10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister for Works and Railways consider the construction, in co-operation with the Government of New South Wales, of a good main road from Canberra to Jervis Bay?
– With the exception of a small length such a road would be in New South Wales territory. So far the. Government of that State has not accepted the Commonwealth Government’s main road proposals. If it should do so, that road, if included in the programme, would probably be approved by the Commonwealth Government.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral say whether the new telegraph circuits between Perth and” Adelaide are now operating?
– The new circuits were tested on Sunday last, and are now open for commercial traffic.
Proposed Parliamentary Committee
– Will the Prime Minister say whether the proposed parliamentary committee to inquire into the need for amending the Constitution will meet in Canberra or in Melbourne?
– That will be a matter for determination by the committee when it has considered what information it will require and what evidence it will need to call. It will be for the committee to decide whether it will need to visit differentparts of the Commonwealth.
– Has the Minister for Works and Railways received any communication from the Queensland Government in regard to the transfer of the title of Magazine Island, Townsvills, from that Government to the Townsville Harbour authority? If not, will the Minister communicate with the Queensland Government with a view to expediting a reply?
– As far as I am aware, the Department has not received any communication from the Government on this subject. I shall make inquiries and let the honorable member have an answer at an early date.
– During the debate on the Supply Bill last week I drew attention to the regulation that had been issued concerning the transfer of officers to Canberra, and I protested against the class distinction involved in compelling some officers and their wives and families to travel second class and without sleeping accommodation. Will the Prime Minister take steps to ensure that all officers, irrespective of their salaries, shall, with their wives and families, have the comfort of first class and sleeping accommodation.
– I shall inquire as to what can be done.
– I ask the Minister whether the New South Wales Government has yet accepted a share of the Commonwealth MainRoads Grant? If not, has the Minister any information as to the intentions of the State Government ?
– No communication has been received from the New South Wales Government on that subject.
-Replying to remarks I made last night on the Loan Bill, the Treasurer said that portion of the sum of £30,000 for naval bases was to be expended on a wharf at Garden Island. The High Court having decided that the island does not belong to the Commonwealth, does the Government intend to continue spending Commonwealth money there ?
– The State Government has consented to the Commonwealth proceeding with works at Garden Island, and the new wharf and buildings will be taken into account when any adjustment or transfer is made at a later date. The House will agree that Garden Island is necessary as a base for naval stores and victualling.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral receiving numerous letters from those in charge of public halls in New
South Wales protesting against certain copyright charges alleged to be made by the Performing Eights Association? Have the departmental inquiries disclosed whether or not such charges have actually been made?
– I have received numerous letters on this subject, and have made inquiries to ascertain what charges, if any, are being made, but have not yet received any definite information from the proprietors of halls. Accordingly, I have directed that inquiries be made of the Performing Rights Association, and I hope to receive definite information almost immediately. On previous occasions, in answer to questions, I have emphasized the difficulty of amending the law affecting copyrights, and the disabilities that an amendment might place upon Australian authors, composers, and artists.
– Is the Prime Minister yet in a position to furnish me withthe information for which I asked last week, regarding the payments to members of the Australian Meat Council?
– I have not yet received the information.
– Will the Prime Minister inform the House of the conditions upon which leading commercial men of the United Kingdom have been invited by the Commonwealth Government to visit Australia to investigate and report upon land settlement and migration?
– It is not proposed to invite a British delegation to come to Australia to report on the problems of settlement and migration, but I hope that a delegation from the United Kingdom will visit Australia in the near future to inquire into trade between Australia and the Motherland and developmental projects in Australia in which the two countries might co-operate. This proposalis under the consideration of the British Government, which, I understand, will at an early date announce the personnel of the delegation.
– Last week I asked a question in connexion with the dried fruits industry and the Minister stated that he was unable to give a. reply at that time. I desire to know if that information is now available, and, if not, in view of the fact that, when supplied, it will be of value to honorable members in considering the Dried Fruits Export Charges Bill, which is listed on the notice-paper, will he have it supplied as quickly as possible ?
– I shall endeavour to have the information supplied at the earliest possible moment.
High Court Decision
– As the High Court has decided that Garden Island is not the property of the Commonwealth Government, does not the Minister think that the Government is taking rather a dangerous step in expending Commonwealth money there? Is it not possible that some individual taxpayer may step in and ask for an injunction against the Government unlawfully expending money on that property ?
– The Commonwealth Government proposes to apply for leave to appeal to the Privy Council from the decision of the High Court. I understand from what the Minister for Defence has stated, that in relation to any further erections upon Garden Island an arrangement has been made to conserve the interests of the Commonwealth should it be found necessary hereafter to pay the State of New South Wales any sum of money for the island. In other words, an allowance would be made for any Commonwealth expenditure in favour of this Government.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) that he desires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The excessive prices charged to the Australian primary pro ducers for supplies of superphosphates compared with the prices ruling in New Zealand for such commodities.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- - On the 1st March last the price of superphosphates in Australia was £5 7s. 6d. a ton, and of similar phosphate in New Zealand £4 2s. 6d. a ton, a difference of£1 5s. a ton.
– Were the phosphates of the same quality?
– Yes. That comparison alone is not sufficient to show the actual position, for on the mainland of Australia during the present season there was an increase in price of 7s. 6d. a ton, while in New Zealand the price was reduced from £511s. to £4 2s. 6d., a reduction of £1 8s. 6d. a ton. Our supplies of rock phosphate come from Nauru Island. This is a complete Government enterprise under the joint control of Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand. Australia possesses a definite mandate with respect to Nauru Island, and Ocean Island was previously the property of the British Government. The operations on the two islands are conducted by a commission, which might be said to be a board of management. Each government has the same representation on that commission, and the terms of the arrangement provide that the output shall be distributed between the three countries in these proportions: - “United Kingdom, 42 per cent. ; Australia, 42 per cent. ; and New Zealand, 16 per cent. As a matter of fact, Australia has had an overwhelming share of the output. In 1921 Australia took 72.97 per cent. of the output, New Zealand 4.69 per cent., United Kingdom 4.59 per cent., and other countries 17.75 per cent. The commission is not empowered to sell to other countries except with the unanimous approval of its members, so that, of course, the control of these islands is an excellent arrangement for Australia, and it was brought about by the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). It should ensure to Australia for all time an abundant and cheap supply of rock phosphate. I shall not discuss the conditions that are responsible for the substantial variance in prices between the two countries. We shall probably be told that there is a trade war in New Zealand ;but if there is, the primary producers are all on the same side, because the dairymen have established a co-operative company there, mainly with the object of getting cheaper manures. In 1922 Australia, took 47.20 per cent. of the output from the two islands, New Zealand 10.64 per cent., United Kingdom 4.45 per cent., and other countries 36.71 per cent. In 1923 Australia took 65 per cent., New Zealand 16 per cent., United Kingdom nil, and other countries 18 per cent. In 1924 Australia took 70 per cent., New Zealand 13 per cent., United Kingdom nil, and other countries 15 per cent. In 1925 Australia took 71 per cent., New Zealand 21 per cent., United Kingdom nil, and other countries 7 per cent. I have not the latest figures, but Australia’s requirements are daily increasing. There has been a great expansion of this industry, due to the modern practice of Australian pastoralists and dairymen of top-dressing their pastures, and yet this latest development may be said to be still practically in its infancy. Land has to be cleared before it can be top-dressed, and this provides employment, and gets rid of vermin and noxious weeds; and, above all, it starts a great forward movement in putting the lands of Australia to their greatest possible use. I am one of those who have a personal as well as a political objection to the all-too-frequent applications of the primary producers for assistance in the form of temporary subsidies or doles. In time of crisis, experiments of that kind have to be made; but if we can help the producers in the fundamental matter of increasing the productivity of their lands, we should make every effort in that direction. In the course of time the producers may meet with disasters, when we can deal with the merits of their requests for assistance as they arise; but we should free the man on the land from the necessity of making constant applications to governments for financial aid. We can do that only by helping him to solve the fundamental problems of production. To-day he is faced with the high price of land, the high rates of interest, the heavy charges for labour, the excessive prices of agricultural machinery, and the heavy costs of produc tion generally. There is only one form of real assistance that we can render him, and that is by making available to him the means of increasing the output ofhis land. An ample supply of high-grade, cheap superphosphate is essential inthese days to success on the land. That is fundamental, and in saying so I express an opinion that cannot be controverted. The commission’s charge for phosphate, landed in Australia, was from 75s. to 80s. per ton, in the first half of 1922. The price was reduced on 1st July, 1922, to 49s. 3d.in the eastern States, and 52s. 3d. in the western States. In 1923, the price was further reduced to 46s. in all the States. Those figures show that there has been a substantial reduction in the price of phosphate, and I am not aware that there has been any considerable increase in the price of the other ingredients of superphosphate to account for the increase in its price. The two principal ingredients of superphosphate are rock phosphate and sulphuric acid. It is true that there has been an increase in the price of sulphur. The British Empire contains no sulphur beds. The great sulphur beds of the world are in Spain, the United States of America, Japan, and Sweden. We have no sulphur beds in Australia, but we have an enormous quantity of low-grade ores highly charged with sulphur, and to work them to-day, with the cost of mining as high as it is, is not profitable; but if the sulphuric acid was captured, a profit could be shown. Honorable members will recall that this Parliament placed a duty on sulphur.
– That was a disgraceful act.
– No. The object of that duty was to develop Australia’s resources. It was realized that the day might come when it would be impossible, in the hour of national danger, to import sulphur, . and that this nation ought, therefore, to have its own sources of supply. Nothing in the history of politics in this country has ever been more mistaken than the opposition to the duty on sulphur, and no matter has been more wilfully misrepresented. It was said that “Rodgers put the duty on sulphur.” I do not wish the present debate to be a re-echo of the debate on the sulphur duty, but I must take the opportunity to say that “ Rodgers did not put the duty on sulphur,” and that those who said that he did, knew that he did not. This Parliament put the duty on sulphur, and deferred the date of its coming into operation. I was Minister for Trade and Customs when the proclamation bringing the duty into operation was made, and no member of this House, nor any farmer in Australia, asked me, until after the day of its operation, to defer the collection of the duty. But there was much noise, and it was said that the arrangements made with my colleague, the former Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Greene) were not carried out, and that the Electrolytic Zinc Company, which was principally concerned in giving the undertakings, had not fulfilled them. I received a large deputation representative of all interests. The allegations were repeated and denied, and I appointed a committee representing all parties to ascertain whether the undertakings given had been carried out. On that body the primary producers were represented by the then president of the Chamber of Manufactures in Victoria, and the honorable the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson), and it unanimously found that the Electrolytic Zinc Company had carried out its undertakings.
– The honorable member’s statement is not correct.
– A minority report Avas presented afterwards.
– At the same time.
– The minority report said that the burden of the duty should not be borne by the farmer alone, but should be spread over the whole community. That was the only difference of opinion. The finding was unanimous that the action of the government of the day had been justified, and that the Electrolytic Zinc Company had fulfilled its undertakings. I wish to place those facts on record, and I defy any one to refute them. I pass over that matter because, although I lost my seat at the following election, whatever grievance I may have had was removed when I was returned later. The Government and the Australian nation has a first class interest in this phosphate enterprise, which is as yet only in its initial stages. The agreement provides for management by the commission. The Government has under that agreement, and in its management of the islands, complete power to police the superphosphate manufacturing interests of Australia, because it is practically the only supplier of rock phosphate. I make no charge against our superphosphate manufacturing firms; they conduct business enterprises and, no doubt, have had business consultations as to the price at which superphosphate may be sold in Australia. The primary producer, of course, looks upon his supply of artificial manure as the starting point of his season’s production. The time will undoubtedly come to Australia when pasture fertilization with superphosphate will be conducted for growing grass crops just as it is conducted to-day for growing wheat crops; and, in my opinion, it is the bounden duty of this Parliament to do everything it possibly can to provide an ample and cheap supply of high grade manures for the purpose. The only way in which we can shoulder our enormous public debt and maintain the social standards of the nation is to ensure that our primary producers are encouraged to produce to the utmost capacity of their land. If they fail to do so, the nation will unquestionably fail to maintain its social standard.
– How does the price of rock phosphate compare now with what it was a few years ago ?
– In 1922 it was from 75s. to 80s. per ton, but in 1923 it went down to 46s. per ton in all states. I regret that I am not able to give the present price. Perhaps the Prime Minister will do so a little later. What I desire is a thorough investigation of the whole superphosphate industry in Australia. I think I am entitled to plead in this Chamber that our primary producers should be afforded a full supply of the highest grade of superphosphate at the lowest possible price, for the Government supplies the raw material. The matter is clearly within the purview of this Parliament. Our primary producers had hoped that the great cooperative movement would provide them with the means of securing a satisfactory supply of suitable manures, but in Victoria, at least, their hopes have been bitterly disappointed. A co-operative company was formed here with, that object seven or eight years ago, but so far as I know it has not yet produced one ton of manure. The manager of that company was the man who raised the cry against the heavier duties that I mentioned a few moments ago, and dragged a red herring across the track. He has been subjected to a good deal of criticism by his shareholders, and though a year or so ago he attacked the Government of the day with some small measure of success, he and his company have since been overtaken with sleeping sickness; ,at any rate they have seriously disappointed many primary producers who hold shares in the concern.
– The honorable member has not been very helpful in stimulating the company to action.
– The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Hill) is a director of the company, and he might well be asked to state the reason why no manures have been produced. The time has come for a show down in this matter, and if the measure of assistance which I have given the company were compared with the measure of assistance which the Minister has given it, I should have no reason to be ashamed. The Minister, as one of the directors, has quite sufficient to answer for himself; he should leave me alone. I have observed with interest that a new form of cooperation is being tried in Western Australia, and I wish it every success. A merger has been effected between the Cuming Smith and Mr Lyell interests and Western Australia Farmers Limited, on the basis that, if the manufacturing side of the business can be conducted by men who have the requisite technical knowledge and business ability, the farmers should be able easily to provide a large market and so cut down very considerably the cost of distribution. The Government, by reason of its copartnership in the industry, has sufficient power to grant my request for a thorough investigation, and I hope that it will do so. I do not desire that it should begin manufacturing superphosphate in Australia, but it certainly should do its utmost to ensure that superphosphate is available here at a price which will make it well worth while for our primary producers to use every ton of manure that they possibly can. Our supply of rock phosphate was made available to us as a kind of reward for the wonderful part that our soldiers took in the war, and it is a valu able prize which we should be putting to the best possible advantage. The industry is fundamental to Australia. No doubt some of our primary industries have only a limited market for their products, and we cannot profitably send them overseas; but the world’s markets would absorb as much of our wheat, wool, meat, and butter as we can send them. I hope that the day is not far distant when we shall be able to supply these products to the world’s markets during the whole twelve months of the year. We have them in the flush season, and after a short period they disappear from the British markets, while our great oversea competitors keep their goods in the merchants’ stores throughout the year. Australia, therefore, has a great lesson to learn. It is vital to the welfare of the nation that production in our great primary industries should be stimulated. I should like to see an inquiry into the method of carrying rock phosphate in the ships’ holds, and of distributing the superphosphate in Australia. There, I think, much improvement could be effected. In loading the vessels the floating pier system is adopted, and at certain periods, owing to unfavorable weather, there has not been time to supply enough phosphate rock to meet the whole of Australia’s requirements at the proper season. That matter, I believe, is under the consideration of the commission. Then, again, there may be too many works engaged in the manufacture of fertilizers, and an excess of capital, resulting in heavy overhead charges, means a loss to the primary producers. I hope that the Government will take action along the lines I have suggested.
– No matter is of greater importance to Australia at the present time than the price of superphosphates. The primary producer’s costs of production, and his capacity to sell at a profit in overseas markets, depend upon a full and cheap supply of this commodity, and I heartily endorse the contention of the member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) that it should be made available at the lowest possible price. There has probably been no greater romance in the development of Australia than the increase of production in the last few years as the result of using superphosphates. Those who know anything of the subject realize that, while tremendous strides forward have been made in the production of wheat and many other agricultural products, we have hardly touched the fringe of what we may be able to accomplish by the fuller application of superphosphates to our pastures, and the increase thereby of the productivity of the land. We are fortunately placed in Australia for doing this, because, since the war, in conjunction with our co-partners, Great Britain and New Zealand, we have had control of Nauru and Ocean Island. From Nauru a phosphatic rock of high quality is obtained, and the rock available at Ocean Island is about the best of its kind that the world produces. According to estimates, the supply on those two islands is inexhaustible, and it is well that that is so, because in view of the increased demand for superphosphates of recent years - the most staggering increase has been in Western Australia - there is no doubt that immense stores of rock phosphate will be required in the future. Our present problem is how to reduce the cost of superphosphate to the users of that commodity. The question has received prominence of late because of the big drop in price of superphosphates in New Zealand, which suggests that the price paid by the Australian users may be higher than it should be. The first phase of the problem of cost reduction has relation to the methods employed in taking the rock out of the ground. The price decreased from 53s. to 49s. in July, 1922, and later dropped to 46s. The present price is 47s. 6d. for Nauru rock, and 44s. 6cl. for Ocean Island rock. Having determined whether the methods for extracting the rock are the best and most economical, we must look into the methods adopted in loading the ships and bringing the rock to Australia. There are great difficulties in loading at Nauru Island because, during certain periods of the year, hurricanes prevail, and it is never known how long a vessel may be held up by bad weather.
– The hurricanes may last for months.
– I think that three months is the maximum duration of the hurricane season; but the consequences of bad weather are serious, because they cause a shortage in the supply. Such a shortage was experienced last year. The remedy, of course, is to build up a reserve to meet the demand for a period of, say, six or eight months. It was suggested that the loading difficulty would be overcome by the adoption of loading arrangements on the cantilever principle. Although there are great objections to bringing a vessel under a cantilever structure in rough weather, when the weather is favorable shipments can be got away more quickly than with less up-to-date methods, and this should contribute to the building up of reserves. All concerned with the manufacture and distribution of the product are prepared to hold reserve supplies sufficient for a period of six months, and the creation of such reserves would overcome one of the difficulties that led to the last increase in the cost of superphosphates. The methods of transport are under full investigation; but I think that the solution of the problem will be found in the improvement of the processes of manufacture and distribution within Australia. The reason for the feeling in the minds of certain producers that the price they are paying is too high is the somewhat startling decrease in price that has occured in New Zealand. I think that in fairness to manufacturers and others engaged in this trade in Australia, we cannot brush aside the explanation that the sensational drop in the New Zealand price has been brought about by the trade war now proceeding between a new company which has come into the field there, and the companies previously existing. The new concern is a cooperative company, half of whose capital has been found by a co-operative dairy company. Hitherto Australian consumers have throughout paid a very much lower price than has obtained in New Zealand. In May, “1924, the price in Australia was £5 and in New Zealand .it was £6 17s. 6d. for booked orders, £6 2s. 6d. for cash within a month, and £5 17s. 6d. for cash with the order. In April, 1925, the price in Australia was still £5, and in New Zealand it was £6 2s. 6d., £5 17s. 6d., and £5 12s. 6d. In August of last year, when the price here was raised to £5 7s. 6d., the prices in New Zealand were respectively £5 16s., £5 13s., and £5 lis. Yet the price in New Zealand has declined to £4 2s. 6d. during the last few months. I shall not delay the House by reading extracts dealing with the matter, but I may say that the opinion expressed to me by Mr. Ellis, the representative of New Zealand on the Phosphate Commission, is that the present New Zealand price is an artificial price, below the cost of production, and cannot possibly be maintained. That is also the opinion expressed in a journal representing primary producers in New Zealand, a copy of which I have here. There ‘are grave doubts whether the present price in New Zealand can be accepted as one at which superphosphates can continue to be made available to the consumers in the dominion, or gives ground for the hope that the users in this country may be able to buy at a figure as low. I should like to say a. word concerning the increase of the Australian price by 7s. 6d. During the 1925-26 season there was a shortage in the supply of phosphatic rock from Nauru, because a bad hurricane season had prevented shipments. About this time last year the gravest anxiety was felt lest the requirements of our farmers could not be met at all.
– That is surely a very severe commentary upon the authorities supervising the business, seeing that there are untold millions of tons awaiting production in the islands.
– I have explained why we have not been able to accumulate reserves hitherto.
– Last year there was a big increase in the demand for superphosphate in Australia.
– There has been, first, the difficulty of securing the necessary labour to take out sufficient phosphatic rock : secondly, the difficulty of shipping it away during the hurricane season; and, thirdly, the absolutely phenomenal expansion to which the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) has referred in the consumption of superphosphates in Australia. The demand has on every occasion far exceeded any estimate that could have been made. There was a shortage because it was not possible to mine sufficient phosphatic rock at Nauru, load it on ships and transport it here in quantities which would meet the demand. Consequently, the commission, acting on behalf of the manufacturers of superphosphate, made purchases abroad, in Morocco and in Florida. In both places inferior rock had to be purchased, and, unfortunately, at a very much higher price than had to be paid for our own rock of better quality. It was, however, felt that it would be better for all concerned to leave the price stable for the season, carry over the loss incurred in respect of these outside purchases, and add it to the price for the current year. That is the explanation of the increase in price in Australia during the present year. I do not wish honorable members to assume that I believe that everything is absolutely satisfactory in connexion with the distribution of superphosphate in this country. I do not know. We have been going into the subject very thoroughly, because the question is of paramount importance. One piece of evidence to support the contention that the price is a fair and reasonable one is that in this industry there is something in the nature of co-operative action. The Cresco Company, as honorable members are probably aware, has three big branches - two in South Australia and one in Victoria.
– It is not co-operative.
– Whether it is entirely 00-operative or not I cannot say, but it is a farmers’ company with farmer shareholders, and is attempting to deal with the problem of distribution and manufacture on a proper basis. That company is operating on the basis of a price of £5 7s. 6d. It is a question whether the business, being one in which various companies are engaged, can be conducted profitably by small companies. It may be that too many companies have been formed for the conversion of phosphatic rock into superphosphate. If we have many companies operating, and many of them small companies, it is questionable whether they will be in a position -to finance the necessary storage to carry the reserves we require to have. One reason why we have been unable to create reserves in the past, even if phosphatic rock were readily available, is that we have net had accommodation for reserves. We recently appointed as Australian commissioner Mr. Cli ve Macpherson, who has the advantage .of being in the closest touch with the men on the land, who are vitally interested in this question. I have already had several conversations with him, and the House can rest assured that at the present time we could not have on the Phosphate Commission a man more alert to the interests of the primary producer, or one who in the position he occupies would be more anxious to see that everything possible was done to reduce the cost. I should like to refer to the .willing spirit of cooperation which all those who have to deal with the question are showing to see whether it is not possible to supply better superphosphate at a reduced price. Probably the honorable member who moved the motion knows those who are associated with this trade and the spirit of cooperation they have displayed.
.- The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) has raised a very important issue. It is unnecessary to stress the fact that the use of superphosphate is one of the things which has revolutionized primary industries in Australia. The Prime Minister has said that there has been a sensational drop in the price of superphosphates in New Zealand, to which the honorable member for Wannon also directed attention, and that at one time the article was dearer in New Zealand than in Australia. It is no satisfaction to the people of Australia, who are paying an exorbitant price for superphosphate - I believe the price paid is exorbitant - to be told that the people of New Zealand used to have- to pay more, or that the low price at present quoted in New Zealand is the result of a trade war due to the establishment of a new company. If the competition of companies in New Zealand has brought the price in the Dominion down to £4 2s. 6d.-
– What were they doing before 1
– Exactly. What were they doing before when the price charged was £6 per ton? Either they were charging £2 per ton too rauch, or they are prepared to sell below the cost of production in order to terminate the competition of a co-operative company.
– That is probably the answer.
– Companies that are prepared to do that should be carefully watched, and the Commonwealth Government, as the supplier of the raw material, is in a position to administer an effective check to such operations. Something more than a mere investigation by the Phosphates Commission is necessary.
This matter should be immediately and thoroughly inquired into, and if that is done we shall discover that for many years there has been in the manufacture and sale of phosphates one of the closest combines in Australia, and that agriculturists and pastoralists are at its mercy. The various companies have been selling at the one regulated price; they have been fixing prices, which we are told that the national parliament has not power to do. Some honorable members and the people outside Parliament boggle at price fixing ; they think that it is an awful thing for a Government representing all interests in the community to attempt to interfere with trade in that way. But in connexion with almost everything we use, exorbitant prices are being fixed by combines of suppliers. The explanation that the Prime Minister gave of the increase of the price of superphosphate from £5 to £5 7s. 6d. a ton, was not satisfying. He said that last year there was a shortage of phosphatic rock due to storms having interfered with shipping. He also mentioned the difficulty of getting labour at Nauru and Ocean Islands.
– Chinese labour is employed, and as much of it as is required can be obtained.
– The commission recruits the cheapest possible labour, and can get hundreds of thousands of coolies. If there is one place in the world where labour is abundant and cheap it is the Pacific Islands.
– The honorable member is overlooking the most important factor mentioned by the Prime Minister - the cost of importing rock from other countries.
– The right honorable gentleman first mentioned the seasonal storms and consequent shipping difficulties. The storms are not a new factor in this business. From the first year that the commission took control of Nauru and Ocean Islands, it was known that for a certain period of each year shipping operations had to . be suspended on account of stormy weather. In fact the late representative of Australia on the commission suggested the purchase of another island from which phosphatic rock could be shipped all the year round, The commission has always known of the interruptions caused by storms each year, and all it had to do was to build up reserves in Australia during the calm months. What was to prevent the adoption of that course?
