries, I would be content, because I believe him to be a sincere protectionist, who would see that the Australian manufacturer received justice. But under the present system every tariff matter has to be referred to the Tariff Board. The result is that twelve months or -two years elapse before any relief is afforded, and in the meantime some manufacturers go to the wall. The goodwill of the Minister is of very little value, if industries are being crushed out of existence, and Australian progress is being hampered. I invite the attention of the committee to a report published in the Sydney Morning Herald a few days ago of a speech by Mr. R. A. Marks, president of the Now South Wales Chamber of Manufactures, upon “the defective -working of the tariff enacted last year by this Parliament. Upon that tariff the Minister prides himself, not unjustly. I give him credit for having done his best; blame for the shortcomings .of the tariff must be placed in other quarters. Mr. Marks said -
Apparel -imports for the seven months ended 30th January, 1927, totalled £4.333.000, an increase for the seven months of £500;000. Textiles (not apparel) totalled £1S,500,000, an increase of £1.750,000. We imported textiles ‘ at the rate of £2,500,000 a month. Amongst apparels are such items as socks and stockings, nearly £5,000,000 worth of which we have imported in the three years ended 31st July, 1020. Trifling adjustments hi the 1025-26 .tariff of a 10 per cent, increase on socks and ‘stockings containing wool, and a 5 per cent, increase only on hose of silk or containing silk, have been of little value to the industry.
The Minister should note the statement that the trifling adjustments have been of little value to the industry -
No increase was granted on cotton hose. Every effort has been made to urge the Customs administration to refer the needs of this industry to the Tariff Board for consideration, but so far the matter does not appear on the latest list of ministerial references to the Tariff Board.
That appears to me like negligence on the part of the Minister -
Cheap, shoddy importations have retarded the expansions of this industry, and were the cause a few years back of forcing many mills in Australia to close down and others to reduce output with resultant unemployment.
That accurately expresses the tendency of the present tariff policy. If the Minister cannot keep an eye on the working of the tariff schedule, or if the existing legislative machinery prevents the expeditious handling of problems as they arise, of what use is the tariff? Surely when the Minister finds himself hampered by legislative obstacles, he should move heaven and earth to have them removed. Consider the serious economic position that is arising from the present unfavorable trade balance. The following figures illustrate how imports are beating exports : -
This huge excess of imports cannot continue without danger to Australian industry and credit. The position is economically and financially unsound, and must be rectified. Some will say that it cannot be rectified if duties are increased only in such a way as to augment the Customs revenue without reduc- ing the volume of importations. I recognize the impossibility of imposing prohibitive duties before the country is able to produce its own requirements, but the settled policy of Australia for a long time has been high protection. Notwithstanding the misgivings of a small section, 98 per cent, of the Australian people are convinced that a high tariff policy will be eventually beneficial to all interests - primary producers as well q, secondary producers, country dwellers as well as city dwellers. That is certainly my own belief, and support for it can be found in the experience of many other countries. No doubt other opportunities will present themselves for dealing in greater detail with those industries that are languishing at the present time through the ineffectiveness of the tariff. I am convinced that they are many. The Minister may put the telescope to his blind eye when examining these matters. I do not say that he does, but I thought he was rather ready in Sydney to deny the existence of any defects in the present tariff. The fact is that it is faulty in many respects, and steps should be taken at once to make it more effective. If the Minister requires support to do that, surely he can rely upon the votes of many honorable members who claim to be good protectionists. I shall be one to assist him whenever occasion requires.
Although it has not been mentioned previously in this debate, migration is a matter of such importance that I thought the Prime Minister or some other responsible Minister of the Government would have dealt with it. Not long ago the Development and Migration Commission was appointed, and we were led to expect great things from it. It is evident, however, that the Prime Minister does not regard as complete the machinery he has established, for upon his return to Sydney a few weeks ago from his tour abroad heannounced that -
He had persuaded the Government of Britain to send here, not a political delegation, but three or four of the .best financial an l business brains of the country, who would confer with’ leaders of industry and Government officials here and see if some scheme of increasing our absorption could be evolved.
That was an extraordinary declaration, in view of the high hopes and expectations announced by the Prime Minister in regard to what could be accomplished in increasing the absorption powers of Australia when the Development and Migration Commission was appointed. Why, on top of the numerous commissions and other bodies that have already been appointed to deal with this subject, the Government should import the so-called best brains of Great Britain to further advise us as to what can be done to increase the absorption powers of our own country I cannot understand.
– It is another excuse for delay.
– Delay seems to be one of the chief characteristics of the present Government. The Prime Minister submitted to the country before the last general election what he was pleased to regard as a highly constructive, democratic, and radical policy, but so far the Government has not effectuated any part of it. I wonder if honorable members recollect the things which the right honorable gentleman said were essential to bc dealt with during the currency of this Parliament. I refer them to a manifesto that was broadcast in the newspapers and by post throughout Australia, and purported to be an epitome of the Government’s constructive policy. It was couched in the terms of a personal appeal by the Prime Minister, and was headed - “Reasons why you must vote Nationalist.”
Australian womanhood, because I will legislate to protect the mothers of our race through motherhood endowment.
Why has nothing been done by the Government? Surely this is a legitimate grievance for this Parliament? We are given to understand that the present session will end this week or next week, and that then there will be a prolonged recess. Therefore, what was regarded by the Prime Minister as an urgent problem during the elections, cannot be dealt with until late this year, and possibly will not be given effect until next year. The next reason is -
All real Australians, because I stand for the greatest measure of defence compatible with the man-power of the nation. Our defence must be in co-operation with the rest of the Empire, and particularly with the British Navy.
Yet, when the Prime Minister was in Canada he made a statement that, to me, was a direct contradiction of any idea of expansion in defence facilities in Australia. There will, I hope, be an opportunity later to deal more fully with defence matters. The third reason is -
Workers of Australia, because my Government is determined to provide for our people a standard of living, which gives to our workers and those dependent upon them, a reasonable measure of happiness and comfort.
What measures are suggested to carry out that exalted intention? So far, I have heard nothing suggested. Another reason is -
The primary producer, because my Government was the first in Australia to appoint a Minister for Markets.
What a wonderful appeal to the people of Australia! The appointment of a Minister for Markets is to solve all our agricultural problems !
– In any case, it was not the first appointment of a Minister for Markets.
– It was not the first appointment of a Minister whose administration covered marketing problems, although the present Minister for Markets and Migration may have been the first to hold that precise title. I hope that the Minister holding that portfolio will solve some of the problems that are undoubtedly awaiting solution. The next reason reads -
Home lovers, because I will pass legislation to utilize some of the savings of the people in the Commonwealth Bank to enable the people to build homes. And I am prepared to raise £20,000,000 in addition to ensure that every city and country dweller who desires to own his own home shall have the means to do so.
That is an extraordinary statement. The sentiment underlying it is all right, but what has been done by the Government to fulfil that promise? Almost eighteen months have elapsed since the election, and, with the exception of empty talk and nebulous statements in the press, nothing has been done to accomplish this worthy object. Another reason is -
The manufacturer, because the Bruce Government, by its tariff revision in the last session, has saved to Australia many local industries that were languishing.
The Government may have saved languishing industries, but those industries had reached that languishing condition not only under this Government that had been in office for more than two years before the passage of the Tariff Act, but also under the preceding Nationalist governments. The duty of the Government in saving languishing industries does not cease when it passes one Tariff Act. There must be a modern system of tariff revision that will enable the Minister to deal from month to month, if necessary, with a constantly changing situation, which more or less imperils Australian industries. Another reason reads -
Trades unionists, because I believe that our industries should be governed by a uniform working week for Australia. My concrete proposal is that the judges of the Federal and State Industrial Courts should be asked to report upon this; and that the State Premiers should be invited to legislate accordingly.
The idea ofa concrete proposal, apparently, is that certain problems are to be considered and referred to different authorities for investigation and, report, and if no- solution is reached in that way, then a royal commission is to be appointed to. deal with them. That seems to be. the general attitude of the present Government. Honorable members should protest vigorously against the dilatoriness of the Government in dealing with our urgent problems, many of which were referred to by the Prime Minister in his election appeal. Possibly his own party has a definite policy respecting them. Certainly this party has a definite policy, and’ we consider that Parliament should be given an opportunity to consider our most pressing requirements.What opportunity is given? Parliament is not sitting, except at brief intervals after long recesses. No attempt is made to deal with the real business of the country. The only tangible proposal brought forward has been the State Grants Bill providing for the discontinuance of per capita payments. That legislation will not effect any reform, but rather cause injury, and probably distress, to the States-. We listened to very interesting speeches by the Prime Minister on the Imperial Conference, and by the delegate who attended the Assembly of the League of Nations; but those matters have nothing to do with the real business of this Parliament. What opportunity will be given at the end of the year no one knows, and it probably will be very little, judging by the record of the Government. Apparently, Ministers will be able to so before the- electors eighteen months hence and make these resounding promises once again. I doubt whether the people will then be foolish enough to be satisfied with promises alone. I appeal to the Minister for Trade and Customs to consider carefully the tariff position. He should not adopt the effete methods of the past to bring about tariff reforms. The Tariff Board itself is largely responsible for our system of ineffective protection. I do not say that we can do without an expert investigation. The Minister cannot be expected to know the details of every industry. We must have some means of making an expert investigation, and of giving advice to the Minister ; but I certainly do not think that the Tariff Board or any other non-parliamentary institution should have the final decision as to the measure of tariff protection to. be given to any industry. Subject to Parliament, the Minister should have the final voice, and, if necessary, make recommendations, to this Parliament contrary to those of the board. Personally, I think that the Tariff Board has been responsible for undue, and sometimes fatal, delay in giving proper protection to industries.