– The demand for the superphosphates .
– The enormous increase in the demand did not occur suddenly last year.
– The companies have their agents throughout the country and know well what the demand is likely to be.
– To my personal knowledge a great expansion in the demand for superphosphates was predicted two years ago. Increase has been taking place year by year. Every honorable member who moves about the country knows that in each of the last six years there has been a marked increase in the use of superphosphates, and in that respect last year was only slightly above the average. That abnormality could have been foreseen. The honorable member for Wannon, is quite- right in his contention that the suspension of shipping operations for three months of the year is not a sufficient excuse for the shortage of superphosphates, because there are millions of tons of rock on the island, and plenty of labour to win and load it. What we have to realize, however, is that this problem will not be solved until steps are taken to control the fertilizer combine. The exposure that has taken place in New Zealand, following the formation of a co-operative concern to compete with the proprietary companies, and the action of those companies in reducing their selling price below the cost of production, proves that a combine exists. The Prime Minister argued that the price here must be reasonable because it is not much higher than that charged by a co-operative company. The Cresco Company is not co-operative, it is proprietary, but the shareholders are producers. Naturally, this company adopted the regulated price fixed by the combine, that has been the practice of most cooperative societies. It matters not to the producers who are the shareholders in the Cresco Company, if they pay even £2 per ton more than the reasonable selling price, because the money is returned to their pockets in the form of dividends. In order to impress their own shareholders, directors of co-operative concerns adopt approximately the same prices as are fixed by the combines. From their point of view there is something to be said for this method, but a charge is not necessarily fair and reasonable because it is made by them. Some cooperative societies ‘have reduced prices, but the majority have adopted the regulated prices of their competitors, and depended upon co-operative effort and economical distribution to compensate them with dividends. For years I have been convinced that the farmers have been at the mercy of a close combine ir the manufacture and supply of artificial manures. Controlling the raw material, the Commonwealth Government could regulate the price of the fertilizer to the producer. I disagree entirely from the statement of the honorable member for Wannon that government control of manufacture would not solve the problem of high prices. If the Commonwealth could hew the rock on Nauru and Ocean Islands, ship it to Australian ports, convert it into the finished article, and distribute it throughout Australia and New Zealand, many thousands of pounds would be saved to the primary producers, and a big impetus would be given to the agricultural and pastoral industries.
.- No matter of greater importance than the supply of fertilizers to the Australian community could have our attention, and we are indebted to the honorable member for Wannon for having brought this subject before the House. I am pleased with the sympathetic reply given by the Prime Minister. Australia is a primary producing country; 97 per cent, of its exports are primary products, the receipts from which are the foundation of our national credit. For that reason fertilizers are more needed by this country than by any other. We hear much of the little area of land available for settlement in the temperate zone. By the scientific use of manures the productivity of this area could be doubled, and it is a well-known fact that effectively manured land has a considerably increased carrying capacity. This country would be very much richer if, instead of spending huge sums on the Northern Territory and other distant provinces that are difficult to develop, more attention were paid by the Government to ensuring a cheaper supply of fertilizers.
Sir Rider Haggard, in a message to Australia at the inception of federation, said that the chief aim of all civilized governments should be to keep population on the land and to multiply those modest rural homes in which men and women grow up in health and prosperity, and become imbued with those sober and enduring qualities which have made the greatness of our nation and maintain it now. He added that prosperity will follow the feet that tread the fields, rather than those that trip along the pavements. During the last general election campaign, the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) wisely stated that if the governments of Australia had given to the development of the primary resources half the attention they had given to the secondary industries the wealth of the country would be double, if not treble, what it is to-day. The honorable member for Yarra spoke of a fertilizer combine which is fleecing the farmers. I doubt whether that combine is more serious than others that are fleecing the primary producers ; in fact, it has less opportunity to despoil them, because it is not hedged about by a high tariff. The manufacturers of fertilizers have done a great service to Australia, and have carried on their industry without tariff assistance; therefore, they are, perhaps, less blameworthy than many other manufacturers. With increased fertilization, our export of primary produce could be doubled. The lamb export trade should be developed, for it has helped to give financial stability tt New Zealand. Mr. Swift, Chairman of Swift and Company, of Chicago, told me that New Zealand lambs are the best that are sold on the world’s markets, and that Australians do not study the fodder of their stock sufficiently to be able to compete successfully in the beef markets overseas. The Government would bc much better employed in giving attention to important matters like these than in encouraging the manufacture of a few pocket knives and matches.
– Order ! The honorable member must confine his remarks to the prices charged for superphosphates.
– I am trying to emphasize the need for giving consideration to first principles. Surely fertilizers are the key commodity of this primary producing country. If the Government devised means by which the people could get abundant and cheaper fertilizers, it would do more good than by any other legislation. The lamb export trade could be increased and dairying could be made more remunerative. The wool and wheat production could be increased, and, in fact, every source from which Australia derives its true livelihood. The phosphate industry should, therefore, have the first consideration of this Government. The agriculturists of Australia have, during the last two decades, gained wonderful knowledge in connexion with the application of superphosphates to the land. The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) evidently does not know much of this subject, because he has spoken of the preparation of soil for fertilizing purposes. In Western Australia we have discovered that the method of merely clearing the ,land and applying superphosphate with the seed is better than disturbing the soil. In that way we have been able to create more wealth without increasing our holdings. The proper use of superphosphate has enabled us to transform the south-west of Australia from practically waste lands into good agricultural areas. I hope that the Prime Minister will supplement his sympathetic remarks with practical effort in this matter.
– We owe a great deal to the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) for ventilating the subject of superphosphates this morning, but I do not say that I agree with all that he has said. I should like to remind’ the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) that while I agree “with him in regard to the importance of superphosphates to the primary industries of this country, yet he should realize that these are practically dependent on secondary industries. The manufacture of superphosphates is a secondary industry, and without this commodity most of the men on the land would be in a serious position.
– The industry is not protected.
– That is so, and in that respect the honorable member has no complaint to make. I understood the Prime Minister to say that when new methods of handling were adopted at Nauru Island the raw material would be transported much more expeditiously, and at a lower cost than at present. I believe that the dispute between the excommissioner and his brother commissioners concerned the establishment of a cantilever process for loading vessels. The ex-commissioner told me himself that if he had had his way the cantilever process would have been established twelve months ago, and that his efforts had been frustrated by the representatives of the British and New Zealand Governments. I am making no apology for him, but I hope that his successor will see that the raw material is obtained in Australia as cheaply as. possible. I know that for three months of the year it is almost impossible to load a vessel at Nauru. It is most peculiar that when the commission was forced to send overseas for vessels to transport rock phosphate to Australia and elsewhere, the Commonwealth Government was engaged in disposing of portion of the fleet of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, including vessels of the very type required for the carriage of superphosphates. The Government is deserving of censure for its action on that occasion. The honorable member for Wannon showed that Great Britain, a partner in this enterprise, obtained none of her supplies from Nauru. The reason for that is that her source of supply is nearer home. In any case the freight from Nauru to Great Britain would be prohibitive.
– That is all to our advantage.
Mr.FENTON. - That is so. In my constituency there are three or four large fertilizer works. Last year the manufacturers were very much afraid that they would not be able to obtain sufficient raw material to meet requirements. I had an interview with Mr. Pope, the manager of one of the establishments, and he gave me considerable information. For a time there was a shortage of raw material, but supplies were obtained from Florida and elsewhere sufficient to meet the Australian demand. I do not attach much importance to the reduction in the price of superphosphates in New Zealand at present. It is well known that when co-operative societies are formed prices are reduced to a certain extent by them, and in consequence the other manufacturers try to crush them out of existence by reducing prices below cost. I have had some dealings with the manufacturers here and, generally speaking, they treat the farmers very well indeed. In many cases the farmers obtain extended terms for the purchase of superphosphates. I am inclined to think that it is not practicable to reduce the cost of the manufactured article here. The only hope that we have of obtaining cheaper superphosphates in Australia is through a reduction in the price of the raw material, and if this is brought about by the inquiry referred to by the Prime Minister, it will have fully justified its appointment. The use of superphosphates is revolutionizing primary production. We have marvellous assets in Nauru and Ocean Islands, and I hope that we shall make the best use of them.
.- I am sure that we are all delighted to know that the Government realizes the importance of the subject which has been raised by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) this morning, and is seised of the necessity for an investigation respecting the supply of rock phosphate from Nauru and Ocean Islands. At the same time, it seems to me that undue stress has been laid upon one end of the enterprise instead of the other. We have heard a great deal about the work of the commission, and in some instances it has been criticized. The investigation which the Government proposes should go further than a mere inquiry into the commission’s activities. An inquiry is certainly needed into the manufacturing and distributing end. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has said that he feels convinced that the only hope for a reduction in the price of superphosphates to the Australian farmer is through a reduction in the price of the raw material. I am not sure that there is justification for such a hope. The facts that have been brought before us to-day suggest rather that a reduction in the price of the raw material will not have much effect. I regret that I did not know earlier what was the purpose of the honorable member for Wannon in moving his motion, or I should have taken the opportunity to look up figures. As it is, I can only speak from memory. Not very long ago the price of superphosphates in Australia was well below £4 a ton, and it has been steadilyincreasing ever since. Although there was a special increase of 7s. 6d. a ton last year, more attention has been devoted to that than to the maintenance of the old price of £5 per ton. What is the use of a reduction in the price of the raw material when it is not reflected in the price of the manufactured article? We have been told to-day that the commission has reduced the price of raw material from 80s. a ton to 4.4s. 6d. a ton, a reduction of nearly half the price. Has that been reflected in any way in the price of the manufactured article ? All the facts seem to be otherwise. It seems to me that the hope of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) that a further reduction in the price of the raw material will lead to a reduction of the manufactured article is fallacious. An inquiry should be made at the manufacturing and distributing end. The price of superphosphates is certainly too high. The abolition of the sulphur duty, to which some reference has been made, and the payment of a bounty, were justified on the plea that cheaper superphosphates would be provided for the farmers. This House agreed to the arrangement on that ground. Has it brought about such a reduction ? Is there one fact to show that the motive which actuated this House in bringing about that change of policy has been justified by events ? Two big factors affecting the cost of the manufacture of superphosphate are the price of phosphate rock and the price of sulphur, and although both have been reduced there has been no corresponding reduction in the price of superphosphate. Are the old arguments to be fired at us again to-day while nothing is done to realize the purpose of Parliament in introducing the reform ? The price at which superphosphate is sold to the farmer is of more practical concern than the supply of phosphate from the islands. Everything should be done to increase the output of the islands, but the Government ought not to leave the other aspect of the matter alone. The Prime Minister expressed gratification at the action of the manufacturers and distributors in stating their willingness to co-operate with the view of reducing prices. That may be only a pious hope; something more tangible is required.
– In fairness to the manufacturers, it should be pointed out that they treated Australia very well during the war period.
– That may be so, but they made a good profit. We must assume that every one did his duty to the community during the wax. I do not wish it to be understood that I am attacking the companies when I say that there is subject matter for an inquiry. The farmers are not satisfied. I direct attention to this aspect of the matter, because it seems to me, from the reply of the Prime Minister , that although he is willing to do all he can through the commission to reduce the price of the raw material, he is more than satisfied that the manufacturing and distributing side does not merit much’ inquiry. I hope that with the realization by the Government of the importance of the subject, a most searching inquiry will be made.
Question resolved in the negative.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable members questions are -
Tariff Board’s Report
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– On behalf of the Minister for Trade and Customs, who is absent from Melbourne, I furnish the following replies to the honorable member’s questions : -
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Debate resumed from 3rd March (vide page 80), on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That the paper be printed.
.- The question is, that the summary of certain proceedings of the Imperial Conference of 1926 be printed. I do not purpose to offer any serious objection to the printing of the paper, although I have very grave doubts whether, on a fair assessment of its value, it will turn out to be worth the printer’s ink required to print it. The curt proposition, “ That the paper be printed,” suggests an anti-climax proportionate to the relative values, or relative volume, of the speeches delivered at the conference and before and after it to the work actually accomplished. When I hear succeeding Prime Ministers on their return from these conferences declare that they have performed some new and useful service in underpinning the structure of the Empire, I marvel that that structure, notwithstanding repeated improvements and additions, has so long avoided condemnation under the Empire Builders’ Act. Alternatively, one wonders how long it will be before this edifice of Empire, through the operations of the various Prime Ministers attending succeeding Imperial Conferences, becomes safe for human habitation. I offer a word of friendly warning to the Prime Minister. I warn him that the advantages of having one’s own publicity agents paid by the State are offset by compensating disadvantages, and it may be that such assistance will convert a perfectly practical and successful dealer in soft goods into a mere unpractical weaver of heavy platitudes. I am confirmed in that opinion as to the danger to the Prime Ministerafter reading the speech of the right honorable gentleman. I once remember hearing counsel addressing an involved argument. to a learned judge, who at first listened patiently, but after a time seemed to allow his mind to wander. Counsel was moved to remark indiscreetly, “ I do not know, your Honour, whether you are listening to me “ ; and the judge promptly replied, “ Yes, Mr. Blank, I am listening. It is very painful, but I am listening.” The relevancy of that story to the present debate will be sufficiently clear if I merely remark that I have read the speech of the right honorable gentleman, though I did not attempt the task of listening. This Imperial Conference, which has no executive, administrative, or legislative capacity, or constitutional position or authority, has come to be regarded by those who take part in it, and those who have been deluded into sharing the belief of those who take part in it, as of some practical importance, and as having some appreciable effect on the well-being of the people of the Commonwealth. I do not share that opinion. The right honorable gentleman, in the course of his speech, said that in addition to this paper there was a large bound volume of appendices, and that thirty more copies were to come. I beg the Prime Minister to accept my assurance that there are indigent poor outside who are more in need of these bound volumes than I; and I sincerely hope that he will not be tempted as an act of generosity to offer me one, thinking that in the acceptance of it I shall ever read it. The right honorable gentleman assured this House and the country that exceedingly valuable work was done at the Conference. I am quite prepared to believe that that is his honestopinion ; it is with some regret that 3 have come to the conclusion that this is the effect that Imperial Conferences are having upon him. I certainly do not challenge his sincerity, but only his judgment in this regard. The speech that I read is really a sonorous echo of certain speeches which were delivered at and before and after the Conference. The Prime Minister addressed himself to his subject under five main headings, and I cannot do better than follow, to a certain point, his excellent example. I do not suppose, at present at all events, that I shall be so carried away by my own unexpected verbosity that I shall, like the right honorable gentleman, apply for an extension of time, so it is very
Ifr. Brennan. unlikely that I shall be able to examine all these headings. The headings are inter-imperial relations, foreign policy, communication and consultation, between different parts of the Empire, defence and economic questions. If any proof were required that a good deal of the talk at the Imperial Conference on these subjects was merely flambuoyant wordspinning it may be found in the following sentence which the right honorable gentleman uttered prior to leaving Australia : -
If a single thing that could he regarded as a real limitation of our autonomy could be pointed to, I have no hesitation whatever in saying that the Imperial Government would, if possible, remove it; but I know of nothing whatever that could be rightly considered a restriction of the authority of the Commonwealth Government to deal with Commonwealth affairs.
I protest against the use of the words Imperial Government or Imperial Parliament. The heavens be praised, there is no Imperial Parliament.
– Hear, hear !
– Nor is there an Imperial Government.
– Not so far as Australia is concerned.
– There is a British Parliament and a British Government.
– There is an imperial power.
– The extent to which this imperial power runs is sufficiently well known not to require exemplification at the moment.
– There is an Imperial Government in relation to India, but not in relation to Australia.
– Possibly that is so. All that I wish to say on that point is that I share the hope of those bright spirits of India who believe that, as a result of their public agitation and advocacy, there will not for long be an Imperial Parliament, even so far as India is concerned, at all events not in the sense in which there is one at present. The Prime Minister seems to have forged another link in the chain which connects him with Alexander the Great, who, as honorable members know, having conquered all the world, wept that there were not other worlds for him to conquer. One might have thought that the right honorable gentleman having declared that there was nothing more to be won from the centre of Empire by anything he could say or do, would have wept and remained at home. Perhaps I also may be permitted to shed a tear because of the tendency of succeeding Prime Ministers to seek inspiration for the government of their own country by basking in the smiles of, and taking dinners with, people who have no responsibility whatever in regard to the matter. If the Prime Minister could only learn that his duty to Australia is in Australia, he would build his reputation as an Australian statesman on a sound foundation. This inveterate tendency of representatives of Australia to go abroad and, if I may use the word, toady to the powers and parliaments of another country, is to be deplored.
The first business that the Imperial Conference dealt with, so the Prime Minister informed us, related to the title of His Majesty the King. It is significant that the word “ and “ has been definitely deleted from His Majesty’s title. All I can say about that is that I did not notice that it caused any earth tremors in the antipodes or that it lessened the respect which honorable members of this Parliament entertain for an institution whose strongest claim to their respect is that it does not limit in. the slightest degree their activities as a democratic people.
But notwithstanding the Prime Minister’s declaration that he knew of nothing that could be considered a restriction of the authority of the Commonwealth Parliament to deal with Commonwealth affairs, there are a few problems which are worthy of solution which the Conference did nothing whatever to solve. For instance, the Colonial Laws Validity Act still remains upon the statute book of Great Britain. That is a matter of real importance to Australia. The act is entitled “An Act to remove Doubts as to the Validity of Colonial Laws.” It was passed on the 29th June, 1865, 28 and 29 Victoria, chapter 63. It provides, inter aiia -
An act of Parliament, or any provision thereof, shall, in construing this act, toe said to extend to any colony when it is made applicable to such colony by the express words or necessary intendment of any act of Parliament.
Section 2 of the act reads -
Any colonial law which is or shall be in any respect repugnant to the provisions of any act of Parliament extending to the colony to which such law may relate, or repugnant to any order or regulation made under authority of such act of Parliament, or having in the colony the force and effect of such act, shall bc read subject to such action, order, or regulation, and shall, to .the extent of such repugnancy, but not otherwise, be and remain absolutely void and inoperative.
Had that been an enactment - I mean any enactment - of the Australian Parliament, it is inconceivable that it would not have been altered, amended, or probably repealed during the intervening 50 years; but it is an enactment of the British Parliament, and still remains in force, notwithstanding all the advances that have been made in dominion status and practical independence. That law, as a matter of fact, imposes a limit upon the freedom of the Australian legislature. In proof of that statement I call the attention of honorable members to the fact that it was quoted in our own High Court quite recently in the case of the Union Steamship Company versus the Commonwealth Government, which is reported in 37 Commonwealth Law Reports, at page 130. I need not read to honorable members the judgment of the court ; it is sufficient to say that the High Court decided that in view of the provisions of the act the Australian Navigation Act was inoperative in so far as it sought to impose certain obligations upon men who obtained clearances in Australian waters from ships registered under the British Merchant Shipping Act.
– Does the honorable member say that the High Court held that our Navigation Act was in conflict with the Colonial Laws Validity Act.
– Notwithstanding that it was reserved for assent?
– Irrespective altogether of that point, the court held that our Navigation Act was inapplicable. In my view, that state of affairs is intolerable. It simply means that the Australian Parliament is not able to make first and final laws in regard to all seamen engaged in Australian waters, and in other respects under the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth.
That problem was worth the attention of the Imperial Conference. It was capable of easy solution if the Prime Minister had had the temperament and political .character to approach it in the only way in which it could be approached, namely, by politely intimating to the Imperial authorities that Australian laws were expected to prevail in Australian territory, and that the sooner Great Britain removed from her statutebook any statutes which were in conflict with our well-established principle of self-government the better it would be for Great Britain, for Australia, and for the Empire. But the right honorable gentleman did not take that stand. He passed the matter over with the following brief observation -
Each of those questions will require the most careful and deliberate consideration, and probably will involve the examination of a great deal of detail to ascertain the wisest course to adopt.
– That is what they have been saying for the last twenty years.
– That is so. The Prime Minister declared that these questions must be approached with cunning, wisdom, and involved research, and that at some remote period they may or may not be grappled with by the wise, men at the Imperial Conference.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30 p.m.
– The terms of the decision in the case of the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand Limited and another as plaintiff, and the Commonwealth and another as defendant, as quoted in the headnote, are as follow: -
Section 124 of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894 applies to ships registered in the United Kingdom, as well as to ships registered in a British possession. The Navigation Act 1912-20 is a colonial law within the meaning and operation of section 2 of the Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865, and therefore any provisions in the former act, or any regulation made thereunder, which is repugnant to the provisions of the Merchant Shipping Acts 1894-1906, is to the extent of such repugnancy void and inoperative.
It was under that section that the High Court declared the Navigation Act - a measure by which the Commonwealth Parliament attempted to regulate the operation of shipping in Australian waters, and to impose on the masters of all ships within those waters the observ ance of provisions as to payments, &c. - to be void and inoperative to the extent of its repugnancy with it. I might add a word with regard to the Merchant Shipping Act. It is an Imperial statute, which has more than once been operated in Australian courts. During the recent great shipping strike a number of men on ships of British registry were brought before the Australian courts and punished under tb.3 provisions of that act. I protested then, and I protest now, against, men being brought before Australian tribunals and punished under the provisions of an act which was never passed or approved by this or any other Australian legislature. For my part I felt shamed and humiliated that men who were in a sense entitled by all the canons of law and hospitality to the protection of the Australian laws should be made quasi criminals and punished in Australian courts, although, apart from that statute, they had not done anything which could be classed as an offence. But the statute remains, and I am entitled to ask what the Prime Minister did about it. I admit that in the counsels of the Imperial Conference he could do nothing of a practical nature. Nevertheless, we have a right to know whether he expressed any view there, and if so whether it was not due to this Parliament that he should tell us in the course of his long speech what view he expressed and what opinions he now holds on the matter. It is idle for him to return to Australia and tell us that almost illimitable stores of wisdom were drawn upon in the discussion of those matters, and that they involved reference to many files, and inquiries into theories of “jurisprudence and government. What we want to know on a practical subject of this nature - a clash between a British and an Australian law - is the attitude that the Prime Minister took up in the defence of the Australian Parliament and the Australian people.
Another matter that came up for consideration was, in the order in which he took them, that of appeals to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. With respect to these the Prime Minister said -
There was a marked difference of opinion amongst the various dominions as to how far the right of appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council should be exercised.
Se did not even tell the House what attitude he assumed on that matter. He merely indicated that there was a sharp difference of opinion between the dominions, and I can well suppose that there was. I can imagine the representative of South Africa, Mr. Hertzog, and the representative of Canada, Mr. Mackenzie King, taking one point of view in regard to those appeals, and the right honorable gentleman taking another. At all events, the most we can do is to guess what his view was. I have not heard him declare that he was not free to tell us what his attitude was, and I do not think that he would go so far as to say that it was a matter of Imperial diplomacy which he was not at liberty to discuss in this chamber. Honorable members on this side know what their own opinions upon it are. I certainly know mine, and my view, cleanly expressed and definite, is better than none at all. It is that we should discourage by every means in our power appeals from the highest Australian courts to any court outside Australia. That is the policy of the Labour party. I know that there are certain limitations with regard to the right of appeal ; at present the Labour party believes in far more drastic provisions, and contends that by the time litigation has been drawn out by appeals from a single puisne judge to the Full Court, and from that court to the High Court, parties will have arrived at a point as near to judicial certainty as , would be attained by going to a dozen courts outside Australia. I believe that the calibre and capacity of the High Court is equal to, if not greater than, that of any tribunal in the world.
The Prime Minister has spoken with his characteristic indefiniteness of treaties. What did he say, as a final summary of the efforts of the conference, concerning them?
The resolutions are somewhat exhaustive, and must be read by honorable members if their significance is to be fully understood. But, broadly speaking, they endeavour to bring the practice into line with what is to-day admittedly the position in the different selfgoverning parts of the Empire.
– Delightfully informative !
– Quite as informative as the Prime Minister was upon the other matters to which I have referred. What was his view at the Imperial Conference? Does he believe in Australia’s right to make a treaty with a foreign country ? If not, why not ? Am I expected to look through that dreadful tome of which 30 copies are yet to be distributed amongst honorable members ? If I did, I should probably find how relatively small a part the Prime Minister played in the Imperial deliberations, as compared with what his press claqueurs and special publicists would lead us to believe. That is what the mountain, being in labour, with the aid of the most astute international obstetricians, has been able to bring forth. The main fact, as it appears to me, is that the Prime Minister did not face the essential difficulty, that when Britain is at war, we, whether we like it or not, are, in the present relation, at war also. He did not face the position that in our foreign relations we must in the last resort, if we would make a real reform, choose our own course, and take full responsibility for it. if in fact we are a nation amongst a free commonwealth’ of nations, as he so frequently declares us to be. There is no danger of his making such a declaration, and therefore he employs a fatuous evasion, clothed in meaningless words and high-sounding phrases which carry us nowhere. They involve neither obligations, on the one hand, nor rights on the other. He spoke about our Imperial intercommunication, and in summarizing it these are the words used -
However, the whole matter was dealt with in such a way that no doubt remains that a dominion, if it chooses, can appoint its own direct representative in any foreign country.
There was never any doubt about that. Does the right honorable gentleman tell us to what extent we can provide for diplomatic representation, and what diplomatic representative, such as an ambassador, we could appoint in any foreign country ? Not at all. He abstains carefully from giving his view, either as to what we can or should do. Some generalization which emerges from the discussion he publishes, but about what he said, or the position he took up for Australia on that subject, he is absolutely and discreetly silent. After all, the right honorable gentleman is entitled in” a certain sense to speak for Australia. I do not like it, but I have to bear with it. We have to put up with the consequences of the last federal election. As he is responsible for speaking for Australia, I ask him what were his views upon these subjects, so that he and his Government may he judged, in due time, by the free and independent electors of the Commonwealth. This question of our diplomatic representation is a very interesting one. Up to the present the only representation of foreign countries we have had here has been by a consul or consul-general. I remember during the war having to take occasion to emphasize the fact that a certain gentleman calling himself the “ Consul-General for Italy,” arrogated to himself all the powers of ambassador and diplomatic representative. In that capacity, with unexampled tyranny, supported as he was by the Commonwealth Government at the time, he hounded down a number of Italian nationals in this country, conscripted them, and drove them out of Australia willy nilly, in defiance .alike of international law and the ordinary principles of British justice. I took occasion to ventilate that matter in this chamber, and in doing so, drew attention to the difference between a consul - as this gentleman was, because the “ general “ he added to his name was merely an affectation of his own - and a diplomatic agent. I explained that a consulgeneral or a consul, which this gentleman was, was nothing, and could do nothing, more in this country than a trade agent. An ambassador occupies a very different position. He is in a certain sense the representative of his sovereign. If we elected to do what Canada has insisted upon doing by appointing a representative in the United States of America, with the status of an ambassador, that would be a very definite and significant step towards the declaration of our independence. Does the Prime Minister think that we have the right and the power to appoint an ambassador ? What did he say on the subject at the Imperial conference? What is his opinion on the subject, and what does he say now V Nothing doing. We do not know what his opinions are. Perhaps if we searched the dreaded record we could find out, but that would be too great a price to pay for the service.
– The right honorable gentleman would not agree to appoint Sir Hugh Denison as an ambassador.
– Nor would he agree to appoint the honorable member for Dalley to such a position. In connexion with treaty rights I read a very interest ing opinion recently on the subject. Any freely-expressed opinion upon these matters by interested persons is always interesting if one can gather what they mean. I noted, I think in last Saturday’s Herald, the following statement: -
In the last of a series of lectures on the Empire’s constitution, Brigadier-General JohnMorgan, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University College., London, dealt with inter-imperial relations and the report of the Imperial conference. He described it as a “ programme.”
Like all political formula trouble would arise when attempts were made to apply it The dominions’ claim to advise the King directly, instead of through the dominions ana foreign secretaries, should be limited.
The quotation continues under the heading, “ Embarrassing the Throne “ -
I see great dangers if two dominions give conflicting advice, he said. “They cast a most unconstitutional and strangely embarrassing duty on the King - to act himself. If there isone principle most deeply rooted in Britain’s Dominions Constitution it is that the Kingcan not act alone. He must act through his Ministers. I am comforted by one fact. It is now a settled principle that practically all the treaties do not bind the dominions without their consent.”
That is arguable. I see great difficulty in it from the point of view of the Prime Minister, but none from the Labour point of view, because, so far as Australia is concerned, I do not think there would be the slightest danger of the Labour party in power embarrassing the Sovereign by asking his advice, in connexion with a matter which ought to be, and no doubt would be, within the purview and the powers of the Commonwealth Government for the time being. The position might be very different with the present Prime Minister in power. His attitude is indicated when he turns to the Empire and says, “ When you are at war we are at war.” That is not the attitude of honorable members on this side. The right honorable gentleman says, “We are independent. We are one of the commonwealth of free nations; but for Heaven’s sake never forget that we are dependent upon you for our maintenance, defence, and support. We assert our independence, but we insist upon the fact that we cannot defend ourselves.” I have more than once referred to that attitude adopted by the right honorable gentleman. We know that when he speaks about the nationhood of Australia he is quite prepared, at a moment’s notice, at a nod from Downing-street, to embroil this country with a foreign country in a war, of the cause of whichwe have no knowledge, and with a country and people against whom we have no grievance. He says to the representative of the Sovereign, “ Come to us upon a friendly mission in connexion with the opening of our great new capital; but come in all the panoply of war. Come in the most offensive warship the Navy can provide for you, and in such a way that the world may be impressed with the might and majesty of the British Navy.” This at the very moment when we, as an integral part of the Empire, are pleading, as they at the heart of the Empire are pleading, that we should refrain from the use of provocative words about might and majesty, and should, on the contrary, by every means in our power, reduce our naval strength, or at least not advertize it so that, apparently if not actually, we may be in harmony with the decisions of the Washington Conference. “You must,” the right honorable gentleman says to Great Britain, “doeverythingneccessarytohaveusrecognized as a big indigent dependent, with the voice of a lion and the heart of a burnt peanut.” In the course of his speech, he recalled the fact that we had only recently passed through a dreadful world war. I was a little surprised, and even edified, to find that he admitted that it was undesirable that we should ever again be compelled by force of circumstances to take part in a war, about the genesis of which and its probable outcome we had no information. Having made this public declaration in this chamber, he seems to have forgotten that, within the last few months, he was prepared to send an Australian battleship to the mouth of the Yang-tse-Kiang to spit fire and inflict death upon peaceful Chinese standing for the defence of their rights on their own soil. That was the recent attitude of the Prime Minister, who tells us now that never again shall we be swept into a war of the cause and meaning of which we have no knowledge. We can estimate the value of the statement when we know that he was then prepared that half a million men should be sent from Australia into the shambles. The Government would make no inquiry into such a matter, because it does not believe in any interference with the foreign policy of the Empire. Well, honorable members on this side do believe in it, so far as it affects ourselves. We believe that we should dictate it, so far as it affects ourselves. We should know all about it, and our responsibility to the Empire. Our responsibility, in the first place, is to those who have sent us to legislate for them, whose destiny is in our hands, and whose people are in our charge. A very curious and interesting statement was made by the Prime Minister in connexion with the attitude of Mr. Hertzog at the Imperial Conference. Speaking on the subject of inter-Imperial relations, the right honorable gentleman said -
There are some people who say that it is quite unnecessary to have the Inter-imperial Relations Committee; that its report means nothing; that it has not altered the position one iota from what it was before the committee met, and that the whole action was utterly futile.
I am glad that so many are in agreement with my own view in that regard. Even the Prime Minister himself makes the curious commentary, “ I am afraid I cannot agree with that view.” I do not know what he was afraid of, and that seems to be a misuse of language. At all events, he was afraid that he could not agree with the view that those proceedings were utterly futile. Then he goes on to say -
Even if there is nothing new -
That is granted by the right honorable gentleman, as will be seen - and if the document to which I have referred merely sets out the position as it was before we met in conference, there is yet direct evidence that the people of a great dominion like South Africa did not clearly understand what was meant by equality of status and full self-governing rights of the dominions.
That is surely a burst of humour. The Prime Minister says there is nothing new to him insofar as nothing was accomplished, but we have taught the great Republic of South Africa, not what the new position, but what the existing, position really is. Sowe teach our grandmother to suck eggs ! Why, sir,this is Hertzogwho is referred to! This is the manwho, nearly 30 years ago,was fighting for his life and for his country upon the battlefields of hisown land, resisting the predatory warfare waged against it by the great Empire for which, for the moment, the Prime Minister is the sponsor. Hertzog has studied empire in the crucible and from two view-points. The Prime Minister would say that the conference was eminently justified in that it had taught Hertzog just where we were. The men who stood for dominion independence in the true sense of the word were Hertzog, MacKenzie King, and the valiant spokesman for India.
– Did the honorable member read the speech made by Hertzog about ten days ago?
– I have read several of his speeches, and I have noted with great interest the tremendous enthusiasm with which he was received in South Africa, because of the fact that at the conference he did not depart one iota from the stand he took before he went to London. Between him and the right honorable the Prime Minister there is a great difference. It is a temperamental difference. Neither desires to break up the Empire, neither wants to destroy the friendly feeling that exists between its component parts. Each is quite ready and willing to maintain the union of the British people, but men like Hertzog stand for absolute right of independent action by the local legislatures in local matters, whereas the right honorable the Prime Minister subordinates every one of his public activities and speeches to the views of the Parliament across the seas. The right honorable gentleman was entertained at the Savoy, and his speech on that occasion was reported in the Age under the heading. “Mr. Bruce brags.” I was pleased to find that the heading was not one of those which is not justified by the context of the report. In the course of his remarks he said -
The culminating point in the clarification of our thoughts since the war has come with the present conference. Facts which will be published on Sunday will show that we have faced all the great issues and shirked none, and found no reason for any revolutionary change. It is the greatest tribute to British genius in our whole history. We have found a solution of our great problem. The Empire is more closely knit than ever before, because we have treated each other with absolute frankness, and endeavoured to find a common solution. We have heard much of such question as, “ What’s status of the Dominions - are they inferior to Great Britain?” I believe that as the result of this conference we will hear no more such discussions, and that there will be recognition of all the great self-governing parts of the Empire with equal rights indissolubly united in common membership of the British commonwealth. I have the greatest respect for India, but I challenge the axiom of the British people that India is the brightest star in the British crown - it is not. Australia is the brightest star.
– And so say all of us.
– Upon that point we all are agreed. The sentiment would be admirable if it carried us anywhere. Having read the whole of the report of that speech, delivered after dinner at the Savoy, I would like to be able to say, in justification of the right honorable member’s verbosity, that he was, perhaps, enjoying a gentlemanly state of inebriety.Knowing him as I do I cannot urge that in his defence, and all I can say is that I find no evidence of sobriety in the speech itself. “ I have great respect for India !” Such a thing might be said by a bat of the Nelson column in Trafalgarsquare. So might a grasshopper apostrophise the pyramids of Egypt. “I have great respect for India!” I have respect for the sun, the moon, the stars, the winds, and the oceans that beat upon the rocks, I have respect for the flowers that bloom in the spring. But neither sun, nor moon, nor stars, nor ocean, nor wind, nor flowers will be complete in their spheres until the right honorable gentleman has dealt with them effectively at the Imperial Conference. “ I have respect for India!” Patronage could hardly be carried further. India, that mighty latent power with its wonderful history, just awakening from its thraldom, and taking its place amongst the nations of the world, commencing to make itself articulate, resisting oppression, and determined to govern itself - the right honorable gentleman has respect for it! Surely the millions of India’s population, awakening on the day after his speech was delivered, must have united in canticles of praise because they had succeeded in winning for themselves the respect of the Prime Minister of Australia. “ I have great respect for India!” It was for these platitudes that we sent him abroad. It was for these that we furnished him with Australian money. It was for these that we sent him on board a comfortable ship, and supplied him with a group of publicists - newspaper reporters, claqueurs, and flunkeys of various kind3. It was for these that we provided him with commodious apartments in the Hotel Cecil. It was for these that we were privileged to read in the newspapers .that, booted and spurred, he. rode in Rotten Row. Was he sent to take his place amongst the elect in the halls of the mighty, merely that he might talk such tosh as that he had respect for India ? All the great problems that the delegates faced, they faced squarely, but they solved none of them. I have great faith in the Empire and in my kinsmen overseas. I wish them well, and I am willing to co-operate with them at even a high price in any endeavour that will lead to an amelioration of the conditions of my fellow men and the betterment of their country and ours. The right honorable gentleman respects India. I respect the United Kingdom - England, Scotland, Wales, aye, and Ireland, too. I respect their peoples because they speak the language I speak. I respect the races, whose history has been wrapped up with the story of great nien and great endeavours; the peoples from whom we draw our blood and inspiration. I respect them for the things they have done, for the great men and women they have produced, and for the mighty civilizations they are. I respect them the more for the millions within their shores who are still struggling to make themselves articulate, and to provide their bare needs of subsistence with at least a gleam of sunshine in accordance with the laws under which they live and work. So far from wishing ill to any part of the Empire, I devoutly wish it well in every respect. But I ask that in dealing with our kinsmen across the seas we drop all make-believe, hypocrisy, and charlatanism, and cease to employ words that have no meaning. I ask that, as far as possible, we grapple with our own problems. But, as to Imperial conferences, when one has leisure to take a holiday, let him frankly take it. For my own part, I am prepared to afford the right honorable gentleman every facility, when he feels that he is overworked, to go abroad and take a rest, but let him not on his return attempt to persuade this Parliament that he has changed the whole face of things Australian, that he has made a new Australia and a new Empire, and that he has written the name of Bruce across the firmament, so as to win the respect and admiration of all mankind, including the respect of India. Let the paper be printed!
– In reviewing the doings of the last Imperial Conference, the Prime Minister covered far too wide a field to be dealt with in a speech of reasonable length. Any one of the subjects touched upon by the right honorable gentleman would suffice for a most interesting and informative debate. I can hope to deal with only very few of the matters he raised, and those in but a general way. The Imperial Conference is now a recognized instrumentality of Empire government. It is essential, and there is not, and cannot be, any substitute for that direct and intimate touch between representatives of nations ordinarily separated by vast distances which the conference makes possible. If the delegates did nothing but sit round a table, the Prime Ministers exchanging opinions and learning of each other the difficulties which confront them in their respective countries, nothing but good could come of such gatherings. One has to remember that behind every government is a man. That nian is usually a reflex of the circumstances in which he finds himself. Every Prime Minister reflects more or less accurately the community from which he comes. The circumstances of each dominion are widely different. The problems that confront the people of Canada are distinct from those with which Australia has to deal. Sometimes we cannot understand why other dominions do what they do, nor can they, perhaps, understand Australia’s attitude to many great problems; coloured labour, for instance. The outlook of each country is governed by its peculiar circumstances. But my experience of these conferences is that one goes to teach and remains to learn, and that every man comes away a little better fitted to govern his own country than when lie arrived. Certainly the conferences tend to correct many misconceptions. Dominion Prime Ministers who go to London, to represent their country for the first time, convinced that they know all that British statesmen can teach and ready to resent an attitude of superiority, come away profoundly convinced that, of all men, the British representatives are the most ready to consider problems from other men’s points of view. Whatever the difficulties of the Empire are at the moment - and they are many and complex - nobody is able to place on the British Government the responsibility for their continuance. Indeed, the story of the development of inter-Empire relations, briefly set out, is one of continual and ever-increasing transference of authority formerly exercised by Britain to the respective dominions. Britain as time has passed has shorn herself of those prerogatives which formerly she exercised unchallenged, and, at every stage of the growth of the colonies and the dominions, such powers as were necessary to their circumstances have been freely granted to them. Every conference, of course considers the circumstances in which it finds itself. The recent conference is remarkable chiefly for having set out what may be termed a .Declaration of Rights. It endeavoured to define the relations between Britain and the dominions. I say frankly that I have always been opposed to any attem.pt to reduce to writing the constitutional relations between Britain and the dominions. I believe that, at best, every declaration of our rights must be superfluous; that every attempt to define our powers must limit them. The attempt of the 1926 conference, which, perhaps, the Prime Minister regarded as without precedent, was, in fact, contemplated by previous conferences. The conference of 1917 approved the desirability of defining inter-Empire relations. In 1921 the matter was brought up by the representatives of South Africa and Canada, and was discussed at considerable length. I then opposed it. I have always opposed it, as one who stands jealously for the rights of the dominions. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) and I have not always been able to see eye to eye; but he has never been able to charge me with whittling away the self-governing rights of the dominions. I have always held that it is sufficient that the dominions are equal in status to Britain herself. Equals do not require declarations of rights; whatever right one has is shared by all. The report of the Imperial Relations Committee does not help us at all. It does not extend our powers ; it does not resolve our difficulties; it does not make our position any clearer. Let me prove thi3. At the 1921 conference, the then British Prime Minister (Mr. Lloyd George) said -
In recognition of their services and achievements in the war, the British dominions have now been accepted fully into the comity of nations by the whole world. They have achieved full national status, and they now stand beside the United Kingdom as equal partners in the dignities and responsibilities of the British Commonwealth.
This general declaration of rights goes far beyond anything that is set out in the document to which the Prime Minister has referred. If the dominions are equal in status to Britain ; if they are accepted as nations by the whole world, what more remains ? That is the position viewed from the angle of the British Government. Let me now quote the remarks of Sir Robert Borden, who spoke in the Canadian Parliament on behalf of us all on his return from the Conference-
We meet there at the conference on terms of equality under the presidency of the First Minister of the United Kingdom. Ministers from six nations sit round the council board, all of them responsible to their respective parliaments and to the people of the countries they represent. Bach nation has its voice upon questions of common concern and highest importance as the deliberations proceed. Each preserves unimpaired its perfect autonomy, its self-government, and the responsibility to their own electorate.
I venture to say that, in view of these declarations, many times repeated, as they have been by the representatives of the Pritish Government, and by those authorized to speak on behalf of the dominion governments, we can regard this document as being at best superfluous. We need not ask why it was introduced, because the reason is obvious; it has been stated by the Prime Minister, and, emerges from a mere review of the circumstances under which the conference met. It is well known that General Hertzog, whose position is extremely difficult - and we sympathize with him - found himself greatly embar- rassed by the mistaken view, particularly of the Dutch in South Africa, of the Imperial bond. The circumstances under which he went to the elections are sufficiently well known. The spirit of national pride in the achievements of their forefathers and the memories of the Boer War had not been wholly quenched in the Dutch people. They live in amity with their fellow-citizens of British stock, but they still regard the banner of Empire almost as an affront. They are unable to reconcile their passionate desire for independence, with all that Dutch ambition stands for. In the circumstances we can understand that looking at the Union Jack they poignantly regretted the absence of the beloved wierkoleur flag. General Hertzog had, prior to the conference, made a number of statements somewhat ambiguous, but to many rather alarming, as seeming to prelude disruption in Empire relations. It was under those circumstances that the conference met; but it must not be forgotten that at the conference table was sitting, along with General Hertzog, a representative of the Irish Free State. Indubitably this document was prepared to give those two representatives that assurance on Empire relations which they may not have needed personally, but which many of their supporters certainly demanded. I shall not censure the conference for what it did. I confine myself to this simple observation regarding the report, that it does not widen our powers or solve any of the problems of Empire government; but it does create a position which is already beginning to develop, a position in which Ave shall find ourselves confronting new problems that hitherto have escaped the notice of the great body of the people, at all events. When Ave consider what the relations of the dominions and Britain are, how utterly inconsistent are the underlying principles of autonomy and unity; how wide the gap between practice and theory, we see ho,v impossible it is to reduce our relations to writing without endangering the fabric of Empire. Let me give honorable members some view of the unbridgeable gulf between theory and practice in the British Constitution. We have on many occasions declared Australia to be a nation. We are members of the League of Nations. In the words of Lloyd-George, we stand on terms of perfect equality Avith Great Britain. We are equal in status, although not in stature, with any nation of the world. Yet the legal foundation upon which Ave stand is a British statute. We are here by the grace of God and by the power of the British Parliament, and that Parliament which gave can take away. It has the power - no one will deny that; certainly no lawyer will deny that the British Parliament has power to amend our Constitution in any way it pleases. It is perfectly true, as it is in regard to the treaty Avith Scotland, that it would not dream of doing so. Our Constitution, although a British statute, has behind it a sanction lacking in ordinary statutes. I draw the honorable member for Batman’s notice to the fact that this Parliament is the creature of a British statute. We take the oath of fealty to the Crown, and Ave are as much subjects of the King as if we were in Houndsditch or Edinburgh. We know very well that the relations between the dominions and Great Britain have developed along the lines of the British Constitution. The King is still the apex of the British Constitution; he still makes war and peace; and when I had the honour of signing the Treaty of Peace at Versailles, I acted on behalf of Australia in the name of the King. It was the King’s authority, given through, and on the advice of the Prime Minister of Great Britain, that gave my signature binding force in the treaty. The King began the Avar and the King ended it. But the actual power of the King is negligible. All that he does is on the advice of his Ministers. The statute on which we stand, which is the legal foundation of our being, and which could be modified to-morrow, is in practice nothing or less than nothing. The people of this country govern themselves. They are quite willing to accept the Constitution, because they themselves framed it, but they are free agents, like the people of Canada and the other British dominions. We govern by a right which was created by a British statute which has gradually developed as the years have passed, and is now firmly imbedded in the will of the people of Australia. That practically is the position. Every bill passed by this Parliament has to be signed by the GovernorGeneral, who is the representative in this dominion of the Crown, and until it is so signed it does not become law. An analogous position exists in Great Britain. Suppose the Governor-General does not assent to a bill, and it is other than one properly reserved for the Royal assent, he must obtain fresh advisers. If he retains his advisers he must assent to the bill, because he is advised so to do. In theory he assents in the name of the King ; in practice he assents to the bill because the people have elected a Parliament, and that Parliament has, under the Constitution, evolved a government, which, through its head, has advised him so to do. It is, therefore, the people of this country, and not the King or his representative who determine whether a bill shall become law or not.
It is claimed that although the report of the Imperial Relations Committee changed nothing, yet it has done great good. But General Hertzog is evidently of opinion that it has changed something, and Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler, whom I have the honour to know very well, has made a most amazing pronouncement upon it. General Hertzog said, inter alia -
He paid tribute to the generosity with which the British Government had met the dominions. Ho was convinced that no declaration could be drafted by which their liberty could in a most unlimited’ manner be so clearly demonstrated.
Dr. Butler said ;
When the history of government in all its forms comes to be written, it will be found that if a Federal system of highest significance and importance was brought into the world by the Convention at Philadelphia, in 1787, and its subsequent adoption by the States, that a new significant and most interesting form of political association and organization came quietly into existence during the autumn weeks of 19245.
It would appear then that something has occurred, that something has been changed. A thing cannot be and not be at one and the same moment. Either there has been, or there has not been, a change. The two gentlemen I have quoted say that there has been a change. I am not going to say whether there has or has not been a change, but if there has been, it must have been in the direction either of whittling away our powers or dismembering the Empire. For since we were recognized as free nations, equal in status with Britain, and having the same power over domestic legislation, our powers could not be increased by any declaration of rights. But although such a declaration could give us nothing it could take something away. When we say that we are a free nation of the nations within the British Commonwealth, and when we glory in that fact, at the back of the minds of most of us is the idea that we are a free nation only within the British Empire, and that the rights and powers we jealously exercise are interwoven with corresponding obligations which are inevitable in any association of nations. Nations will not .associate except for a definite purpose. The definite purpose is obvious - their protection, their progress, their safety. The principle upon which the relations between Great Britain and the dominions exist, is perfect autonomy of the parts and unity of the whole. Those two principles are so violently opposed that they cannot ‘ be reconciled if either is pushed to the extreme. It therefore follows that this proviso must be read into all our declarations, whether they be florid and general, or prosaic and detailed, that we may do as we wish only if we do not, by our act, impair the unity of the Empire-. This unity is vital to Australia. I say to my learned friend, the honorable member for Batman - and I quite understand his point of view - that I am for the Empire, because I know of no other way of being for Australia. I cannot for the life of me see any other way by which we can come into that splendid destiny which we believe the future holds for us, and how we can remain free, unless we are associated with other nations having at their command such organized forces, exercising such influence, and possessing such power as will assure our freedom and our safety, and save us from the inevitable fate of those nations which have sought to maintain their freedom. That is the position, as I understand it. I have always held that the Empire has worked in spite of its illogical constitution, and its inconsistency between practice and theory, because the men who govern it have the same historical background, the same ideals, and the same outlook on life. Most of them have never pushed the powers of self-government beyond the point compatible with the maintenance of unity. Great Britain has been guided by this principle, during the last 25 years at any rate, and, indeed, for much longer. Whenever existing powers were inadequate for our requirements, we have been clothed with new powers. Great Britain has met us more than half way. If unity is a thing to be desired, and if our safety is something - I believe it is everything, being the foundation upon which our house is built - then we must so comport ourselves as to enable the British Empire, which is the greatest living force in the world, to maintain itself in its present vigour,- and to exercise that potent influence upon the destinies of mankind which it does at this moment. It is a very dangerous thing to set down in writing the relation between the dominions and Great Britain, because, when we see set down in writing the things we may do, some of us are impelled either to do them, just as a boy is impelled to look inside a watch to see why the wheels go round, or to ask, “Why should we have any limitations on our power?” Indeed, the people in different parts of the Empire are asking these very questions to-day. The French Canadians, for example, are saying, “Does this declaration of rights meat that the North America Act no longer guards our liberties. Is it now within the power of the Canadian Parliament to modify that act, and are we, a nation within a nation, at the mercy of the overwhelming majority of the people of Anglo-Saxon and other nations?” On the other hand, some people are saying, “ I see no mention of the right to secede. Are we then bound to remain within the Empire? If we are bound to remain, how can it be true, as stated, that the Constitution rests on the free cooperation of the nations? How can a man be at once free, and yet be unable to leave the company in which he finds himself?” I am not going to discuss this point; but will content myself with observing that some dominions could secede but others could not. This arises from the difference in the circumstances of the various dominions. The right of a dominion to do that which imperils another dominion or Britain clashes with the right of the party menaced to protect its own interests. If our rights entrench upon the rights of another, that other cannot be expected tamely to submit to our action without taking whatever steps are necessary to defend itself.