– I wish to draw the attention of the committee to theFinke River Mission Station situated beyond Alice Springs. This mission has for many years - since about1870 - carried out a noble work in connexion with the uplifting and saving of our aborigines. It is at present controlled by the United Evangelical Lutheran Church of Australia, and is receiving a small subsidy from the Government. In its care, as a rule, are about 130 aged and infirm aborigines and young children, and for its custodianship it receives the paltry sum of £250 a year, which works out at less than £2 a head per annum. It has been calculated that the cost to maintain an old-age pensioner in a charitable institution is 10s. 6d. a week. On that basis the mission should receive an annual subsidy of £3,550 a year. It has to pay for all the foodstuffs sent to it, with the exception of meat, which is raised on the station. It has to pay enormous sums for. carriage to the railhead at Oodnadatta, and there is then a heavy charge for camel transport, amounting to £15 or £17 a ton. On the 25th March of last year representatives of the mis- sion approached me, and I introduced them as a deputation to the then Minister for Home and Territories, Senator Pearce. He was most sympathetic, -and granted some of the requests. The lease of the mission, for some extraordinary reason, was for seven years only, whereas that of other missions was for 21 years. That was altered by the Minister. The representatives of the mission also -asked for financial assistance to enable them to improve the stock and wells on the station, and the Government agreed to grant £500 for ten years, free of interest, on condition that they raised another £1,000. Senator Pearce also stated that at first glance the mission seemed not to be receiving sufficient assistance, but that it would be necessary to make a full investigation, and to obtain reports from the various missions respecting the conditions applying to them. He stated that if the other missions sent in reports as informative as the report of the Finke River Mission, there would be little delay in making the investigation. Unfortunately, their reports have not been received, and no investigation has yet been made. It is, indeed, unjust that this mission should be penalized because of the failure of other missions to send in correct reports. I submit that a grant of £250 to a mission station supporting over 130 helpless persons is of little assistance to it. Those in charge are not hard-headed individuals trying to drive a hard bargain for personal gain. Their whole heart is in the uplifting of the aborigines. They are helping us in this Parliament to do our duty towards the original inhabitants of this country, the remnants of a dying race. They have a great love for the work, and they are prepared to make, and have made, sacrifices. They want the Government to assist them to a small extent, so that they will be able to continue the good work they have been engaged in for many years. I cannot make this appeal to the Government in better words than those used in a letter I received recently from Pastor Riedel, of Sedan, South Australia, chairman of the Finke River mission -
Dear Mr. Parsons,
I enclose copy of a letter I am sending by same mail to the Hon. the Minister for Home and Territories. See whether you can do any thing in personally urging our claim. We are staggering along under a tremendous financial burden, and Uie Government expects to show splendid results in different directions (school, industries), and I believe they do not do half as much for our blacks as they do for the camp-blacks around Alice Springs.
YOU know the adage about the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. When I think of our dear old Finke Mission I sometimes feel -as if it only needs the last straw to break it down. If I were not so sure that it is God’s work, I would be inclined to despair. It would be a disgrace, nay,’ a crime, if the work came to grief ‘by the apathy of our Government.
Hoping that our common endeavours will :be crowned with success,
I remain, yours truly,
It is no’t suggested that the mission should receive the sum I have mentioned. It has made a .strenuous effort to clear itself of debt. Last year it received in free .gifts from the members of the church, in response to an appeal, a sum of money exceeding £1,500, and it also received £800 loaned free of interest; but, notwithstanding all efforts, it is going to the bad each year to the extent of from £900 to £1,000. Assistance is needed to cover the annual loss incurred in accepting obligations that would have to be discharged by the Commonwealth, at a cost of thousands of pounds, if the mission did not exist. The mission is not only looking after the bodily needs of the aborigines, but is also attending to their moral and spiritual welfare. All authorities recognize that no one can look after the aborigines better than a Christian mission imbued with a love of the work of uplifting humanity. I make an urgent appeal that the mission should not be asked to wait longer to be relieved of its financial burden. In addition to a grant, the Government could help by giving free carriage over the railways for all food supplies used -by the mission. That is the least we can do for it.
I have received from the secretary .of the Angaston District Hospital a letter about the Customs duty on Coolidge tubes, which are used in X-ray apparatus. It appears from the letter that when the tubes are imported into Australia a duty of 20 per cent, is paid on them ; but often before they are used; or immediately they are put into use, defects are discovered which makes it necessary for them to be sent away to be repaired. When they come here again they are classed as new tubes, and pay a second duty of 20 per cent. That appears to me like charging the duty twice; like smacking a mau on one side of the face, and then on the other, in an attempt, possibly, to compel him to carry out the Christian injunction to turn the other cheek. This double duty is charged on an article which is providing relief for human suffering, and is assisting in the saving of many lives. I can speak feelingly on this matter, because my wife recently underwent an X-ray examination for a serious illness. The Government should not collect the last penny possible from unfortunate persons who are ill. The late Judge Mitchell, in a case in which a man was prosecuted by a doctor for not paying the doctor’s fees, said it would be much cheaper to die than to consult that particular doctor. Similarly it may be cheaper for patients to die than to pay the high Customs duties now imposed on the necessaries of sick persons. This matter needs prompt investigation. No honorable members who believe in a protective tariff wish to increase the cost of relieving the sufferings of fellowAustralians. The department collects duty not only on the value of this article, but also on the inland carriage charged on it. Coolidge tubes cost a lot for carriage; they have lo be consigned in special packages, and on the ship are placed under lock and key in the purser’s room.
I have a complaint to make about the way in which the Federal Capital Commission calls for tenders for supplies of blankets, sheeting, bedding and the like. It is the practice to call for tenders for all supplies in one lot, and samples have to be submitted. That is unfair to the distant States, one of which I represent. In my electorate there is an efficient woollen mill operated by the South Australian Woollen Company, which manufactures goods second in quality to none in the world. That firm, however, does not manufacture bedding and ticking. South Australian suppliers cannot tender for these orders, because it is impossible for them to pay the high rate of freight on bedding and compete with manufacturers in Melbourne and Sydney. If tenders were called for one line of blankets, one of sheeting, and one of bedding, the more distant States would be able to tender, and the Government would, by inducing greater competition, obtain better goods at lower prices.
Naval cadets are sent home for their holidays at various periods of the year. Unlike school children they have to pay full railway fares to and from their homes. That is a very heavy draw on their pay, and I suggest that an arrangement might be made with the State Governments for the boys to return home, as school boys do when on holidays, on concession fares.
Although one has to be careful about treading on the tender corns of some of the States, and although we hear many complaints about interference with State rights, I must refer to a matter connected with soldier settlement. I have been through a large part of my electorate during the recess, and saw on virgin blocks returned men whose chances of making good were almost hopeless. They are being starved for the want of an advance of £200 or £300. They are placed on scrub blocks, and have to “ bullock in “ and clear the land. Failures occur, not because the men are not hard-working, and not because they are lacking in knowledge, but because of the small amount of capital made available for them. Their need for money compels them to sow a crop a year before it should be sown, and the consequence is that they often get into serious financial difficulties, their hearts are broken, and they leave their blocks. I suggest that, if the States are not ableto give the men more assistance, the Commonwealth should grant to the States sufficient money to place the men on their feet. They are certainly triers, and are opening up the outback. In the last three years the number of rural workers in South Australia has decreased by 600. That is a matter of grave concern to all persons who are interested in the future welfare of Australia.
T received recently a letter from the clerk of the district council of Paringa, which is on the opposite side of the river Murray from Renmark. That letter reads -
At a meeting of the above council, held on the 8th December, 1920, the following resolution was unanimously carried, and a respectful request that you be good enough to take necessary action: - “That the District Council of Paringa respectfully urge the Federal Government to take steps to bring the question of a Murray port within the scope of the Murray Waters Commission, with a view to the ulti- mate provision of facilities for the direct loading of river-borne freight on to the ocean-going boats, as part of the general locking scheme, at (he joint expense of the Riparian States and the Commonwealth.”
As we are locking the Murray at great expense, and making its waters available for irrigation and navigation, it is equivalent to “ spoiling the ship for a ha’p’oth o’ tar “ to allow the river to lose itself in the sand-bars at its mouth. There should be an outlet to the ocean. Everything brought down by the river steamers has to be transhipped and railed to a port. Provision should be made so that deep-sea boats could take direct from the river boats the produce loaded at the river ports. The river Murray and its tributaries are, without doubt, one of the greatest assets Australia has, and there are untold possibilities in their development. When the Empire Parliamentary Delegation and the delegates of the Empire Press Association travelled through the Murray river districts of South Australia they were immensely impressed with the wonderful possibilities; and it was pleasing to note the enthusiasm with which they reviewed those possibilities. Each went back to his country satisfied that we had a great asset, that we were producing the right goods, and that we needed only advertisement and cheap freights to enable us to compete satisfactorily in the markets of the world.
I have the request to make that the postal facilities in . Broadview, a growing outer suburb of Adelaide, should be improved. Recently I asked the Department to provide better postal facilities for the occupants of about 100 houses within 5 miles of the Adelaide General Post Office, who now have to walk 2 miles to the nearest post office to collect their letters. The department stated that it was unable to provide a daily postal delivery. I ask the Postmaster-General to look into this case again. If he should still find it impossible to grant the request that has been made, I hope that he will consider accepting the offer of a lady storekeeper who lives nearby to open an allowance post office. If this were done the people would have to go only 200 or 300 yards for their mail matter instead of two miles. Speaking generally, I have no complaint to make against cue administration of the PostmasterGeneral) and I always receive courteous treatment from the officers of the department when I approach them ‘ with requests from the people in my very large constituency. I admit gladly that a number of new continuous telephone exchanges have been opened - notably at Balhannah, Two Wells, Kooroonda Williamstown, and Wasleys - and that many new post offices have been established in the Mallee areas. The department does not always look at these requests merely from a pounds, shillings and pence standpoint, and that is as it should be. But unfortunately sometimes a deserving claim that is made for a particular locality is rejected. I trust that the Government will do its best to meet the wishes of the people at Broadview.
I have been requested by the Women’s Non-Party Association of South Australia, of which Miss Blanche Stephens is the secretary, to urge the Government, when it is appointing a woman delegate to attend the next Assembly of the League of Nations, to give consideration to the claims of Mrs. J. C. McDonnell, who has been nominated, not only by this association, but by a number of other women’s organizations in South Australia and in some of the other States. In advancing the claims of Mrs. McDonnell, Miss Stephens writes -
Hitherto this State had had no representation whatever, either man or woman, on a League of Nations delegation from Australia, though we would not wish this point stressed were it not that such a suitable South Australian woman (Mrs. J. C. McDonnell) is available this year, for above all Ave realize that the suitable person should be chosen; and therefore in the past we have supported the claims of women in New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania.
I am given to understand that Mrs. McDonnell is a most estimable lady, and thoroughly qualified to discharge the responsible duty for which she has been nominated. She is unknown to me personally, and is not a member of any political body with which I am associated. It would be wise, in my opinion, to appoint a representative from the various States in turn if a suitable one is available, instead of always appointing from one or other of the more populous States. Mrs. McDonnell has very high recommendations, and would, I am sure, worthily represent .the Commonwealth I trust that the Government will seriously consider her claim.
The last matter with which I wish to deal is the wine bounty. The old Jewish custom was to keep the bad wine until the last, but I have kept my best wine until the last. The wine industry is just as important to South Australia as the sugar industry is to Queensland, and I hope that honorable members who believe in protecting local industries will support my request for a continuation of this bounty. Disaster would overtake the (small growers engaged in the industry in South Australia if the bounty should be discontinued, though I am aware that a few of the big wine-makers -would be just as pleased to see it discontinued as to see it renewed.