The representatives all sit round the council table, equal in status, but not equal in circumstance or stature. They are all advisers of the King. The Prime Minister of Australia is the first Minister of the King in this dominion, and Mr. Baldwin is the first Minister of the King in Great Britain. In that respect they are equal, for they are both first Ministers of the King. But one is an advisor of the King by virtue of his position in the Parliament that grants supply to and maintains the forces upon which the monarchy and the safety and power of the country and the dominions rest. So that, although all the Prime Ministers are advisers of the King, it is the advice of his Ministers in London that he follows. It will be seen, therefore, that the circumstances of the various parties sitting around the council table are entirely different, and nothing that we can say or do can alter that. The dominions are equal in status with Britain, their Prime Ministers are theoretically equally entitled to advise the King; but the only advise the King can accept is that of the Government of Britain. We must, therefore, qualify the reference in the report of the relations between the dominion governments and the King by this very material reservation.
This report declares the right of the dominions to make treaties with foreign countries, and to appoint ambassadors. I admit that they have this right. If Britain had said that we had no right to do so, I should have been the first to cross swords with her. But when, in 1921, it was proposed to exercise the right, I took up the position that, if other dominions appointed ambassadors, so would Australia. That attitude, if carried to its logical issue, would mean that there would be six or seven ambassadors of the British Empire at Washington. I was told that it would work quite smoothly, because in practice the British Ambassador would be the mouthpiece of all the ambassadors, who would sit round the ambassadorial table and discuss the matters at issue, but would speak as one. If that were so, things would not be changed, except that a little more tinsel and glitter would be added to the dominions. Naturally, the opinions of the representative of Great Britain would have most weight, except where it might suit the United States of America to listen to the advice of Canada. I am not going to say that Canada has no right to appoint an ambassador if she choose. to do so, but I am going to say that while Canada, has a perfect right to separate representation, as has also the Free State, 1, for one, as an Australian, would not tolerate for a moment that either of them should represent us. It is part of the plan that if the British Ambassador should be absent, the Canadian Ambassador should take his place.
– That has been dropped.
– It is a curious thing that when, all these glittering baubles are thrown into the arena they are broken and trampled upon. However, let that pass.
The right to make treaties Falls almost into the same category. Any dominion has the right to make separate treaties without consulting the sister dominions if she wishes to do so ; although it is set out here that there should be cooperation between the dominions in these matters, where the rights of others are affected. I wish to point out that every important act by one dominion may affect other dominions. Take the case of the Halibut Treaty made by Canada. It does not appear at present that it affects other dominions; but war may come out of it, in which case it will affect us very much. The right of a dominion to make treaties with another power is a right which should not be exercised without formal consultation with the other dominions, and such a proposed treaty should be as much a subject for discussion in the respective parliaments as if it originated in them.
We claim the right of an equal voice with Great Britain in moulding British foreign policy. I am sorry that some honorable members opposite do not agree that we should seek to be consulted or to make our voices heard on foreign affairs. Their opposition to it is based on an entire misapprehension of the situation. Britain’s foreign policy con ditions our very existence, and we should insist upon our right to have an effective voice in shaping it. Without some control over foreign policy, self-government is a farce, and we are living in a house built upon quicksands. We may rear up a splendid edifice by minding our own business; and as long as peace lasts all will be well; but if, and when, war comes along, we shall be blown to the heavens as by a charge of gelignite. Unless we are able to influence the foreign policy of the Empire our boast of freedom is nothing but empty words. No dominion parliament can be said to be master of its own domestic circumstances, unless it exercises the right to assist in moulding the foreign policy of the Empire. Thar, applies no less forcibly to the right of all dominions to be consulted by other dominions before treaties with foreign countries are ratified.
Broadly speaking, the position, as I see it, is this. I have always championed the rights of the dominions. There are some things that we should not do, but there is nothing that we should not have the right to do. I hold very strongly to this view. But I want to emphasize once again that, when we speak of our rights, we should remember that rights without obligations is a meaningless term.
– How does the right honorable member apply that to the decision of the High Court respecting the Colonial Laws Validity Act?
– I shall come to that presently. An infant may be said to have rights without obligations; but as time passes obligations twine themselves about his rights. Our rights are of that kind. We claim that we have passed the adolescent stage, and have crossed the threshold of manhood. We take our seat at the Assemblies of the League of Nations, on a footing of equality with other nations. Our right to a status equal to that of Britain and of every free nation involves obligations. The report is silent about those obligations. The Prime Minister says that it is properly silent’. It may be expedient that we should say nothing about our obligations, but the obligations are there. Our rights rest upon them, and, unless we are prepared to carry them out, it is futile for us to talk about rights. Whatever rights we have, we owe to the fact that we have been associated with the nations of which Britain is the chief, from the hour of our entry into history. From the moment that the flag of Britain was unfurled in this country, until this day, we have had a willing and able friend, a friend so powerful that, for more than 100 years, we heard not the faintest sound of the dreadful wars that were devastating the rest of the world.
The honorable member for Batman (Mr Brennan) said that there was no Imperial Parliament and no Imperial Government. I entirely agree with him, and have said as much in this Parliament dozens of times. There is no Imperial Government, although, of course, there is an Emperor of India, who is His Majesty the King. But when we speak of the Empire, we speak of the British Commonwealth of Nations. That, and that only, is what we mean by Empire. The term Imperial Government is empty of meaning, unless the British Government, which is often referred to as the Imperial Government, exercises, as my friend says, a lordship over us; and it does not do so. It expressly disclaims the right to do so, and nas declared that each country in the British Commonwealth of Nations shall work out its own destiny in its own way. It is for that reason that General Hertzog returned to South Africa and said, “ We are perfectly free to do as we like; we are associated with the Empire, but we need not fight her battles; unless we please.”. That is the position. Time will not permit me to deal at greater length with this point.
There has been an alteration in the title of His Majesty the King. It leaves things substantially just as they were. The alteration was made, as the Prime Minister has said, to re-adjust the relations of the Crown with the new Irish Free State.
The alteration with respect to the GovernorGeneral requires a few words. The report claims that some change has been made. I do not understand its reference to the Governor-General and the King, for Governors have never been technically servants of the British Government, but always servants of the King.
– Not in the early days of Crown Colonies.
– Even then the Governor was an officer of the King, and carried with him the King’s Commission. If the right honorable gentleman would look up the early history of colonies like Virginia and Maryland, he would find that the Governor took with him to his colony the commission of the King.
– I agree with the right honorable member.
– Very well. The Governor-General of this or any other Dominion is at the present time, and always has been, the representative of the Crown, and he is so regarded by the people. We in this Parliament have been told time and again that we must not say one word against the GovernorGeneral because he is the King’s representative. . It is now said that the Governor-General is to be appointed by the King, and that he will bear the same relation to the Government of the Dominion to which he is sent as the King does to his advisers in Great Britain, but that is not true. A few words on this point will make the position clear. The Governor-General, until 1918, was appointed by the British Government, sometimes after notification to the Dominion Government that it was proposed to appoint a particular person. Sometimes the Dominion Government was asked whether it had any objection to the proposed appointment or any observations to make; but the Government of Great Britain initiated and made the appointment. It might mention the matter to the Dominion concerned, but the appointment was entirely in its hands. In 1918 it was agreed at the Imperial Conference that that procedure was not compatible with the new status of the Dominions. It was recognised that they and Great Britain had co-equal rights in the matter. If, for example, there was a vacancy, prospective or actual, the Dominions would be asked to submit a name, and the British Government, if there was no obvious reason for taking exception to it, would make the appointment. As a fact, I am able to say that that course was followed when I was in office. The Government was asked to nominate a person or persons from whom the British Government might make a selection, if more than one was nominated. The Government with which I was associated did not exercise that right, but suggested that the British Government should submit names. This was done ; three names were submitted to the Commonwealth Government, one of which was chosen, and an appointment was in due course made. So that if there has been any change in the practice, it can only be in the direction of limiting rights that previously existed. Since 1918 the Government of Australia has had the right to submit nominations for the position. Now, a word as to the relations between the Governor-General, the King and the dominion Governments. The Governor-General is appointed by the King, who makes the appointment on the recommendation of the British Prime Minister, who has the names submitted to him by the Secretary of State for the Dominions, who is the minister that originates the matter. That is the manner in which Governor-Generals, and I presume, the State Governors are appointed, though I know nothing of the circumstances applying to State appointments, and speak solely of the Commonwealth. I knowthat in South Africa this was the practice, because I discussed the matter with General Louis Botha. What is the position of the Governor-General? He is the representative of the King, and always has been. He has always been appointed by the British Ministry since the establishment of responsible government in the Dominions. I do not say that that was the practice at the time of the colonization of Virginia, but during the present century at any rate the British Government has undoubtedly initiated the appointment, nominating and recommending the person appointed, while the King has made the appointment. It has been suggested - and some people seem to think that it is true - that the same relation exists between the Governor-General here and his advisers as exists between the King and the British Government. That is not so. Suppose that an Australian Prime Minister were to make a recommendation to the Governor-General, and the latter were to consider that the matter ought to be reported to His Majesty the King, whose representative he is, is it suggested that he should write a letter to the King? What the Governor-General would do would be to communicate with the Dominions Office.
– It is proposed to alter that.
– No matter what is proposed, effective communication cannot be in any other way. If the Governor-General were to write direct to the King, nothing could happen unless and until the King had been advised by the British Prime Minister, before whom the question would be brought by the Secretary of State for the Dominions. The British Government answers every question raised by communications from the dominions, and, where this is necessary, advises the King, and its advice has to be followed. Is it suggested for a moment that the King would act on his own initiative? Anybody who says so, does not understand the theory of responsible government in England. The people of Great Britain would not tolerate such action. The people rule and some ‘body has to be responsible for every action taken. The King, qua king, is not responsible to anybody; it is his Ministers who bear the responsibilitity for his acts and utterances. When the King makes a speech to Parliament, that speech is made on the recommendation of, and is prepared by, his Ministers. When the King pardons, he does so because his advisers recommend him to do it. When he makes peace or declares war, he does so on the advice of his Ministers; the Government is always responsible. The practice has been in no way altered. I had long experience of office during a period when no one bothered much about constitutional procedure. I said “I want something done “ and it was done. If the Governor-General were not prepared to do what his advisers asked, he might refer the matter to the Dominions Office, or as it was formerly called, the Colonial Office, and in due course that office would have said, “ Exercise your own discretion,” or “ do so and so.” But if he declined to follow the advice of the Commonwealth Government he would have to find other advisers.
– The right honorable gentleman would not suggest that the Governor-General, in carrying out the functions with respect to which he represented the King, would refer anything to the British Government?
– In certain circumstances he might do so. My point is that the paragraph in the Prime Minister’s speech is not worth the paper on which it is written. If the- GovernorGeneral wrote to- the King he would submit the communication to the British Prime Minister, who would pass it to the Secretary of State for the Dominions. Mr. Amery would pass it back to Mr. Baldwin, and the latter return it to the King. Under that arrangement, circumlocution would be increased. The Report does not effect change in substance. In my opinion, the Report will create difficulties which must increase the probabilities of misunderstanding and friction. The setting out of powers may cause some to desire to exercise them because they fall within their province, while others may imagine that this is an ultimate limitation of their powers, and will naturally ask why they cannot do things not set out in the document. Yet questions which are material are left untouched.
I now come to the point raised by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan). It is notorious that constitutional practice and theory are inconsistent. That is because we have changed our conditions so rapidly that theory lags behind. Yet men seek to guide their footsteps by the lamps of yesterday, rather than, those of to-day. The legislation reserved for the royal assent in days gone by was not inconsiderable; many .measures were so reserved. As time went on the classes of bills so reserved became fewer. The honorable member for Batman brought up the case of the navigation law which the High Court in the Union Steamship case declared to be ultra- vires? because of certain provisions of the Colonial Laws “Validity Act. I have not had time to look up the case, but I take it that the facts were as set out, that the High Court declared a Commonwealth statute ultra vires of the powers of this Parliament to the extent of its inconsistency with the Colonial Laws Validity Act. The Navigation Act was of course reserved for the Royal Assent. If a section is invalid, as the High Court says, it is because some old British statute has apparently limited our powers, or is held so to dc When a. court comes to construe a statute it must have regard to the circumstances in which it was passed; what was the disease it was called upon to cure, and whether in such . a parliament as this, in a country where, powers are distributed between the States- and the Commonwealth, the power to do that which has been done was vested in us, in the State Parliaments, or in Great Britain at the- time the Constitution or the statute was passed. When we accepted the Constitution we were clothed with powers to legislate on certain specified matters, . despite the limitations imposed upon existing legislatures under the Colonial Laws Validity Act. [Extension of time granted]. I thank the House for its indulgence. I take it that these points need clearing up, and I should like to make my contribution for that purpose. Our constitution is elastic. I speak, of course, not of the statute creating this Parliament, but of the relations between the Dominions and Britain. When the Colonial Laws Validity Act was passed, and even when the Constitution was accepted, our position was very different from what it is to-day. No one suggested then that we had equal rights with Great Britain, that we were equal in status or that our powers to legislate were as wide as the world. No one then said what this report says, that we have the power to do anything and everything that a free nation can do. But now that this is said, this limitation upon our legislative powers - the Colonial LawsValidity Act - is wholly inconsistent with our present sta his, is an affront to this legislature, and to our people who are masters of their own destiny, or ought to be. It is not suggested for a moment that in this respect we are doing anything to disrupt the Empire. It might of course be held that by means of certain legislation we might injure trade with Great Britain. We do that with the tariff, and in many other ways. The right to legislate on these matters is clearly within our competence. I submit that this Parliament or the Commonwealth Government - I am not quite sure which should act - should make its position perfectly clear. There was no need t(, refer this matter to a committee of experts. There is no difficulty in understanding it or clearing it up. It is within the competence of the British Parliament to pass such legislation as. will make it abundantly clear that the status we have now is such that the selfgoverning Dominions may make any laws they please, the Colonial Laws Validity Act, or any other British statute to the contrary notwithstanding. The High Court evidently fell back on those ancient limitations upon our right to legislate as we please. In doing so it utterly disregarded the statements of the leaders of the Empire, who have time and again declared that we are free to make what laws we please. No doubt that was the proper course for the court. Ours is obvious. It is necessary that the British Parliament should pass a statute making perfectly clear where we stand. I am satisfied that if the Commonwealth Government asked the British Government to introduce such legislation, it would be passed without question or delay.
I come now to the question of defence, which, as I regard it, is of vital importance. The honorable member for Batman has taken an attitude on this question which is to me wholly incomprehensible. The attitude adopted by some other honorable members on the opposite side is one that I cannot follow. The attitude of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), as I heard him explain it at a meeting of the Empire Parliamentary Association was that we ought not to 6eek consultation with Britain, or associate ourselves with her in counsels of the Empire for the purpose of moulding foreign policies. We ought to withdraw ourselves, snail-like, into our shells, and await events, confident that all danger will pass us by. The honorable gentleman seems to be of the opinion that meddling in the affairs of Europe is a most dangerous and unnecessary course for us to take. In this respect he practically adopts the attitude taken up by the United States of America.
– But the honorable gentleman wants us to do so to promote disarmament.
– I am talking now of defence. Notwithstanding the appalling lesson of the war, the backwash of which has scarcely passed us, the honorable gentleman feels confident that by looking after our own business and religiously abstaining from interference in foreign policy we can avoid being dragged into another war. He said something about the last war being waged to end all wars, and that we should never again be compelled to participate in such a dreadful struggle. All I have to say is that we must face facts as they are, and not as we wish them to be. The world has existed for some time. It was here before we came. Quite a number of people have tried to reform it, but I do not know whether it is much better for their efforts. Every one will agree that we have to go quite a way yet, and no reformer need be at a loss for an object upon which to expend his energy. We are free, we glory in our freedom; but no one can tell me of one solitary instance of a nation that, being free, contrived to maintain its freedom without being armed and ready to defend itself. There is not one in the history of all time. The pages of history are covered with the dust of empires fallen because they were degenerate, and unprepared. The Greek States talked much about freedom, but if Athens had spent one-fourth of her glorious energy and intellect on the preparation for defence that Sparta did, or that Macedon did later, the lamp of her civilization would have reached the darkest corners of the earth. She perished, because she was unprepared, and spent her energy in fruitless words. There comes a time when words are worse than useless, and action alone suffices. We fought well in the war. Perhaps blown up a little by the spirit of nationalism in us all, I have said that but for the dominions the Empire was undone. I believe honestly that had not the Dominions put 1,000,000 white men into the field, nothing is more certain than that the cause of the Allies would have failed. So if we are free to-day it is because we did something; but it is also true that all our valour and effort would have been of no avail had we not been associated with the mighty forces marshalled under the banners of Empire. What are we going to do in the future ? We are not in favour of a buccaneering policy. We have no part in imperialistic ambitions. If Britain lays herself open to such a charge, or the world charges her with it, though unjustly, that charge cannot be made against us, against Canada, or against South Africa. But if we want peace, if we hate the idea of war, what more natural, what more necessary than that we should make our views known in the councils of the Empire. If Great Britain is going to do something which we think would bring us into war, even if it be a profitable thing measured in material terms, we can say, “ This shall not be done.” Is not that the course for free, for peace-loving men to take? Should not those who claim to he friends of Britain stand at her right hand and say what they think of her policy? We cannot evade the consequences of war, although the honorable member for Batman seems to think we can. Our remoteness from the centre of strife in the last war led some people to think that we could avoid its fearful consequences by remaining at home, and being content merely to repel raiders. If we had taken that course we should not be gathered ‘ in this chamber to-day. There is an impression in the minds of some who are opposed to the Dominions shaping foreign policy that this will involve us in European disputes and that by keeping clear of these we shall avoid war. But these gentlemen who have their eyes glued on Europe as the cauldron of war would be well advised to look nearer home. Look not to Europe for. the next outbreak of war; but here.’ If men will cast their eyes around the world they cannot be utterly blind to the position in which we and all the nations find ourselves, particularly in the Pacific? Let us in this remote outpost of the western world look to the East, and take heed, for there wars and rumours of wars fill the air. What does the present situation in China mean to us? Are the auspices favorable? Only men who are fools can doubt for a moment that in the fullness of time, and whether that time be soon or late rests largely with ourselves, the storm will burst. The awakening East will not be content any more to talk about the Monroe doctrine and a White Australia. They are both provocative policies. They may be very necessary to us and to the United States of America, but they are not necessary to the rest of the world. It may be necessary to us, and we believe it is vital, that we should maintain Australia as a white man’s country. It may be necessary for America to keep herself free from the broils of Europe, although in. America North and South there is room for 500,000,000 of people more than are there now. Do honorable members think that nations will be content to mumble the ancient shibboleths and to listen quietly to this talk about rights? What are rights to starving people? The history of the world is full of striking instances in which hunger and economic circumstances have driven whole peoples out to conquest. We believe in the White Australia policy ; but are we able to maintain it unaided? If we were not part of the British Empire should we not have to search the world for an ally, and would not any alliance involve us in obligations? No nation will ally itself with another unless there is some prospect of mutual advantage. If South Africa, for example, left the Empire and sought an alliance with Holland or some other nation, that nation would demand that if it or its colonies were attacked, South Africa should come to its assistance. But some people in Australia claim that this country should be protected in season and out of season, come what may, should war arise, whether out of some effort on the part of Great Britain to maintain the peace of Europe, or because we, in an outlying part of the Empire, have declared that 6,000,000 people shall hold to ourselves a country able to maintain 100,000,000 people. In this policy Great Britain is not necessarily sympathetic; indeed, her whole outlook and circumstances make impossible a sympathetic regard for the White Australia policy. Yet we expect her to come to our aid in the hour of difficulty. Our very existence depends upon her aid or on that of some other ally. But where is that ally ? Those honorable members who talk of the Empire in a very patronizing way rest their faith upon the League of Nations, but the League imposes obligations upon the nations that constitute it. Whatever sanction is behind a declaration of the League is based on the armed forces that it can command, and Australia is pledged to maintain its share of those armed forces; and, in accordance with the technical requirements of the League, our troops may be required to serve in any part of the world. All that the League of Nations demands from us can be done without affronting the principles of those gentlemen who oppose the Empire, But we who say that Australia should cooperate with the British Navy are decried as Imperialists, and are told that we can best maintain our freedom by minding our own business and allowing tha
Mother Country to go her own way. Of course, if we should get into trouble the position would be entirely different. I have no patience with those sentiments. They are not the views of men who face the facts of the world as it is, they arenot views compatible with the safety of Australia or with love for Australia. If there is any ally whose support can be secured at as low a price, or at a lesser cost than the protection of Great Britain, in God’s name let them declare where that ally is; and then we shall be able to consider whether we shall continue under the banner of a mother upon whom we have always been able to rely, or under the banner of some stranger. If Australia were allied with the United States of America, would that country give to us real support - not the moral support of words but the tangible support of deeds, and claim nothing in return ? When my fellow Welshman Glendower said, “ I can call spirits from the vasty deep,” Hotspur replied, “ Why, so can I, or so can any tuan ; but will they come when you do call For them?” Britain has always come; she is by us always. The world casts covetous; eyes on our great possession, but passes by, not because of the magic of our moral rights, but because behind and over us is the sheltering power of Britain and the Empire. She is a proved friend : a friend upon whom we can rely; but we must do our part, be it little or great, in the defence of the Empire. Australia’s influence in world politics, its progress, safety, and freedom are bound up with the Empire, which, analyzed, is merely an organized moral force which expresses itself ultimately, as all moral forces must do, in terms of physical, force sufficient to maintain the rights1 it enunciates and seeks to defend. When Australia speaks on behalf of the Empire the world listens ; when Australia speaks merely on behalf of itself, the world goesoni unheeding. Our White Australia policy is recognized by the nations^ we exercise mandates over vast and rich islands to the north and east of our continent, and we secured these mandates from a conference at which were represented 1,000,000;000 people, of whom 700,000,000 were coloured, not because of - Australia’s moral rights, but because of the majesty and might of the British Empire.
.- Towards the end of his speech, the right honorable- member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), worked himself up into a frenzied denunciation of the attitude of the Labour party towards- the Empire, and imputed to it motives for which there is no justification. The Labour party has had to submit to that sort of misrepresentation repeatedly during the last few years. One would have expected that the right honorable member, when discussing the Imperial Conference report, and the changes that have been made in the constitution of the Empire, would have displayed more vision and indulged in fewer nightmares. The latter portion of his speech would lead people to despair of the future of humanity, and rob them of their faith in the ideals of the League of Nations. If his conclusions are well-founded, it is time for the nation to arm against an early and inevitable Armageddon. However, I shall leave to others, perhaps more qualified than I, the task of replying to the right honorable gentleman’s remarks. I propose to address myself briefly to the report of the Imperial Conference and the speech of the Prime Minister thereon. Necessarily, the speeches delivered so far in this debate have dealt with abstractions: they have been mere speculations as to the probable meaning of the changes that have been made m the form of government of the British Empire. This is due to the fact that the Prime Minister gave no indication of the policy of the Government. I read the right honorable gentleman’s speech very carefully, and failed to find any definite and clear declaration of whether the Government approves or disapproves of certain changes that have taken place in inter-Imperial relations. Even the report itself leaves us very much “ in the air.” In discussing the relations between Great Britain and the dominions, we are handicapped by the fact that the deliberations of the Imperial Conference were conducted in secret, and, therefore, we do not Know what mental reservations are behind the bald decisions that are set forth in the report. On this subject the Prime Minister did not enlighten us. Before proceeding to London in August last, he said, “ Australia’s aspiration must be the closer linking together of all’ the self-governing portions- of the Empire.” Analyzing the speech,, he de- livered a few days ago, one must interpret it as a confession of failure on his part to accomplish that to which he aspired.
– Hecarefully concealed his performances.
– Very carefully. We have no definite declaration of policy from this grand panjandrum of imperialism, who for the past five years has devoted the greater portion of his time to discussing questions of Imperial unity and policy, and has repeatedly attacked the Federal Labour party on that very question. It would appear from the mass of verbiage in his speech and the vague report, especially in the view of General Hertzog’s declarations and the satisfaction with which he received the conclusions arrived at, that, instead of the Imperial ties having been strengthened as a result of the efforts of Australia’s super-politician, they have been somewhat relaxed. I protest against the constant misrepresentation of the attitude of the Federal Labour party towards the government and administration of the different parts of the Empire, and I place on record the policy of the Labour movement in this regard -
Complete Australian self-government as a British community. No Imperial federation. Administration on the advice of Australian Ministers only, subject to the control of the Commonwealth Parliament. All legislation except such as appears inconsistent with Imperial Treaty obligations to he assented to on the advice of Australian Ministers.