– It is not nonsense, as I shall endeavour to prove to the honorable member. Some big wine-makers in South Australia do not export a single gallon of wine; they dispose of all their wine locally. The only result of the wine bounty to them has been that they have had to pay more for thengrapes and fortifying spirit than would otherwise have been the case. To the small grape-growers, however, the bounty has made all the difference between profit and loss. It has been a perfect godsend to them, and has actually kept them out of the insolvency court. The suggestion has been made that the amount of bounty payable should be reduced, but that would be a most serious step for the Government to take, and I feel sure that it will not embarrass the industry in this way. I was glad to have the assurance of the Minister on Tuesday afternoon that an announcement on the matter would be made before the end of the session. The most ridiculous proposition that has been made in connexion with this subject is that it would be less costly for Australia to buy out the vignerons than to pay the bounty. On a. conservative estimate, the amount of money invested in the industry in South Australia alone is £13,500,000. From 1918 to 1926 the Government collected from this industry the sum of £2,022,000 in excise duties on fortifying spirits. The amount of bounty that has been paid is £428,000. May I remind honorable members that this is the only industry which provides its own bounties, so that the payments should not be described aa bounties at all, but as refunds. Notwithstanding the reply that the Minister made to me last week, fortifying spirit of an excise value of ls. 6d. is contained in every gallon of our vineyard product* that goes overseas.
– The honorable member’s time !has expired.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) the unsatisfactory position in which the Cockatoo Dockyard was placed while he was abroad. As honorable members know;, the dockyard was taken over by the last Federal Labour Government from the New South Wales Government, and am amount of more than £1,000,000 was involved in the deal. Since this Government has been in power legislation has been passed under which the control .-of the dockyard has been given to a board. There is little need for me at this juncture to describe the valuable work that the dockyard was able to accomplish for the nation during the war years, when iN saved the general taxpayers hundreds ©C thousands of pounds by effecting repairs to troopships and in other ways.
– The Brisbane and Adelaide -were built there.
– That is so. Cruisers and destroyers have ‘been constructed, and other big national works done there, of which we have every right to be proud. The object of the Government in placing the dockyard under the control of a board was, so we were told, to make it pay. It was understood that the measure gave the management power to compete -with ordinary engineering firms for general engineering business. After the passage of the bill the municipality of Sydney invited tenders for the installation of a large electricity plant, and the dockyard management, in competition with outside engineering firms, secured the contract, which, in one item alone, involved a a expenditure of more than £500,000. When the private firms found that the contract had been secured by the dockyard they combined and tested the validity of the measure under which the board tendered. I am sorry to say that the court held that the management had no power to tender for anything other than marine engineering work and work connected with the Navy. Evidently the act has not achieved the objects of the Government. I do not blame the present Attorney-General for that, but I ask him whether it is not possible to introduce an amending measure which will give the board the power which we intended that it should have. The act provides that the board may tender for ship-building and marine engineering work; but it was held that the class of work that the Sydney City Council required did not come under that category. It would be regrettable to allow the expensive plant installed at Cockatoo Island to remain idle. As a result of the judgment hundreds of men engaged on engineering work there have been discharged. I hope the Attorney-General will see if it is possible to amend the act to enable the dockyard to compete with outside firms.
I have received a number of letters from returned soldiers who have lost both limbs. The public of New South Wales generously provided these men with cheap homes, and a complete settlement has. been established at Mattraville; but the conveyances made available are uselessto the men, who now ask that the Government should supply them with motor cars. That might be considered a ridiculous request; but, in view of the promises made tothe men before they left for the war, we cannot do too much for them. The, sight of some who have lost both legs is deplorable, and any comforts we can give them should be willingly supplied. If the necessary motor cars would not cost more than a paltry few thousand pounds, the application should not be refused. I hope that the Government will at least render some assistance in this direction.
I wish to direct the attention of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Flatten) to the serious disabilities of several industries established in my electorate. In the first place I desire to refer to large glass works which have produced crystal glass equal to the best imported goods. I have long advocated that men who are prepared to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on works of this nature should receive every encouragement from Parliament, and be adequately protected.T he position to-day is that cheap crystal glass is being imported from Belgium and other countries, and is sold at prices which have almost led to the destruction of the local industry. Some time ago the Minister promised that the Tariff Board would inquire into this matter. Unfortunately, however, too long a time elapses before effective action is taken. The board may be a very capable body of men, but it cannot cope with the great amount of work awaiting it. A second board should be created. One could deal with the manufacture of machinery, &c, while the other could inquire into questions regarding softgoods. Onlyby means of the tariff can our industries be placed on a sound footing, and if the work of the Tariff Board is not done expeditiously, the growth of our secondary industries will be retarded.
I have received complaints from persons engaged in the saw-milling trade about importers of timber competing with local mills. While reports are being obtained from the Tariff Board, Australian industries are suffering. 1 hope that the Minister will see what can be done to relieve the saw-millers.
When mention was made last session of the need to encourage the manufacture in Australia of artificial flowers, a general smile was occasioned ; but when a number of honorable members inspected the factory in Sydney that is engaged in this work, it was realized that the local product was better than the imported article. European manufacturers are now getting rid of their surplus stocks, and some of the Australian factories are suffering severely.
– Is it not because the fashions have changed, and ladies are now wearing felt hats without flowers ?
– I think not. These goods are in demand throughout the Commonwealth. Their manufacture is healthy work for young women; but hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of artificial flowers are imported into the country every year. Parliament should be prepared to assist the local industry.
– How many persons are employed in it?
– In one factory there were about 300 employees, and there is another in Sydney. The Minister for Trade and Customs having now returned to the chamber, I wish to inform him that I have drawn attention to the serious competition from abroad that the manufacturers of crystal glass and artificial flowers, and the sawmillers, have to meet.
– The subject of artificial flowers was dealt with only twelve months ago.
– But the market is being flooded with these goods from overseas, and the local factories are idle. I suggest that since the Tariff Board cannot cope with the work confronting it, another board should be appointed to assist it. It would pay the Government to do that, because our manufacturers are losing thousands of pounds weekly.
– When I split up the Tariff Board twelve or eighteen months ago, I received a rather stinging criticism from the Auditor-General. He said that I had paid too much in fees.
– Why take notice of that officer ? He is only a public servant. The Parliament has the deciding voice in the country’s affairs. If I received a stinging letter from him, I should promptly request him to mind his own business.
– He is appointed by the whole of the Parliament, and he represents it; but he is not above the Parliament.
– He is, of course, acting within the law in regard to his criticism.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to8p.m.
.- There are one or two matters in which I am rather keenly interested, which come within the scope of this discussion, and are of considerable public importance. The first I wish to refer to is the production of rice. On the Murrumbidgee irrigation area, which is within my electorate, there is now a considerable number of rice-growers, who are producing about one-half the quantity of rice consumed in Australia. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) very kindly consented to visit that area with me nearly a year ago. He then saw for himself the importance of the industry, and the need for protecting it. He realized, also, I think, as I do, its great possibilities. Within the Murrumbidgee irrigation area there is a great quantity of land unsuited for any other purpose than the production of rice.
The soil is too stiff and heavy for fruitgrowing, too wet for wheat-growing, and there is practically no other purpose, other than rice-growing, to which it could be put, but grazing in large areas. I need not say that rice production would lead to more closer settlement than grazing. Anything from 50 to 150 acres is a sufficient area for a rice-grower, whereas to get a decent living a grazier on that country would require from 1,500 to 2,000 acres. In view of the fact that there is so much rice produced on the area, and because it is admitted to be of superior quality to imported rice, it is surely unfair that the rice-growers are given no protection. The settled policy of the country is protection; but while the ricegrowers have to put up with its disadvantages they receive no benefit from it. Some time ago a duty of 3s. 6d. per cental was imposed upon imported rice, and I do not know why it was done away with. No reason can now be given why it should not be reimposed. The ricegrowing industry needs encouragement. I have no doubt that there would shortly be a considerable population established on the Murrumbidgee irrigation area if the duty on rice were reimposed. Primary producers cannot always be protected through the tariff, but if their protection is possible, they have as much right to it as any other producers in the country. The rice-growers are engaged in a struggling industry; they are now without protection, and I trust the Government will immediately reimpose the duty on rice.
The next matter I wish to refer to is the construction of the North-South railway. On a previous occasion in this House I opposed any expenditure for the first section of the line. I opposed the construction of the railway altogether, having seen the country through which it will go. I intend to continue my opposition to the expenditure of any money on the line, whenever I get the opportunity. I regret very much that the Government has decided to. spend nearly £2,000,000 on the first section of the North-South railway from Oodnadatta to Alice Springs. I believe that before the section is finished, if it is ever finished, it will be found to have cost probably £3,000,000. On my return from a tour through the Northern Territory, I explained to the House that I travelled along the proposed route of the North-
South line. I visited the Territory prepared to support the construction of the line, feeling sure that the quality of the country would justify me in doing so. I had to completely change my mind when I saw the country. At Oodnadatta there is poor, light carrying country, with an annual rainfall of about 4 J inches. For about 200 miles north of Oodnadatta the rainfall is about the same, but further north there is an increased rainfall, though not more than 7 inches at most, until one comes close to the Macdonnell Ranges, at Alice Springs, where the annual rainfall is from 10 to 11 inches. The fact that there is a fair rainfall there, and some middling to fair country, though none better than second class pastoral country, appears to some honorable members to justify the construction of the railway. I remind the committee that in this so-called Eldorado, there is but a comparatively small patch of second class country; nearly the whole of the rest of the country along the line between Oodnadatta to Alice Springs is very poor, light-carrying country. For the first half of the distance, the country would not carry more than three cattle to the square mile. It could not be profitably used for sheep because of the expense of the improvements that would be necessary to make it fit for that purpose, and it would not carry more than one sheep to 20 or 25 acres. The worst of the country along the line is very much worse than that which I have referred to. There are shifting sandhills, and worthless spinifex country. Country covered with one kind of spinifex is not worthless, but the country covered with the spinifex seen on the route of this line is practically worthless. There are barren hills, and nearly all the country is poor, though there are some small patches of good country to be met with. I contend that the quality of the country does not justify the construction of the railway, which will be an absolute waste of money. Further north than Alice Springs, the country on the route of the proposed railway is no better, on the average, than that which I have described, until one reaches the Barkly Tableland. The line touches the western end of the Barkly Tableland, but the greater part of that area of very much better country will not be served by the railway. On the first 700 miles travelled from Oodnadatta I saw not more than 50 miles of decent country, and nearly all of that was only second class country. We have had a railway constructed to Oodnadatta for the last 36 years, but it has not brought about settlement. I am informed that there were more people in the district before the railway was constructed to Oodnadatta than there are there now. In spite of this, the Government proposes to build an expensive railway through country that is no better than that traversed by the line to Oodnadatta.