On account of that policy, we have been repeatedly accused by honorable members opposite of desiring to bring about the disruption of the Empire, whereas we have merely demanded the fullest measure of autonomy, which, surely, is a laudable object. We claim for Australia the right to work out its own destiny, and the Empire may be regarded as based on the mutual advantage of the component parts, and therefore mutually desirable. We dissent from the assertion of honorable members opposite that subordination and continual obeisance to the Government of Great Britain by Australia is the only way in which to express genuine Empire patriotism and loyalty. We claim that Australia should manage its own affairs, and that the political genius of its people is sufficiently developed to enable them to exercise complete self-government within the family of British nations. We have frequently resented the legal ties that restrict our constitutional freedom. We have resented the idea of appeals to the Privy Council, because we consider them to be another interference with the prerogatives of government. These things are of vital significance to our domestic policy and welfare, and I looked to the Imperial Relations Committee for a more practical examination of the internal problems that beset the Empire than so many vague and nebulous resolutions which are capable of conflicting interpretations. The questions of appeals to the Privy Council and the right of Imperial veto have not been effectively dealt with, and are virtually left in the air nevertheless. The declarations contained in the report vindicate to a large extent the attitude adopted by the the Australian Labour party, whose ideals are shared by other self-governing dominions. Canada, South Africa, and Ireland - three of the most important and influential partners in the British commonwealth ofnations! - have repeatedly demandad the recognition of nationhood. Only a few months ago an election was fought in Canada on the issue of Imperial interference with self-government. The Canadian people, at that time, showed unmistakably that they wanted the fullest measure of autonomy. They returned to office the Liberal party, which sent a representative to the Imperial Conference, who no doubt raised this question in the secret discussions, and, as a result,the status of the GovernorGeneral was altered. Taking the resolutions at their face value and examining them in the light of international law, the changes made outdistance the policy of the Australian Labour party, but no thanks for this are due to the Prime Minister of Australia. It is quite evident that the secret discussion was rendered necessary because of the marked divergences of opinion at the conference. Only last year, in this chamber, the Prime Minister himself attacked General Hertzog, of South Africa, yet he returned from the conference with a report commending the attitude of General Hertzog. Let us examine the following significant phrase set out in italics in the report on
Imperial relations to emphasize its importance : -
The dominions are autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status, in no way subordinate, one to another, in any aspect of their domestic affairs or external affairs, though united by a common allegiance to the Crown, and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Coupled with this declaration is the statement that the Governor-General is the direct representative of the King. The report also says that it is the right of the government of each dominion to adrise the Crown in all matters relating to its own affairs, and that, consequently, it would not he in accordance with constitutional practice for advice to be tendered to His Majesty by His Majesty’s Government in Great Britain on any matter appertaining to the affairs of a dominion against the views of the government of that dominion. In view of that definite declaration, no doubt instituted at the instance of Canada, how can the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) argue that the constitution al practice has not been altered? The report goes on to say that, in future, negotiations will be made between government and government, and not through the Governor-General. If the constitutional practice that operates in Great Britain as between His Majesty the King and the Parliament is to govern the future relationships of the Governors-General of the dominions and the King, then the King or his representative must act on the advice given to him as affecting each dominion. To my mind this represents a significant change, because in the past the Governors-General have exercised their powers in respect of legislation only by Royal instructions. That procedure does not apply in relation to the Government of Great Britain. The King, according to the views of Bagehot, Anson., and other constitutional authorities, is more or less like a rubber stamp, because he must accept the advice of his Ministers. The Governors-General in the past had a much greater status than that, because they had the power of veto, which is not now possessed by the King in respect of British legislation. The Governors General have hitherto been under the direction and guidance of the Dominions Office of Great Britain. There are two ways of viewing the change set out in the report: First, how will it be interpreted by the self-governing dominions; and, secondly, how will it be regarded by foreign nations according to the principles of international law. Clearly the change in the title and designations of His Majesty the King alters the whole basis of the British Empire, which ceases to exist as such. Why the name ‘ ‘ Empire ‘ ‘ has been retained, when throughout the report the words “ British Commonwealth of Nations “ is used - evidently being more acceptable to the self-governing units - is beyond my comprehension. The name itself conjures up conceptions of subjection and aggression. Since the term “ Commonwealth of Nations “ has been adopted in reports and treaties, and is now extensively used, the term “ Empire “ is unnecessary.
– It has an entirely new connotation, which has been accepted.
– I do not agree with the honorable member. The word “ Empire “ is responsible for a great deal of misunderstanding. During my visit to America the view of the average person was that the term “ Empire “ signified subjection and lack of autonomous powers of government.
– To such people the words, “ Commonwealth of Nations,” would convey just as little.
– The term *’ Commonwealth “ signifies equality of status and democracy. There is in the report a reference to the powers of the Privy Council, and it virtually says that the dominions are free to take such action by representations to the British Government as will eliminate the appeal to the Privy Council. One of the most important changes relates to the treaty-making power. From the report it is clear that the dominions can now exercise the right of making treaties on their own behalf, but if those treaties affect other parts of the Empire there must be a consultation between the dominions concerned. If the GovernorGeneral is to be the direct representative of the King, an anomalous position will arise regarding State Governors in Australia. Australia is the only British self-governing dominion to which State Governors are appointed by the British Government. Recently five Australian States petitioned the British Go- vernment to allow local appointments to be made. Undoubtedly an ‘anomalous position will exist if the GovernorsGeneral are to be the direct appointees of the King, and the State Governors are to continue to be controlled by the Dominions Office. It has been recognized that the Governor of Newfoundland will have the same status as the Governor-General of the various dominions, but the same question arose there as in New South Wales recently, whether the Governor shall act upon the advice pf his Ministers or have discretionary power. I am surprised that this question, in view of the complexity and confusion surrounding it, was not discussed by the Imperial Relations Committee. It will certainly be an absurd position if State Governors continue to be controlled by the Dominions Office, with a power of veto that is not possessed even by the King.
– The King has the right of veto on everything.
– But it is never exercised.
– The honorable member said that the King had not that right.
– No person would suggest that to-day the King of England had any real power to veto legislation pased by the British Parliament. Bagehot, a constitutional authority, goes so far as to say that if the King were presented with his own death warrant, he, on the advice of his Ministers, would have to sign it. In the report, coupled with the change in the status of dominions, is a reference to the Privy Council, the Imperial veto, and the treaty-making power. There is to be no control of foreign policy by the Empire, because the British Empire, as such, no longer exists. The effect of the change in the status of the British Dominions in respect of international law, was mentioned by General Hertzog in the course of his speech at the Imperial Conference. In that speech was a phrase charged with pregnant meaning, which the Prime Minister omitted, thus Tendering tha remarks of General Hertzog rather innocuous. General Hertzog said -
We must see that the will to live in the Empire, as a commonwealth of free nations, will in future, as it is to-day, be present and active with every one of its constituent elements. Whether at present all the” conditions are there to ensure the permanency of that will, and therefore of the Empire, is a question which I think we should inquire into at this conference. Speaking merely for South Africa, I think they are not. South Africa is anxious to possess that will equally with every other member of the Commonwealth, but that will can be assured for the future only if she can be made to feel implicit faith in her full and free nationhood upon the basis of equality with every other member of the Commonwealth. That implicit faith she does not possess to-day, but she will .possess it the moment her independent national status has ceased to be a matter in dispute and has become internationally recognized.
Why did the Prime Minister omit the last sentence ?
– Did General Hertzog make that speech at the beginning of the conference ?
– Yes, and confirmed his views at the conclusion of the conference.
– And amplified them in the South African Parliament the other day.
– At the conclusion oi the conference General Hertzog said -
Of the old Empire nothing remained but the free alliance of seven nations forming their own League of Nations. The measure of their liberty was equal to that of England: herself. Greater liberty no people could enjoy, and he thought no one wanted greater liberty. Any one who looked for greater freedom was looking for something impossible so far as the Empire as at present constituted was concerned.
I quote that merely to imply that what these changes mean is a question of interpretation. If we examine the new relationships of the various parts of the Empire from the stand-point of international law, the King has ceased to be King of the British Empire. Even in the Imperial Conference report there is an appendix that contains a special form of treaty which His Majesty the King signs for the respective countries of which he is King - for Canada, “Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and so on. If the Empire is not a personal union within the conception of internatonal law, ] should like to know what it is, because the interpretation in international law of the meaning of a personal union is that it is a union where two sovereign states are linked together through having the same individual as monarch. Professor
Lawrence, in his book on The Principles of International Law, says that -
Personal unions are not unions at all. They are said to arise when the same monarchical person happens to be head of the state in two or more political communities. But since each of these communities retains unimpaired till thepowers of sovereignty, and neither is legally affected in any way. by the other as regards its dealings with foreign states, it is clear that the so-called union has no existence.
Is not that the basis of our new Imperial relationships ? The King is the only bond that unites the different parts of the Empire. There is common allegiance and common nationality, but each State is a separate international unit, and could, according to international law, in theory, at any rate, make war on any other state, although, in practice, that is not likely to occur. Professor Charteris, of Sydney, in his International Law Notes, points out that such unions are artificial, and rarely endure. The last personal union was between Great Britain and Hanover, from 1714 to 1837, the date of the accession of Queen Victoria. I do not wish to labour this question, but I think it is of great importance to us how foreign nations will regard this altered basis upon which the British Commonwealth of Nations rests.
– They do not recognize it; they recognize only the Empire.
Mr.COLEMAN.- Suppose one of the self-governing dominions interpreted the relationship on the lines I have suggested. General Hertzog is a recognized legal authority, a constitutional and international lawyer of some standing in his own country; and when he embraces the situation as a change, after, at the outset, demanding complete independence, it must be assumed to give him practically all he desires. The issue may never be decided unless a crisis develops within the Empire. I would point out, too, that my view is not an isolated one. Lord Parmoor, speaking on the 8th December, in the House of Lords, said -
He regarded the question of the future flexible connexion between the dominions and the Motherland as one whichought not to be left in its present indeterminate condition. The report was a most important State document. It suggested conclusions of a drastic character; hut surely at the same time that those statements were made it would have been wise to consider with much greater detail and accuracy what were the difficulties instead of merely acknowledging that they existed and suggesting that they would be solved in some way or other in the future.
The latter part of that statement is the burden of the criticism of the Government by the honorable member for Batman. The Conference has failed to deal with those practical matters which conflict somewhat with the theory of complete autonomy and self-governing status. Lord Balfour, in reply to Lord Parmoor, recognized that difficulties might arise under international law in determining the true basis and character of the British Empire, as constituted under this alteration.
I should like to refer to other questions dealt with in the Imperial Conference report and the Prime Minister’s speech. The Prime Minister, in conjunction with the representatives of the other dominions, thought it necessary to protest strongly against the action of the Mandates Commission in asking an exhaustive series of questions. When the British parliamentary delegation was in Australia, and this question was discussed, the consensus of opinion was that the questions asked were not unreasonable. If we have nothing to hide in the administration of our mandates, why should we birk questions? The best way to convey the impression that we are maladministering the territories handed over to us is to raise technical difficulties when dealing with questions submitted to us. We have accepted membership of the League of Nations, and the concomitant responsibilities that go with it. Surely we should respect that world organization, and obey its authority, instead of trying to whittle that authority down and prove recreant to the trust reposed in us.
The Prime Minister failed also in another matter. He spoke about the failure of certain of the dominions to accept an apportionment of the burden of defence.
He made repeated utterances on that subject, and yet there is nothing in the Imperial Conferencereport showing that he was successful. I refer to it only as an indication of the inability of the Prime Minister to accomplish anything in the direction which he declared was his policy.
We have not been informed of the value of the Imperial preference granted to Australia since it was first instituted in 1923. In response to a question a few days ago the Prime Minister said that for the year 1924-25 the preference granted by Australia to Great Britain amounted to £7,975,703, and the preference granted to Australia by Great Britain amounted to £425,792. There is an enormous disparity between those figures, and there is no justification in them for the Prime Minister’s statement that we have gained material benefits from Imperial preference.
The liquidation of war debts is a matter of great significance and importance to Australia. We are paying 6 per cent. per annum on a debt of £92,000,000, which was expended in equipping, training, and feeding our troops in England. While Britain has funded her American debt at 3 per cent., and Italy has her debt written down by about 60 per cent., and favorable conditions have been secured by other nations, nothing is done by the Prime Minister in the direction of securing a better basis for funding the Australian debt. We are continuing to pay over £5,000,000 per annum to Great Britain in repayment of the principal and interest of that debt, and the burden is inequitable. The Prime Minister should have been able to achieve a more satisfactory result than a mere promise that the matter would be examined.For all practical purposes, consideration of the matter was deferred.
I again affirm that the Labour party stands for Australia remaining within the Empire. My speech has been devoted to a criticism of the changes that have been made. I should like to hear from the Prime Minister what really took place at the conference.
– I have been listening very carefully, as I always do, to the honorable member, and I havebeen unable to ascertain what is the object of his speech.
– I am trying to show that these changes represent something vastly different from what has been suggested in the Prime Minister’s speech. The Prime Minister indicated that no material change had been made in the management of the affairs of the Empire, and I am merely seeking information when I suggest that the change is of material consequence, in that the Empire is now defined as a personal union.
– It has never been anything else. If it came to a matter of war, the nations would not consider what the legal position was.
– I disagree with the honorable member on that point. It is the nature of the union which determines therelationship of the parts in the event of war or any other international crisis. The British Empire has unquestionably always been an anomalous organism in its relation to international affairs. There is no description that can be applied to it.
– Theoretically we are many, but practically we are one.
– I disagree with the honorable member. In theory we are united under one kingship, and as such we are recognized as a single unity by foreign nations.
– The honorable member has himself laid stress on the appellation “ Commonwealth of Nations “ ; but internationally we are regarded as one.
– That is purely a matter of opinion. I do not pose as an authority on international law; and I should like to hear the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) give his opinion on the change. It is significant that the alteration has been accepted with enthusiasm by at least one dominion government which wasperfervid in its request for the fullest international recognition of its independence.
Debate (on motion by Mr. DuncanHughes) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to amend the Dried Fruits Export Charges Act. Honorable members will recollect that when the Dried Fruits Export Control Board was constituted two years ago a bill was passed authorizing it to levynot more than1/8d. per lb. upon all the sultanas, currants, and lexias that it handled. The money so raised was intended to.be used in marketing the fruit, and administering the affairs of the board. The board decided when it began operations to levy the maximum amount of1/2d. per lb. for the first two years of its operations, with the result that to-day it has a substantial credit balance in hand. Most of the money expended has been used in advertising our dried fruits abroad. A minor amount has gone in administration expenses. Although under the act the board has power to reduce the amount of the levy, it has no authority to differentiate between the three classes of fruit which it handles, and it now wishes to make a differentiation for the reason that while sultanas are bringing a very satisfactory price overseas, currants and lexias are not bringing a sufficiently good price to cover the cost of production and marketing. In its second report to Parliament the board indicated that it desired an amendment of the act to enable it to differentiate in the amount of levy imposed. Its intention is to levy1/8d. per lb. on sultanas, but only l-16d. per lb. on currants and lexias. Sultanas have been sold during last season at an average of about £68 per ton, whilst currants and lexias have brought only about £38 a ton.
– Have the producers expressed a desire to have this bill introduced ?
– They have. When I was in Mildura a few weeks ago a deputation from the Australian Dried Fruits Association urged me to introduce it at an early date.
– Is there a reasonable prospect of currants and lexias being grown and marketed at a payable price?
– All I can say on that point is that the market last season was considerably better than in the previous season when currants and lexias brought only about £32 a ton or £6 less than was obtained for the last crop. Sultanas have maintained a fairly even price through the two seasons.
– Then the profitable growing of currents and lexias will depend more upon obtaining an increased price than on the cost of production ?
– The producers are doing everything possible to reduce the cost of production. The board also desires power to exempt a. certain class of fruit from the levy if it deems it wise to do so. It also asks that it may altogether exempt small parcels of fruit for ship stores or the island trade. It happens, sometimes, that one or two cases of fruit are exported, and the cost and the trouble of collecting the levy is more than it is worth. There is nothing controversial about the bill, and I trust that honorable members will give it a speedy passage.
– Who are our chief competitors in the market for currants and lexias ?
-The Greeks and Turks are the chief producers of currants. I assure honorable members that there is a general desire on the part of the growers for the altered conditions provided for in the bill.
.- We have no objection to the measure, the object of which is to equip the board with discretionary power to charge a smaller levy on lexias and currants than on sultanas. The branch of the industry which is best able to pay the levy is being required to pay it. It is important to notice that no power is given to increase the maximum amount of levy beyond1/8d. The Australian Dried Fruits Association, which has urged the Minister to introduce the bill, is truly representative of the growers of these fruits. I regret exceedingly that something more is not being done to encourage the Australian dried fruits industry. The nation is under an obligation to do more than it is doing in that regard. Before the war the industry was doing very well, and even during the war these producers received good prices for their commodities. This industry and the pastoral industry enjoy the distinction of being the only rural industries which are subject to regulation by the Arbitration Court. The industry has done well in the past, and it should receive more consideration. The reason that it is in such an unsatisfactory position at present is that various State Governments have settled numerous returned soldiers in fruit-growing areas, and so enormously expanded the production of fruit. In pre-war days, only 20 per cent of the total crop was exported, and on account of the favorable price that prevailed for the 80 per cent. marketed in Australia it was possible for the growers to export it without serious results but the exportable surplus is now about 70 per cent., and, notwithstanding the high prices obtained for the 30 per cent. marketed locally, it is not possible for the growers to market the surplus overseas at a payable price. The industry has made out an excellent case for assistance by bounty to carry it over the period that will probably elapse before the overseas market can be stabilized.
– Would the honorable member advocate the continuance of a bounty?
– That would be an economically unsound proposition; but I believe that the prospects of the industry are good.
– I do not wish to Unduly restrict the honorable member, but I point out that the bill deals pri- . marily with export charges on dried fruits.
– I am pointing out that an effort is made under the bill to assist the growers of currants and lexias, while no reduction is proposed in the charges to be borne by the growers of sultanas.
– The bill would not have been introduced had it not been for the lamentable position in which the growers of lexias and currants find themselves. In coming to a decision whether or not we should extend a benefit to them at the expense of the other growers, we should look into the present position of the industry. The export of lexias has been diminishing, and in the past season it was under 600 tons. No doubt a large quantity of that kind of fruit is used in Australia, but I venture to say that there is no profitable market for it overseas. It would be useless to bolster up that section of the industry in the hope that it might eventually become profitable. We should substitute for lexias a variety of grape that would command a good market. I investigated this matter in London, and in the provincial centres of Great Britain. I saw the raisins being placed on the market in competition with others, and I consulted persons engaged in the trade. The unanimous opinion was that the growers would be well advised in their own interests to curtail the production of lexias so that there would not be an exportable surplus. These grapes are of excellent quality; but they have to be held for such a long period that they appear on the British market at a disadvantage. Except by hotels and restaurants, there is little demand for lexias other than at the Christmas season, and consequently they have to be stored from the time they arrive in Great Britain at the end of the Australian summer until the following Christmas. Raisins produced in the northern hemisphere are marketed six or eight months earlier than the Australian article. Our raisins contain such a large quantity of sugar that they crystallize before the Christmas season arrives, and when they are placed on the market their appearance does not do them justice Experts have told me that despite the high quality of the Australian raisin, it is useless to attempt to obtain for it a price payable to the growers. They are advised to grow sultanas. The lexias are not marketed as they should be, and although the growers have been advised by experts to adopt certain methods, they have not acted on that advice. I have before me a report on Australian dried fruits in Great Britain, dated the 6th November, 1924. It is signed by Mr. Walter P. Caro, manager in the United Kingdom for the Australian Dried Fruits Association.
-This bill deals with the export charges, and I ask the honorable member not to discuss the general conditions in the industry.
– I fail to see how I can intelligently discuss the bill without referring to the conditions under which dried fruit is marketed abroad. I take this opportunity of drawing attention to the fact that raisins as well as other dried fruits are not being prepared for market in the best possible manner.
– If the honorable member can show that the remarks he proposes to make have a bearing on the export charges he will be in order ; but he may not raise the whole subject of the conditions prevailing in the industry.
-Then I shallcontent myself by saying that the growers ask that the act be amended to enable them to spend their money in the way they desire. I see no objection to that; but it would be futile to encourage the production of lexias. The growers should get rid of those vines, and plant sultanas, which would yield a more profitable commodity.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
The following paper was presented : -
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this measure is to enable growers of apples and pears to elect a board to effectively organize overseas marketing, very much on the same lines as boards already in existence dealing with dairy produce, dried fruits and canned fruits. This bill deals with a very important industry, inasmuch as some 12,000 persons are engaged in growing apples and pears, and if we take into consideration their dependents it will be seen that the number interested may be upwards of 50,000. In addition, there are many engaged in subsidiary industries to a great extent dependent on the apple export trade. For example, the timber industry of Tasmania is largely dependent on this trade, in that it provides the cases necessary for the expert of these products. The Australian production of these fruitsin 1926 amounted to 7,250,000 bushel cases, of which we exported 3,200,000 oases. Of this quantity Great Britain took nearly 3,000,000 cases, whilst the remainder, amounting to nearly a quarter of a million cases, went to the East and to the continent of Europe. When we realize that Great Britain consumes annually some 27,000,000 bushels of apples,it is evident that there should be no great difficulty in our finding a market there for the comparatively small surplus we have to export. America and. Canada send very large quantities to Great Britain at the time when the home-grown apples are on the market. For about nine months of the year Great Britain finds herself in the position of having to consume 2,500,000 bushels of apples per month, in addition to an almost similar quantity of oranges. When Australia goes upon the market in April, May and June, the only competitor she has in fresh apples is New Zealand ; but Americahas now brought to a fine art the storage of apples, and to some extent the latter part of her export of stored apples comes into competition with earlier shipments of fresh fruit from Australia and New Zealand. There are three mouths of the year during which it may be said that Australia and New Zealand have the British market pretty much to themselves. The quantity exported by New Zealand to Great Britain last year was 655,000 cases. If we take the high figures of last year as a basis and estimate the export from this country and New Zealand at 3,500,000 bushels, plus say 1,000,000 bushels of stored apples carried over from the American export, it follows that Great Britain has only to consume during those three months at the rate of 1,500,000 bushels per month to take them all. As Great Britain does consume 2,500,000 bushels per month during the other nine months of the year, it should not be difficult for our growers to dispose of their apples provided they properly solve the problem of distribution. Last year was particularly disastrous to apple-growers concerned in the export trade, for one reason because of the general strike in Great Britain. While that strike did not last very long, it lasted long enough to hold up shipments of apples at British ports for several weeks, with the result that they deteriorated in quality and the prices obtainable for them dropped considerably on that account. ‘
– Is the honorable member assuming that our whole export trade is with Great Britain ?
– I have said that of the total export last year of 3,200,000 bushel cases, nearly 3,000,000 bushels went to Great Britain, and less than 250,000 bushels went to the East and to the continent of Europe. Last year, the apple export trade suffered also from the coal strike in Great Britain, which was very protracted, and indirectly reduced the purchasing power of the British public. Another factor in last year’s operations was the arsenic scare. For all three reasons our apple-growers had, last year, a bad time in the English market. These were not the only factors in bringing about a bad market for Australian apples. We have ourselves to blame to some extent in that our marketing machinery is not what it should be. There is great room for improvement in this respect. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning), at an earlier stage, referred to dried fruits marketing, and I should like to point out that were it not for the existence of the Dried Fruits Board those engaged in the production of dried fruits would last year have had probably almost as bad a time as the apple-growers, owing to the fact that the purchasing power of the public in the British market was very much reduced. As tending to show what can be done by organization, and what might be expected if an apple board were brought into existence, I may point out that last year the Dried Fruits Board succeeded in selling practically the whole of the surplus of dried fruits at prices better than those ruling in the previous year. I, of course, recognize that apples must be disposed of more quickly, because they will not keep in the same way as dried fruits. At the same time the fact remains that had there been no export organization available for the distribution of dried fruits, it was almost certain that the growers of dried fruits would have been hit. last year almost as heavily as the apple-growers. This year our surplus of apples will be so small as to present no difficulty, and growers may expect to obtain good prices for the apples they export. Owing to the depredations of thrip in Victoria and South Australia there will be very little exported from the mainland, but a fair quantity will be exported from Tasmania, and some from Western Australia. Whilst no difficulty need be anticipated this year, thoughtful growers are beginning to ask themselves, ‘ ‘ What of next year?” Usually a light crop is succeeded by a particularly heavy one, and thoughtful growers are of opinion that something must be done to improve our marketing machinery if we are to obtain the best results.
– Has the honorable gentleman any estimate of the percentage crop for this year?
– (Not a very dependable one. In October last I called together representatives of the Fruit Advisory Boards of the various States to obtain their views on the proposal for an apple-growers marketing board. The conference consisted of very capable men. We went into the question very fully, and the conference, with only one dissentient, carried a resolution in favour of a fresh fruits marketing board on somewhat similar lines to those in existence for the marketing of other primary produce.
– Were all the States represented at the conference ?
– Yes, including Queensland, a State which does not export these fruits. There were several representatives of Tasmania, two from Western Australia, two from South Australia, two from Victoria, one from Queensland, and one from New South Wales. Since the conference was held I have at the invitation of various fruit organizations visited Tasmania and South Australia, and I also spoke to growers at two places in Victoria to explain what the scope of this bill would be in the event of its acceptance by this House. I am convinced that there is a very strong desire on the part of apple and pear growers to have an organization of this kind. I found that most of the opposition to the proposal which was evident did not come directly from growers, but from those otherwise interested in the apple trade. There were many misapprehensions in the minds of growers with regard to what the establishment of a board would mean. Some were under the impression, which had been fostered by certain interests, that it would mean government control, abolition of f.o.b. selling, the pooling of fruit, preventing the careful grower from getting an advantage over the careless grower, and all kinds of things that it would not mean. I was , able to explain to the growers that there woud be no government control, and that if they wanted government control they would not get it from the present Government, because we do not believe in government control, and think that every industry can look after its own affairs much better than any government can look after them. All that the Government seeks in this bill is to enable growers to do the job of marketing for themselves more effectively than it is done to-day. I pointed out that the proposal would not do away with f.o.b. selling, but that growers would be able to send their apples away on consignment or f.o.b. as they desired, and that no drastic change would take place unless the growers themselves were satisfied that it would be advisable. I was able to assure the growers that the proposal would not mean that they would be obliged to send their fruit through channels other than those through which they had been accustomed to send it. I was able to assure them that, as they do to-day, they could choose their own shipping agents and brokers, and could send apples under their own brand. One argument, if any is needed for this bill, is that at the present time if one looks at what is going on during the apple season, and takes a survey of the various ports from which applies are shipped, one finds that they are shipped from Hobart, from Beauty Point on the Tamar, from Fremantle, Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney. The growers in no one State have the slightest idea of what is going on in another State. Each State is a law unto itself, and there is about- as much co-ordination and cohesion as there is in a spilt bag of marbles. The only way in which to bring about coordination amongst the various exporting States is to set up some federal body of this character which could obtain information regarding the quantities .available for the local trade and export in each of the States, and to inform growers or their representatives in each State of what is going on in the other States. At the present time it is quite possible for large shipments to be sent from various ports to arrive at about the same time at the one destination. Obviously, the result is considerable risk of glutting the market. The Imperial Economic Committee, which was set up by the British Government to go into the question of devising ways and means by which trade might be stimulated between different parts of the Empire, and people induced to buy more freely under the Flag rather than from foreign sources, made several very comprehensive reports. Its most comprehensive report was that dealing with fruit. In that report, while pointing out that American, Canadian, and New Zealand apple exporters have their marketing organizations, the committee has very little to say in commendation of our marketing organization. By inference it rather suggests that we have a long way to go before we can make our marketing organization what it should be The report, amongst other things, points out that of the total quantity of apples imported into Great Britain during the ye,ar, 25 per cent, come through London, and 75 per cent, through all other ports. We have been in the habit of sending 72 per cent, of our crop through London, and only 28 per cent, through other ports. There is great scope for a board representing all the apple-exporting States to investigate the proper distribution of supplies to the various ports, so as to ensure that each market shall get only what it can absorb, and no potential market shall be lost through shortage of supplies. There is also a big opportunity for economy in the expenses incidental to export. In no primary industry are the exporting charges so heavy in proportion to the value of the product as in the apple industry. For instance, the freight on butter is about Id. a lb., equal to about 6 per cent, of the value of the product if it is sold in London at ls. 6d. a lb. If wheat is worth 6s. in London, a freight charge of ls. 3d. a bushel represents only about 20 per cent, of the value of the product. The cost of producing apples is about 3s. 6d. per bushel at the tree, and the cost of transporting them to the markets overseas was, last year, 4s., and this year 3s. 6d. per bushel. Additional charges are the cost of the cases, marine insurance, consolidated charges, selling commission, &c, making the total selling expenses about 8s. per case. In other words, the grower has to get a gross return of lis. 6d. per case overseas in order to recover the bare cost of production, plus exporting charges. This bill will give considerable powers to the board to negotiate freights and marine insurance on an industry basis. Similar powers are operated by the export boards already in existence. The Dried Fruits Board made a bargain with the shipping firms and marine insurance companies which resulted in an annual saving to the growers of £40,000. As there are only about 6,000 producers of dried fruits, the average saving was nearly £7 per grower. The Butter Board also effected savings, directly and indirectly, running into six figures, simply through the exercise of the statutory power to negotiate with respect to freights and marine insurance on an industry basis. The bill is modelled on three other measures to which this House has previously agreed. It provides for a poll of growers to determine whether or not there is a majority desirous of having a board of this character constituted. Whilst I have every reason to believe, from what I have seen and heard, that a substantial majority of growers is in favour of this scheme, we have provided for the taking of a poll before the board can be put into operation.
– If the Queensland growers are not exporters, why should they participate in the poll?
– They will have no say in determining whether or not the board shall be constituted or in electing the members of such a board unless they are exporters. The poll will be restricted to growers, and a grower for the purposes of this bill is defined as a person who has exported in either of the two seasons preceding the coming into operation of the act at least 100 cases of apples. Therefore, the Queensland growers who sell the whole of their products on the local market will not be entitled to vote. Simultaneously with the main poll, the growers will have an opportunity to elect representatives to the board. It is proposed that there shall be two representatives of Tasmania, one each of Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales, the delegate from the last-named State attending to the interests of Queensland also. In addition, there will be on the board a commercial representative chosen by the Government. So far the Commonwealth has been exceedingly fortunate in securing the services of able commercial men who are giving their time and energies to assist the growers’ representatives on the Butter Board, Dried Fruits Board, and Canned Fruits Board. I believe theyare animated by a desire to do something for Australia. The Dried Fruits Board meets at night to suit the convenience of business men who are making of this labour almost a hobby. I hope we shall be equally fortunate in our choice of a commercial representative on the board to be created under this bill. If at the end of three years some of the growers are disappointed with the results of the system, 300 of them - there are 12,000 in all - may petition for another poll to determine whether or not it shall continue. The members of the board would be elected for two years. As in connexion with other boards of the kind, there may be a London agency to consist of suchpersons as the board determines, and a representative of the Commonwealth Government. We have been fortunate in having the services of Sir James Cooper as chairman of the butter and dried fruit agencies in London. Clauses 14 to 16 inclusive provide for the issue of licences to shipping; agents. Assuming that the growers approve of this scheme, the bill will come into operation by proclamation, and shippers will then be unable to export without a licence. Although the functions of the board will not include actual marketing, it will be given power to issue licences setting out the conditions under which the export trade may be carried on through the ordinary business channels. The function of the board will be to lay down the general marketing policy rather than actually to export, and it will be able to issue licences upon conditions which will ensure that the exporting films shall conform to the general policy. Thus the present channels of trade will hardly be disturbed at all. Under clauses 17 and 20 the board will have power to assume responsibility for the actual sale of such fruit as may be voluntarily delivered to it for that purpose by growers. The object of that is not so much to encourage the board to market fruit, but to enable those growers who are not connected with any properly constituted co-operative association to obtain through the board from the Rural Credits Department of the Commonwealth Bank financial backing on the security of their export pack. Clause 18 protects those who have made contracts for export prior to the 15th March. Such contracts will, of course, apply to future seasons; this season’s export will not be ‘affected, because it will have been finished before the board is constituted. Clause 19 clothes the board with the sole right to negotiate on an industry basis for oversea freights and marine insurance. This does not mean thatthe board would have to do the whole of the chartering for every consignment of apples. Obviously that would be impracticable. The shippers will have to arrange for space as they do now, but in conformity with conditions to be approved by the board. The existing marketing boards are able to finance themselves without charge to the Commonwealth, and that will be expected of the body to be created under this bill. Another short bill, which is related to the present one, will propose a maximum levy of Id. per case, and if the export averages 2,000,-OQO cases per annum - last year the total was over 3,000,000 cases - that charge will produce over £8,000, which should easily suffice for administrative expenses in Australia and in London, and leave a substantial balance for advertising purposes.
– Will that fund pay the cost of inspection on the wharves also?
– No; it could not be used for that purpose. Clauses 21 and 22 specify the manner in which the board may apply its funds. The major portion of the funds raised in connexion with the export of dried fruits has been used in advertising overseas.. The Commonwealth subsidizes this expenditure £1 for £1. The Government was fortunate in securing the services of am expert advertiser’, who was formerly connected with the Victorian Railway Department, and he is doing excellent work in London. I may add that the British Government is doing its share in advertising Empire products, and for that purpose has set aside £500,000 this year, to be followed by an appropriation of £1,000,000 next year, of which twothirds will be utilized to advertise dominion products, and to educate the British people to purchase- from the dominions rather than from foreign sources. The’ other clauses are of a machinery character, and it is not necessary for me to mention them in detail, especially as the House has on three previous occasions accepted the principle embodied in the bill. Under this bill there will be no government control. The growers will be able to utilize the ordinary channels of trade, with safeguards against malpractice. There will be no arbitrary abolition of the! present system of consignment or f.o.b. selling. So long as the fruit growers themselves desire the continuance of f.o.b. sales it is inconceivable that representatives- elected by them should seek to change the system. It is safe to say that the board will not do anything of a revolutionary character. The principle, involved in the bill has been endorsed by this House, and the practice is well beyond the experimental stage. The successful operation of the board will depend entirely upon its personnel, and I think that we can trust the growers, who have so’ much at stake, to elect to the board men who will do them credit, and who will be sound in their judgment in respect of apple marketing.
.- It is true, as the Minister has said, that the bill only applies a principle that has been adopted for the marketing of both butter and dried fruits. The scheme outlined by the Minister is the result of agitation and conference on the part of the apple and pear-growers. At one time there was considerable opposition to the appointment of a board to control the marketing of fresh fruits’, but it was mostly on the part of interested parties.
– Some large genuine growers whom I know personally are opposed to the scheme.
– I know some large growers who first opposed the proposal, but have now become converts to it. I have been looking forward to the stabilization of European markets for our products. Before the war Germany was a large customer of ours, and there is not the slightest doubt that it will again purchase large quantities of our apples and other products. Prior to 1914, many Tasmanian and Victorian growers exported apples direct to Germany, and invariably obtained a better price than that ruling, on the London market. Only last year some of our growers obtained high prices at Hamburg. Unfortunately this year the total export of apples from Australia will not be large. Already a considerable quantity of Western Australian apples have been exported overseas. There will be a surplus ‘ of 2,000,000 cases of apples for export from Tasmania, but so far as Victoria is concerned, the growers have only a 25 per cent, apple crop. Tasmania is to have two representatives on the board, whereas the other States will have only one representative, but it must be remembered that the Tasmanian growers are the largest exporters of apples in Australia. What we are now doing in a Federal sense is similar to what the Queensland Government and producers did in a State sense. The Queensland Government passed legislation practically compelling every section of the primary producers in that State to organize, and I believe that as a result they and their industries have greatly benefited. In insurance alone, the fruit-growers will save thousands of pounds, because the insurance will be effected in bulk. All these charges militate against the successful marketing of our fruit, especially when we have to compete in markets 12,000 miles distant. Those engaged in the export of butter a few years ago, instead of insuring with the ordinary insurance companies, established an insurance company of their own, and thereby saved a considerable sum of money. I believe that the apple-growers to-day are almost unanimously in favour ofthis scheme, and I am certain that when a poll is taken there will be few dissentients.
– Does the scheme rope in all the exporters?
– Any exporter may carry on his business, so long as he obtains a licence and complies with its conditions.
– I should think that the licence would contain safeguards against practices which the board might consider injurious to the industry. Quite a number of butter exporters are successfully carrying on their businesses under licence. Clause 4 of the bill contains this definition - “ Grower “ means, for the purpose of the requisition of a poll and voting under this act, the occupier of an orchard from which at least 100 bushel cases of fruit (on an average of 40 lbs. to the bushel) were exported during either of the preceding two years.
Under that clause a grower who does not produce 100 cases of apples for export will not be entitled to vote at the poll. This will preclude from voting quite a number of families, including returned soldiers, who have recently engaged in the industry. Suppose that a grower has 40 cases of apples for export, and he lives next door to a grower who has 2,000 cases for export. Instead of exporting those 40 cases himself he would naturally send them to his neighbour. In that case the grower would be denied a vote to decide the personnel of the board, The qualification for a vote should be based, not so much on the number of apples produced for export as on the acreage under fruit trees. As a rule, it costs the growers1s. for cases suitable for the export of apples. The timber is obtained in shooks, and delivered in packing sheds and there nailed together. I consider that the export apple trade puts about £100,000 into the pockets of the sawmillers. I hope that the bill will be passed, and that the scheme, when inaugurated, will be as successful as those operating in connexion with the export of dried fruits and butter.
Sitting suspended from 6.33 to8.3 p.m.
– (By leave.) - The appointment of Sir Joseph Cook as the High Commissioner for Australia terminates in the month of May, and I am now able to inform honorable members who the new High Commissioner will be. The Government has offered the position to MajorGeneral the Hon. Sir Granville Ryrie, and I am glad to state that he has accepted it.
Occupation by Commonwealth : Expression of Thanks.
– (By leave.) - This is an appropriate moment for submitting a motion regarding the impending vacation by the Commonwealth Parliament of the building it has occupied in Melbourne since the formation of the federation. I move -
That the Parliament of the Commonwealth expresses to the Parliament, the! Government, and the people of Victoria its grateful thanks for their generous hospitality in placing the Parliament House of the State of Victoria at the disposal of the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
I am sure that it is the wish of this Parliament, and of all the people of Australia, that before we leave this building we should express to the Parliament, the Government, and the people of Victoria our deep appreciation of the courtesy extended to the Commonwealth in making this building available to this Parliament. On this occasion I merely submit the motion formally to the House; a similar motion is being submitted in another place. I have no doubt that in both Houses it will be unanimously endorsed. It is proposed at a convenient opportunity to hold in this building, before the Commonwealth vacates it, a banquet to which the members of the Parliament of Victoria will be invited as the representatives of the people of the State. On that occasion the resolutions carried in the two Houses of this Parliament will be presented in a suitable form to the representatives of the State of Victoria, and we shall have an opportunity to express to them our deep appreciation of their action in having made this building available to us.
.- On behalf of the Opposition I have great pleasure in seconding the motion. If I were to speak as a Victorian, I should say, “ You are welcome to stay here much longer,” but, speaking on behalf of my leader, and of other members of this party, I take the broad, national view; and second the motion of thanks to the Parliament, Government, and. people of Victoria for their hospitality during the 27 years that we have occupied their building. I hope that when the Victorian Parliament resumes occupation its members will spend many happy years in it, and will accomplish much useful work for the people.
– I should not like honorable members to think that I am sounding a note of discord, for that is far from my thoughts; but I consider that the Commonwealth could express its gratitude to the people of Victoria more fittingly in deeds than in words. It could, for instance, do more to make the City of Melbourne beautiful. Honorable members may recall that I have urged on many occasions that the reserve near Parliament House should be converted into a children’s playground. The former occupant of the Speaker’s chair communicated with the State Government on that subject, but an agreement could not be reached. That reserve has been an eyesore for many years. I said the other night that the Elizabeth-street post office was like a dog with a tin can tied to its tail. At the corner of the building is a miserable, corrugated iron shed, and even as late as last night there was a doubt whether the Commonwealth had a proper title to it. The PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Gibson) definitely stated, however, as he did in answer to a question by me last year, that the title was quite good. If that is so, there is no excuse for not improving the building. I associate myself with every expression that has fallen from the eloquent lips of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) and the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), and I hope that the time has come when an otherwise beautiful building like the Elizabeth-street post office will not have attached to it an iron shed that is an eyesore in this city.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill presented by Mr. Latham, and read a first time.
Debate resumed from page 883.
– Honorable members would be well advised to pass this bill, and the growers of fresh fruits would also be well advised to accept it unanimously. But for a recent experience, I should probably have contented myself with merely voting for the bill ; but I feel that there are a number of features of it to which the attention of honorable members ought to be directed. Of all our industries, I doubt whether there is any that offers such a profitable field for organization as the apple industry . I was sorry to find, when I inquired into the marketing of fruit in London, that Australian apples were marketed in a way that left much to be desired. Unfortunately, I had not the opportunity of seeing Tasmanian apples, because I was not there at the right season of the year; but I investigated the matter fully with the assistance of those who were in a position to know, of representatives of every section of the trade, and of those who had no interest but to give me the facts. Even in the most unexpected quarters 1 heard the same allegations of inefficiency. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr Fenton) made certain remarks the other night respecting my criticism of Australian butter, and said that I should not have expressed my views on the floor of this House or through the newspapers, but should have done so quietly and privately. In my opinion, there has been altogether too much whispering about matters of this kind . The time has come when there should be some plain public speaking in respect, to it. Before we can expect to market our apples successfully, we must adopt improved methods. The Minister made some reference to our unfortunate experience with last “year’s shipments through the arsenic scare, which he rightly described as being absurd. It was absurd; but, unfortunately, it had a most regrettable effect upon the marketing of our fruit. The British Department of Agriculture, on the 6th September last, issued a pamphlet in which it stated that the spray was absolutely harmless, and did not leave as much arsenic on an apple as could be found on any ordinary plaice or oyster. It is also stated that there was not sufficient arsenic on an apple to give a delicate child a stomach ache. But the British Board of Health campaign was in full swing at the time, and prosecutions in respect of the sale of Australian apples were only avoided through the activity of the commercial officers of Australia House, who went from one end of England to the other interviewing persons in authority, and explaining the facts of the case. While 1 was in England I interviewed many metropolitan and country firms who sold Australian apples. Everywhere I was told the same story. Among others, I personally interviewed Mr. F. W. Moore, of Messrs. Moore and Company Limited, of Clarence House, Arthur-street, London, whose firm probably handles more Australian apples than any other firm in London. I also had correspondence with him on the matter. That firm issued a report in respect of this matter, in which it estimated that 2,096,663 cases of Australian apples, or two-thirds of the total shipments, came from Tasmania. Mr. Moore informed me that that estimate was as accurate as it was possible to make it. He repeated statements which I had heard from almost every other seller of these apples, that the great proportion of the apples should not have been allowed to leave Tasmania. Respecting the quality of the apples, the firm’s report stated -
Whilst it is impossible for any one on this side to say with certainty what the fruit was like when shipped, there was nothing to indicate that the quality was in any way inferior to previous years. The proportion of small apples was greater, and many of these were decidedly unattractive.
Naturally, a firm handling so many of our apples as that firm does, would be most careful in publishing any comments of that kind; but it is quite clear from that extract that the apples exported last year were similar to those that had been exported formerly. Unfortunately, the regulations governing the export of our apples are altogether too lax. The following is another extract from the same report : -
Beyond all doubt, appearance counts for more than flavour or any other real apple quality, hut it is also worth noting that continental buyers, who for so long neglected the Sturmer, are beginning to recognize that it is a very fine fruit. They, however, want them with a nice, clear skin.
One of the great troubles in marketing Tasmanian apples is the number of varieties that are sent abroad. Our apples come on the English market immediately after the Califfornan apples, and any one who knows anything about the Californian apples will bear me out when I say they are perfectly packed and graded, and a person would be quite safe in buying a thousand cases on a single sample. I have here a return which was supplied to me by Mr. Moore, which indicates that in four consignments from Tasmania, totalling 432 cases, there were 24 varieties of apples, the prices of which ranged from 8s.. to 15s. a case. In the first consignment of 46 cases there were eighteen varieties; in the second consignment of twenty cases there were five varieties; in the third consignment of 140 cases there were ten varieties ; and in the fourth consignment, of 206 cases, there were twelve varieties. I showed that return to an officer of the Overseas Farmers’ Selling Organization, and he told me that he could give me much worse examples of the same kind of thing. He said that my figures were quite common. How can we expect to get a decent price for our apples when we send so many varieties oversea? “Unfortunately, this multiplicity of varieties plays into the hands of unscrupulous agents, and is an added difficulty to effective marketing. As the Minister for Markets and Migration (Mr. Paterson) has truly said, the great proportion of our apples go to London. The shipping companies will not guarantee to deliver particular brands, which cannot be wondered at, seeing that we export numerous varieties; they will only guarantee the delivery of a specified number of cases. This gives the unscrupulous agents, who may have bought unwisely, a chance to get out of their difficulty. When the apples are unloaded on the wharf, these agents, who are not selling on commission through recognized companies, are able by means of a little tipping to have delivered to them an undue quantity of the better class of apple. They can get, for instance, Cox’s Orange Pippins, which bring 15s. a case, when they ought really to be receiving Ripstone Pippins, which bring only 8s. a case. Consequently, they are able to make a much better return than otherwise. But this reflects adversely upon the genuine agents, who are really trying to encourage the sale of our products.
– That statement is a grave reflection upon the port authorities.
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) must realize that in consequence of the great ti umber of varieties that we export it is impossible for any shipping company or port authority to ensure the delivery of specific brands.
– I have seen 50 brands of potatoes delivered correctly in Sydney.
– I am perfectly satisfied that the information I am giving to honorable members is quite accurate. Only a small proportion of the agents follow the practice that I have described ; but it is detrimental to legitimate traders, and should be prohibited. When the apples go to an auction room they can be catalogued, and there is some chance of purchasers getting the variety that they pay for; but there is no prospect of following the fruit to private consignees, when once it has left the wharf.
This is one of the serious difficulties that has been encountered in England in marketing our apples. If our apple trade is to be put on a proper basis, a great number of inferior apple trees will have to be grubbed out or budded over. I am not an authority, but I understand that it would take only a couple of years to eliminate the inferior trees. It is not reasonable that the Government should be asked to assist in the oversea marketing of inferior fruit. One day a travelling salesman of one of the largest departmental stores in London gave me his experience. He was doing his utmost to market Empire goods, and was very successful. He used a phrase to me which I am not likely to forget. He said, “ The way to sell Empire goods is the will to sell them.” Having spent a few years in Canada this man had returned to England with a firm intention to push the sale of Empire products. He introduced me to the general manager of his firm, to whom I explained my object in making my investigation. He replied to me in such an abrupt tone that I might almost say he was rude. He said, “ What is the good cf coming to us? You people are always coming along with the same story. I have given advice on the matter, and have made suggestions as to what could be done, ‘ but not the slightest difference has occurred. Now you aTe again taking up my time; but to what purpose ? There will be no alteration.” I received confirmation in that quarter of what had been stated in many other places. The report of Messrs. Moore and Co. further stated -
Judging from the condition of fruit on arrival, it is clear that there is still much to be learnt before anything approaching perfection is attained. Some vessels landed their apples in much better condition than others, even amongst those .belonging to the sameline; only five scored’ fair successes with pears. The Sound Market Values Committee of the National Federation of Wholesale Fruit Trades’ Association, which met weekly throughout the season and reviewed, on the average,, reports from some twenty or more brokers, and salesmen, was only able to class one cargo of apples as “Excellent” (m.v. Port Dunedin)** fifteen as “Good”; the others various, viz., “Very’ fair,” “Generally fair,” “ Fair,’” “Variable,” “Not good,” “Overripe,” “Bad,” and “Very bad.” Certain qualifications wereadded, e.g., one of ‘ those classed “Very bad” was classed’ as “ Good “ at three ports, it was “ Bad “ only at the fourth and last port of discharge; - almost every case was seriously affected in one hold. In another instance a steamer’s Tasmanian cargo -was classed as *’ Very bad,” that from the mainland of Australia “ Fair.” In the case of two New Zealand cargoes, one was classed “ Very fair “ (except ICI), and B.B. ) ; another “ Fair “ (some bad). One cargo in Liverpool, although good, was considered to be prejudiced by the fruit affected with “ brown heart,” *ex one hold of another steamer (previously referred to, which was discharged at the same time.
When I waa speaking on the exportation of butter, I emphasized the fact that Empire goods are receiving great prominence in Great Britain at the present time, as a result of the Wembley exhibition. The advertising campaign, to which the Minister has referred, has had a very good effect. Mr. Hyland, who conducted it, found iu Mr. Barnes, an officer at Australia House, an excellent advertiser. He knew perfectly well what was required, but had never previously had sufficient funds to do the necessary work. Australia has some excellent officers at Australia House. I do not think we could get two more efficient men than Mr. Faraker and Captain Plunkett. If the board for which the bill provides is. brought into existence, we should not overlook the value of the services of the men who, under great disadvantages, have been carrying out valuable work in Great Britain. We should not say that they have become Anglicised ; we should remember that they are Australians who have been working under conditions which render it impossible for them to give the best service to their country. Confirmation of what had been told me was obtained in most unexpected quarters. When I went down to Bristol, I found the conditions to be exactly as the Minister indicated. Bristol is an excellent market; but few direct shipments from Australia are received, although it is a distributing centre for a large population. The bulk of the produce is sent through London, causing extra expense which might easily be converted into a saving to the producers. At Bristol I had luncheon with the Chairman of the Port of Bristol Authority and the Lord Mayor, and I interviewed many business men who were handling Australian products. Mr. Fernley Gardner, of the firm of Gardner, Titley, and Widgery Ltd., gave me a great deal of information, took a note of my London address, and wrote to me on the following day in case I might have overlooked some of the points brought under my notice. To show the extent of the business of some of the firms, and particularly the firm that I have mentioned, I shall read portions of his letter. He said -
We live over 40- travellers working the whole of the south and west of England, from about 20 miles east of Portsmouth to Penzance, north to Leicester and Aberystwyth, in Wales, and east to Beading. . . .
The grading of Australian apples leaves much to be desired, and last year a great many packages arrived here containing what might not unreasonably ‘be described as rubbish. When buying in a sale-room, if a sample hox of American or Canadian, or even New Zealand, is opened, one can reasonably presume it is safe to buy on the sample, and will find the bulk turn out reasonably like the sample. In the case of Australian, however, such is not the case, and some buyers even want to see 10 per cent, of the apples opened before they will buy a big parcel. We venture to think there is no need for this, as the best of the Australian apples are very good indeed, and there is no reason why all sizes should be mixed up together and a lot of small and spotted apples put in amongst them.