– What is the Northern Territory Commission going to do with that country.
– Wc have appointed a Northern Territory Commission, one of whose members has had practical experience, and knows good from bad country, and I hope that the Government will call for a report from the commission before it proceeds to waste money on the construction of this railway. I am quite sure that if a commission or committee of practical men had been appointed to inquire into the quality of the country through which the railway would pass, it would never be constructed.
– Did the honorable member make east and west excursions from the proposed route of the north-south line?
– I did not. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) twitted me on that account when I referred to the subject before. He said I had seen the worst of the country, that if I had travelled east or west of the route, I would have found that the country was much better than that which I saw, and, generally, the honorable member tried to make out that I did not know what I was talking about.
– The honorable member for Wakefield never visited the country himself.
– The trouble is that men who do not know good country from bad have traversed the route of the railway. When they reached the districts iu which the rainfall is heavy, and saw the rank growth of grass, 8 feet to 10 feet high, they assumed that it was fine grazing country. They did not know that it is only when this grass is young and green that it is any good for stock, and that when it begins to get dry, it has to be burned off, as stock would die from eating it, because it is so sour and poor.
– Has the honorable member had a long- experience in the pastoral industry ?
– I may say that when I was a young man my father sent me up to develop 250,000. acres in the north-west of New South Wales, and 250 miles from the nearest railway. The area to which I was sent comprised country similar to the best country in the Northern Territory, but it had about double the rainfall. I spent seven years as a young man on that country to no purpose, because all the pioneers of that country failed. In the circumstances I do not know how it is: possible for people to succeed in the Northern Territory country to which. I have referred. There are a few people settled there, and I am very sorry for them. They- have pluck and endurance and the true pioneering spirit, or they would- never have gone there. I used to think that there was something of the pioneering spirit iu me, and I love the life; but, if I were again 25 years of age, I would not attempt pioneering in the district along the route of the line from Oodnadatta to. Alice Springs, because I know it would be a hopeless task. Tlie railway to Oodnadatta, as I have said, has brought about no settlement. The country through which it runs is field in immense, areas,, and. so far as I can learn, those who. are holding them are not doing any good. A man who has- made a success of pastoral settlement in other parts of Australia, learning that I had gone through the. Northern Territory, met me and offered to sell me a good run up there. I may say that I had not the slightest intention of acquiring: country., even, if I found it to be good country, when I visited the Territory. The object of my visit was: to see- whether the construction of this railway was justified. -The man to whom I have referred said to me, “I can. sell you 8,000 square miles of country on ilia route of Hie line between Oodnadatta and Alice Springs for £5,000. I told him that I was not a buyer. I did not. ask permission to mention this man’s name, but I believe that if I had done so he would have raised no objection,.
– Was his property in South Australia?
– I said that I had no thought, of buying any country, and he replied, “ I wish I had never seen it j. I have never made a penny out of it.” “When such a man cannot do any good with an immense area, what hope of success has a small settler ? Moreover, from a point 500 or 600 miles north of the border, the climate is not fit for white men.
– That is ridiculous!
– When I was there in June, the thermometer reading was regularly up to 100 in the shade, and the flies were swarming. We had to cover our faces with- gauze, and at meals a battle of wits raged between ourselves and the flies to decide who- should get the food. If those conditions obtained in winter, imagine what the climate would be like in summer. The country is so poor that at least 150>000 acres would be- required to provide a, family with a bare subsistence. Upon a “worthless tract of this character, millions of pounds of public money is’ to be wasted. The irony of the situation is that no. railway is proposed for the immense area of first class land! on-, the Barkly Tableland and! on the Victoria River. Oil the- Tableland,, there are 30,000,000 acres capable of supporting from 8,000,000 to 10,000,000 sheep-.
– -Did the honorable member see that country?
– Yes. I was particularly interested in it, because for some years I was a part-owner of a very similar piece of country in Queensland.
– How long was the honorable member in the Territory?
– My trip lasted’ about five weeks. The Barkly Tableland is covered with Mitchell, “blue, and Flinders grasses and’ is well worth improving for sheep. If a railway were constructed through that country, and it were- subdivided into blocks, of 20,000 acres’ near the railway, and 3.0,000. acres further out, selectors would rush- it. A few extracts I shall read from, evidence tendered to the- Public Works Committee will effectively dispose of the statements, made by the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson) and the honorable, member- for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) after I had spoken iia this- House last year about the country east and west of the north-south railway route. Allan
David Breaden, stockman, in charge of Lower Henbury Station, said -
I havebeen in thiscountry tor about 45 yours. I came up to stock the Finke country in 1875, and landed here in May, 1876. Unless the Macdonnells turn up trumps in minerals, I do not think a railway would be of much use, because it would not be used much bypastoralists. … I have been out to the end of the Rawlinson range, and over the Western Australian border, and there is nogood country there.
That country is to the west of the route. I said when I spoke on a previous occasion that ‘I had not been to the east or the west of the route, but that I believed that the country along the route was a fair average of that on either side. Evidently I. was wrong, because the country on either side is not so good as that along the route, so far as I can judge from the evidence given before the Public Works Committee. Mr. Breaden continued -
I have been about 40 miles this side of Tennant’s Creek, and to the Frew River, and to Hatch’s Creek, but that country is not much good for stock. It will certainly carry stock for some periods, but it is sour country, and for the large area of country available there is very little stock on it. . . . East and west of the proposed railway route there is a terrible lot of bad country, and north of Mr. Elliott’s block there are 30 miles of sand hills which are no good, although between the sand hills it is good stock country. … I am doubtful about getting water on the east side of the telegraph line. I know the country west of the telegraph line out as far as the Rawlinson ranges, about 80 to 100 miles across the Western Australian border, and I have seen only one good patch of country near thePietermann ranges, and there is no water available for stock. I have been to the east, about 80 or 90 miles, and, with the exception of the Macdonnell range country, what I have seen is all sand hills, with little patches of good country in between, but so small that a couple of hundred head of cattle would eat the flats outin a few days. If a railway were putthrough to the Macdonnells, men who know something about the business say there is a possibility of mineral development in the White ranges but, to tell the honest truth. I do not think the country warrants the construction of a railway to Alice Springs.
No doubt Mr. Breaden, like the others of the two or three hundred settlers along the route would like a railway to be built, but is this Parliament justified in incurring an expenditure estimated at from £12,000,000 to £14,000,000, but more likely to reach £20,000,000, to bridge the gap between Oodnadatta and the Katherine River when the area of good country is so small and the settlers so few ? Would even the possibility of discovering rich mines warrant the expenditure of a quarter of that amount? I come now to the evidence of Mr. E. Hays, of Maryvale station, which is situated 255 miles north of Oodnadatta. It is one of the best properties I saw on the route, and, if improved, would carry a sheep to five or six acres.That patch, however, is small, and, : after motoring forthree-quarters of an hour, we passed through it into poor country. Mr.Hays said -
We could not use the railway for trucking stock to market, because the freights are ‘too high.
– But the freightsare not known.
– The freights to Oodnadatta are known, and it is easy to calculate the additional charge Tor the extra distance. Mr. , E. R. Kempe, manager for Sir Sidney Kidman’s properties on the South Australian side of the border, and overseer of the Kidman properties in the Territory, although personally favouring the directnorthsouth route, said -
I do not think it would pay to send stock by rail to Darwin; the distance is too great. . . It is not our intention to truck any more cattle south from Oodnadatta until freights are reduced.
I think freights have since been increased. Mr. J. A. Breaden, pastoralist of Todmorton, South Australia, said -
At present freights there would be no hope of people sending cattle by rail from further north, although a railway would be useful in shifting cattle to better pastures in a drought year.
– How often will the trains run ?
– At present there is a fortnightly train from Maree to Oodnadatta, and a few extra stock trains. Mr. Breaden continued -
It would not pay us to send our cattle to the far-north in drought time. Getting them there and back would add to the cost so much that it would be better to let them die. Mr. Johannsen said -
The railway would mean a lot to us here in the way of comforts; it would enable us to go south and see our friends.
It would not pay to build a railway for that purpose. Mr.R. H. Harris, grazier, said -
We could not truck cattle from here unless freights were reduced.
Mr. L. P. Brown, hotelkeeper, of Alice Springs, said -
A railway, provided it pays, would be of considerable benefit, but I do not think one man in fifty would use it to truck cattle all the way; he would prefer to drove them down as far as possible.
I have read to honorable members some of the testimony of interested persons. They declare that the railway cannot be used to any extent for the moving of cattle. For what other purpose can it be used unless another Broken Hill or Mount Morgan is discovered? I do not think the Commonwealth should build a railway on the off-chance that such a discovery will be made.
– What does the honorable member suggest?
– There is an agreement with South Australia for the construction of this railway by the Commonwealth ; but no time limit is specified. In 30 or 40 years developments or discoveries may justify the undertaking of this work. If there is an obligation, moral or otherwise, to build a railway it would pay the Commonwealth to buy itself out of the agreement at a cost of £2,000,000 or £3,000,000. I suggest that this Government should consult with the South Australian Government with a view to having the agreement modified. What is most needed in the Territory is a good motor road. For portion of the distance the road is good enough, but expenditure is needed on the provision of bridges, culverts, and crossings. Many people in South Australia realize that this railway will be a white elephant, and it is, therefore, probable that the South Australian Government may agree to some modification of the agreement provided that a good motor road is constructed through that country. Such a proposal certainly would not cost onetenth of the money that this desert railway is costing.
.- While I have great respect for the honest opinion of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) yet I do not think that he is weighing fairly the pledge of honour that was given by Australia to the South Australian Government respecting the building of the North-South railway. We should be prepared to pay aheavy indemnity to that brave little
State - little in population but brave in its great enterprise - for taking over the Northern Territory when no other State would do it. We must honour our pledge. To talk of delaying the construction of the railway for ten, twenty or 40 years is nothing but a quibble. An honorable man pays his debts, and how much more should the honour of our country be to us than that of a private individual? Whenever the opportunity arises I shall vote to honour the contract made between Australia and the South Australian Government, unless, of course, that State agrees to a compromise.
– That is what I suggested.
– While I agree with almost every remark made by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) yet I do not quite agree that we should have a monthly interference with the tariff. I recognize that for the welfare of the community there should be a ready means of coming to Parliament for assistance if the need arises. Let me give one illustration. When the steel and iron industries of Australia were in the balance because of the attempt of the powerful steel trusts of Europe to flood our market with iron and steel products which would have meant the downfall of our steel works at Newcastle, on the last day of last session the Minister for Trade and Customs was empowered by Cabinet toput before honorable members proposals which I am glad to say this Parliament in its wisdom accepted, and for the time being blocked the ambitions of one of the most powerful trusts in the world. Whether our steel industry will continue without further help I know not. I agree with the honorable member for Dalley that there must be a ready means of coming to this House for tariff reforms, and, if in recess, Parliament should be called together immediately. The Minister is not an india-rubber stamp, and I hope that he will heed the timely warning given by the honorable member for Dalley that although the Tariff Board should be used for inquiry, advice, and report, the Minister must have the final decision. If I am a fair judge of human nature, I feel certain that the Minister, so long as he holds his present portfolio, will be the dominant factor in tariff questions. Compar- ing the Ministry to a bunch of grapes, I consider the Minister for Trade and Customs to be the best grape of the bunch.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) made a fine speech on the tobacco industry, but I should like to point out to him that tobacco growing and manufacture is very badly protected in this country. Having investigated some of the world’s tariff figures, I say emphatically that our tariff, improved as it has been of late years under the guidance of the present Minister, does not compare with that of either Japan or the United States of America. The duty on tobacco for the manufacture of cigars is 2s. 6d. a pound, and if stemmed 3s. a lb. The duty on manufactured tobacco is 5s. 4d. a lb. In Japan the duty is 355 per cent. Japan is a splendid example of how its workers and products can be sufficiently protected. In the United States of America the duty on cigars, cigarettes, and cheroots is 18s. a lb. plus 25 per cent. In the Philippines the duty is 19s. 9d. a lb. plus 25 per cent. In Australia the duty on cigarettes is lis. 6d. a lb. against the Home Land, and 12s. a lb. against other countries; and for cigars, lis. a lb. against the Home Land and 13s. a lb. against other countries. The excise on hand-made cigars is 2s. 8d. a lb., and on machine-made cigars 3s. 8d. a lb. The duty on the tobacco is 2s. 6d. a lb. in each case. That gives a protection to the Australian cigar maker of 5s. lOd. a lb. against the Home Land and 7s. lOd. a lb. against other countries. Take, for instance cigars at 6d. each f.o.b. European ports, costing £2 10s. for 1^ lb. The protection for Australian cigar makers would be 7s. 3d. a lb. against the Home Land and 9s. 3½d. a lb. against other countries. In Japan the protection would be actually £S 17s. fid. Japan is the only country in the world that has successfully fought the great tobacco combine. At one time Senator Findley and I visited that great country. We arrived there during the turmoil of the tobacco fight. The Japanese Government required money during the Russo-Japanese war, and it knew that the European money-lenders recognized the great value of the tobacco monopoly. It approached the American tobacco combine to purchase its monopoly. The combine turned aside the suggestion. Some months later a second offer was made. The representatives of the combine in Japan said, “ We do not care to sell. You know that competition is the life of trade.” Japan thereupon realized that she would have to engage in the trade. A duty of 20 per cent, was placed upon tobacco which entered that country. The combine laughed. The duty was raised to 50 per cent., and in the following year to 100 per cent. At the time that I interviewed the Under Secretary for Foreign Affairs in Tokio the duty was 250 per cent. A line of cigars that could be shipped at Hamburg for £10 a 1,000, free on board, cost, landed in Japan, an additional £25 plus landing charges and freight. The cost to the Japanese Government amounted to only £10 plus landing charges and freight. The combine approached the Japanese Government, to enter into arrangements to buy them out. The Government said: “No; we made you two fair offers, but you refused them, and told us that competition was the life of trade. We wish you to remain in Japan and compete with us.” I am not proud that a white race should go under to a race whose skin is perhaps not so white as mine, but never will my lips say one word against any human being because his skin is darker than mine. It is only chance of birth that has made my skin white; if God had wished me to be born elsewhere my skin might have been of a different colour. The power of that mighty trust is shown by the fact that in her hour of trouble France was offered £80,000,000 in gold for the monopoly in that country. Two and a half years later the offer was increased to £120,000,000.
On the last day of the last session of this Parliament the Government wisely brought down proposals for the protection of our iron and steel industry, and thus saved the great basic industry from unjust dumping by the European Steel Trust, which, unless restricted, would have destroyed our great steel works near Newcastle. The Australian worker in the cigar-making industry is protected to the extent of 7s. 3-Jd. on British cigars, and 9s. 3$d. on foreign cigars; and as compared with that the Japanese levy a duty of £8 17s. 6d. _ That is the way we ought to be assisting the great steel industry to fight the mighty power of the
European Steel Trust. When an industry is in jeopardy, there ought to be early recourse to Government assistance, and therefore there should .be machinery “by which that assistance is provided.
Although I have .no special regard for importers, I recognize that if a tariff is changed frequently business is injured and great inconvenience caused. I hope that on the lines suggested by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) w.e shall evolve ,a quick and decisive way of .dealing with such matters. If the House is not in session the Ministers could call together the leaders of the different parties and discuss with them the best way of meeting .any conditions that might have .arisen. Their action would have to be approved later by the Parliament. It would ‘be .possible to prevent an industry from being forced out of existence, by taking action to (preserve it .until Parliament could amend the tariff or in other ways give the necessary assistance.
I regret that great changes have .been made in the Commonwealth Bank. That bank is no longer an Australian bank for the Australian people, but nas become a banker’s bank. I fear me greatly, though 1 fervently hope I may be wrong, that the bringing to Australian of a banking expert from England will make the Commonwealth Bank still more a banker’s bank. It is the first really national bank in the world, and if it had been managed as the .great genius who engineered it and carried it to ‘success - the Hon. King O’Malley - desired, there would not have been huge State Savings Banks decorating our cities to-day; there would have been only one savings bank, and that the Commonwealth Bank. The States would have been treated fairly, even generously. Liberal terms were offered to them by Mr. Andrew Fisher. It was proposed to give them equal voting power with the Commonwealth in the management of the bank, and nothing could have been carried except by the unanimous vote of the six States. With the advent of the board of directors of the bank, the rate charged for overdrafts was raised higher than it had ever been before. The profits of the bank up to December, 1924, were £4,788,276, and in addition to that; the profits of the Note Issue Department were £4,705,274, making the total profits over .£9,000,000. I regret to say that the profits of the bank, which reached their largest amount of £846,943 in 1919, decreased to £402,327 in 1923. The following letter from the Secretary of the Bank - forwarded by the Assistant Secretary of the Common-wealth Treasury - relating to the rates charged for advances is illuminating -
In reply to your letter of (the 9th June, No. 264/25/9605, I have to advise that the rate of interest charged by this bank on approved advances up to 1923 was 6 per cent, on ordinary trading ‘advances, and ‘5 , per cent, on advances to churches, schools ‘tff art, -and similar bodies.
From July, 1923, the rate for,. advances to churches, &c, was raised to 54 per cent. From 25th October, 1923, -all new advances were charged 64 per cent., a concession of $ per cent, being allowed to church accounts, &c.
Prom 1st January, 1924, the rate for all ordinary advances was increased to 04 per cent. From 1st July, 1924, the rate for all church accounts, &c, was increased to 6 per cent.
From November, 1924, new advances were charged 7 per cent., with a concession of 4 per cent, to new church accounts, ic; and from 1st January, 1925, the rate .for all .ordinary advances was raised to 7 per cent.
The rate for fixed loans to local governing bodies has been as follows: - 1913-1919, 4) per cent. - loans made at 44 per cent, were issued at 9S1 per cent.; May, 1919, 5 per cent.; February, 1920, 54 per cent.; October, 1923, 6 per cent.; June, 1924, 64 per cent.
It is significant that the directors took office on the 10th October, 1924, and they heralded their advent as the controlling power of the bank by raising the rate on advances to 7 per cent. During the awful time of the war the bank was the sheet anchor of the credit of this country, keeping the interest an advances down to 6 per cent. None of the private banks dared to restict overdrafts for fear of losing their business.
There is an old Latin saying-Fiat jusitia ruat caelum - “ Let justice be done tho’ the heavens fall.” I ask the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning), if certain of his facts, to stand to his guns. I do not want any Australian produce to be .sent abroad poisoned with preservatives. When I visited China I saw sacks of flour that were supposed to be Australian, but were no credit to this country. A large shipper in this city told me that when he opened the meat he had exported he found that every tin had been punctured so that the. meat would be faulty when it arrived in England. I have seen meat as black as the ace of spades, and rabbits fit only to throw, on a dunghill, sold in ‘England and marked “ Australian.” The firm of Whiteley, in Westbourne Grove, was the only firm in the early eighties that did its. duty by Australia, lt charged Id. less per lb. for Australian meat than the price of English meat. One day when dining with a friend, Mr. Macfarlane, an Australian squatter brought home a leg of mutton, and the deal- lady of the house brought it to (he table, beautifully cooked, and all thoroughly enjoyed it. Macfarlane and being Australians, were chaffed because, it was. said, we could not send meat from Australia like that. Finally, Macfarlane, took the receipt from his* pocket and proved that the meat was Australian.
I now wish to speak of preservatives in food,, though not from my own experience, although I have had a sad experience of cancer. Beloved friends died in two houses that I lived in, and never shall I forget the last one, a namesake of mine, who, towards the end, could not. speak or eat, and died slowly of starvation. Cancer has increased greatly with the use of preservatives in food; though I am willing to admit, as the Minister for Health stated some little time ago, that that has not been clearly proved. But I know that meat containing formalin has been forbidden entry into the United States of America. Notwithstanding that, carcasses of meat, preserved with formalin, have been exported from Australia and New Zealand.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– A good deal has been said in the last two days on matters, affecting the Department of Trade and Customs. The remarks of most honorable members have been made in a kindly spirit,, with a sympathetic desire to. assist the. administration, and I welcome such criticism.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), the. honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley and the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) all referred to the rice industry, and expressed their desire that this Cinderella of our primary industries should be afforded tariff protection. The development of the cultivation of rice in the Murrumbidgee irrigation area has been romantic. I well remember my first visit, about two years ago, to our rice fields there. It was made at the invitation of the honorable member for Riverina. I saw. at that time, the first crop of Australiangrown rice ‘ being reaped. The total production that year was 200 tons. The initiation of this industry was made on the advice of a member of the Irrigation Trust, whose name; I very much’ regret, I cannot recall at the moment so that he. might have the full credit due to him. He had been on a visit to California, and on His return strongly advised an experiment in rice cultivation. Twelve months later I paid a second- visit to the area, once- more in company with the honorable member for Riverina. In the intervening twelve months- phenomenal developments had occurred. The total production that year was 2,000 tons. As Australians, we have every reason to be proud, not only of the quality of our rice; which is the best in the world, but also of the ingenuity which Messrs. H. V. McKay and Co., the agricultural implement manufacturers, have displayed in perfecting a reaping machine which is superior to anything of its kind in the world. Countries which have been growing rice for a score and more of years, have nothing that can be compared with our harvesting machinery, which isi a triumph to all concerned in its invention. A letter which I have just received from a grower who garnered his crop with this machine, last year under somewhat depressing conditions, reads as follows: -
Rice has been grown in some parts of the world for hundreds of years, and in some- of the more up-to-date of the other countries it baa been grown for 15 or 30 years. But we. in OUr first practical year in Australia, by the assistance of our ‘local manufacturers, have perfected a harvesting machine which is far in advance of anything known in other countries.