That is what happened last year. The fruit was not exported in accordance with the regulations. I placed a question on the notice paper last week in order to ascertain how many prosecutions there had been under rule 105, for a breach of which there is a penalty of £50; but the information has not yet come to hand. In other parts . of England there are neglected markets, such as Manchester, Glasgow, Hull, NewcastleonTyne, and others, which receive regu-lar direct consignments of our competitors’ produce. As I have already pointed out, the great bulk of Australian fruit is sent direct to London. . I know that the problem ia & difficult one, because the vessels trading direct to Bristol, for instance, are mostly tramp steamers. I hope that the board of control to be appointed under the bill will be able to arrange for the ocean liners to take cargoes direct to the different ports. In company with Mr. Gepp, chairman of the Development and Migration Commission, I visited the Low Temperature Research Bureau at Cambridge, primarily to see what was being done in the defrosting of meat. There, too, I obtained confirmation of the statements made concerning the marketing of Australian fruit. I met a young scientist, Dr. Smith, who was sent .out to Tasmania some years ago to investigate bitter pit in apples. He was instructed to travel from Tasmania to
London on an apple steamer, and carry out hia investigations en route. He proposed to make two separate tests, and he selected two cases of apples that were branded as containing fruit of uniform variety and size. When he reached Great Britain, and the cases were opened, it was found that the varieties were so mixed and the sizes so varied that the testa were quite worthless. There was undoubted confirmation from an unexpected quarter of the statements made to me. The field for experiment in connexion with the marketing of our produce is very wide. It should be realized that apples must have fresh air in the ship’s hold, and there is good reason to believe that, although air may be pumped into the hold at one end and out at the other, it does not circulate in such a way as to exclude the possibility of pockets of stagnant air. The Research Bureau at Cambridge hope in the near future to get funds to enable them to fit up a freezing chamber as if it were a ship’s hold, and they carry out experiments under conditions similar to those that would obtain on a ship travelling from Australia to London. One of the disabilities under which the Australian grower suffers is the long time that the fruit occupies in transit. It was stated at the time of the Imperial Conference by Sir James Connolly that by the latest method of propulsion steamers could maintain the usual speed with half the weight of fuel formerly required. I am quoting the opinion of the most eminent engineers in Great Britain when I say that if we had such steamers carrying the same weight of machinery and fuel as other vessels are carrying at the present time, we should get a very much greater speed from them. There is no doubt, in the opinion of the experts, that 20,000-ton steamers could do 22 knots an hour on the same fuel, and with the same weight of machinery that is now used in steamers to do 15 knots an hour. If this experiment could be proved to be a success, it should lead to a wonderful improvement in the transport of our produce to England. The Prime Minister alluded to this matter in his remarks upon the report from the Imperial conference. I am aware that an inquiry is being carried on at the present time into the “Commonwealth Shipping Line. I have no desire to anticipate in any way the result of that inquiry, but I do ask the Cabinet to give this matter the most careful consideration. I suggest that the fullest inquiry should be made to see whether we would not be justified in having one ship of this kind built as an experiment, and tried out.
– Is the honorable member speaking of a motor ship?
– A ship using oil and high-pressure steam.
– Why do not the private shipping companies adopt the new principle ?
– I can give a very good reason in reply to that question. Only one ship, so far, has been built on these lines, and it is a ferry boat plying on the Clyde. It has realized all expectations. A special committee was appointed by the British Government, I think in 1920, and brought in a report in 1923, in which it said that a greatly accelerated service could not be looked for; but the committee pointed out at the close of its report that it is always possible that new means of propulsion may be discovered. The new method of propulsion is accepted as correct by shipbuilding engineers ; but how can we expect the big shipping companies who have put money into ships which, if this principle is recognized as successful, will be considered obsolete to admit this ? If they were to admit that this revolution had occurred in shipbuilding, they would be saddled with a number of obsolete vessels. They cannot be expected to admit that they own a lot of ships that ought to be scrapped. Their influence is very great. Sir James Connolly submitted his proposals to the Imperial conference, and he had solid hacking; but he would be an optimist who would endeavour at the present time to induce capitalists to put millions of money into the building of a line of vessels to compete with those of companies plying to Australia. It would probably lead to a trade war, and to the quoting of cut-throat rates, which would be very beneficial, while they lasted, to the Australian producer, but not to those who put their money into ships. The Commonwealth Shipping Line could test this principle in one vessel, and it would be of immense benefit to, Australia if it were found that the results backed up the opinion of eminent shipbuilding engineers. I was told by Sir James Connolly that if the shipbuilders received a contract for building these ships, they would guarantee the result. It would mean some fourteen days less between Sydney and Tilbury, and nine days less between Fremantle and Tilbury. It is lamentable to see our produce being carried to London at no greater rate of speed than that at which it was carried 30 years ago. I went to London round South Africa by a vessel that was scheduled to reach Southampton from Sydney in seven weeks. I returned via Suez on the palatial liner Otranto, which was scheduled to go from Tilbury to Sydney in 40 days. The vessel by which I went to England round South Africa was probably twenty years old, but there was only seven days difference between her scheduled time and that of the modern liner by the Suez route. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) was with me on the Otranto, and experienced the dissatisfaction of crawling over the Indian Ocean on a perfectly level sea at the rate of from 325 miles a day. The vessel lost a little time getting to Naples, and when it was desired that we should be up to schedule time when she reached Port Said, a speed of 400 odd miles a day was got out of that boat without the slightest effort. Whatever may be the result of the inquiry into the Commonwealth Line, we know that it cannot remain stationary. It must go back or improve, and the adoption of the proposal I make will give it a chance to improve. It may be said that the present management is not capable; but if that were so there should be no difficulty in providing more capable management, and in any case the management of the Line should be given an opportunity to carry out this experiment. I have gone to some trouble in studying the regulations. No doubt those connected with the apple trade know them well; but I have hitherto not had much to do with the trade. I notice recent alterations in the regulations, which, in my view, represent an improvement in one direction.
– Is the honorable member referring to regulations relating to export?
– Yes, to the statutory rules for 1926. Honorable members know that a sample of apples was presented for our inspection in the Senate club room the other day. Regulation No. 61 dealing with the size of apples was altered, and it now provides that the size of apples or pears appearing in the trade descriptions shall be stated as follows : - “ Two inches “ - which term shall include fruit of 2 inches or greater diameter and less than 21/4 inches. “ Two and quarter inches “ - which term shall include fruit of 21/4 inches or greater diameter, but less than 21/2 inches. “ Two and half inches “ - which term shall include fruit of21/2 inches or greater diameter, but less than 23/4 inches.
– The honorable member is speaking of this year’s regulations and of last year’s crop.
– I am speaking of the necessity for properly grading this year’s crop.
– The regulations will tend to do that.
– Any one who saw the apples submitted for our inspection in the Senate club room will agree that those responsible must have picked three of the worst cases of apples that could be exhibited.
– I can assure the honorable member that those cases were taken at random.
– Then that shows what we may expect. Any honorable member who took the trouble to carefully examine those apples could see that they were not graded according to the regulations.
– I say that they were.
– Apples that were little more than 2 inches in diameter were in cases that were branded “ Two and a half inches.”
– That is an incorrect statement.
– The honorable member is so biased in this matter that I am afraid we cannot attach much importance to what he says. I can assure honorable members that it is no pleasure to me to make statements of this sort. I would infinitely prefer to be able to say that the apples submitted for our inspection were everything that could be desired, were graded in the best possible way, and marketed under the best possible conditions. The role of censor never appeals to me, but as a producer, and a friend of producers, I feel that it is my duty to tell the House exactly what I have seen. That is what I am doing now. I can only say that any honorable member who says that the three cases of Cleopatra apples exhibited in the Senate club room were well graded, does not know when a case of apples is well graded. “When the Tariff Board was conducting an inquiry lately I had an opportunity of speaking to a man win understands these things. The honorable member for Denison (Sir John Gellibrand) was with me in this man’s packing shed, and saw apples graded and packed. They were graded according to size and were very carefully wrapped and packed. That is how apples exported by our competitors in America would be put up. I say that it is impossible to get the best results by packing in hardwood cases.
– Rubbish !
– Again the honorable member and I are at variance. I say that apples should be packed in the way in which they are packed by Mr. Edgell, of Bathurst. Honorable members who saw his apples were impressed by the way in which they were packed. He has made a success of the business, not in a small way, but with an orchard of over 250 acres in extent. His apples have made such a name in the Sydney market that they are bought without the cases being opened. It is known that they will be true to label, and they frequently realize from 2s. to 3s. a case more than others can obtain for superior fruit, because buyers are confident that the apples in. his cases will be exactly as described. If we are to hold the trade we must market our apples in the same way as our competitors and must pack then in softwood cases. “With every desire that the Australian timber industry should receive protection, I protest against its protection in such a way as to militate against the proper marketing of our primary products. Although it may be essential to give further protection to the timber industry, I protest against the imposition of an extra duty on the small percentage of imported soft wood used for the manufacture of fruit cases. The man who is prepared to go to the expense of packing his apples m softwood cases should not be penalized by the imposition of an extra duty on that class of timber. A. friend of mine who has large interests in the timber industry told me that the industry could not carry on against the scantlings imported to Australia at the present time. I told him that So long as the protection for which he asked did not involve a duty on timber imported for apple cases, I was prepared to do what I could to assist him. He said that if a duty were imposed on all timber other than that used for the manufacture of fruit cases, that would suit him, as not 10 per cent, of the timber imported is used for that purpose. Apples cannot be packed to the same advantage in hardwood cases. .Softwood boxes have that degree of elasticity which is essential. “When the cases are put on the frame and the lid is cramped on before nailing it rises or sags as much as three-quarters of an inch, and as the inevitable shrinkage takes place, the elasticity in the timber brings the apples together and holds them firmly. If an attempt is made to cramp down hardwood cases in the same way the apples become bruised, and do nob arrive on. the overseas market in a fair condition. If on the outside of each case were stamped the variety, size, number, and grade of the apples, and the buyer could feel assured that the goods would be true to description, the grower would derive considerable advantage. There is a further alteration to the regulations which I think must have been the result of accident. In the original regulation 48, there was a proviso to paragraphs c and d.
– I have allowed to the honorable member a considerable amount of latitude, but .a detailed criticism of the export regulations can hardly be said to come within the scope of a bill to provide for the appointment of a board to regulate the overseas marketing of fruits.
– The purpose of the bill is to create a board for the marketing of fruit to the best advantage and I was of opinion that any criticism which tended to promote that object would be relevant to the measure. However, I have no desire to contravene your ruling, sir. As the Minister said, the proposed board will be similar to others already appointed in connexion with the export of butter and dried fruits. The existing boards have established in London agencies which are doing excellent work, and any shortcomings in the marketing of the commodities they handle are not due to the failure of the agencies to make proper representations to the controlling boards in Australia. But the agencies are unduly cumbersome. There is no need for an agency of three members and a separate suite of offices for each industry. I noticed also a lack of coordination between the two agencies. Actually all the work in each case is being done by one man, and it would be more advantageous to apappoint for each industry one agent in London, and have a central London board, with a full-time chairman, to superintend the marketing of all the produce in accordance with instructions from the controlling authorities in Australia. The present system is as unwieldy as would be a departmental store which had a separate board of directors for each department, no one board knowing what the others were doing.
.- The ostensible purpose of this bill is to help the growers of apples and pears, and I am in favour of the principle upon which it is based, but it contains two provisions to which I take exception. Tasmania ships twice as much fruit as all the other States combined, yet clause 5 gives to Tasmania only two representatives on the board and one each to Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia, and one to New South Wales and Queensland. The Tasmanian growers ask for nothing more than justice, and I say unhesitatngly that this disproportionate representation will jeopardise this scheme in my State. Queensland does not ship one apple, and New South Wales exports only about 6,000 cases each year, whilst Tasmania ships 2,100,000 cases annually. Notwithstanding that predominance in actual export, Tasmania’s representation on the board will be overwhelmed by that of the other States. The board will have power to dictate what kind of apples shall be exported and how they shall be shipped. It may introduce colour grading. Tasmanian trees carry more foliage than do trees on the mainland, and the fruit, having less length and strength of sunshine, does not develop as rich a colour,, although its edible quality is superior. It would be possible for the representatives of the mainland States to introduce a colour grading scheme that would be detrimental to Tasmanian’ interests, and I feel sure that, notwithstanding the visit of the Minister to that State, and the. adoption I of these proposals almost unanimously at every meeting - most of the meetings, were not representative, some being attended by only twenty growers - whena poll is taken the scheme will probably be rejected. I hope the Minister will consent to an amendment which will give the Tasmanian growers representation more in proportion to the volume of their exports.
– What number of representatives does Tasmania want?
– Three. The most objectionable portion of the bill is clause 14, which provides -
For the purpose of enabling the hoard effectively to control the export and the sale and distribution after export of Australian fresh fruit, the Governor-General may, by proclamation, prohibit the export from the Commonwealth of any fresh fruits except in accordance with a licence issued by the Minister, subject to such conditions and restrictions as are prescribed after recommendation to the Minister by the board.
Authority is given to the proposed London agency to do what it pleases with the fruit on arrival. Buyers come from England to Tasmania and make contracts for as much as 500,000 cases of apples and pears. They may desire the fruit to be delivered in London, but the agency) as the Minister stated in Hobart, would have power to divert the shipment to Hull or Liverpool. Naturally, buyers want to control the selling of the fruit, and if consignments are diverted from the port to which they have been shipped, those buyers will refuse to trade with us. We must encourage buyers to come to Australia. How would the wool-growers fare if buyers ceased to come to Australia and all the wool had to be shipped for sale abroad? We want the buyers of fruit to be able to purchase f.o.b., and take the risk of marketing it. If the board has power to divert fruit from one port to another, it will do the growers a great amount of harm. I object to clauses 5 and 14, but not to the rest of the bill. The responsibility for the operation of this legislation will really rest upon the growers. I listened very carefully to what the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) said in regard to Australian fruit exported overseas. I wish to say at once that the honorable member dealt only with Tasmanian fruit. Whether he saw any fruit that had been grown in another State, I do not know.. A little later. I shall direct- hig attention to the High Commissioner’s report, which describes as small the fruit about which the trouble occurred, and I do not wonder at his description. From 85 to 90 per cent. of the Tasmanian growers are trying to build up a good export trade, but in that State, like everywhere else, there is a small section of people who are always out to damage trade. I have with me a 2-in. mould to illustrate a 2-in. apple. The regulations provide that the growers may ship a 2-in. apple. I have also a small peach, which, ashonorable members can see, will not go through that aperture.
– Nor should a 2-in. apple. An apple that is put through a 2-in. aperture would be less than 2 inches.
– Decidedly not. If the apple touches the side of the mould, it is a 2-in. apple. It is all very well for the honorable member to talk about small fruit. I would remind him that the regulations allow the growers to export small fruit. I and the great majority of the Tasmanian growers have tried for years to have the 2-in. apple disallowed for export.
– I objected not to the growers sending small apples as such, but to sending them as large apples.
– Tasmania has been endeavouring for some considerable time to have the 2-in. apple disallowed for export, but because Victoria grows a large quantity of the Yates apple, which is a small variety, the growers there are against the proposal. The honorable member for Macquarie interjected that he did not object to a 2-in. apple being exported as such. Perhaps he does not know that the regulations allow oneeighth of an inch over or under size.
– Not in the case of 2-in. apples; only in respect of other sizes.
– That is a quibble on the part of the Minister. A grower of apples can brand a case “ 21/2 inches,” and yet can fill it with 23/8-in. apples.
– Not this year.
– I am talking about last year. The honorable member for Macquarie referred to last year’s apples. He, unfortunately, does not know the regulations, otherwise he would not have made the statements that he did. As the Minister intimated, the regulations respecting the branding of cases has now been altered, and I am glad to say that he is doing his best for the industry. If the regulations allow a man to export small apples, why abuse him for doing it? The grower has to pay one-eighth of a penny a case for the inspection of apples on the wharf. The method of inspection is absolutely wrong. Two million cases are exported annually from Tasmania, and there are from ten to twelve inspectors on the wharf. Not 10 per cent. of the apples are inspected. The inspectors are competent men, but when there are 100,000 cases on the wharf at one time, stacked fifteen or twenty high, it is absolutely impossible for a thorough inspection to be made. The honorable member for Macquarie, when he landed in Western Australia, stated that 30 per cent. of the Tasmanian apples exported that year should never have left Tasmania. I do not know on what he bases his statement. He did not see the apples. His statement was unfounded, and a slander on Tasmania, and he should be absolutely ashamed of himself for making it.
– I am ashamed of having had to make it.
– Thirty per cent. of the apples that left Tasmania represent 600,000 cases. How does the honorable member know that they should not have been exported?
– Were they inspected?
– They were supposed to be inspected. The honorable member for Macquarie knows as much about apples as the apples know about him. The following is the High Commissioner’s report on the shipments of apples received from Australia: -
The fruit, however, proved to he in excellent condition, the only complaint being a certain amount of bitter pit, particularly in the earliest arrivals. By the kindness of the Minister of Health, the officers of this department were put in touch with port medical authorities, and every facility was given for the examination of the fruit at dock side. Every boat has been met at the first port of call, and, up to date, no difficulty has been experienced, the health authorities allowing the immediate discharge of the apples. The first considerable shipment was by the ss. Maloja, and, apart from the bitter pit mentioned, and a tendency for the fruit to be rather undersized, the shipment was a very satisfactory one.
Now, the first two vessels that left Australia carried apples from Melbourne, Adelaide, and Western Australia. No
Tasmanian apples were among them. The High Commissioner, in his report, complained about bitter pit. That is the worst disease that attacks apples. The honorable member for Macquarie talked about black spot, but I would inform him that one apple affected by blackspot is worth a case of apples affected with bitter pit, because the one can be eaten and the other cannot. The report continues: -
The Largs Bay shipment was rather better in both respects. The Cathay, which carried the first lot of Tasmanians, was also satisfactory, whilst the Otranto shipment, which is now being landed, promises to be the best so far received. Berwickshire - Little bitter pit in Western Australian Cleopatras, but they were generally exceedingly fine fruit. Tasmania’s were clean and well packed, but the class of apple packed in many cases were of a very common type, as if they were picked from very old trees. Their Cox’s Orange Pippin, which are eagerly sought in this country, had no trace whatever of bitter pit or spot, but their values will be handicapped by the common class of fruit.
Tasmania was the pioneer of the applegrowing industry in this part of the world. It is over 40 years since the first apples were shipped, and on the early shipmentsthe orchardists lost heavily, for the ships’ engineers did not know the proper temperature at which to keep the cool chambers. Being the oldest of the fruit-growing States, Tasmania grows the largest variety of apples. The old varieties are gradually being eliminated; but it will take many years to get rid of all of them. Not every orchardist can afford to cut down all his old trees and graft new ones; he usually has to do a small number each year. The honorable member said that it would take two years to cut out the old varieties. In that connexion I would remind him that “ a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” In the matter of sending bad fruit abroad, Tasmania is not the only culprit, as the honorable member would lead the House to believe -
A representative on the Imperial Economic Committee reports that a fruiterer of Harrowgate allowed him some cases of Australian Cox’s Orange Pippin of standard grade bearing the name of a shipper at Harcourt, Victoria. The fruits were sorted, with the following result: - 1st case - 27 good, out of 130 per case. 2nd case - 15 good, out of 130 per case. 3rd case - 32 good, out of 130 per case. 4th case - 33 good, out of 130 per case. 5th case - 18 good, out of 130 per case.
The rest, it is stated, were all unfit for sale. In comparison, the fruiterer showed ‘him some Oregon Newtowns, every apple of the same size, in beautiful condition. These apples were said to have cost 18s. per case, as against 21s. per case for Cox’s Orange.
The distance from Tasmaniato London is incomparably greater than that from America to London. The honorable member spoke of apples being bruised by contact with the hard cases in which they were packed. When he talks like that he does not know what he is talking about. The apples are diagonally packed. Wood wool is placed at the bottom of the case, cardboard on the sides, and more wool on the top. The apples can be bruised only by unreasonably rough handling, and if they are bruised it is not the fault of the grower. Tasmania is the first of the States to put apples in a ship’s cool chambers, which have to be opened, with a consequent lowering of temperature when the ship loads further cargo at Melbourne, Adelaide, or Fremantle. Every time the door of the cool chamber is opened, the Tasmanian armies suffer most. At the end of the trip the first apples to be removed are the last that were put in, and the last to be removed are those from Tasmania. The disadvantage to Tasmania is obvious, and cannot be helped. The brown heart disease, which the honorable member has mentioned, is not due to any fault of the grower, but to bad ventilation in the cool stores. If the apples are inspected, as they ought to be, before shipment, it is unfair of any one afterwards to blame the grower. The responsibility rests with the Government. There are government inspectors who are paid by the growers, and if they inspect only 200,000 out of 2,000,000 cases, it is obvious where the responsibility lies. The honorable member said something about cases which were too hard and bruised the fruit. South Australia Packs apples in softwood cases, and this is the result - “Cornwall” (Liverpool), Victorian fruit showed fair amount of waste through bruising and overtight packing. Some poorly graded and misshapen, and did not justify packing for export. Some packs were slack, and gave impression that pilfering had taken place. South Australian fruit very fine lot, tut damaged’ owing to frailty of cases, some of which were broken up completely even though single-wired. Importers advocate matteris very serious, and should he given immediate attention. Tasmanian fruit generally in sound condition, though small’ fruit, particularly Cox’s Orange Pippins, of unattractive appearance, which are a poor advertisement and hardly worth eating.
Many of the apples exported are too- small. When one removes the core;, even -without peeling the apple, there- is not much left. Unreasonably small apples should not be allowed to be exported. The smallness of the apples is the principal cause of the complaints. The honorable member also spoke of the large number of varieties of apples shipped from Tasmania. I remind him that South Australia, which is a comparatively new .State in the apple exporting business, ships 56 varieties, and New Zealand, which came into the business even later, ships 60 different varieties. I admit that Tasmania grows the greatest number of varieties, but that is because that State has been growing apples for twice as long as any other State. Naturally, when the orchards were laid, out, they were planted with the best varieties obtainable at the time; but since then the tastes of the people have altered. Apples cannot now be sold in Sydney or Brisbane unless they have a high colour, and we have to send our best eating apples to England because Australians prefer an apple with a high colour. There is a late variety of apple called the “ democrat,” which is more of a cooking than ,an eating apple. It is a highly-coloured apple, and though there are hundreds of other varieties that are better as eating apples than the “ democrat,” because it has a high colour, brings the highest price in Sydney. The high price is not due to its qualities as an eating apple. Orchardists have to grow apples to suit the public, not to suit themselves. I wish to stress what I have said about cases.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks more closely to the bill.
– The honorable member for Macquarie has made many statements which, in fairness, I ought to be allowed to answer. The honorable member pointed out that the subject was relevant to the bill.
- Mr. Speaker asked the honorable member for . Macquarie, when he was deal ing with that subject, to confine his remarks more closely to the bill.
– I am quite in accord with the new regulations introduced this year for the shipment of apples, except that I object to the smallness of some of the apples allowed to he exported. The Minister would be well advised, when he is taking, the ballot of the orchardists, to add to the ballot paper the question, “ Are you in favour of nothing less than 2i-in. apples being exported?” The new regulations deal with quarters, and not eighths, of an inch. A man who brands his case as containing 2£-in. apples, and has apples measuring 2 7-16-in., must pack them in the same case. Another aspect of the matter is that it is impossible, with a diagonal pack, to pack apples of such varying sizes properly. These factors have not properly been taken into consideration in drafting the regulations. I have spoken to the Minister about it, and he has said he will look into it next season. If the apples are 2$ inch, and the case- is branded 2j inch, those apples will bring a higher price than others branded 2£ inch, and they should be allowed to be exported provided they are ‘ branded correctly. Unquestionably, 2-in. apples should be cased and sold as 2i-in. apples, and 2-in. apples should be dealt with as 2f-in. apples. Many retail traders in England prefer 2§-in. apples to 2f-in. apples, for the reason that more of them go to the pound. That i3 also true of those engaged in the hotel trade. I trust that the Minister will not hamper the industry. I believe that he desires to help orchardists, as well as other primary producers, and I am glad that he is in office as Minister for Markets. Something has been said about altering the case regulations. Cases of the type at present in use in Tasmania have been used for the last 40 years, and it would be foolish to abandon the experience of all those years. It has been said that the Retail Grocers’ Association in England prefer jarrah cases such as the Western- Australian apples are marketed in; but any one who knows anything about Australian timber, knows that Western Australian jarrah is the hardest of all our timbers. The remarks of the honorable member for Macquarie in regard to cases may be -dismissed, as unfounded. .The honorable member asked whether orchardists have been fined for exporting inferior fruit. They have not, unfortunately, though I do not hesitate to say that they should have been. I know that some apple-growers in Tasmania have been warned as many as five times not to place inferior fruit on the wharf for export. I assure the Government that 85 per cent, or 90 per cent, of the Tasmanian apple-growers are doing their best to build up a sound export trade, and they would be glad if the Government prosecuted the small percentage of orchardists who export inferior fruit. The responsibility rests upon the Government to do this. I support the bill, for I think that the people engaged in the industry should be given the opportunity or accepting or rejecting the scheme.