Last -week the Government adopted a policy for assisting the* rice industry, but wild horses would not drag the detail’s of it out of me- just now. If some help should’ be proposed for the rice-growers^ I believe that, it would1 have the unanimous approval of all honorable members.
The honorable member for Darling mentioned the position that has arisen in Australia in consequence of our increasing importations of tubular knitted piece goods. The department is aware of the facts. Representations were made to me only recently on this subject, and at the moment I can only say that they are being given serious consideration.
– Why not get on to some of the bigger things?
– The tobacco industry, to which the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) and the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) referred, is perhaps big enough to satisfy the honorable member. It is responsible for an annual importation of £3,000,000. The consumption of local tobacco is, roughly, about 10 per cent, of the total consumption, I listened carefully to the remarks that the honorable member for New England made on this subject, and noted that honorable members opposite made a few approving interjections in the course of his speech. In fairness to the officers concerned, I wish to state the attitude of my department to the industry. The honorable member for New England, before stating his view of the nature of the assistance that the growers required, made some comment on the delay of the Tariff Board in investigating the industry. I wish to take this public opportunity, which is the first that I have had, of saying that the Tariff Board, the Department of Trade and Customs, the Government, the Parliament, and the country generally have suffered a severe loss in the sad death of Mr. Hudson, the chairman of the Tariff Board, which occurred a few months ago. Mr. Hudson was a man whom we shall find it difficult to replace.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– I realize as clearly as any honorable member the desirableness of expediting in every possible way the inquiries and reports of the Tariff Board.
– The reports should be made direct to Parliament.
– I entirely disagree with the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory). One of the duties of my department is to protect the public revenue when tariff changes are about to occur, and I shall always do my very best to keep absolutely secret any intentions of the Government in regard to tariff revision, for there are hundred’s of people always ready to make a little money by saving duties where they can.
May I take this opportunity of referring to the Auditor-General’s recent criticism of the payment of certain fees to the members of the Tariff Board? The AuditorGeneral did his duty in criticizing my action; but, in justice to all concerned, I wish to explain the circumstances. On account of my desire to expedite the work of the board, I asked the four members who were available to divide themselves into two sections and travel separately, so that they might gather evidence, which is frequently submitted in the form of sworn prepared statements, more rapidly than would be possible if they continued their inquiries as one body. This practice was followed for some little time, but eventually I discovered that it was illegal, for the reason that the chairman or the acting chairman was required by statute to be present at every sitting of the board. Before this was discovered certain travelling expenses had been incurred, and I authorized their payment.
– Have the members of the board refunded the money?
– They have not, for the expense was incurred by my instruction.
– But surely the payments ought to be refunded if they were illegally made?
– I am afraid that I shall later have to ask honorable members to indemnify me in respect of the small amount of about £50 which is at issue.
– Why was there such a long delay in appointing a new chairman to the Tariff Board?
– After the lamented death of Mr. Hudson there was a short interregnum; but, in order to expedite the work of the board, Mr. Oakley was appointed chairman pro tern, and acted as such for about two months until the appointment of Mr. Hall last week. The instruction to the Tariff Board to inquire into the tobacco industry was given on the 20th May, 1926, and I did not receive the board’s report until the 7th March, 1927. Consequently, I have had no time to consider it, or to submit recommenda- tions to the Government. The honorable member for New England referred to the attendance of representatives of the British- Australasian Tobacco Company at the meetings at which the Tariff Board took evidence on the tobacco industry. I point out to the honorable member that the board is obliged to make all its inquiries in public, and to take all its evidence on oath. It is quite customary a.nd, in fact, proper for the parties interested in the proceedings of the board to be present at its inquiries.
– The Minister knows that representatives of the trust interviewed the board privately.
– I was not aware of this, or of the request made by the growers, or of what they consider necessary for the development of their industry, and I can assure the honorable member that the evidence given in support of his application, and of extraneous matters bearing on it, will have my earnest consideration, and also the attention of the Government. I am amplifying my remarks so that they may be read by the tobacco-growers themselves. The import duty on unstemmed tobacco - practically all the tobacco imported is unstemmed - is 2s. a lb., and the excise duty on both local and imported leaf, when manufactured, is also 2s. a lb. There appears, therefore, to be a margin of practically 2s. a lb. in favour of the Australian grower.
– How can that be so? After the leaf is gathered, it has to go through a certain process.
– Probably that margin is cut down by the waste that occurs in the process of manufacture. In the course of my investigations on this subject, the representatives of the industry said that the growers were not, in all cases, producing a satisfactory leaf. I express no opinion as to whether the growers are producing a satisfactory leaf in all cases; but the buyers of tobacco have informed me that, if the growers produce lemon-coloured and bright and dark mahogany leaf, they are prepared to take the whole of the output at a price which will be considered satisfactory. I am extremely desirous of reducing the importation of foreign tobacco and supplementing the supply by the development of the local industry. The mat ter will receive my keen attention, with, I hope, practical results, because it seems to me that one of several things is the cause of the present position of the growers - either they are not being fairly treated by the buyers ; they are growing the wrong sort of tobacco; or they are demanding too high a price for it. I am informed by the buyers that the chief defects are coarseness of texture, bad colour, and indifferent burning aroma. In regard to texture and colour, the factors operating to bring about those defects are, unsuitable soil, indifferent climatic conditions, inadequate methods of cultivation, lack of experience in cultivation, inexperience in curing methods, and the effect of blue mould. I am fully aware of the value of the industry, and i promise the committee that it will have the attention that it well deserves.
The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) raised one or two exceedingly difficult matters in connexion with the tariff, and was kind enough to make complimentary reference to myself, for which I thank him. He referred to the printing industry. As he well knows, this is one of the most prosperous industries in the Commonwealth, and it is amply protected in most directions. In reply to his suggestion that a duty be imposed on imported books, I point out that Parliament, in previous years, would not consider such a proposal; and I hazard the opinion that it would be difficult to obtain a majority of this committee to agree to a tax on education.
– I do not suggest that.
– I realize that; but books coming into this country are free from duty, and I doubt whether the printing industry could be greatly extended by any duty that we might impose on imported books. Nearly two years ago, the honorable member’s predecessor (Mr. Mahony) introduced a deputation- to me in Sydney from printers and artists, who requested me to place a duty on children’s Christmas picture books, with the object of enlarging the Australian printing industry. At that time I had no facts .and figures relating to the matter, and I asked that these be supplied to me by the deputation, but they have yet to come to hand.
I agree entirely with the honorable member that the economic position of the
Commonwealth is indeed serious. He presentedfigures relating to imports and exports, and showed large balances of trade against theCommonwealth. I might add that a large amount of money is due every year overseas in interest upon the public debt. My honorable friend is a good protectionist, just as, I hope, I am. I believe that the economic position should be carefully examined, becauseprotection cannot accomplish everything that we desire. One of the facts responsible for the excess of imports over exports is overseas borrowing. Credits can only be transferred from one countryto another in one of three ways - in goods, gold, or securities - and since Australia does not receive gold or securities it must take goods. Extravagant and reckless borrowing abroad is one of the principal causes of the excess of imports. We must cultivate the Australian sentiment and give preference to our own goods. We must also have adequate tariff protection in order to maintain our standards of living. It must not be assumed that the great volume of imports is any argument against our policy of protection. I find that trade statistics are not given in such a detailed way as to enable honorable members to analyse the position closely. I have recently taken the trouble to go into the subject of woollens and some lines of textiles, and my reply yesterday to the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) shows that where manufacturers arc efficient, and are sufficiently protected, imports diminish. The imports of woollen piece goods have fallen off to the extent of 33 per cent., and the quantity of imported woollen yarns has been halved, since the last tariff was imposed. During the recess I shall endeavour to have the statistics prepared in a manner that will enable us to analyse them from the protectionist stand-point.
.This afternoon the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) addressed a question without notice to the Prime Minister in these terms -
Has the Prime Minister inquired into the very serious allegations made yesterday thai attempts had been made to induce the Navy Department to exercise its authorityover Commander Cresswell in order to prevent him from giving certain evidence before the Wireless Commission’?
To that question the Prime Minister replied -
I have no knowledge of any attempt tointerfere with Commander Cresswell; but wary unfortunately papers which came into Commander Cresswell’s hands in thecourse ofhis duties in the department, and wereof a most secret character, dealing with a subject of great importance toAustralia, were produced at the inquiry. That, I think, was most undesirable.
I need hardly say that I am sufficiently well acquaintedwith my rights in this Parliament, and with my duty to it and the public, not to contemplate for a moment entering upon a discussion of matters which have been referred by the Governor-General to aroyal commission for inquiry and report. That, I think, would be highly improper. But I think it is an impropriety into which the right honorable gentleman himselfhasf allen, and I propose to criticize him for that reason. The honorable member for Yarra, if I may say so, as one would expect, raised a question which he was perfectly entitledto raise. It was not one which dealtwith the merits ordemerits of the issues which are being discussedbefore the Wireless Commission. It was directed to ascertain whether or not it wastrue that improper influences were being exercised ‘to prevent a witness from giving evidence before “the Commission. That, I submit, is a vital matter.I have little more than one comment to make upon this aspect ofthe case. The question asked whetherthe Prime Minister knew anything about this alleged attempt to influence Commander Cresswell in his evidence. The answer of the Prime Minister was that he knew nothing about it. It is a little surprising, seeing that the matter hasbeen given great publicity in the press, and that it was recorded in the press that Commander Cresswell himself had made the complaint in the most definite way before the commission, that the right honorable gentleman did not up to that time know anything about it. Ieven think that he should have known something about it. But that is hardly the point. The point isthat while the Prime Minister declared that heknew nothing at all about the allegation of intimidation or interference with Commander Cresswell, he seems to have known quite a lot about other evidence that came beforethe commission on the same day. So far as line first part of this question is concerned, the matter may be disposed of by quoting the observations of Commander Cresswell, and- those of the chairman of the commission. Speaking on oath, in giving his evidence, Commander Cresswell said -
I wish to make a statement that yesterday afternoon Mr. Fisk managing director of the Amalgamated Wireless Company cai ed upon Admiral Napier and asked him whether I represented the views of the Naval Board, or represented tha Naval Board in my evidence. I strongly resent this. I think it was undoubtedly Mr. Fisk’s object, to attempt to get tha Admiral-
And here the. chairman of the commission intervened saying -
You can only tell us. what he said, and, of course, then that is only what Admiral Napier told you. You were- not present?
The witness, replied: -
No, but the, Admiral, sent for- me this morning,, and told me that Mr. Fisk did call.
– We Shall probably have to ask. Admiral Napier to come before us on another matter, so- he can- tell us what happened on that occasion.
Witness. - I submit that Mr. Fisk was trying to- restrain- me- from- giving evidence1 before the Commission
– However, he did not restrain you.
Commander Cresswell. - No.
T leave the matter there. It has. been, reported to the chairman of the. commission.. who- has intimated that the commission, will inquire further into it. The gravity of the allegation needs no. evidence at all’ to support it, and nothing I say will prejudice a. full, and impartial inquiry into. it. There I leave it. I now pass to. the. second part of the Prime Minister’s answer, and. that is a more important matter for urgent consideration. The second part of the answer given by the Prime Minister was that papers which, had come into the hands of Commander Cresswell in the course of his duties in the department,, which were of a most secret character, and dealt with a subject of great importance to Australia, were produced at the inquiry. The right honorable gentleman, said -
That, I think, was most undesirable.
This matter arose- yesterday before the commission in connexion with a letter, dated 21st December, 1926, from Amalgamated Wireless Company, to the Secretary of the- Department of Defence. Commander Cresswell, in giving evidence, quoted the letter up to a certain point, and then said’, referring to the latter part of it-
I cannot disclose what that provision ib.
Mr. Lewis, who is junior counsel to Mr. Owen Dixon, K.C., counsel for the Amalgamated Wireless Company, then said -
With regard to the passage which the witness has omitted from that letter, we have here a copy of the original letter, and it would appear to those instructing me, and also to myself, that the matter is so obviously contrary to what the witness says, that 1 shall ask the commission- to look at those particular words to see whether they should be admitted. I think, and those with me think, that I am correct in- saying that they have nothing whatever to do with defence.
Witness. - I submit that they have. I maybe a little over-cautious in this matter,, but if the commission so desires, the information can be supplied to them confidentially.
– This is one of the difficulties of the whole position, and is a matter which is giving the commission the gravest concern, that here- is the case of a letter which a representative of the- Navy says, contains confidential, information, and which is in the possession, of gentlemen at the. table. That arises, out of the existing order of things, and that is one ofl the- matters into which we are inquiring’. What if it were confidential: and of vital interest to- the defences of the Commonwealth?. However, the commission will take an opportunity of seeing’ it.
Witness. - The letter which- was forwarded in. the first place to. Amalgamated Wireless) Company was, I think, under a confidential heading.
That is. not a. letter received by - Commander Cresswell, but a letter written, we may say. by him as. the representative of his branch of the Defence Department. He said that the letter was under a confidential heading. Then Mr. Lewis, seeing, an opening from, the lawyer’s point of view, promptly rejoined -
That is why we are astonished at it being brought up at all. With reference to what you said, Mr. Chairman, I should like to make the company’s position clear on the point. It is a matter of great astonishment to us that any of these confidential documents have been brought forward. They are, as has been said, marked “ confidential “ to the company, and Hie company will be no party to bringing these confidential documents forward.
After developing that argument a little, Mr. Lewis added -
I desire to emphasize the fact that it has been no part of the company’s desire that any portion of these confidential communications should be made public.
To this statement, the chairman of the commission replied -
I quite believe that, and you may take it that the commission will be seized of the whole of the facts before they make any report - but wo intend to know everything that is necessary to be known in a way that will not injure the. public interest.
Mr. Lewis. ; Our file is marked “ confidential.”
– That is a matter to which I should like the company to give their attention. Your file must be prepared by typists and clerks, and must be seen by directors and possibly by shareholders, and yet it may contain information of the most secret and confidential nature.
Mr. Lewis. ; It is retained in the personal care of the managing director.
– Yes; but the managing director is not an officer of the Defence Force, and he is not a public servant. Do not think for one moment that we are giving a decision, or that we have made up our minds. These are matters which we have to investigate, and 1 think I am speaking for the whole of the’ commission in saying that they are weighing heavily with us.
I think that is the whole of the relevant matter that I need quote in dealing with this question. This is the position disclosed by these quotations: Commander Cresswell, so far as the commission is concerned, is the representative of the Navy. He is a witness subpoenaed to give evidence before it. He is bound to come before it, and being there to give all the information he can, which in his opinion does not conflict with the public interests, having regard to his position in the Navy. I know very little about Commander Cresswell, and have seen him only casually in connexion with this inquiry. It has been very evident even to the most casual observer that, to use his own words, Commander Cresswell has been “ over cautious “ to say nothing which would in the slightest degree prejudice the public interest, and, on the other hand, to discharge his duty as a witness before the commission, to let the commission and the public know all he knows about this matter and all ho i3 able to divulge. I say that the Prime Minister has been guilty of a grave impropriety, in the first place, in plunging into this matter to express any opinion about any of the evidence submitted to the commission, and is guilty of much graver impropriety in endeavouring to intimidate a witness.
– And blaming him for something of which he has not been guilty.
– And, incidentally, blaming him for something for which clearly he has not been guilty in the slightest degree. Commander Cresswell thought than an attempt had been made to influence his department, so as to prevent him giving evidence before the commission. That statement, taken with the statement of the Prime Minister today, immensely strengthens the suspicion which has to be investigated that the managing director of Amalgamated Wireless Limited is busily rushing from one department to another in order to prevent the inquiry proceeding in a way that would be unpleasant to himself. He first went to the Navy Office, and then, apparently, to the Prime Minister, with the fallacious information that Commander Cresswell has acted with impropriety in giving evidence before the commission. The whole thing is most anomalous. It is a most amazing and, from many points of view, a most regrettable thing to find a representative of the Navy, or the Navy as a whole, making serious com.plaints before the Wireless Commission of the way in which its operations are being hampered by the fact that wireless is complicated by its commercial association with that very commercial company, Australian Wireless Limited. That in itself lends point to a great deal that has been said in this chamber by honorable members of the Labour party and others. I do not wish to pursue this matter further at this stage beyond saying that the reason for the interposition of the Navy in this inquiry is perfectly easy to understand. It was inevitable that sooner or later the Navy should intervene for a reason I have stated here1 and elsewhere, namely, the danger to the public weal in this great public service of wireless which should, where necessary, be secret and which should at all events be conducted as a national concern for the benefit of the people as a whole, being associated with a commercial company. But these matters are not open for discussion. I would not think of saying anything at this stage about the Wireless Commission, the matters into which it is inquiring, its possible or probable findings, the merits of the agreement between the Commonwealth and Amalgamated Wireless, or the success or failure of the beam system. But the Government is responsible for the appointment of the commission, and it should welcome the fact that witnesses are going before it to state what they know of broadcasting, and every other aspect of a very important phase of social life. And if there was one witness more than another who should be encouraged to testify, and who should be unimpeded, uninterrupted and free of intimidation, it was the representative of the Navy Department. He, perhaps, more than any other witness, had a right to be heard without interruption. I should like to know how the Prime Minister justifies the interference with the operations of the commission, and why he ventures to invade the rights of the commission, which alone has authority to determine what evidence is admissable, and what is not. It is intolerable that in connexion with a matter of this kind the Prime Minister should fire objections and criticism at a witness. In my experience, and probably in the experience of the oldest member in this chamber, such a thing has never happened before. Let the Prime Minister justify it, if he can. He was guilty of attempting to intimidate a fearless witness who, we must assume if we did not actually know it, is a witness to the truth, and a responsible officer, and because he is responsible, as well as for the ordinary reasons which should actuate the Prime Minister in such circumstances, his evidence should be given without interruption or comment by any person, much less the Leader of the Government.
– The honorable member commenced by saying that he would show that the Government had been endeavouring to intimidate a witness before the royal commission that is inquiring into wireless. He has not produced one scintilla of evidence that the Government has in any way attempted to interfere with or intimidate Commander Cresswell. The only definite statement that he has made is that the. maaging director of Amalgamated Wireless, Mr. Fisk, had paid a visit to Admiral Napier, and that Commander Cresswell had told the commission that that visit was for the purpose of intimidating him. The honorable member for Batman, who is a lawyer, will hardly suggest that a mere statement of that nature is evidence of intimidation by anybody.
– I said that that statement called for inquiry by the royal commission, and that I need not pursue it any further; then I proceeded to make my charge against the Prime Minister.
– That statement has to be investigated, but it provides no justification for charging the Government with having attempted to influence any witness. Therefore, there is no reason to waste further time on the honorable member’s first charge. His second allegation related to an answer which I gave in this chamber this afternoon, and he suggested that that, also, was an attempt to intimidate or influence a witness. I can explain my statement very briefly. That Commander Cresswell had made certain disclosures before the commission I had read in the public press, but I had no official knowledge on the subject. Some little time ago the British Government forwarded to the Commonwealth Government certain suggestions as to what wireless provision should be made for the defence of Australia, and particularly for the purpose of reporting the movements of the fleets in the Pacific Ocean. The suggestions included a proposal that certain coastal stations, which under the agreement with the Commonwealth, have been taken over by Amalgamated Wireless Limited, should be made much more powerful. That would involve a very considerable expenditure. Under the agreement the only obligation on the company was to provide a service at least equivalent to that which had been provided by those coastal stations when they had been controlled by the Postal Department. When the suggestion was made that the power of certain stations should be greatly increased, at considerable cost, the apportionment of the extra burden had to be considered. Not unreasonably, the honorable member for Batman will agree, the company said that the increased expenditure was not part of its obligation under the contract. The Government appointed a committee to investigate this matter, and made available to it all the information furnished by the British Government as to what would be adequate wireless provision for the defence of the country. The committee consisted of Senator Millen, Mr. Brown, Mr. Malone, of the Postal Department, and Commander Cresswell, of the Navy Department. The investigation was confidential, and certainly the information supplied by the British Government was of a most secret character. An- inquiry of a very different nature is now being conducted by a royal commission into wireless generally, and Commander Cresswell was appointed by the Navy Department to watch the proceedings and to give evidence, if necessary, in regard to the present state of wireless in this country. He had no authority to give any information of secret proposals that were under the .consideration of the Government. Certainly he was never authorized by the Government to disclose that information, and honorable members will agree that the Government would not authorize a junior officer to produce, secret and confidential files belonging, to the department of which he was a servant. Commander Cresswell did that, and,, in reply to a direct question,, I stated, in the House to-day that his action was most undesirable. I could say nothing less. As this matter is more or less suB judice,. I,, like the honorable member for Batman, am debarred, from pursuing, it further. The. only opinion which I expressed this afternoon related to the production of secret and confidential files by a departmental officer without authority and. without any pressure having been put upon him- by the- commission. The. committee to which I have referred was appointed to determine what extra wireless- provision! should be made for defence purposes, and whether the. cost should be. borne by the Government or by the company. If. the royal commission desired to get confidential information it could have taken the necessary action,, and then, if, in the opinion of the Government, it was undesirable in the public interest that certain facts should be disclosed, the Government could, in accordance with a well recognized practice, in which all sober and sensible citizens, will acquiesce, delegate a senior and responsible officer to so inform the commission.