– I understand that the Government is not prepared to grant me the adjournment of the debate; but I protest against having to speak on this subject this -evening. As honorable members know, I moved the adjournment of the debate on the motion for the printing of the Imperial Conference report, understanding that I would have an opportunity to make my speech on that subject at a later hour in the sitting, and I regret that since that time four new items of business have been introduced. This bill was only introduced yesterday, and honorable members did not see a copy of it until to-day. It is a measure which contains some important principles, and we should be given a reasonable opportunity to consider it. I cannot say that I have had an opportunity to read every word of the bill, though I think I have extracted the gist of it. While I am prepared to continue my address to-night, I shall not be able to deal with the subject as I should like to deal with it. At present, I am opposed to the measure, and I know that the views which I shall express are held by a large number of apple-growers throughout the Commonwealth. All the speeches that have been made this evening have expressed the same point of view. I do not grumble at that. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook), in voicing his appreciation of the measure, contrived at the same time to fire some broadsides into the Government for sponsoring it. Ohe of my reasons for opposing the bill is that I do not think previous enactments of a similar nature have been proved to be justified by their results. This method of attempting to stimulate primary industry has not yet been given a proper test. As the Minister for Markets and Migration (Mr. Paterson) has told us, three primary-producing industries are at present being “ assisted “ in the manner proposed in this bill, and I do not think it can be said that the results in a single instance are a justification for enlarging the plan to include apples. In expressing my opposition to the bill, I do not intend to delay honorable members unduly; but, on the other hand, I .do not intend unduly to curtail my remarks. In 1924 a board was appointed to control the export of currants. It has not been demonstrated to my satisfaction that its efforts have been successful. Among my other interests I happen to have a dozen acres or so under currants. The year after this control board was established, my gross return from currants was only about one-third of the return for the previous year.
– It might have been only one-sixth but for the operations of the board.
– Speaking from memory, I have seen a statement in print to the effect that in consequence of the officers of the board in England pitting their judgment against, the market at a time when currants were being sold at. £45 a ton, and holding out for £47 10s. a ton, they had eventually to sell for £27 a ton. I should like the Minister to contradict that statement if it is incorrect.
– The average price obtained for currants the season before last was between £31 and £32 per ton; the average price for last season’s production was about £38 per ton.
– Will the Minister inform me whether the statement is correct that the officers of theboard, through pitting their judgment against the condition of the world market in the season before last, ‘ had eventually to sell our currants on a market which had fallen considerably?
– I am not prepared tosay that that was so.
– I have seen, the statement in print, and I should like the Minister definitely to contradict it if it is inaccurate. I have yet to he convinced that the control of our products by these boards is successful. I am not personally interested in the matter to a very great extent, but I am interested in it in that I wish to see our primary products marketed as successfully as possible. For some time there has been a great deal of propaganda in favour of boards of control. Week after week I have read long articles in country newspapers setting out the advantages that such boards ‘are conferring on primary producers. Those advantages may not be so real as they ‘appear. I quote the following from The Fruit World of Australasia, of the 1st February last: -
Two recent visitors to the Old Country are the Honorable H. H. Smith, M.L.C., and the Honorable W. Tyner, M.L.C, both of whom, after suggesting improvements in the grading of apples, and the use of softwood cases with neatly-printed labels, are very definite in their opinion that the control boards at present operating are harmful to the industries concerned. The Dairy Produce Control Board and the Dried Fruits Control Board are declared to be wasteful and inefficient, and the system is wrong. They emphatically insist that it would be a grave mistake for the export trade in apples to come under another such board of control. The best method of improving the trade is by the growers themselves organizing in their own districts, thus securing local control; they can then combine into larger organization as may be found necessary.
I do not know either of the gentlemen referred to in that article. Neither has spoken to me. But if the editor of this publication considers that their opinion is worth, stating, it is appropriate that I should quote it. I also consider that the bill should not be passed for the reason that the board has not so far exercised to the full extent the powers that were given to it. I make no pretence to having a particular knowledge of this subject, and do not desire to go into detail as was done by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning). Unlike the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook), I have not had a close association with the industry for 25 years; I speak purely from what I regard as the : common-sense point of view. On the formal motion for Supply in this chamber on the 22nd May, 1924, I made my first speech on apples. I then said -
I wish to add a few words to the protest made by the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) concerning the action of the Government with regard to the export of apples with black spot, which I should be interested to hear explained by the Minister. The honorable member for Perth divided his remarks into two parts. In the first place he inquired what was the authority for the action referred to. I do not wish to say anything about that. What I am concerned with is the sale of the apples in England. It seems to me perfectly obvious that even if the export boxes are marked “ blemished,” that marking, to all intents and purposes, is useless when the apples arrive at the other side of the world. Not one person in a hundred buying apples in England will know if the boxes in which they were imported were marked “ blemished “ or not. The apples will be sold in shops, in the ordinary way, and if people ask their origin they will be told that they are Australian apples. One honorable member, I understand, suggested that even if the apples showed the black spot on the outside, they might still have hearts of gold. I venture to suggest, however, that apples retailed in England will be sold on their face value; not on. their heart value. It is unfortunate that the department should have selected this season in particular for the export exemption to Tasmanian growers. I know that the Tasmanian orchardists are in a most unfortunate position, and my sympathies are with them, but I deny the wisdom of the concessions to Tasmania at the expense of the good name of the Commonwealth so far as the export of fruit is concerned. I endorse what the honorable member for Perth has said. I hope that a similar course will not be adopted in future, and I trust that the regulation will be withdrawn as soon as this year’s apple crop has been disposed of, if not before.
The question I wish to ask is this : When the board has not fully exercised its powers, and- has permitted the export of unfit apples, is it a fair thing for the Ministry to attempt to tighten up the control of the industry by a “ wholehogger “ bill such as this? I do not think that it is. Having failed to exercise its powers, with the result that Australian fruit was prejudiced in the world’s markets, the board has no right to seek additional powers. In saying that, I confirm what was said by the honorable member for Franklin. My third reason for opposing the bill is that many growers in Australia, and particularly in Victoria, are opposed to its passage. I say no word against the Minister (Mr. Paterson). Every one knows that he is carrying out his duties thoroughly and conscientiously; but I think that he gave the House the impression that the bulk of the growers are in favour of the bill ; that they bad considered it, and that, on the whole, they thought it was a good bill. He also said that this House had previously passed a number of bills similar to this and hadthus accepted the principle which it embodies. The present Parliament has accepted the principle on only one occasion; that was last year, in the case of the Canned Fruits Bill. But the acceptance of the principle is not a. reason for its extension, unless it has justified itself.
– The principle was agreed to in both the Dairy Produce Bill and the Dried Fruits Bill.
– HUGHES. - They were passed by the last Parliament. Surely the Minister does not wish to make this Parliament responsible for the acts of the last Parliament? In any event that does not dispose of my second argument that unless the principle can be proved to be sound its application should not be extended. Honorable members may ask whether I can produce any proof that growers in Victoria are not in favour of the bill. 1 shall have no difficulty in doing that. The Fruit World of Australasia contains a great deal more against the bill than in its favour. I shall refer first to its reports of public meetings held in November last, at which reference was made to the interstate conference convened by the Minister, and held on 14th and 15th October. There was apparently a private discussion, that was not reported fully, which subsequently caused a good deal of criticism. One of the leading authorities on the subject of fruit export in Victoria - I do not know him personally - is Dr. Soilleux, of Wantirna. According to the November issue of the journal to which I have referred -
Dr.G. Soilleux, of Wantirna, who was appointed, at a recent large meeting of Victorian fruit-growers, to fight against the “ export control “ proposals, received, prior to the recent conference, letters from the large growers and associations (representing 3,421 acres) supporting his attitude; also a petition from the Pakenham district, signed by 40 growers, representing 611 acres, opposing the proposed control board. The latter stated, “ Ninety-five per cent. of the growers in this and surrounding districts are absolutely against any control hill. With a little more time available, this list would have an additional 50 names.” Since the conference other letters from different parts of the State were received by Dr. Soilleux in a similar strain.
The Fruit World of Australasia of the same date contains the following further reference to this subject: -
A statement, setting out the argument for and against export control, was circulated broadcast to Victorian growers recently. Voting-papers were included. Progress voting was recorded last issue. The latest figures are - For control, 61 growers, representing 960 acres; against control, 767 growers, representing 12,288 acres. As there are 1,000 “ export “ growers in the State, the abovementioned poll is deemed to be a fair indication of the attitude of Victorian growers on this subject.
– Yes ; but it will be open to the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) to speak on behalf of Tasmanian growers in rebuttal of the case that I am presenting. What was said by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) lends support to my contention.
– The large growers in Tasmania will turn the proposal down.
– I understand that there is a great difference of opinion upon it in that State. I am expressing the views of growers whose case, up to the present time, has not been presented. The following are extracts from a report appearing in the same publication, dated 1st January, 1927: -
There was a large attendance of fruitgrowers from all parts of Victoria at the meeting, called by Dr. 6. Soilleux, to hear the report of the recent interstate conference, and to deal with the matter of the proposed Fruit Export Control Bill. Mr. J. Tully was elected chairman.
Dr. Soilleux said the artificial “control” of butter was muddled. The money proposed to be raised to pay the expenses of a Fruit Export Control Board could be better spent on research work. It was the growers’ work to produce the fruit and the merchants to sell, and there was room for the speculator to operate in the f.o.b. trade.
That sentence represents my view in a nutshell.
He moved, “ That this duly convened and representative meeting of Victorian apple and pear growers hereby expresses disapproval of the proposed Fresh Fruit Export Control Bill, and requests the Government not to introduce the measure.” ….
Mr. C. P. Nobelius (Warragul) said that a bogy had been set up that this was compulsory pooling. It was nothing of the kind. The trouble with the butter export was that business nien were on the board; the board should be comprised of farmers only. Inferior fruit should not bo sent to England.
Mr. Jost said his association sold 100 per cent, of its export fruit to the f.o.b. trade. If other districts did likewise, what was the justification for the bill? 1 shall not quote the whole of the report verbatim. It gives the point of view of both sides, and I draw attention to the final sentence : “ The resolution was put, and declared carried by 26 votes to 7 amid loud applause.” Honorable members will notice that the proceedings to which I have referred are of very recent date. In an editorial article in its issue of the 1st February, the journal from which I have been’ quoting states, among other things -
It is just here where the proposed “ export control “ falls short. In the first place there arc diametrically opposed opinions, and the majority of growers, we believe, are against the proposed Export Control Bill. There is a tendency in this country with a small population to overlook the fact that Australia is larger in extent than the United States of America. To have an all-embracing control board for apple and pear export without the individual growers being organized, would place large powers in the hands of men who, despite their good intentions, may have not had the experience necessary to qualify them making decisions of big commercial importance.
I agree with that.
This, then, would become bureaucratic control. Would it not be infinitely better for the growers first to obtain control in their own districts; then, by uniting to speak with authority for the State or union of States?
One pleasing fact is the large increase in the f.o.b. trade and the steady increase in the purchasing of fruit direct from the growers or their organizations for the export trade.
That is the point upon which the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) commented so clearly.
Already in Victoria alone this embraces over 70 per cent. If that principle were enlarged more purchasers would be attracted. Thus the proposal for a more or less experimental or theoretical control board would vanish.
Comparison with United States op America.
American fruit-growers have won their success by district organization. The idea ‘of a unified control is not to be thought of by them, the growers already having control through their district associations. In the United States of America the grower, sells to the big buyer - or jobber, as he is called; the fruit goes to local or export markets accord1 ing to the desires of the purchaser.
Under this bill I cannot see how the f.o.b. purchaser will be able to control the fruit as he desires. The result will probably be that he will not operate, and, as a consequence, Australia will suffer.
There is no effective comparison between the industries which are working under control bills and the fresh fruit industry. Even were the Dairy Produce and Dried Fruits Controls a pronounced success, this would be no guide to the possibilities of a Fresh Fruit Control Bill. With dried fruits all the goods are sent on consignment; with butter there is a preponderance of consignment as against f.o.b. purchases. With canned fruits the goods are brought here before being shipped. These goods can all be stored prior to sale. Fresh fruit must be sold immediately on arrival.
With fresh fruit there is in Victoria a preponderance of f.o.b. sales; all over Australia the proportion is about 50-50. These facts demonstrate the impossibility of effective comparison.
The editor of this newspaper says that he cannot see any analogy between the control of butter or dried fruits, and that of fresh fruit.
But the experiences of other control boards do not inspire confidence. It is a serious matter to tamper with that delicate machinery - the market - which fluctuates according to conditions over which there is no control.
There is no need for me to quote this editorial any further. I believe that the newspaper itself is the leading newspaper of its kind in Australia, and I assume that its editor knows his subject. We are all anxious that the pear and applegrowers of Australia should get fair treatment, and should achieve as much success as possible through any legislation we may pass.
– The editorial advances good arguments for the agents.
– The honorable member for Macquarie had something to say about the agents to-night, but before we can get rid of them, we must have a reasonable expectation of being able to put something better in their place.
– The bill does not contemplate the displacement of existing marketing machinery.
– If possible, I may revert to the subject of middlemen before I have finished, but I think the honorable member for Indi, by his interjection, is suggesting that he would like to get rid of them, whereas I am rather inclined to stand up for them. They have existed for quite a long while.
– Hear, hear! And they cannot be done without.
– In his Republic, written in the fourth century before Christ, Plato assigns to the middleman his place in the community, and, at the present time, 2,300 years after Plato lived, the middleman is still with us, and, if abolished, is likely to be back with us even more before many years are past. I am not so much concerned in securing their retention as in seeing that the scheme adopted for the marketing of fresh fruit is the best for everyone, particularly for the growers.
– We want middlemen, who are under control, whereas, at the present time, they are controlling the growers.
– That is not my experience. When I sold to agents, I did very much better than I have done since. Would the honorable member for Indi rather eliminate the middleman and suffer a loss, than sell through them and make a profit? I come back to the point put by the Minister - whether the f.o:b. buyer is ‘interfered with. Clause 19 provides -
How can the Minister maintain that the f.o.b. buyer can go into the market and purchase as he can at present, with restrictions preventing him from exporting, unless he has a permit to do so on terms prescribed by the board? The Government will not control the board once it is appointed. It does not even know what its personnel will be. How, therefore, can it tell what terms the board will prescribe ?
– The Government will have a representative on the board.
– But he will be only one out of seven. I have read sub-clause 2, as a lawyer, but I ask whether any business man would buy under that provision as readily as he would under the present arrangement ?
– It is being done under an absolutely identical provision in the Dairy Produce Export Control Act.
– But the conditions in regard to dairy produce and dried fruits are quite distinct from those applying to fresh fruit. The editor of the newspaper I have quoted, says that there is no analogy between the two. An f.o.b. buyer would certainly not be as keen a purchaser under this sub-clause as he would under the present arrangement. The honorable member for Franklin said that in Tasmania the inspection is so casual that a lot of inferior fruit is sent abroad. I do not doubt that he has knowledge of what he is speaking, but I am informed by fruit-growers in South Australia that the inspection there is most rigorous. If the statement of the honorable member for Franklin is correct, how does it happen that there is such extraordinary laxity of inspection in Tasmania and such a severe inspection, in South Australia? Yet I am told by people whom I can trust that it is impossible to export bad fruit from my State, and that, if there is the slightest suspicion of any attempt to evade the regulations, the inspection is made more rigorous. Every case exported from Australia has to bear the name of the grower. If bad fruit is being sent to England, why are not the names of the unscrupulous exporters notified through Australia House, for instance, to the Government? What is the use of stating the names of the growers on the boxes if the information is not used in that way? Surely the proper course is to take action against people who send bad fruit abroad, and it should not be necessary to establish a special board to interfere with the business of all exporters, whether they have been scrupulous or unscrupulous. The Minister said that this bill does not involve Government control of the industry. That may be; but it distinctly proposes Government interference, and one of the journals I have quoted mentions the probability that the growers will not vote for the scheme.
Who are the growers? One would think that they are all persons who produce a certain quantity of apples and pears; but a man may be the biggest Australian producer of those fruits, and yet, if he is not an exporter, he will not be a “ grower “ as defined in this measure.
– That is a fair provision. If a man is not an exporter he should not have a vote.
– What if later such a grower has to pay a levy in order that the exporter may receive more for his fruit?
– He will not have to pay any levy.
– Another aspect of this definition is that it excludes a man who had not exported fruit during the two years preceding the proclamation of this measure, but who might be a big exporter in the coming year. That does not seem reasonable.
– He would be excluded, but the line must be drawn somewhere.
– I concede that. I think I have said enough to indicate my attitude to the Bill. Summing up, I do not consider that the other similar acts have yet proved so successful as to warrant an extension of this principle of control. In view of the opinions I have quoted, 1 do not think that this measure is even analogous to the existing export control acts. The board has had power to prevent unsound fruit being sent abroad, and has failed to exercise it. Indeed, the regulations have been waived so that bad fruit might be sent to England. Three years ago the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) and I protested against that action. Therefore, the board has no reasonable ground for saying, “ Give us extended powers, although we have failed to exercise those we already have.” I have reason to believe, on the authority of newspapers, letters, and the speech I have had with growers, that the majority of the producers are opposed to this bill. The general public, of course, is indifferent, and, in any case, has no means of expressing its opinion. Finally, I believe that if this method of control is brought into operation it will, within a few years, prove a failure; the grower will find that he is receiving less for hia fruit than hitherto, and the whole scheme will be relegated to oblivion.
.- The honorable .member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook), and other honorable members who have preceded me, have obviated the necessity for a speech by me, but I do not wish to record a silent vote on the measure. Through the courtesy of the Minister for Markets and Migration, I was able to attend all meetings of fruit-growers in my electorate to hear his explanation of the bill, and I found that many of those who came with the intention of opposing the scheme were converted into supporters of it. My own view is that the scheme offers prospects of benefit to the producers. The marketing conditions abroad must be improved so that the grower may have more assurance that his fruit will be marketed in an orderly and efficient way. Having found that many growers are in favour of the scheme, I am prepared to vote for the bill. They are the be3t judges of it, and the control will be vested in them. If the poll discloses that the majority of growers do not desire this scheme, that will be the end of it. [f they accept it, they will commit themselves for only a limited period, in which the scheme can be tested. If in that period it has been proved to. have merit, it can be amended as experience and circumstances may direct. If it is found unsatisfactory another poll can be taken at the end of three years, and the act put an end to, or necessary adjustments made. I support the bill.
– There are one or two points raised by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabroook) to which I shall reply during the committee stage. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) said that the regulations are too lax, and that the present grading system leaves much to be desired; but steps have already been taken to more rigidly administer the export regulations. In Tasmania there is a Commonwealth and a State inspectorial staff, whereas in the other States there is only a State staff, which is utilized by the Commonwealth in connexion with the inspection of apples for export. In Tasmania there lias been little or no co-ordination between the Commonwealth and the State staffs, so that it was possible for apples rejected by, say, the Commonwealth staff, to be passed by the State staff, and vice versa. Instructions have now been given so that when Commonwealth inspectors reject fruit for export, the State inspectors will be informed of the names of the growers whose fruit has been rejected. When it has been rejected by the State staff, the Commonwealth authorities will be informed. Instructions have been given to inform the State authorities in Tasmania of the names of the growers whose fruit has been rejected, so that members of the Tasmanian instructional staff can visit the orchards and direct the growers how the fruit should be graded. In many instances it is a case of ignorance, and not a wilful attempt to evade the regulations. The honorable member for Franklin said that the inspection was unsatisfactory, as only about 10 per cent, of the fruit was inspected ; but, personally, I should be sorry if even that quantity had to be inspected. The growers I am sure, would be sorry if 10 per cent, of their product had been tampered with. Of course, inspections of this character can only be in the nature of examining boxes at random, and if inspectors find that a few boxes in a consignment are unsatisfactory the consignment is condemned. On the other hand, if they find that the contents of two or three cases are satisfactory, they must naturally assume that the quality of the bulk is up to standard. It would be a physical impossibility for inspectors to go through millions of cases of fruit. The honorable member for Macquarie also referred to the London agencies, which he said had duplicate staffs, that more agencies were contemplated, and it was necessary to introduce a system of co-ordination. There are only two London agencies in existence, but it is true that another is yet to be appointed. Up to the present the overlapping has not been very great; but steps have been taken by the chairman of the Dairy Produce Board, the Dried Fruits Board, the Canned Fruits Board, and the committee which controls the advertising, to estab- lish in London one set of officers and a central office. Under this arrangement it ls proposed that one secretary shall carry on the work for all the London agencies in one office; at present one chairman suffices for the London agencies, so that something has been done in the direction the honorable member indicated. The honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Duncan-Hughes) said that he did not think the boards already in existence had justified their appointment. 1 totally disagree with that view. While the Canned Fruits Board, which has recently been appointed, has not had time to prove its worth, the Dairy Produce Board and the Dried Fruits Board have more than justified their existence. I do not know if the honorable member was in the. chamber this afternoon when I mentioned two or three instances to show the good work these boards have done. They have effected a great saving to the growers in connexion with marine insurance, ocean freghts and obtaining a more stable price than was obtained before. I could mention other benefits which have been obtained, if time would permit. I now have the figures relating to the question asked by the honorable member, who said that for the season before last currants only brought an average price of about £27 per ton. The actual figure was £31 13s., which is certainly not satisfactory, but is considerably in excess of that which he stated. The price for currants for the season just closing will be £37 16s. 6d., which represents at least an increase of £6 per ton on the previous year’s returns. It is safe to say that if the Dried Fruits Board had not been in existence, growers would have suffered almost as much last year as did the apple-growers. This has been one of the worst seasons from a marketing point of view, owing to the purchasing power of the British people being very rauch reduced on account of the disturbed conditions following the industrial trouble in Great Britain. In spite of this disability the Dried Fruits Board was able to maintain a price for the whole of the currant crop which was £6 higher than that obtained in the previous year.
– Was an offer of £45 a ton refused ?
– I have no information on that point. The honorable member said he had read newspaper criticism to the effect that the Dairy Produce Board was wasteful and inefficient. I can only say that such criticisms came from some interested parties. Some who are not growers, but are engaged in marketing the product are anxious to prevent anything in the way of organizing growers from the selling stand-point.
– Are they more interested than the others?
– It must be admitted that much of the hostility in this connexion comes from those who are not actually growers. Meetings which I have attended in three States convinced me that at least the majority of the growers were in favour of this proposal. The Commonwealth, of course, cannot bringdown legislation tomeet a position existing in one State alone; it has to deal with the industry as a whole. I spoke to a meeting of apple-growers in South Australia. It was not very largely attended, but I was given to understand by those present that it it was a very representative meeting, and at it a unanimous resolution was carried in favour of the Government’s proposal. I did not in any way seek to influence that meeting in coming to a decision; but merely explained the scope of the proposed legislation. In Tasmania I addressed eight meetings, fully representative of growers. At seven of them unanimous resolutions were carried in favour of the proposal. At one meeting six growers out of the number present voted in opposition to the resolution. I addressed meetings in Victoria, and, while no resolutions were moved, I formed the opinion that most of the opposition to the bill had been caused through misrepresentation and misconception. 1 found that it was being generally represented that the proposal meant Government control. I explained that the control would be placed in the hands of those engaged in the industry through their own representatives. It was thought that f . o.b. selling would be ended, but I pointed out that that was quite absurd, because f.o.b. selling still continued in the dairying industry, which was under the control of a similar board. I assured the growers that they would be able to send their apples away either on consignment or f.o.b., and that they would still be able to choose their own shipping agents and brokers, and to send their apples away under their own brands. As a result of my explanation most of the hostility to the proposal disappeared. The honorable member for Boothby referred to clause
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Mr. LATHAM (Cooyong- Attorney-
General) [11.58]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is rendered necessary by the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra. Section 52 of the act provides that the principal registry of the Arbitration Court shall, when the Seat of Government is established in Federal Territory, be situated at the Scat of Government, but until that time the principal registry shall be situated at such place as the Minister directs. The effect of that provision if left unaltered would be that when the Seat of Government was established at Canberra the principal registry of the Arbitration Court would have to be moved there. That would be highly inconvenient to all who are concerned with the business of the court. There is no accommodation at Canberra for the court, and it would be impossible for it to discharge its important functions there. It would also be impossible for both employers and employees to carry on their business in connexion with the court. The object of the bill, therefore, is to make a provision similar to that which is made in the case of the High Court by providing that the principal registry shall be situated at the Seat of Government on and after a date to. be fixed by proclamation, but that until the date is so fixed the principal registry shall be situated at such place as the Minister from time to time directs. Another provision of section 52is that each registry shall be situated in the capital city of the State in which itis established, and the consequential amendment provides that each district registry situated in a State shall be situated in the capital city of the State. That leaves the way open to establish a district registry within the Federal Territory at Canberra whenever it is thought proper. The change contemplated by the bill will commend itself to all honorable members.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Motion (by Mr. Bruce) agreed to -
That theHouse, at its rising, adjourn until 11 a.m. to-morrow.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
Bill returned from the Senate without request.
House adjourned at 11.3 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 March 1927, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1927/19270322_reps_10_115/>.