– The commission has been, very strict in that regard.
– In relation to a matter of defence which could be only a very small part of any inquiry by the royal commission, a junior officer produced confidential files without full consideration by those who are responsible for the defence policy of the country, and without proper authority. That, I repeat, was a most undesirable action. Any information that the royal commission requires and which can, without detriment to the public interest, be disclosed, will be furnished by the Defence Department, and any information that it would be improper to disclose can be withheld by the Government, and the reasons explained to the commission. It is unreasonable to suggest that the reply I gave to a question in the House- this afternoon warrants the allegation that this Government is attempting to intimid’ate a witness.
.- The reply of the Prime Minister to the speech of the honorable member for’ Batman is similar to- that which he gave to my question this afternoon. He has evaded the issue. First, he said that the honorable member for Batman had given no evidence of any attempt- by the Government to intimidate Commander Cresswell, other than the statement by that officer that Mr.. Fisk had called on Admiral Napier and. suggested that, certain- restraint be put upon Commander Cresswell. The, only, evidence that the honorable member for Batman brought forward, said- the- Prime; Minister, related to the action of Mr: Fisk. Then he concluded his speech- by saying that the only evidence that the honorable- member for Batman put forward was his reply in the House this afternoon. How can both these be the only thing put forward ? The honorable member for Batman did not put forward Mr. Fisk’s visit to the Navy as evidence of intimidation by this Government. He relied upon another action to prove his charge against the Government that it was trying to restrain Commander Cresswell from proceeding with his evidence before the royal commission. The proof will appear in Mansard to-morrow.. It is on record in this House to-day. The Prime Minister’s own statement was an admission- that the Government does not wa*nt Commander Cresswell to give the fullest evidence before the inquiry. All this talk about the secrets of the Navy being- divulged by the production of confidential documents is an evasion of the issue raised by the honorable member for Batman. The quotations from the minutes of evidence to-night by the hon, orable member for Batman clearly show that Commander Cresswell did not reveal any of the secrets of the Navy, but refrained from doing so.
– He was over-cautious.
– That is so. The representative of Amalgamated Wireless Limited insisted upon Commander Cresswell revealing certain facts that he did not wish to reveal. The junior counsel for the company, which is not a department ofthe Government, and has nothing to do with the Navy, calmly told the commission that he had a copy of the secret document in front of him. Instead of the Prime Minister using his position as head of the Government to make remarks calculated to intimidate a witness before the commission, he might have turned his batteries upon Mr. Lewis, the junior counsel, and asked him how he became possessed of confidential documents of the department. I ask the Prime Minister to turn his attention also to the report of the press, and the statement of the chairman ofthe commission whom this Government appointed. He said -
A manuscript, supposed to be confidential, a naval document kept secret in the interests of the Commonwealth, is in the possession of Amalgamated Wireless Limited and its legal representatives.
To that comment, one would have expected the Prime Minister to have added his, and not to have rebuked a confidentialofficer of the Naval Departmentwho, as a matter of fact, refrained from divulging secret information. I make no comment on the merits of the commission, but it is obvious, from the deliberate attempt made to prevent certain evidence going before the commission, that the inquiry does not suit the interests of one party in the case. There has been no denial made of the serious allegation made by a responsible witness that Mr. Fisk, the managing director of Amalgamated Wireless Limited, interviewed the Almiral of the Navy respecting the right of Commander Cresswell to appear before the inquiry. That seems to me to be fairly clear evidence that an attempt has been made to restrain that officer. This afternoon, I asked the Prime Minister this question : -
Has the Prime Minister made any inquiry into the very serious allegations made yesterday that attempts had been made to induce the Navy Department to exercise its authority over Commander Cresswell in order to prevent him from giving certain evidence before the Wireless Commission
I regard as most serious any attempt to prevent evidence being given before this royal commission. If the Prime Minister could show that an attempt was made only to restrain Commander Cresswell from exposing naval secrets or documents, he would be on firm ground; but the minutes disclose that this officer deliberately refrained from quoting confidential portions of the document, and that the junior counsel for the company insisted upon him giving that information to the commission and the public press. I questioned the Prime Minister this afternoon, not for the purpose of expressing any opinion on the merits of the case, but because I considered it my duty as a public man to ensure that the scope of this inquiry should notbe restricted by any action of the Government, as has been the case with many other commissions. Weare entitled to make our protest in this House on all occasions when inquiries are being restricted by the action of any party. I ask honorable members to weigh the words of the Prime Minister tonight. All this talk about the cost of erecting stations and establishing communication with the British Government is beside the question. The honorable member for Batman has shown that there is not a tittle of evidence to prove that naval secrets were disclosed by Commander Cresswell; but there is proof that that officer’s evidence was not approved by the Minister and the Government, and the Prime Minister’s answer to my question is certainly calculated to intimidate a public officer, and to prevent him from continuing his evidence.
– A number of honorable members have referred to the Copyright Act, and to certain matters arising out of the action of the Performing Rights Association. In particular, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has inquired whether some provision could not be made to prevent improper threats by supposed ownersof copyright against personsalleged to be performing copyright items in infringement of the rights of the owners. I direct the attention of honorable members generally to section 17 of the Copyright Act 1912, which reads -
Penalty : £20.
Therefore there is a provision in the law which makes it an offence for anyone to make unjustifiable threats of proceedings against persons who are supposed to be about to perform a work in infringement of the right of the owner.
Some other questions which have been raised - one of them, I understand, by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) - also require an immediate reply. I was not in the chamber when the honorable member was speaking, but I understand that in referring to the Public Service Arbitration Act, and to the powers of this House in relation to the determinations made by the Public Service Arbitrator, he suggested that Parliament had no power to deal with a determination of the Arbitrator, even if it disagreed with it. I remind the honorable member of section 22 of the Arbitration Public Service Act of 1920, which provides that the Arbitrator may make a determination which is not in accordance with an award or order of the court, but, except as provided in the section, may not make a determination “ which is not in accord with the laws of the Commonwealth and the regulations made thereunder.” The section goes on to provide that the Arbitrator may make a determination inconsistent with a law or regulation of the Commonwealth, and when he does so it is incumbent upon him to send a statement to the Prime Minister and to the AttorneyGeneral stating the laws or regulations with which the determination is inconsistent. It is then open to the At-
-General to give an opinion whether there are any laws or regulations with which the determination in question is inconsistent. If the Arbitrator forwards such a statement, or if the AttorneyGeneral gives an opinion that a determination is inconsistent with a law or regulation of the Commonwealth, subsection 4 provides that the statement and opinion shall be placed before Parliament, and sub-section 5 then provides -
If, in the case of a determination accompanied by such a statement of the Arbitrator, or opinion of the Attorney-General, as is above referred to, cither House of the Parliament, within thirty days after the determination wilh the statement or opinion has been laid before both Houses, passes a resolution disapproving the determination, the determination shall not come into operation.
It appears to be perfectly clear that if either House, within 30 days after the placing of the determination, statement, or opinion upon the table, passes a resolution disapproving of the determination, that determination does not come into operation. The powers of Parliament, in other words, have been very carefully conserved in this legislation.
– That was well known ; but should it be applied to an arbitration award ?
– This procedure can properly be applied to all the determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator, as distinct from the awards of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court. This is a matter depending entirely upon the statute. It was the deliberate judgment of Parliament that the awards of the Public Service Arbitrator should be subject to this supervision. Parliament has the power of veto, but not the power to make another award.
As the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley), who spoke about the operations of the Commonwealth Shipping Board, and other honorable members are aware, the question of the powers of the Commonwealth Shipping Board was brought before the High Court in an action, and the High Court interpreted certain sections, particularly sections 10 and 14, of the Commonwealth Shipping Act 1923. Section 10 provides that the board shall have power, in addition to certain other powers, to carry on the general business of ship-owner, and any business incidental thereto, and to acquire ships, land, &c, and “ to do anything incidental to any of its powers.” Section 14 transfers to the board certain islands in Sydney Harbour, with stock, &c, and provides further that -
The management of the works and establishments on the said islands is vested in the board.
Finally, it provides -
The boardshall have power to carry on in respect of those islands the business of manufacturer, engineer, dock-owner, shipbuilder and repairer, and any other business incidental thereto, or to the said works and establishments.
The meaning of these sections was considered recently by the High Court, and the decision was substantially that the act does not authorize the board to do more than carry on a shipping business together with businesses incidental to the shipping business, or, as the honorable member expressed it, the marine engineering business. Four judges out of the five went on to say that if the act had gone further it would have been unconstitutional and invalid. Accordingly, the position which faces not only the Government, but also the House, is this: It has been determined that the act does not, on its true interpretation, authorize the board to engage in general as distinct from marine engineering business. Four judges however, proceeded, although it did not appear to he absolutely necessary for the decision of the case, to express the opinion that if the act had authorized the carrying on of a general engineering business, such an act would have been beyond the powers of this Parliament. In the light of that opinion it is obvious that it would be useless to amend the act to confer uponthe board the power to carry on a general engineering business. The view of the High Court substantially was that there are no powers in the Constitution which enable the Commonwealth Parliament by statute to authorize a corporation created by it to carry on business of a general kind unconnected with the specific legislative powers of the Commonwealth. In so far as a business is connected with defence, for example, it is all right. In so far as it is associated with several other subjects specifically referred to in the Constitu tion, it is again clear that Parliament is able to give that degree of authority; but the opinions of four judges are that Parliament cannot by legislation confer on this board a general power to carry on an engineering business, because it is not within the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth so to do. The statements of opinion to which I have referred might he regarded as not necessary for the decision, and therefore as obiter dicta; but they are the opinions of four judges, and it appears plain that ifthe act were amended to provide that the Commonwealth Shipping Board might carry on any engineering business, the High Court would hold that such a provision was invalid. In those circumstances, I am sure the honorable member and others interested in this matter will recognize the difficulties that face the Government, whatever its policy may be.
House adjourned at 10.21 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 March 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1927/19270316_reps_10_115/>.